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Manage your money and enjoy it!

Enjoying your money is like enjoying life. We receive from God's hand relationships, health, opportunities - and money. How can money be enjoyed?

Your first step: Be content! The Bible says: Be content with such things as you have, for He has said, Not at all will I leave you, not at all will I forsake you, never! (Heb 13:5). Decide that you are satisfied with what God gives you. Choose to trust God. Also choose to give to others with a glad heart. Remember that you have already received the greatest gift there is - to be God's child - if you believe the gospel!

Second step: Compare your money to a jug with water inside. Every month, a certain volume of water (money) is poured into your jug. Now imagine that you have a number of pot plants to water. Some you love more than others. Some need more, others less water. Managing your money is like dividing the water in your jug between your pots. If there's not enough water, you must juggle: Here I may water so much less; there also; this pot plant I can ive away; that one I can try to sell, that one is dying anyway, no more water for him, etc.

Third step: Count your pots: Let's say you receive 3 liters of 'water' per month for your 'pots', i.e. your various expenses, like rent, groceries, transport, electricity and water, school fees, debt repayments, fun money, bank fees, personal, holiday, medical, etc. Now draw up a little list of your 'pots' (expenses). If you are smart, you can do it in Ms Excel or Open Office, and get an automatic total at the bottom). Write or type on top of your list: Budget for ________ (Month), then the available amount of money you receive every month to spend ('Income') , and then your various expenses. Estimate your expenses. Try to make your Income and your Total Expenses to be the same (to 'balance').

Four: Mark your jug. If you don't mark your jug, how will you know how much water is still left? Some jugs have milliliters and liters in a measure strip on the outside. So, get a way to measure how much money is left for the rest of the month.

The easiest way is to put your money for the coming month in little labelled containers (for instance, 'groceries' 'personal', etc) and lock it in a safe place. Then you can see at a glance how much 'water' (money) is left for a certain 'pot' (expense in your budget) at a certain stage during the month.

If you do not like a computer, keep a 'big' A4 book where you use one page per budget item, like 'Elec' (Electricity); one page for Groc (groceries) etc. Draw five columns: Date; Item; Out; In; Balance. Use a pocket calculator for adding or subtracting.  Write at the beginning of every month your estimated ('budgeted') amount for, say, groceries under the Column 'In'. Another line will have, for example, SPAR, and under 'OUT', say, R83. (Ignore cents). A spreadsheet like Open Source (free!) or Ms Excel works nicely, since it gives you automatic totals.

Write down your cash expenses in a small book which you carry with you together with a pen, when you make them. Write only the amount, e.g. 100 and groc, meaning groceries. When you want to know 'where you stand', enter these small book amounts in your big book or program, where they belong, ticking them off. (I use a red pen for this). Do it at least during the last week of each month, in order to get your total expenses before you plan for the next month. If you spent more than your total income, and you cannot completely solve your 'deficit' by juggling, you should add an expense named 'pay March budget' until your debt to March is paid. This may be painful, but remember, you are now in control, and you know where you stand!

Five: Balance your jug by juggling: How do I balance my monthly income with my total monthly expenses? I juggle. I decide how much must go, for instance, for electricity (I estimate an average amount). A month later I may realize that I can decrease my water expense, since winter is coming on. Or I may decide to save R200 on my transport expenses by using the bus to work, and add this R200 to cover my rent increase. This is juggling.

Balance by juggling at least during the last week of each month. (If you are really smart, you may use a program like Microsoft Money or Quicken to download your bank account into your computer and have your total expenses drawn up by your computer program).

Six: Save by keeping an extra jug. If it rained a lot during the past month, your pots will need less water. Immediately pour this extra 'water' into another jug, where it is safe. Get the idea? The moment you get unspent money in your little containers, stash it away in a special bank account or a special, safe place. Use this money for your 'dream', whatever it may be: A car; a new dress; a computer.

Neels Malan
6 April 2009

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