Money 101: A beginner’s guide to saving

Published: November 19, 2010
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The first step towards a frugal lifestyle is counting the cash you spend.

We are living in times of great economic distress and unless you have spent the better part of the past three years living under a rock I am sure you have felt the pinch starting from petrol to sugar prices. As a nation we are renowned for our hospitality, our generosity – in fact most of us use are likely to tell a cautious spender “Stop being kanjoos!”

More often than not the butt of most overspending and monetary mis-management jokes is the fairer sex. At the work place you are likely to hear comments such as “she is only working for time pass, her daddy pays all her bills” and I have heard quite a few colleagues moan about their wives shopping stamina. As a retailer I am amazed at how clients will disclose everything other than a budget – it is as if money is a taboo topic and heaven forbid we ever discuss our worries pertaining to it out aloud.

And here I am doing exactly that – talking about money! Because I will be aiming to discuss personal and family financial management on this forum. Here are some basic tips for getting more out of your bucks!

1. List it down

Make a detailed and concise budget of your monthly spending. Use an excel sheet or a thick register but write down the amount required every month for all your household needs – starting from Bobby’s Math tuition fees to the charitable donation you make each expense deserves its own heading. Now I understand that doing calculations is not fun for most people but it is a onetime headache of making a list and a daily fun activity of crossing out bills paid. Most people often wonder where their money went i.e. what did they spend it all on – here is your chance to uncover this great mystery.

2. Stash it away

Round off all your purchases to the nearest 50/100. Most of our daily purchases are cleverly priced at an odd number aimed to play with consumer psyche and convince them of its affordability, invest in a piggy bank or grab hold of a box with a lock and the next time you buy something for Rs41 – put nine rupees in the box. Similarly if the amount is closer to 100 then the remainder gets stashed away too. Try this for a couple of months – and provided you use cash to make most of your purchases you will have a small saving at the end of the month to help ease the pains of being perpetually broke the 20th onwards.

3. Put it to work

Faiza Samee is one of the pioneers of the Pakistani fashion industry and interestingly she is one of five sisters who are all great success stories not just of creativity but also entrepreneurship. I once remarked how interesting this co-incidence was and she explained that it was all owing to their parents inculcating a strong business sense in them from an early age. The girls used to compete about who would get to the breakfast table fastest or bake cookies for their mother’s guests and charge the parents for it. Basically undertake small chores that would earn them a bit of pocket money and a lot of self confidence and fiscal awareness.

So if you too have little ones at home I suggest you put them to work instead of dispensing out money on semi – efficient help. By assigning any child over the age of ten small tasks such as laying the table – or helping their baby sister with her homework and putting a small price tag at it – we can teach them about money and the effort it takes to earn it. Talk to them about saving and spending and maintaining an in-between balance. And when at age 20 they want to take a trip to Malaysia with their friends be happy that you are not the one footing the bill.

4. Swap/sell/score

My aunt was horrified when her soon to be married son suggested creating a wedding registry list with a store whereby the couple would leave a shopping wish list with the store and guests could select whatever they wanted to give the couple from it.

“Hai, what will people think we can’t buy our children dishes?” she shrieked. Needless to say the idea of adding “no boxed gifts” i.e. please give cash only did not go down too well with her. And a year later the happy couple is the proud owner of 8 vases, 9 similar looking decoration pieces, 12 silver frames and so on. So all you householders out there – carry out once a year major spring cleaning – get rid of books you don’t read, clothes you will never wear and shoes that only make your friends legs look longer. And instead of throwing it all out with a sense of disgust call over a few friends who are in a similar situation. Swap books, clothes and accessories because someone’s junk is another’s find. Make an event out of it – bake brownies, put on music and trade your sandals for her white shirt not only will the money you initially paid to buy those shoes now cover the cost of the shirt as well this barter trade can help you get a new look just in time for the new season.

5. Food bank

Those of us who grew up on a steady diet of 1980’s PTV dramas surely remember a serial called Tanhaniyan and the infamous character of Apa Jaan who would mishmash leftovers from the past nine days and present a new dish called nau lakha. I am too much in love with food to suggest your practicing the same but a few cautionary steps can help save a few pennies that could go towards something nice for the kitchen or you!

  1. Use leftover meat or vegetables from dinner to create scrumptious sandwich, roll or paratha fillings for lunch.
  2. Sunday aur anday – just as every home should have games night mandatory once a month at the very least ( there is something very sweet about watching your parents bicker over who cheats in ludo) assign one day to grocery shopping and the dinner the night before should be omlettes with whatever is leftover in the fridge as filling.
  3. Make a couple of days in the week entirely meatless – with vegetable based meals costing distinctly less you can cleanse your system and fatten your wallet in one go!

Shezray Husain

Shezray Husain

A journalist turned investment banker turned entrepreneur with a keen interest in most things around her.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.