Stop Living Hand to Mouth
People, I get it! Now more than ever. I am a wife, a mother, a woman (for goodness sake!), a tither and a sower into the kingdom of God. Did I also mention that my family is in transition? Yeah – I’ve been a stay at home Mum for quite some time now. Believe me when I say, “I know what it means to be restricted!”
So, what have I done? Well, after complaining and generally blaming God for not doing enough about the season I am in, and putting my head in the sand by continuing to maintain the same lifestyle I had when there was more, I finally took my thumb out of my mouth and decided to face the music. I would have to stop living hand to mouth and learn how to make our money stretch.
If you’ve been following me on social media, you will see how obsessed I have gotten about financial stewardship. I am learning how to change my mindset about money and follow the footsteps of those who have followed prudent principles to achieve financial feats.
So, how do we stop living hand to mouth:
5 Ways to Make Your Money Stretch
Knowledge applied is power. The Lord Himself said “my people perish for lack of knowledge.” I continue to repent to God about all the things I lamented to Him for not doing for me, only to later find out that He had done them all (and more) even before the foundations of the world, only I didn’t know it and the little I did know, I didn’t apply.
Apostle James tells us “You don’t have because you don’t ask.” I’ve been asking the wrong questions – “Why won’t you give me a breakthrough, Lord?” And He was probably thinking, ‘you don’t even know what you’re asking for. The solution to your problem is right in front of you but, you wouldn’t know it if you saw it because you are not looking for it.’
What has been my problem? A wrong mindset and lack of knowledge about Making personal finance work for me. So, where I sought a miracle, God saw an opportunity to teach me a lesson. After all, you give a person fish and they can eat as long as there is supply but, teach them how to fish and they and their generations will never go hungry….if they do it by the book.
So, if you like me, have ever wondered where your money goes? Please don’t seek a demon to bind. No one comes to steal your money. You use it. And because you don’t track how much you bring in, plan where you will allocate it, stick to your plan and track transactions, before you know it, it seems to just go with the wind.
Advice: To be aware of what comes in and goes out of your pocket, write down how much you expect to earn in a given month and what you need to spend what you earn on. For the entrepreneurs out there who may or may not receive from clients, make your lowest estimation of what you expect and budget your month’s spending against that. Should you receive more within the month, you can adjust your budget accordingly. It is best to err on the lower income estimation, rather than anticipate more and budget for more but, get less and get stuck because you spent the money on some things and are left with more month than money, for the rest.
2. Prioritise Your Spending
Not everything we spend money on is a need. And not every need is a priority. A sure way of changing the habit of living hand to mouth is to distinguish in your mind, between a want and a need then, prioritising which of your needs you will spend money on that month.
Some, out of lifestyle preferences, may choose to spend on a want over a need (which I would not recommend when you are strapped for cash – would you really spend your rent money on a party? Some do.)). Either way, make sure to prioritise what you will spend on that month and what you plan to do another time.
Advice: So as to not get overwhelmed by all the things that put a demand on your purse, do this exercise:
1. Make a list of everything you want to spend on that month so that you can see them all then;
2. Next to each, write a number according to spending priority; 1 is the most important and so on;
3. Starting with what you listed as your most important expenditure, ask yourself why you must spend on that item this month and not move it to another budget cycle or ditch it altogether.
To help you decide on your final list of priority expenditures that absolutely must be made that month items, divide your list according to:
(1) Categories (for example, Giving, Paying Debts, Saving, Groceries, Transportation, Mobile Subscriptions, Insurance, Clothing, Miscellaneous, Projects, etc.)
(2) Under each category, breakdown the
(i) Items you plan to buy,
(ii) Quantities of each item and
(iii) Cost you will incur per item
(e.g. in food, you can breakdown food groups and choose how much you will on which vegetables, protein, fats, dairy, carbohydrates)
You will see which categories you spend most on and which specific items in the category take up most of your money. You now know how much you bring in and exactly where your money goes and can choose to make decisions to manage your budget to make your money stretch.
3. Find Alternatives to Your Favourites
When I started exploring strategies to make the most of our bucks, I was exasperated by the whole process of finding alternatives to our favourites. I would spend hours and hours walking up and down isles. Anyone looking at me would think, “This woman must really love shopping!” The reality was that at the end of those hours, I would walk out with very few, but very well thought-out and well-chosen, items.
I now love finding ways of substituting our favourites with items that cost less but don’t compromise value.
Advice: Ask people or, where available, seek out other consumer reviews of items you could buy as alternatives to your favourites. Go to different markets, stores, or look at alternatives in brands, amounts and varieties (for example, choose fresh foods instead of ready-made, etcetera).
4. Take Advantage of Promotions
Whether wholesale, on sale, discounted, conditioned, etcetera, seek a good deal to buy the things you like at a fraction of the price.
This might mean inconveniencing you to seek information about promotions, going to places to buy wholesale, waiting for when there are sales, buying things with slight factory defects, getting consignment of products you have not inspected, buying parts and doing it yourself instead of buying, etcetera. It may be inconveniencing but it can’t be as frustrating as being broke, busted and disgusted.
You may not always get what you want but, you will get what you need. And as long as your focus is giving yourself some breathing room in your finances, go lean for now. When you get it right in this season, you can live large in the next.
Advice: Subscribe to stores, brands, social media groups, suppliers, so that you are among the first to know when products and services have a promotion and for how long so that you can plan them into your budget.
Delaying gratification and adjusting your lifestyle to take advantage of promotions can really make a different in your spending and saving.
5. Consume Less
Without compromising your health and functionality, consume less. Eat out less (and eat less portions), use less internet bundle, visit fewer places, buy less. Sounds like a prison sentence? It really isn’t. Nothing builds a case for frugality and a commitment to the path of the minimalist like the threat of an empty fridge or lights out or eviction notice or no medical care…. I think you get the point.
Just because you can afford to spend on something, doesn’t mean you should. You truly don’t have to use everything you’ve got this month, just because you think you will get more next month to do it all over again.
If you change your mindset about money, you will realise that being a consumer rather than a producer or at least, saver, is the prison sentence. To stop living hand to mouth and make your money stretch, live with the future in mind.
Advice: Consume less now so you can save money for emergencies, pay off debts, invest in future projects and your legacy, to name a few things.
When you have very little, you realise that you actually need very little. But even if you have enough or more than you need, endeavor to live with the future in mind. Live under budget now so that you can be able to finance a much grander life and invest in much greater causes for the rest of your life.
What Freedom Looks Like
What I have come to realise is that for as long as you need the money that’s coming in that month to be able to live (finance) that month, no matter how much you earn, you are not financially independent.
We should get to a place where even if we were not to earn a cent for a whole year (for some it is years, decades and even lifetimes), we would still be able to live comfortably from the income from savings and investment we have accumulated. That’s what financial freedom looks like.