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Tough decisions: the journey to financial freedom

Have you ever considered that your financial breakthrough is tied to the decisions you have to make today?


In South Africa, July has been earmarked as “savings month” mainly to reinforce positive financial behaviour. Ironically, this very month kicked off with a hefty fuel increase and if you’ve been following economic news closely, you’ll know that the South African Reserve Bank has forecasted another interest hike for July.

Positive financial behaviour requires appropriate action and decisiveness. I’ve heard financially-savvy people talk about annual / mid-year financial reviews but had never really paid much attention to it. For many years, because of my family set-up, I got used to living from pocket to mouth.

When we had money, it always needed to go somewhere. If we had something extra, it would be quickly diverted to pay off this or that. There was always something. So growing up, I swore to myself never to be indebted to anyone or any institution. BUT, like many others, I got lured into the credit whirlpool when I heard “the only way to get a credit record is to open an account”. I heard this way back in uni, straight after matric. Of course I opened a clothing account that soon became our family’s lifeline. We’d use the account to make all kinds of needy salient purchases: school uniform for my siblings, groceries, stationery, Christmas clothes, etc. Every month, I paid the minimal amount required with no idea of the impact of the compounding interest.

When I landed a longer employment contract with a better pay salary, I applied for a credit card and a personal loan. The credit card became another source of survival for my family. We maxed it out! The personal loan went towards a beaten secondhand vehicle which cost us more than the loan itself.

This means by the time I started working as a permanent employee, with a much more stable job, I had accumulated so much debt that I found myself having continued the “family tradition”. The promise I’d made to myself (before I got lured and fell to the pressure) probed me again. So I made a recommitment to myself to pay off the debt and never be a debtor again. Well, this lasted until we had to buy our house and of course, my first car. Our very firsts as a young family. Listen, I am not complaining as these are considered “good debt”.

Anyway, the fact of the matter is, our past experiences shape our perspective on life and influences the decisions we make. For instance, because of how financially-downtrodden my family was, having extra each month to spend leisurely has been a big deal for me. However, with the cost of living having gone up, petrol and food prices on the increase, I took time to review my expenditure and made some really tough but necessary decisions.

The saying “if you want a different result, you gotta do something different” encouraged me along the journey. I realised that for the dreams I have to be fulfilled, I needed to do something different. The biggest change I made is to downgrade my car from 2,5L SUV to a 1,2L hatchback. I have reviewed other expenses and have cut down significantly. I am still amazed at the stark difference this “little” exercise has brought to my monthly budget. Now I am looking forward, in anticipation for month end with an increased balance in my bank account, not to spend but to save toward the financial goals I have.

So where to start, you may ask. Well, I am no personal finance expert so I will share what I have done, in addition to the above: