In Chinese culture, 2019 is signified as the Year of the Pig, with pigs being a symbol of wealth and good luck. Even if you don’t follow the Chinese Zodiac, it isn’t a bad idea to align yourself with a symbol of prosperity – so why not make 2019 the Year of the Piggy Bank?
With wealth generally grown through saving and investing wisely, successful management of your money is key to growth – and prioritising the way you secure and use credit from financial institutions will help set you on the right path.
You’re entitled to access one free Credit Report per year, which offers a snapshot of your creditworthiness and gives you an indication of where you stand with regard to your debt - and ability to access more credit. Start the year by accessing your TransUnion Anytime Credit Report to get a picture of where you stand. From there, you can set a series of goals to help maintain your creditworthiness and even grow your ability to access credit when you need it.
Armed with an understanding of your creditworthiness, it’s important to set goals across days, months and the year, to put your finances in a healthy space to help you achieve your long-term plans.
On a daily level, ask yourself if you really need that barista-brewed caffeine fix on the way to work. The average Café Latte will set you back R25 – grabbing three a week on the way to the office will add up to R3 600 a year. While some companies provide free or subsidised meals, many employees ‘eat out’ at lunch. You’d be lucky to get away with spending less than R60 on a sandwich and a drink from a convenience store – that’s nearly R15 000 a year.
Understanding where your money goes every day gives you a good idea of where you’ll be at the end of every month and can shed some light on why you often find yourself with more month than money. Make smart decisions and you’ll be amazed at the effects of the positive power of prompt payment on your credit score and financial wellbeing, come debit order time.
Sit down at the start of the year and map out your monthly expenses, starting with your debit orders, which are generally constant amounts: bond, car repayments, insurance, medical aid, satellite TV or streaming services and internet connectivity. Then, keep track of the must-pay amounts that can be flexible – but you should know the ballpark figure: think levies, lights & water, cellphone and store accounts.
Next, set yourself a budget for groceries, petrol and sundries. The cost of getting to work, school and of running errands is often overlooked and can be surprisingly high.
What about savings? Conventional wisdom says you should have three months’ salary tucked away at any time for the unexpected. Make part of your budget a small monthly commitment to savings as you would for a debit order – and help build yourself a financial cushion.
Don’t forget to protect your identity at all times. TransUnion’s TrueIdentity actively monitors your Credit Identity, reporting back with SMS or email alerts every time any changes take place on your Credit Report, to help weed out inaccuracies or stop identity thieves in their tracks. It also offers a restitution service to help restore your identity in the event of fraud.
Time to pay school fees? Paying a once-off amount can often deliver a discount, which is nice, if you have a tidy lump sum to commit. Proper daily and monthly planning should help you get there.
SARS will be wanting a word with you around October each year – with two other annual appointments if you’re a provisional tax payer. Are your tax affairs in order, or are you going to get a bill? Understanding your taxes and structuring your financial world to capitalise on rebates and tax-free savings accounts means less chance of unexpected payments.
Smart planning in the first weeks of the year can set you on the path to financial wellness for the rest of it – and beyond. Make smart decisions on those daily costs, track your fixed monthly costs, be aware of annual outlays and keep an eye on your credit health - to make 2019 the Year of the Piggy Bank!