“We didn’t actually overspend our budget. The allocation simply fell short of our expenditure” – Keith Davis
Some of us may identify with that quote because we tend to spend consciously or sub-consciously, more than we earn. However, most cannot begin to relate to the quote largely because our income and expenditure are not bound by budgets – we spend as and when we receive our income. Factors such as low incomes, emergencies, high cost of living, and hard times are put forth as explanations for lack of a budget and lack of intention of ever having one until wages reach a certain bracket. And in complete honesty the current harsh conditions prevailing in Zimbabwe do make it next to impossible to plan one’s personal expenditure as most live on a hand-to-mouth basis due to incomes that are below the Poverty Datum Line (estimated to be just over US$500). However the reality is that we will never earn enough to satisfy our desires, as elementary economics teaches us that demand is unlimited and can never be satisfied. And most importantly there is the issue of stewardship which is at the heart of budgeting since a budget is simply how you plan to wisely spend your income. Our budgets are also closely related to other good habits such as accountability and discipline. This means that budgeting is not only a helpful planning tool but it encourages useful and beneficial life routines as well. Here are a few pointers to get anyone started on a simple monthly budget:
- List your expected income and never include uncertain income sources such as annual bonus and lottery proceeds.
- List all expected expenditure items (such as tithe, savings, rent, groceries, transport, entertainment etc)
- Compare your total expenditure with your total income. You will most probably have a deficit and this is where your priorities and discipline kick in. Allocate income according to your fixed costs (such as rent) and necessities (such as school fees and savings), and completely strike out luxuries such as take away dinners and movies if your budget does not allow
- Reconcile your actual and budgeted expenditure at least twice a week, depending on how often you spend
- At the end of the month review your total reconciliation. Analyse your deficit (or surplus), highlight sections that need to be improved next month, and move onto the following month’s budget
Remember that budgets are your friend; they help you plan and live within your means. Stop procrastinating and do your personal budget now – even if you are halfway through the month do it now.
By Thando Dube