LOUISE FAIRSAVE: Finances for the new year
DID WE ATTAIN our 2016 financial goals, or at least move progressively in the desired direction? Let us all make an honest assessment of what was achieved in that difficult year before we settle our financial plans and goals for 2017.
Let this review serve as the basis of our recommitment to further progress during 2017. What follows is a ten-point drive for sustaining and growing our finances during the New Year:
1. Like never before, we will all account for every cent we earn and spend/save during the year to come. At the least, we will all have a simple list by month of all our cash income and expected cash spending. It will be apparent what we can save or invest monthly.
2. In spending, we will ask for discounts, negotiating every dime that we spend. If cash was king before, it should be viewed as super royalty during 2017. Before we spend, we will check around within reason for the best price available.
3. The New Year will be the year to gather all those unused items around the house that we can do without and sell them. There are now a range of monthly flea markets that provide a place to try to convert such items to cash as long as they are in good condition. A flea market can also serve as a place for acquiring certain items at a reduced cost. If some of our unused items are not saleable, give them to someone who can make better use of them or just discard them. It is important to get rid of what we no longer need in order to make room for what we do need.
4. In a similar vein, let us consider buying or renting used or second-hand items.
5. The credit union can be our friend in the year ahead. Compared to commercial banks, credit unions provide lower loan rates, higher savings rates and lower fees. A credit union loan can provide vastly cheaper financing than the typical hire purchase agreement. Credit union shares and deposits also earn compound interest at significantly higher rates than those miserly levels offered by commercial banks.
6. An energy audit of our residences can provide the guidance we need to contain rising energy costs. The new year is also a good opportunity for us to evaluate the cost versus the benefits of a solar PV system, if not already done before.
7. For 2017, let us all commit to reusing, recycling and conserving wherever possible. Recycling can actually bring in some cash even if a nominal amount. Let us specially conserve electricity and water.
8. Let us exploit the Internet for communicating locally and internationally, for buying and selling services and products, and for promoting products, services and events. Related transportation, communication and marketing costs can usually be significantly avoided by transacting business online.
9. Let us grow more of our food. Even a small herb garden can make a difference to our monthly cost, especially if we can sell some of what is grown. There is a wide range of activities to choose from depending on one’s facilities and one’s preferences – from growing vegetables, to fruits and flowers, to even rearing fish, birds or animals.
10. Do it yourself will be a necessary mantra for all of us to the extent that we are able to do repairs, make new fittings or garments ourselves, prepare interesting meals and improvise through innovation.
The new year portends to be one like none before. We will all be adjusting as the year progresses. In all the planning and action to follow, make it explicitly clear to your entire household that everyone needs to be on board in the drive to sustain the household’s finances. To garner success, everyone needs to contribute.
May we all have God’s peace, grace, goodwill, good health, prosperity and happiness in the new year.
• Louise Fairsave is a personal financial management adviser, providing practical advice on money and estate matters. Her advice is general in nature; readers should seek advice about their specific circumstances.