Money Makeover | Tell your money where to go

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How to get the most out of your money. Photo: Getty
How to get the most out of your money. Photo: Getty


Follow six ordinary South Africans as they take up the Absa/City Press Money Makeover Challenge and undergo a money makeover boot camp over the next six months. Each candidate has been allocated their own Absa financial adviser. 

Thirty-something Gugu was determined to cut her expenses and pay off her debt. With lockdown she was able to work remotely, giving her the opportunity to move back home. This meant she could save on rent and she sold her car as she did not need to commute to work each day.

Gugu has started to budget her monthly expenses and buys her personal items in bulk when there are specials.

“In our community, we are embarrassed to talk about money – it is taboo. I was even scared to print my bank statements; it was embarrassing when I saw where I was wasting money. I was scared because I wasn’t sure I would ever get out of that space. Once I started budgeting, I saw the change when managing the little I had.”

GUGUPHOTO: nashNarrades

Tell your money where to go

A key aspect of any spending plan is to include a category for saving. While single mother Maryke had a good handle on her budget and did not have a lot of debt, her adviser Leigh-Anne Decker identified that Maryke had not allocated money to savings. You will never start saving unless you include it in your budget and make that payment before you start spending.

Complaints investigator Audrey already had a surplus in her budget, but she needed to allocate these funds so that they could help her achieve her goals.

Having a plan for the extra money, and making sure the money is used according to those goals, is the only way to achieve financial success.

Otherwise, the money just ends up being spent on lifestyle.

I was already 32 years old before I did my first household budget. Unfortunately, it usually takes a financial crisis or facing financial difficulty for us to realise that it is time to take control of our money. However, what I discovered was that it gave me power over my money; the improvement it made to my overall financial wellbeing turned me into a lifelong fan of having a spending plan.

In the words of The Total Money Makeover author Dave Ramsey, “you need to tell your money where to go, otherwise it will leave”.

This is why, every year, the first challenge for our contestants is to get a handle on where their money goes each month. If they want to find that extra money to pay off debt or start investing, they need to make some decisions about what they are prepared to live without to reach their personal goals.

Create awareness

While we may think we know where our money is going, tracking it accurately gives us a better understanding of where our money is going and often explains why we end up with no money in the middle of the month or why we keep relying on a credit card to get by.

Sole breadwinner Lwandile has managed to find R1 000 extra each month by properly tracking the family spending. When Lwandile reviewed his budget, his financial adviser Theunis Prinsloo immediately identified that Lwandile was not allocating correctly.

“When I saw his budget, I knew that it was probably not reflecting the real spend,” says Prinsloo, whose first task was for Lwandile to start collecting his slips when he went shopping. By capturing his slips, Lwandile was able to better track what the family was spending on groceries.

“I was so surprised to see how much was going to snacks – our spend on snacks and condiments was more than on meat and eggs,” says Lwandile, who adds that it was those daily trips to the shops that were breaking the budget.

Like most of us, Lwandile or his wife would pop in to buy bread and come out having spent R120 on non-essentials. By sticking to a big shop once a month and limiting the day-to-day shopping, Lwandile can get a better handle on his grocery bill.

Lwandile was also allocating R1 500 a month as a buffer, but this money was always being spent, however, and it was not reflected in his spending plan. He needed to make sure this amount was allocated to the items he was spending the money on, as he was unaware that he was overspending.

tracking Lwandile with his family PHOTO: leon sadiki

READ: A year into financial freedom: Where are they now?

Control environmental officer and mother of two Nocawe has been surprised at what a difference having a single household budget for her and her husband has had on her finances. She has already managed to create a significant surplus which can be used to settle debts and go towards savings.

“We never knew it could be possible. It hasaffected our family positively,” says Nocawe, who,after reviewing the household budget with her husband, has cut out unnecessary insurances like the credit life on her credit card and reviewing their funeral cover. “We have cut on groceries and eating out, and we will have a surplus of R12 000 for June.”

For newly-wed Stephan, working with his adviser Zettie Everson has given the couple an opportunity to implement financial discipline early in their married life to achieve their financial goals – bad money habits become much harder to change over time.

“Seeing these changes already has made me very excited; it is important now to grow into a habit of sticking to the budget. I know it won’t be easy, but I am very excited about the changes we have already seen.”

STEPHAN Photo: Liesl Englebrecht
  • Download a budget template on the Money Makeover website at or use one of the many budgeting apps available.
  • Go through your bank statements for the past three months to understand where and how much you are spending so you have a realistic idea of your actual spending.
  • For the next few months, carry a notebook with you and write down everything you spend, as you spend. Just that awareness will see a shift in how you spend your money.


Maya Fisher-French 

Personal Finance Editor

+27 11 713 9001
69 Kingsway Rd, Auckland Park

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