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How I turned money-savvy in 2019

As we get ready to bid adieu to 2019, I look back at all the financial firsts I accomplished. I see the things I have done (and not done), promises I have kept and resolutions I have completely forgotten. Oh! By the way, did I promise myself not to have any kind of list for the next new year? Heck! Maybe next year.

There is a list of things I have not done this year – buy a home theatre system, read more books than the series I watch on Netflix, go vegan or give a piece of my mind to the couple next door who keeps fighting. But money management is definitely not on the list. Because now, good financial fundas have become so much a part of me that I am becoming seriously money-savvy without even trying! 

Here are the 19 things I did with my money in 2019 that I’m really proud of:

1. Planned my home budget

I was fed up of staring at my empty wallet towards the end of each month and decided to put an end to it this year. All I needed was a plan and that’s exactly what I did. My husband and I aimed at ensuring our expenses were less than our spending. Even when we had sudden, unplanned expenses and had to dip into our savings to stay afloat, we replenished the savings as soon as we could. We documented our spending and decided to have a budget for home needs. I joined the Life on My Terms community, powered by Basis, on Facebook and even made use of the Home Budget template shared there. Never knew budget planning was this simple. 

2. Started using apps to manage money

I was one of those techno-conservatives who believed AI would overtake human intelligence and kill us. Getting a grip on all the special funds, the investments and a whole lot of other things got a bit tough for me and I was ready to seek help. Enter Basis. The app has made money management very easy and their curated content keeps me informed and I also get guided about investment recommendations. Now I have a personal investment adviser on my smart-phone.  

3. Built my travel fund

I desperately wanted to go on a holiday to Australia and New Zealand and I fixed date on the calendar. I customized an itinerary which gave me a fair idea of the budget we were aiming at. To get to our money goal we set up a dedicated SIP account and used the Basis app to calculate how much we should save each month and which offer to pick to get to the goal on time. We are getting there and I’m happy that I’ve made a solid effort towards it.  

4. Started my daughter’s education fund 

My daughter’s college education and how much it would cost made me shudder. This was the reason I decided to start saving for her college fund right now. Taking into consideration the inflation, I decided she would need at least ₹1 crore for her undergraduate education in a good college. I have invested in the Sukanya Samriddhi Yojna for 15 years and the money here is free from all taxes. I have also invested in a flat and the rent from here goes into a couple of SIPs. Fifteen years from now, if we need more money for my daughter’s education, I can put the flat in the market. But, I think her education is at least partly taken care of.   

5. Decided to use my credit card wisely

A credit card is both a boon and a bane. This year I decided to use it when it is absolutely required and resist the temptation of impulse buys. This has made me more mindful when I use my credit card. To begin with, I started keeping the card at home and used it to make thought-out purchases that are much easier with a card such as hotel reservations or car rentals. And of course, I have set an alert to ensure that I never miss my credit card payments.

6. Negotiated a salary raise

I got an offer from a company and I was interested. Before accepting the job, I took a step back, worked out all my expenses and did a bit of research or background check on the company. I then realised that the value-add I would bring to that company was actually more than they had thought of. This was when I tried to negotiate the salary and when they were stubborn, I backed out. I felt a bit sad, but a couple of days later, I got the offer I was asking for. If they think that I am not aware of the latest gender pay gap report, they are wrong.     

7. Decided on having “Buy Nothing” weekends

When I came across the #NoSpendChallenge, I dissed it as one of those millennial absurdities. But I later realised that it actually helped me save a lot of money. The challenge is, as the name goes, not to spend during your weekends. And believe it or not, you will realise how much you were spending on just those 2 days of the week. I guess retail therapy is not therapy when you are addicted to it.

8. Decided to stop spending on things I don’t need

The hardest thing I did this year was perhaps to list the things I just didn’t need and stop buying them. Things like paper napkins, for example, can be avoided and that is exactly what I did. I had to take out a lot of unnecessary things I usually buy and I ended up saving quite a lot of money. On a monthly basis, it might look insignificant, but they add up to a lot by the end of the year.

9. Started using the 30-day savings rule

Impulse purchases can easily throw off your budget. So, when I felt like buying anything on an impulse in the supermarket or the mall, I told myself that I’d think about it for 30 days. I noted down the item and how much it costs and put it on my fridge for 30 days. If I still felt like buying it at the end of 30 days, I went ahead and purchased it. If I had forgotten about the item, I realized it really wasn’t that important and saved that money.

10. Surrounded myself with people who encourage saving money

This sounds a bit unusual, almost anti-social, but the people I used to hang out with had a huge influence on how I used to spend money. Be it going on a shopping spree or hitting the nearest watering hole after a day’s work my spending patterns were dictated by the people around me and slowly when I tried to avoid them after work or on the weekend, I could save up quite a significant amount of money. This might sound frugal, but it did help me save up for that New Zealand trip I am planning on. Instead of hitting the pub, I now call my friends over and have a great time indoors. Netflix replaced movie theatre outings and logic replaced longing. Not to mention the savings on drinking in pubs and restaurants versus buying my favourite wine from a liquor store – the restaurant mark-ups on alcohol are criminal!

11. Started having conversations about money with family, friends 

When I was young, my parents never used to talk about money with us. It was always in a hushed manner, among themselves and in their bedroom. This mentality was passed on to us and so did the financial ignorance that came with such subdued conversations about money. This year, my husband and I made it a point to talk money at our dinner table, so that our daughter will understand the intricacies involved in running the household and the reason for not buying her the action figures she wanted. I am positive that she will be much better with her finances than we were. 

12. Inspired my family and friends to get into SIPs 

After realising the advantages of SIPs — Systematic Investment plans — I decided to spread the knowledge about it and get my near and dear ones to invest smartly. Liquid funds or equity funds, when I told my friends and family about how even a Rupee they invest can earn them interest and the interest earns interest in return, they were all hooked. I’m proud of helping people save money and invest smartly.

13. Started moonlighting to earn a bit more

After my usual 9-5 at work, I used to come home and crib about how I could not follow what my passions were and how my job is sucking away all my mojo for anything creative. This year, things changed. I started marketing the blog I was writing, revamped its design and decided to update it more often. Within a week, a local news website wanted to re-publish a blog I had written and within a month or two I was asked to contribute regularly to another website. I now come home and get creative with words, something that I was waiting to do for a long time. My passion now gets me money and who knows, this might become my full-time job too.  

14. Started tracking my spending

After failing to track my spending for a couple of times, I was finally successful in honestly listing my expenditure. I should treat myself with that raspberry cheesecake. I started using my phone to document even the smallest buy and this has helped me plan wisely, keep a count of where my money is going and cut down on things I don’t want.

15. Unsubscribed from physical copies of magazines and newspapers

I was very emotional with this change this year but I had to after I came to know that we, as a family, were spending almost ₹1000-₹2000 every month on newspapers and magazines. Believe it or not, I thought my mornings would never be complete without them but I got used to the electronic version of the newspapers and magazines pretty fast.  After subscribing to the electronic versions of newspapers and magazines, we now spend just ₹1000 for a year because the e-subscriptions are cheaper than the physical ones. 

16. Started selling unused items

My house was literally littered with things I never used. All they did was enhance the aesthetics of the interiors of the house. So, recently I was inspired by the minimalist-approach to interiors and decided to declutter. I separated things that I never used into two categories – to sell or to donate. I sold quite a few items and got some good money. Some of the items fetched me more than what I had paid them!

17. Embraced learning 

There are tonnes of information on-line to help you manage your money and get tips and hacks to invest in a way that will get more returns.  This year, after downloading the Basis app, I got hooked to the information that was available on their blog. Now I read blogs and the learning modules on the app to become more aware of how the financial world works, I get more information which is helping me make informed decisions about my money management.   

18. Lowered my monthly bills

I called my cable operator and the cell phone provider and asked if I was getting the best deal. New offers pop up all the time, and I shifted my current plan into something that was most cost-effective. I dropped the names of their competitors and voila! Cheaper options flooded my inbox. This again made me divert the money I was paying unnecessarily towards something more useful. 

19. Started taking more ‘Staycations’

The term might be trendy, but the thought behind it can hit two birds with one stone: have a vacation and save money. Instead of spending money on airline tickets, all we have to do is look in our own backyard for fun vacations. Staying at your friend’s or sibling’s can also be a welcome change.

#MoneyLessons #YearReview

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