South Africa has officially put all of its citizens on a financial starvation diet.Now I know I’m a “struggling artist” of sorts which means I’ve put my own arse in whatever the opposite of butter is, but looking around (in the cubicle next to me, in the queue at Checkers, on my Facebook news feed), everyone is feeling the squeeze.
I got a lot of attention from a Facebook status I posted last week when I was clawing my way towards the 27th, which is when my salary has a short stopover in my bank account before it makes an unruly departure to the various creditors I am at the mercy of:
This is the kind of stuff that can fast track an arrested financial consciousness into an awakened state of fight or… fucked. It’s scary as hell, especially for those of us who aren’t grappling with whether to downgrade from an Aston to an Audi but rather from Medical Aid to hoping-like-hell-I-don’t-get-sick-this-winter.
It comes at a time of economic adolescence for me (and so many of my peers), as a woman in my twenties trying to accurately define the trajectory of a successful career. So what does that look like? For me, it’s all about making a living doing something that effortlessly ignites my work- your-ass off switch. It’s what will get me out of bed before my alarm even goes off. It’s what makes me smile, what makes me feel chuffed, what stimulates and feeds my curiosity and what allows the best parts of me to twinkle. It’s also something that may take a lot of consideration and foundation building, before it allows me to be completely self-sustaining.
I believe I will get there, perhaps not as soon as I had hoped – no thanks to the maladministration (putting it lightly) of our government and what feels like the second tsunami wave of The Recession. Can’t we skip all this kak and just get straight to the part where international economies boom, my house is worth double what I paid for it, and my salary comfortably covers all my expenses, a yearly vacay to Tuscany and a new pair of stilettoes from Nine West every month? Am I reaching for the stars? I haven’t even gotten to the paying for another little life bit which will someday mean school fees (just puked in my mouth), sports uniforms, doctors’ bills… AY KARAMBE!
This way of thinking stirs and spreads a kind of whinge-and-moan bubonic plague. Can you believe petrol is going up AGAIN? Did you hear about the rates increase, do they think we’re made of money? Ja well, with this government the whole country’s going to shit. And you can’t even have a blady drink and forget about it because of this stupid sin tax increase. R4.80 extra for a bottle of whiskey boet! Do me a favour…
It’s a pity party, and we’re all attending by default.
I hear you, and a lot of the time, I join in – thinking that somehow, my grumbling grievances will release some of the frustration and helplessness I feel inside and that the 10 minutes of mass moaning will bring about a sense of relief that I’m not the only one sukkling my way through the last 10 days of every month.
Unfortunately, woe-is-me’s aren’t going to miraculously undo mess’s, mistakes or misappropriations. Not for you, not for South Africa, not even for Zuma or the kingpins on Wall Street.
Lately I’ve taken another approach to my dilemma, and the keyword here is MY. This is my life, my money and my responsibility. The outcome of my financial destiny is in my hands.
I started by getting real, like Dr Phil real. It was a self-imposed intervention with steps and everything:
Step 1: You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge
Denial is as delicious as a shmooly jersey that hides all the fat you’ve put on in winter… until someone asks when your due date is. Look at your bank statements, read your sms notifications, file your slips (if you’re a real goodie two shoes) and get real about where your money goes every month. When I did this I realized I was spending over R2000 at petrol station convenience stores (which are notorious for over charging) popping in to get a few odd groceries on my way home from work.
Step 2: Have a very honest conversation with yourself
Yes yes, we all want to be mega rich ka-jillionaires – or do we? News flash: unless you are a Trust-a-farian, you will have to work your ass off to get wealthy. Harder than anyone else. Be realistic – what are you prepared to splash out on? Does your job afford you the opportunity to earn a 10 figure salary? Are you working towards that? What do you want your bank balance to reflect in a year’s time? Set yourself some financial goals and then you can start strategizing how to make them happen – yes, even in the midst of a commercial crisis.
Step 3: Planning makes perfect
Draw up a budget and give yourself some time to ease into this new dispersion of your funds. Motivate yourself by thinking about all the things you can do with the money you save on excess spending and believe me – you will find a lot of this. Each month try to move closer towards your goal budget and with each step you take you’ll find you are more resourceful and confident.Step 4: If you don’t like the world you see, change the way you see the world
There will be sacrifices, oh yes. There will be some hard truths to face, of this I’m sure. Hey, I’m only an actress turned writer, trying to find my place in this world. Trying to afford myself more time, more fulfilment and more opportunity for greatness. I’m no accountant, nor lawyer or doctor. But I believe that being conscious in my life, taking ownership of my choices, being accountable for my accounting and staying focused on a desired future which I have clearly defined in my mind, no matter how unknown or patchy the path towards it may be, is how I will free myself from the tightening clutches of my current circumstances.