In an increasingly consumerist society it is very easy to get swept up in the barrage of not-so-gentle persuasions on how to spend your money. It ranges from the seemingly harmless dine-out options you yearn for all month long, the glitzy red bottom heels, to a new gadget that you just have to have.

Financial literacy is muscle, the more you engage it the stronger and better skilled it becomes. It is important to practice intense amounts of self discipline. It sounds daunting, doesn’t it? Growing up, having a job, earning your own money and then be told be disciplined with how you spend it. Very few people are raised to understand finances beyond what they spend. It is much like not ever teaching children how to read then expecting them to be able to fully engage with a highly literate world as adults. No fair, right?

Don’t worry though, help is at hand. We are going to learn this financial alphabet together. Here are a few tools that are easy to understand and implement, provided you’ve got that discipline we spoke of.

Draw up a budget

It isn’t as scary as it sounds. First, you write down a list of what you need to spend money on for the month. Then, you take out the cost of those items from the amount of your income. When you see just how you want to spend money you may reconsider what you thought was a necessity.

Put together a list of your short and long term goals

Whatever your goals, they need to be financed to become a reality. Arrange them in order of importance and find space for them in your monthly budget. While having to say, pay for a course module vs. a really expensive night out with the girls may hurt, in the long run it works out. Once you’ve graduated, you will be able to afford many girls’ nights out.

Review previous month’s expenditure

Once you’ve given your brave new budget a whirl, go over your expenses. Have a hard look at where you spent money wisely and where you did not. Look closely at where you spent most, check whether you spent money on things that tie into your short and/or long term goals. Then review your habits so that moving forward, you make decisions that give you long lasting value for your money.

Save 10% of income

It is important to save. Life happens, a family member could pass away, a car could be involved in an accident or a job may be lost. There are plethora of unforeseen circumstances that could hurtle themselves into one’s life.  It is always wiser to be on the right side of caution. As your spending and saving habits grow, you could even increase that amount from 10%. It is key to note that knowing you can change your habits makes you the boss of your finances.

Join a free online financial literacy class

The internet is your friend.  There are a many resources available to you, should you want to exercise that financial muscle we mentioned above.

Ultimately, financial literacy is about attaining freedom, autonomy and peace of mind. There is a life that exists without ponzi schemes and loan sharks. It can be accessed the moment positive, informed decisions are made. In South Africa at least, there are 95 men for every 100 women, that means we ladies have more… um… manpower.  The power to change the trajectory of African women is ours.

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