This Financial Detox May Just Save Your Life
Most people live a precarious existence as they battle with debts, overspending, and their inability to manage their cash flow. With credit cards easily available to everyone, even those who may be struggling with their student debt, car loan, or even mortgage, could easily make one wrong move, sending their finances spiralling out of control.
Everyone has made their fair share of bad financial decisions that they may still have to deal with. We always know when we have made a financial boo-boo. It’s like being jolted awake after a nightmare – the difference is, the nightmare has become your reality!
It seemed like a good idea at the time, but in the harsh light of day, you will be beating yourself up over that temporary lapse of judgement. If you’ve been in this situation and want to take control of your financial health, it might be time for a financial detox.
Even if you generally manage your finances well, you should still think about going on a financial detox. Like a body detox, it should be done once in a while – it’s just like pressing a reset button, or rebooting your computer after having run it for months.
When it comes to a body detox, some people fast for days, or only eat certain food for a period. They would abstain from things that are toxic – such as smoking, drinking and even eating processed food and drinks. No fast food or soft drinks!
Similar to that, financial detox requires you to change your lifestyle for a period, which may include doing some things you don’t usually do, but should, and abstaining from certain financial moves that you make all too often.
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to kick-start your detox:
1. Set a period
Usually people do this at the beginning of the year when their New Year resolutions are still fresh. However, it is advisable to do this at least twice a year – January (to recover from your year-end expenses) and July (a mid-year reboot). Do it for a month, and perhaps some of the good habits set will be cultivated thereafter.
2. Lay down a special budget
As you will be managing your finances differently on your detox month, you need to come up with a different budget. Write down your monthly income, and deduct all your monthly commitments, such as your mortgage repayment, car repayment, and other bills that you will need to pay. This is important, as failing to do so, you will be incurring additional interest charges, defeating the purpose of your detox.
3. Plan your expenses
The spending of the balance you get after deducting all your financial commitments must be planned to the T. Do not make any impromptu purchases. Your spending should only be for necessities, such as food and petrol for your car or bus fare, and definitely not getting a new pair of shoes.
4. Cut down your spending drastically
Even if you are allowed to spend on food, you need to change the pattern you spend. Instead of eating out at the restaurant, make your own breakfast, lunch and dinner from home. When you see how much you have saved by not eating out by the end of the month, you may just continue with this routine! Avoid shopping malls or online shops throughout your detox period.
5. Put away your credit or debit card
These payment tools though convenient and if used correctly, can bring you heaps of rewards, during this period, it is best to put them away. Spending with cash always leaves you feeling more accountable. It is far harder, emotionally, to hand over RM50 notes compared to swiping a credit card.
6. Give yourself a weekly allowance
Remember how you make do with your weekly allowance when you were in school? Go back to that mentality. The best way is to withdraw a set amount of money (based on your strict budget on point #2) for the whole week and make sure you only stick to that amount.
7. Reward yourself
Going cold turkey may work for some people, but others may rebel outrageously after the detox period. If you find yourself splurging on an expensive dinner right after your detox, going cold turkey is definitely not your style. Therefore, having a non-detox day once a week may be more effective. Go out for lunch on this day! But don’t go crazy. Remember moderation is the key.
8. Monitor your progress
At the end of each day jot down what you have spent on and rate it as either a ‘want’ or a ‘need’ item and keep a running tally of how much money you have left. For example, buying a gourmet sandwich for lunch on your non-detox day should be rated as ‘want,’ as you could have easily eaten something cheaper.
9. View your results
At the end of your detox period, assess your spending habits between ‘wants’ and ‘needs’. Are you happy with the results? If more than 30% of your spending is on ‘want’ items then you need to review your spending pattern and behaviour. Something has to change. Also compare your spending to your normal pre-detox expenses. The results should speak for themselves.
10. Keep some habits
After reviewing your results, you may be spurred to start making these changes permanent. Maybe you may enjoy making your own healthier lunches to work, and you can start doing them more often. Perhaps the weekly allowance step works for you, and you can continue to do that to keep your finances in check.
While doing your financial detox, liquidise your assets. This is especially helpful for people who are detoxing to save up a big amount of money. Assets here do not just refer to big items like your house or car, but also items that you might have bought on a whim, which you may not need. For example, if you have recently bought a tablet (because there was a discount), when you already have one, then you can always sell one of them through some of the preloved Facebook groups. It’s perfect time for a spring cleaning!
Living from paycheck to paycheck can be depressing, especially if you would like to achieve some of the financial milestones you have set for yourself (buying your first home, changing your car to a better one, or even going on your first overseas holiday).
If you find yourself missing some of your payments (especially the high interest debts like credit card), or is trying to save up for something (down payment for your first home or a well-deserved holiday), then you are in need of a financial detox badly.
A spending detox doesn’t just get your finances under control, it also helps to guarantee a positive financial future. Continuing with your current lifestyle that does nothing for your finances may be putting your finances at risk!