Tag Archives: budget

I owe you…

For the last 4 years I have been trying to detach myself from the debt system. The system is like a Sea Wasp or Marine Stinger, its tentacles mean death. Once it’s got a hold of you…there is no letting go…unless you make a decision to detach yourself.

The global debt bubble is bulging and pretty soon it will pop and things will get messy.

In South Africa, the household-debt-to-income ratio is around 78% leaving an average of R22 out of every R100 that South Africans earn each month (after tax) to buy food, clothing, toiletries etc and pay for school fees, water and lights, insurance, entertainment, holidays etc… no wonder the rate of household saving has declined to virtually nothing. (Gary Wilde)

From personal experience I know how difficult it is. Ashley and I lost almost everything in 2006 when a make-believe investor stole all our hard-earned profits. Since then it has been a struggle to get by.

People are starving and are jobless. It is a never-ending cycle. Although the government has put out a plea to the people to start saving more…it is extremely difficult under the circumstances. People also lend out of desperation.  It is a reality… we have a backlog in this country. Don’t get me wrong, I am not being pessimistic, I am being real. I am not making excuses but our past has had a huge impact on where we are today.

Ashley and I decided to make a conscious effort this year to save. I opened a savings account and collectively we saved a mere R150 per month. To some of you it might seem futile, but we were determined. About a month ago, we were forced to use it as one of our clients decided not to pay us. Immediately everything spiraled and we had to draw from our savings. I am sure that story seems familiar.

Now I agree that in general we are not trained too well in financial planning.  In fact, I think it should become part of the school curriculum.  Our kids need to be taught how to budget and work wisely with their money so they don’t repeat the cycle.  As a parent I have to teach my kids responsible spending.

But where do you start?

Due the state of the economy, high taxes, the increased cost of living, interest rates, government corruption, banks, creditors I was forced to make drastic changes to start living more responsibly.  Allow me to share some of them:

  1. Budget…budget…budget.  I cannot stress this enough.  “If you don’t plan, you plan to fail” (Gavin Cupido).  You need to outline your expenses and know where your money is going.
  2. Don’t buy on credit.  I know it’s difficult, but if you cannot afford to buy it cash, then don’t.
  3. Cut on luxuries.  We had to cut out holidays, eating out, buying expensive foods, toys, etc.
  4. I plan my meals so I can plan my grocery bill.  Let me tell you it works.  I try to be disciplined and I only buy what’s on the list.
  5. We live more consciously by managing our electricity.  Luckily we have a pre-paid meter so we can keep tabs on our usage.  We have also bought an inexpensive gel-stove which I cook on.  It also saves a lot on electricity.

These are just some of the changes we had to make.  Our life is far from perfect.  We still have a lot of catching up to do but these alterations have already made an impact.

If we don’t make a conscious effort to budget and save pretty soon our kids will be singing this song of debt (on the Barney tune):

I owe you

you owe me

we’re becoming a sad family

with a great debt bubble

and no hope for me and you

won’t you start saving so I can live too.

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How to have a stylish wedding on a tight budget

Last week my younger sister got engaged!  In honour of my sis, Ame, and her fiancé, Eddie, I have decided to do a post on weddings and the planning thereof.

First of all, it is soooo exciting!  Congratulations to the two of you!  I know you will be happy together! Ashley and I got married on 1 December 2002 and it was probably the hottest day of the year. We had three and a half months to plan everything. It was tight and money was even tighter! The good news is, a stylish and affordable wedding is doable. Definitely! (That’s my sister, Ame in the picture below).

Our big day

Allow me to give you some tips on what assisted us in making our day a reality:

1. Express yourself. 

Make up your mind that the day and decision to get married is about what you want.

Don’t let trends and other people influence you in such a manner that you think your personality and wishes are compromised. If someone you know is also getting married in the same year you intend to, steer away from comparing your day to theirs.  Be yourself and do what makes you happy.  Don’t feel pressurised to spend thousands more than is necessary to “keep up with the Joneses”.  I had a yellow wedding with sunflowers and yellow vintage cars.  We rented the cars from a friend and a colleague and they charged us minimal.  I usually wear my hair curly and decided my wedding day shouldn’t be any different. Your wedding day should reflect your personality.

Vintage cars

2. Secondly, set the date!

Make sure the date gives you reasonable time to save money and plan everything.  Many times the date will depend on the availability of the venue you desire.  If some of your friends and family that you would like to invite live in another province or country, be sure to inform them as soon as you can.  This will give them enough time to book air tickets and make arrangements to attend.

3. Choose an inexpensive or free venue.

I personally feel some venues are ridiculous with their prices.  You do not need to pay an arm and a leg to have a nice, stylish wedding.  Don’t get sucked in with the ‘latest venue’.  Be realistic in what you can afford. Be creative.  If you know someone who owns a farm or a property with enough space, be bold and ask them if they would be willing to rent their space to you for that day. You never know.  People might surprise you. Drive around your town and ask the locals. The tourism offices also keep a list of all the venues in the area.  Also try venues where you are able to bring in your own caterer.   Ashley and I settled for an unconventional crocodile farm for our wedding. The views were spectacular, the price was all inclusive and we were able to negotiate with the owners.

Le Bonheur Crocodile Farm

4. Narrow down the guest list.

Who to invite and who not?  Your family is quite huge as well as his…what to do?  Have you considered having a smaller affair?  Decide on a realistic total of people to invite.  Once you have decided, be fair and split the amount between the two of you.  Stick to the decided total and only invite those people that really matter to you.  No offense, you don’t need to invite Aunty Mavis and that distant niece you haven’t seen in 20 years!  Invite those who would make your day special.

It was really disheartening when some of our guests did not pitch.  If we had known sooner we could have invited other people who would have loved to be part of our special day.  Both of you know a lot of people like colleagues and friends of friends.  You might not be close but you would like them to be part of the day.  If you are really clever invite everyone you know to the ceremony at the church and invite only a select group (family and close friends) to the reception.

 5.      Avoid the busy days. 

Most people get married on Saturdays.  So venues will cost more on this day.  Look at alternative days like Fridays or Sundays.  Why not get married ‘out of season’?  The South African wedding season is from September to April.   Venues and most services run specials during the off-peak months.  Ashley and I got married on a Sunday morning and we were treated to a Sunday lunch at the reception.  It saved us some money as we did not have to serve liquor (it was our preference) like we would have had on a Saturday night.

6.      Ask for moola!

If you really want to save money (especially for your first month’s rent), ask your guests to give you money in lieu of a gift.  This will prevent you from getting 5 toasters and they will love the fact that they don’t have to guess what you would like.  They can pop the cash in an envelope and this will really help you start your new life together.  Put an appropriate verse to add in the invite to bring your message across.  Here is an example:

“Don’t wonder about a gift all night,

A gift of cash will make it right,

All other gifts are welcome too,

As long as it’s with love from you.

Save on costs

7. Use Your Friends And Family

Within our families we all know an aunt who can sew, or a cousin who has a great camera.  Perfect!  Ask them for assistance in making a dress, taking pictures, providing music for the ceremony, and making your wedding cake. Always offer to pay.  You will be surprised that most of them might offer their services at discount or even for free as a wedding gift. Be careful though; don’t let your wedding and friendship be ruined through this.

8.      Something borrowed

It is great to use heirlooms from yesteryear. Give new life to your grandmother’s wedding ring and use it as yours.  If there is none, ask your family members for odd pieces of jewellery and have them melted to make a wedding ring.  My mom-in-law gave us her odd gold jewellery and the diamonds of her wedding band for my ring.  If there’s a wedding gown, veil, handbag, engagement ring or wedding band in the family you like, use it for yourself.  It is much cheaper than buying a new one and it has sentimental value.

9.       Go back to school!

Take advantage of students.  For every service you need, there’s a student willing to provide it for a nominal fee in exchange for experience.  You can use beauty school students for your make-up and nails etc.  Get a Graphic design student to design your invitations.  However, be sure to ask for samples before you commit. You don’t want to arrive at the ceremony with a ghost face!

 10.   Be creative!

  • Make your own flower arrangements.  I ordered sunflowers from the local flower lady and made my own table arrangements (with the help of my mom, aunt and mom-in-law).  I did however hire a professional to make my bouquet and flowers for the main table.

Self-made bouquet

  • Make your own invitations and keep-sakes.  My mom and aunt helped me with mine.  As my theme was sunflowers, my keepsakes were sunflower seeds in an organza bag with a thank you message attached.  The idea was that my guests should plant the seed in honor of our wedding and see it grow!
  • Skip the 3-layer cake that cost thousands!  Go for a large chocolate cake or cupcakes instead.  They taste better and the guests will actually eat it.  And it won’t gather dust in your mom’s sideboard as a display!

Alternative wedding cake

  • Email your guests with a nice ‘Save the date’ message.  This will save you money on cards.
  • Have a stylish braai!  Or ask your guests to bring food in stead of a gift.  You will have a great variety of dishes and save even more money on catering.  Use the money you have saved for a well-deserved honeymoon!
  • A great idea is to buy a bunch of disposable cameras and ask your guests to take pictures of your big day.  They will enjoy this gesture and you will see the day through their eyes.
  • Skip the bridal shops and designer dresses.  Look for your dress in bargain or vintage shops.  Have it altered to suit your needs.  Buy shoes and a dress that you can wear at another event again.
  • Ask a few music students to play the Wedding march as you walk down the isle.  This will give them exposure and they won’t charge you an arm and a leg.

That is quite a mouthful.  The bottom line is YOU, and your betrothed, saying your vows, expressing your love, and making a commitment to each other is what makes a wedding a wedding.  Be yourself and most of all…enjoy it!  After all this will be a once in a lifetime experience!

For more info check the following websites:



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