31 August 2012

Forget about debt

If you want to stay out of debt you need to forget about minimizing debt and start paying back debt.

Kick into a different gear and explore other possibilities to make your finances flourish.

Thinking about your finances simply as debt management will get you stuck in a rut of only being able to manage debt and never moving forward to greater things says financial guru Vanessa Summers.
These can be things such as:
Getting a meaningful job
Planning for retirement
Having some financial freedom
Seeing a different country
Visiting family you haven't seen in ages
Investing in your children's future
Getting involved in a club or charity

Forget about debt and focus on a better financial life.

Summers says that Americans don't educate themselves about financial planning in a holistic way and learn by their mistakes – this mistake being how they handle debt. So there are a lot of consumers who are very well-versed in only one area of personal finances.

For South Africans who are even worse at saving it's no different.

To break this cycle you have to set the bar higher and strive to do more with your income than simply getting out of the red one day.

As adults we have to educate ourselves about money and finance, we can’t expect someone to lead us by the hand. In the media we are constantly bombarded with ways of making money quickly, insurance policies and payday loans, but the companies “teaching” us about money are the very institutions that rely on people's gullibility, fears and materialistic nature. 

Of course, we don't always realise this, we think that we are only doing what is best for us.
Summers says that shifting your attention to making more money in a reliable manner like a second job or a passive income and making your money go further you will "start overhauling your financial programming".

Suddenly you will start to learn more about other facets of finance, see opportunities when they arise because you have your feelers out and instead of stressing about your debt you will be optimistic about your future and build on your skills, like developing your entrepreneurial skills or becoming better at financial planning and investing.

Focus on the future when you are under debt review and forget about mistakes you made getting into debt.

If you're already under debt review you have all the more reason to relax as a debt counsellor has your situation under control and you can focus on not only saving but finding an opportunity where you can earn more income.

So, forget about debt. Don't feel guilty about your past mistakes. Remember that you are not the same person you were yesterday and that change can be exciting. 

26 August 2012

The best frugal entertainment ideas

Pinching pennies doesn't mean you have collect dust in front of the TV every weekend. We have some ideas to avoid being bored stiff while trying to save or stick to your budget

Frugal entertainment while making money, work at a music concert

While you're saving, wouldn't it be great to make money as well? Work at concerts and other performances and you get to make money while being entertained! When international acts come to the country the organizers need a temporary team to man food stalls or usher, so this can be a fun source of income if you live in a big city. 

If you're a family or a group of people you can entertain everyone without spending a dime by taking advantage of factories, farms or local business that make tours available to the public. This is great for kids as these trips can be very educational. Depending on your children's interests, they might enjoy airplane hangers, radio stations, toy factories or animal rescue organizations. Some farms offer wine tours if there aren't kids to entertain or opt for a farm that do pick-you-own and pick berries with the kids. 

Fruit-picking is great, affordable fun for the whole family

If the weather allows it, visit local parks or nature reserves for picnics, kicking a ball around, walking the dogs or hiking. You can get season passes to most nature reserves that are very affordable if you're going to make a regular outing of this. And why shouldn't you? If you have a bicycle, go for a ride along a scenic route suitable for bikes and have a picnic along the way. 

Community events can be fun and super affordable. Check the local paper or your area's website for what's happening on the community calender. These events are aimed at any or all ages, so ignore the country singers on stilts and just keep looking until you find something you're interested in.

Camping can be very affordable if you already have the gear. Setting up tent in nature is a great way to relax on a budget. Look for campsites close-by that charge the most affordable rates and rough it for the weekend. Still too expensive? Camp in someone's backyard. But ask them permission first! 

Setting up a tent in nature is a great way to relax on a budget

Host a movie night for friends and rent movies from the budget section. There are usually classic gems hidden in there! Be sure to compare different DVD rental place's prices as some don't have a budget section at all. Ask everyone to bring a snack and share. If your friends are too lairy to sit still and watch movies together you can host a swap party: read how in Party your way out of debt.

If you have any more ideas, feel free to share them in the comments section and we'll add them to our list and credit you. We hope your next weekend is amazing.

20 August 2012

The three ways friends make you poor

A few months ago we wrote about keeping stress about money problems out of your relationships in the post Don't Let Finances Ruin Your Relationship. This applies to relationships with friends as well as romantic relationships. In this post we explore the other side of this coin: people who we care about ruining our financial well-being. It's nice to spoil our loved ones once in a while, but it's the more subtle ways in which they might be sabotaging your saving resolutions that really make a difference in your spending habits.

Two blonde girls come to a crossroads in their friendship.

Jess couldn't believe she missed the sale.
Carla couldn't believe those prices were the sale.
This is not about blaming those we love for our financial difficulties, but realizing how their presence in your life affects your spending so you can find a practical solution that doesn't end in a disagreement. Only by assuming full responsibility for your spending is it possible to make better choices. So let us look at common ways in which the people closest to us affect our spending and how you can avoid over-spending because of this.

By impressing
By trying to impress someone by buying them gifts, taking them to expensive restaurants and the like, you can really sabotage your monthly budget. While it is nice to treat someone, don't make this the basis of your relationship. If someone really cares about you and there's a connection, it doesn't matter if you're eating home made sandwiches in the park or drinking French champagne on a yacht: you will enjoy each others' company and the time you spend together.

The real trick here is to keep things interesting without looking to "romantic date" scenarios. For some reason romance is associated with spending mega bucks. This is silly. Romance is being thoughtful and sweet, not trying to be a Richard Gere to your Pretty Woman. (I'm pretty sure he gave her his credit card to go shopping at one point...avoid this.) Get to know the person so you know what they will find thoughtful and sweet!

By mirroring
This is when you start to spend like your friends when you can't afford to. Remember, your worth does not depend on anything you can buy and if you feel left out among your friends because of having less, either they are snobs who belittle people with less money, so ridiculously rich that you can't help but feel left out or you have insecurities. It's not the end of the world: there must be a reason why they are your friends. Focus on that and avoid tagging along with them to super-expensive places. Introduce them to fun places that aren't over the top and maybe they even enjoy the change of scenery.

By compromising
When you want to change your spending habits and your friends don't want to, you will probably end up compromising and losing sight of your saving goal. To avoid this, avoid doing expensive things with your friends for a while. It seems harsh, but seeing them less might help you in two ways: figure out why they won't make an effort to see you outside of that activity and save you money. Heck, you can even learn a new skill in your new-found free time and make money!

If you want to apply for debt counselling, but your spouse doesn't want to be blacklisted until the debt review is finished, you will probably try some other alternative. Unfortunately, the alternatives aren't always as effective as plan A and you don't want to end up resenting your partner or friends for being instrumental to your financial troubles. If you need to get debt help, do your best to convince your partner that it is the best solution for you in the long run and keep reminding them that the quicker you take serious steps to getting back control, the quicker you will be able to live without the burden of being over indebted.

Gift bags for next-to-nothing

The gift bags you buy in the shops can set you back quite a bit. Or maybe that's just in South Africa. To solve this problem, explore new ways with wrapping paper and make your own gift bags. It looks better than just wrapping a gift and you can save even more if you buy wrapping paper from the R5 store or reuse a poster, a newspaper, a magazine taped together...the possibilities are endless and your final product will be totally unique. If you're like me and like coordinating the wrapping and card to the theme of the gift, this is revolutionary.

I bought a sari in India and the shop put it in a bag like this made from old newspapers. So unique, it was like a souvenir and I used it to "wrap" the kaftan I bought for my aunt. It was very sturdy, they must have folded it over a few times in Step 1!

Head on over to Hello Sandwich for this tutorial! Keep in mind, step 1's instructions go with the picture in the intro. I was confused there for a bit!

16 August 2012

The Ins and Outs of Debt Consolidation

Too many credit cards and small loans?

Debt consolidation has become something of a buzz word in South Africa. But what is a debt consolidation and can it really help you? The short answer is yes! Sweeping up all the smaller loans and store card debt that you have with a consolidation loan can make your life easier and save you money. Smaller loans generally have higher interest rates and different payment dates during the month which can mean a lot of running around. By consolidating your debt,  the aim is to pay less interest and spend less time sorting out your credit responsibilities in the future.

When you approach a debt consolidation lender, arrange that your new monthly repayment be subtracted from your account first thing after receiving your income. This way, you will have a clear idea of the money you have left for the month and you can budget accordingly without worries about paying creditors.

To qualify for a consolidation loan you will have to go through the same process as applying for any other loan and the credit provider will do a credit check. Usually, consolidation loans require equity to secure the lowest interest rates. People with impaired credit records and those who are over indebted or blacklisted won't qualify for debt consolidation. They can apply for debt review, which is essentially the restructuring of one's debt into one repayment according to your affordability.

You can contact a debt counsellor and they will handle your creditors from there. Your main responsibilities will be filling in the application form and from there managing your finances within the budget you have as clients under debt review cannot get any new credit.

10 August 2012

Vision board III: You have the life you want now

In Vision board part I: To get the life you want now we discussed ways in which to enhance your life by setting goals of things you want. A vision board is a collection of images that helps you mind to see things in a new way or to see opportunities in the future. A visual representation of a need or desire can bring a new perspective when it is illustrated and make you discover exactly how much, or how little, you care to achieve a certain goal. If the desire fades as you imagine yourself having achieved your goal, it might be that your priorities changed.

Listen to your gut instinct. If you can't imagine yourself being more content after achieving the goal, your vision board was just as successful as when it made you realize how much you want something. Being content does not mean you are happy, it means you are grateful and at peace. Happiness can come and go and is just a feeling. Feelings come and go and it's not humanly possible to hold onto them. Too often we strive to become happy instead of just being happy. 

Living With Less is our Facebook page with inspiration on minimalism and being content

Your vision board can remind you that you are, in fact, content with where you are when you can't imagine yourself being in a better place after achieving a goal. Goals are often empty desires that we chase to fill our lives with a sense of purpose. A goal that does not stem from desire, but from being content, will be truly rewarding. 

Once you accept where you are, you can start to let the present guide you. When you don't chase goals that are outside yourself and strive to be more in tune with your inner self, the bliss you feel stays with you. When your goal is buying a car, the novelty will wear off soon enough and you will still be the person you were before, most likely looking to fulfil a new desire. One can see how this has caused a surge in people applying for debt counselling! This is no way to live, but it is totally normal and acceptable. In fact, it is expected of us to always desire more and better things and situations in our lives.

Debt counselling is a process of budgeting to get out of debt and learning to enjoy the value of a debt-free life

The most powerful thing you can do is to create a mind-set for yourself where you are content with every moment as it comes. A vision board can help. Let the images you gather guide you towards being content with your life as it is. Collect images that remind you of things, people, places, experiences and so forth that have made you the person that you are. It's like counting your blessings or taking stock of where you are. 

2 August 2012

Don’t let money hold you back

Does money make the world go round? Some of us might say it makes the world stand still. When you don't have the means to afford what you need, such as a home, three meals a day and living in reasonable comfort, your life is ruled by the lack of money. Surviving in a capitalist society will always come back to needing money.

The need for money is, for some, so desperate that they will do nearly anything as it equals their survival or the survival of their children. One can imagine that it is hard to live life to the fullest and be the best you can be when your existence is threatened, or at least strictly controlled, by your lack of money.

Yet, those of us who have what we need to live lives that don't lack basic comforts are not easily satisfied for the most part. We have been taught that the more money you have, the more successful you are and the better your life will be because you can afford better things. Things that aren't necessary for survival, but we feel we need them to live comfortably. These things have never equaled contentment or happiness in the long run, as they are not necessary for survival and their value to our lives depend entirely on how we use them.

Sometimes it feels like things start to use us: we develop a dependence on things like cars, cell phones, computers or how we look that can be hard to break. If you can imagine yourself giving up all of the things you are dependent on with ease, you are very lucky. It means that you are happy with having what you need and not what you want and that you are content with who you are outside of all these things.

It means that your world does not revolve around money and what it bought for you. When your life revolves around money, the man with everything he needs is just as controlled and restricted as someone who doesn't know where their next meal will come from.

It is therefore no surprise that people have rediscovered the value of nature and how disconnecting from society and gadgets can bring them the comfort that they were looking for in the first place. Living stress-free is much more comforting than worrying about how you're going to get out of debt, when you will be able to relax or how you're going to reconnect with the people in your life.

Many people have made the conscious decision to be happy with earning less than they can because it means that they get to make time for things that truly matter to them. Appreciating the money that you have instead of wishing for more and more can only make you more peaceful and content. Then, money is a tool in your life, a necessary evil, and not the beginning and end of who you are and where you're going.

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