So, I have decided, or rather, been forced, to finally put my big girl panties on and really take a long, hard look at my finances. My relationship around money is a complicated one – as many of ours are. My parents were not well-off when I was young – my mom often tells me of how they couldn’t afford to buy me shoes when I was little and to this day I still remember the feeling of when my dad started making good money and my mom allowed me and my brothers, for the first time ever, to get a SLAB of chocolate each at the grocery store. EACH. That was a huge day in my life and I can still taste the elation of that moment.
I’ve always been a little afraid of money. Afraid of being too poor. Afraid of being too rich. Afraid of being mediocre. Afraid of people thinking I’m too poor. Afraid of people thinking I’m too rich. This is obviously all stuff I have taken on from my environment growing up and the conversations around money that I’ve been exposed to. For some reason, money for me has also always been the territory of the men. Perhaps it’s because I saw my mom being given an allowance for groceries from my dad, instead of being paid a salary for all the work she did for us and for the farm. Women are given the money to spend on food, clothes and other household/children items and the men get to keep the bulk of the money and do with it as they see fit. Invest it, spend it, whatever.
This is a pattern I have continued into my own marriage. Although my husband and I have a joint account, as well as our own separate accounts, my husband still manages the joint accounts and the payments. Although I am not paid an “allowance” from my husband, as I have my own (very small) freelance business which I use for groceries, taking Immy out, clothing etc, I’m still finding at the end of each month though, that my own account, is empty. And the credit card is getting abused. And it’s just not on anymore. I’m hurtling towards 35 at a rate of knots and I need to start saving for myself – in a big way. I also want to start investing. As a woman, and I’m sure many other women reading this will feel the same, we need to secure for ourselves the freedom to enjoy the life and the relationships we have from a place of knowing that there is always an escape clause if needed. Ya feel me? I want to be married to my husband because I love him and the life we created, not because I need him to feed and clothe me. This may sound basic and I’m sure a lot of you are like “sheesh Keri, you’re only realising this now?” but to be honest, when it comes to money, I have been living with my head buried in the sand for a long time and simply getting by on a wish and prayer – with no hint of an emergency fund in sight.
This has all changed since I’ve had a child. Because Immy was fairly unplanned, I spent most of my pregnancy lying in bed, watching birth videos on youtube and obsessing about the big event (no regrets, but note to self: should have consumed more actual parenting content). I did not do the responsible freelance thing of focusing on saving and putting away my money for maternity leave. In fact, I stupidly spent a large amount of my income over those months on cute Instagram-able things for her baby room. To be perfectly honest, I just assumed I’d carry on working like I always had, baby snoring peacefully away next to me whilst I took photographs, edited and wrote. Lolololololol.
This all meant that I was very ill-prepared financially for my first year of mothering (hell, to be fair, it’s only starting to look up now, two years later) and this left me in an awful state of despair and unhappiness when I should have been basking in the glow of new motherhood. Instead, I had very, very little money in my bank account and had to ask my husband (cringe) for money when I wanted to go out for coffee with a friend. Not very boss bitch, huh? I think I can blame most of my first year blues as a mother on not being able to afford to do the things I used to do. This is why I always tell friends that the whole shpiel of “you’re never ready/prepared to have a baby – just do it” story is absolute and complete privileged utter bullshit. Before you get pregnant, especially if you’re a freelancer, make sure you have a nice little savings account ready for that first year – ideally equal to your usual twelve months of salary/income. Do NOT think business will continue as usual, because it won’t. Unless you can afford a full-time nanny or creche, you will very unlikely be able to promote, create and build your business like you did before baby. I’m not being a Debbie downer here – I just wish someone had told me this instead of “don’t worry, the money will just come”. Because it didn’t, and I felt like shit, and it hugely impacted both my first two years of motherhood and my marriage.
So now that I have been through the burning hell of the first two years of broke ass new mama life, it is safe to say that I never want to be there again. I never want to have to ask my husband for money for a coffee. I never want to have to feel miserable because I can’t afford decent clothes that actually fit me – like in that stage where my maternity clothes were too big but my pre-baby clothes were still too tight. For months, I just wore my old too-tight jeans and wanted to cry in pain every time I sat down and felt the waistband digging into my flesh. I don’t want to have to ask my husband if we can go out for lunch with friends because he needs to check if we have money to pay the bill. I want to say yes to that invite and then pay the goddam bill myself. All of it, in fact! I’ve had enough of the struggle. I’ve had enough of worrying about not having enough. And I’m done with worrying about being “one of those shitty rich people”. I want to have money. In fact, I want to be a badass baller.
So how the bojangles am I going to do this? Little by little, my friends, little by little. I just have to start somewhere. After listening to this inspiring podcast with Ellevest founder, Sallie Krawcheck, I was motivated to finally start doing something about my money mindset and lack of financial know-how. After a wonderful discussion with my friend, Nicole, I have purchased a couple of financial books, and I also got in contact with an old family friend of mine, Leigh Riley of Alpha Wealth, who is going to help me not only educate myself about the world of finance and investments, but also hold my hand as I start dipping my toes into making my own investments and building my portfolio. This all sounds so foreign and I have no idea what is going to happen, but Leigh’s one request for him doing this pro-bono work for me, is that I share my story with you, dear reader, to help equip and empower other women to do the same. We’ve chatted about this all and this is what he has planned for me so far:
We’re going to learn about the financial basics firsts – you know, all the things that those who chose business studies over art probably already know about – debt, taxes, budgets, interest, compound interest etc. Once I have a sound knowledge of these concepts, we will being looking at my own budget and how much money I have to play with, and with which investments I will be able to experiment with. We’re going to do some trading and we’re going to assess my emotional reactions to certain investments and tradings. We’re going to look into emergency funds, retirement annuities, private investments and all these things that I used to call “boring” because I did not feel that I deserved to know about, or make, money.
Fun, hey? If you’re still reading this and haven’t fallen asleep – well done! If you thought this was going to be a boring money post – I get you, I’ve been there! My eyes literally used to glaze over and I’d start thinking of vegan doughnuts if anyone began discussing finances or investments around me. But this stuff is so important for us as women – and especially if we’re women with kids who work from home and/or freelance. Are you keen to join me in this journey? If you are, then these are the steps I am currently taking, which you can start too:
- Opened a savings account. I’m just using it right now to pump in any extra cash I can. This is to be used to start investing and to also become my emergency fund account. An emergency fund is an account holding at least three months worth of salary/income to tide you by when the shit hits the fan – ie your tire bursts, or your kid gets sick and you’ve run out of Medical Aid savings, or you need to buy new teeth… ahem…
- Read this book: Manage Your Money Like A Fucking Grown Up – follow all Sam’s amazing tips and get access to her resources on her site here likeafuckinggrownup.com. Get your partner, your children, your parents, your siblings and everyone else you know to read this book too.
- Print out your bank statement for the last month or three and take a long hard look at how much money is coming in and where it’s all going out. Do you really need that cappuccino and toasted zarm every day? Like, listen, I’m all about self care, but that shit ain’t going to get you nowhere when you’re 65 and bunking with your evil daugther-in-law because you can’t afford to live by yourself. Take a look at your debt and how you can nip it in the bud or settle it as soon as possible.
- Decide on your non-negotiables and then on your negotiables – the things you don’t have to treat yo’self to every week. For me, my non-negotiable is my monthly reiki and massage session with Colleen. Everything else is up for the cutting. Like the Indian takeaway we get twice a week. Haven’t had that in two months now. My jeans are looser and my bank account is fatter. Cancel debit orders that you don’t use, like paid subscriptions to websites and apps, or that gym membership you never use. Put your tekkies on and hit the tar rather.
- Download a budgeting app such as 22seven which will make the above easier. This post is not sponsored, it was just the app recommended to me. There are apparently loads out there, so download as you please.
- Start listening to finance and investment podcasts. South African ones, preferably. You can pick up loads of great tips – like did you know if you install a bidet in your bathroom and use it instead of buying toilet paper every month you can save a ridiculous amount of money over decades? And, if you get a blanket for your geyser, it stays hotter for longer and uses less electricity? This is how these finance-savvy people think! It’s like a whole new world to me. My current favourite listen is The Fat Wallet Show – if you have other podcast suggestions for everyone, please stick them in the comments. There are so many people out there wanting to help us (former) finance-phobes save and make money – for free! It’s incredible.
- Once you feel like you have a bit of a know-how, download the app, Easy Equities, and start investing! Even if it’s just R150 a month – it’s better to just start somewhere than to not start at all. This app allows you to get involved in investing with small amounts of money – something that wasn’t possible a few years ago. Guys, what a time to be alive! I’m not going to advise you where to invest or trade your money, because I’m still stuck on this stage – but as I learn, I will share!
So this is what I have been busy with lately and I’m finding it so rewarding and interesting. I’ve always understood that money is energy and like energy, it needs to flow. Now I need to start believing it. I’m hoping this work will help me release some of the blockages I have around money and also help make managing finances and saving fun for me! I really want to have fun with money and not be afraid of it. The more I ignored money, the more fearful I became of it. Now I start off every day by logging into my bank account and being relaxed with checking the money coming in and going out. Truth is, once I have more money, I know I can use it for bigger things and for helping others – and that’s what really makes me excited! At the end of the day, money for me is not about power or control or fancy things – it’s about freedom. It’s about knowing that any point in my life, I am free to make the choices that are best for me.
How is your relationship with money? Do you have any tips or resources to share? I would love to hear from you in the comments!