5 Steps to design your spending plan

The article, Why you do not need a Budget, clearly discussed why you do not need a budget, and we discussed certain types of spending. We encouraged you to rather plan your spending than setting up a budget. Today I am discussing the top 5 tips for designing your spending plan.

As humans, we often downplay things when it comes to our money. A great example of this is the age-old consumerism trick where they advertise something for R 999 because, in our minds, we automatically think that it is less than R 1 000, so it’s cheap, or now I can afford it. We do the same when it comes to planning our spending. We look at the first one or two numbers. So, for instance, if a debit order is R 1 499, we typically say it’s R 1 400, and then we are confused when all our money is gone at the end of the month.

Step 1: Use the data

Most of us swipe or tap our cards for just about everything, including parking. When you design your spending plan, start by using your bank statement from the previous month and slot the figures into the right category. Once you have completed this the hardest part is over. You have started and now you already have some sort of an idea of where your money goes. Do not use the bank statements for abnormal months, like months where you were on leave, where it was an important birthday or something big happened. Remember we are creatures of habit, and starting on a skewed view will only complicate the process further down the line.

Step 2: Create your overall categories.

In Why you do not need a budget, we categorised spending into four categories, namely fixed spending, necessary spending, social spending, and luxury spending. You now need to classify each of your main categories in step 1, into these four categories. Remember to be honest with yourself. There is no point in classifying a spending item as necessary spending when it is not. It will only complicate the process further down the line when you need to make decisions based on your spending.

Step 3: Determine where you need to cut your spending.

Compare your spending to your income. If you are spending more than what you are earning, start by cutting down on your luxury spending. If that is still not sufficient, see if there is any of your social spending that you can cut back on. You want to avoid cutting back on your necessary spending as far as possible since this will have the most impact on your survival.

Step 4: Breaking it down

For luxury and social spending, it is very easy to overspend as it generally happens in the spur of the moment. By breaking these expenses down into smaller pieces, like weekly units, you will be able to create a control mechanism for yourself. The difficulty in this is changing your behaviour. If you have overspent in one week, you need to ensure and commit to yourself that you will spend less the following week. The opposite is also true, where you are underspending one week, does not mean that you have to overspend the next week. The idea is to get you to spend less and save more.

Step 5: Tracking your spending.

Because your fixed spending will not change, that is one area you do not need to track. Your necessary spending will have certain of those expenses that will only occur once a month and therefore you will be able to track that easily. The other expenses, including the necessary expenses that happen more than once a month, for example, your groceries, etc. will have to be measured in weekly or bi-weekly hurdles to ensure that you are keeping track the way you should. The easiest way to ensure that you do it and that you keep yourself accountable is to send yourself a calendar invite to remind you. This will not only help you schedule time in your diary, it will also be a reminder for you to do it.

In conclusion, if you want to be in control of your money, you have to start somewhere and take action. If you do not change your behaviour, you are not able to change the direction to where you want to be heading. Tracking your spending on the items that you are more likely to overspend on, is the simplest and fastest way to start taking control of your finances.

What is a record of advice?

Financial Service Providers must provide you with a record of the advice to detail the advice that they have provided to you. A record of advice is mandatory in terms of the FAIS General Code of Conduct and has a set of minimum requirements.

What is the purpose of a Record of Advice?

The purpose of the record of advice is to have a written record of the advice that you have received and to help you have a summary of why certain products were chosen for your portfolio. When you meet with a financial advisor, you will have to provide them with a mandate of the services you require from them. Ensure that the record of advice reflects that same mandate. For example, if you only approached the financial advisor to help you with your retirement plan or life cover that is a limited mandate. Where you have asked them for a full financial needs analysis, the record of advice should reflect that.

There are many components of financial planning, some more complex than others. As a client, you have the responsibility to ensure that that financial advisor has as much knowledge of your affairs as possible, to provide you with the advice that is most suitable to your needs and the goals that you want to achieve.

The Record of Advice

The first aspect of a record of advice is a brief overview of your circumstances at the time that the financial needs analysis was performed. This will generally include things like your income, where you are in your career, what your goals and financial concerns are. If someone reads this part of the record of advice it should almost contain who you are as a person at that point in time.

The second part must contain the products that were considered before a final selection was made. There are several financial products out there and although many of them have similar features, some might be better in your specific scenario than others, or they could have different pricing structures, which might make you prefer one over the other. This is the reason why financial advisors must consider various products and determine if they are suitable for your needs. Where your financial advisor, only works for a specific company and there were no real other products that they can compare, does not mean this is poor advice, it simply means that they will provide to you will be limited to their scope of the product. In some instances, it might be to your advantage as that they should know that product inside out.

The next part should contain the products that were recommended and implemented. Your financial advisor needs to state clearly why the product was the one most suitable to your needs, what needs it would solve for and what needs it is unable to solve for. There should, at the very least be a list of the features and benefits as well as the consequences of entering the selected financial product(s).

Product Replacements

In the financial services sector, there is a term called “churning”. This means that financial advisors replace existing policies with new ones as soon as the period of commission clawback (usually two years) has been reached. The replacement of one product with another is not always in your best interest and therefore the FSCA has made it compulsory for a Replacement Advice Record to be completed and submitted wherever one product is replaced with another. Some replacement of financial products is warranted, especially where there has been product enhancement or where your circumstances have changed and the product you have no longer meets your needs. The replacement advice record has a prescribed format, and it makes provision for financial advisors to compare the products considering aspects such as the premiums, costs, benefits, exclusions, and waiting periods. The financial advisor also clearly must note why the replacement is more suitable for your needs. As the client, you must ensure that you understand it and that you agree with the reasoning for the replacement before signing the document.

In summary, a financial advisor should always act in the best interest of their client. The 3 is the ultimate document to help both the financial advisor and more importantly, you the client, remember why certain decisions were made, why you have signed up for certain products, and what your situation was at the time. It remains vitally important that, no matter how trusting and fond you are of your financial advisor, you read the documents before you sign them. Make sure that you agree to the contents and lastly, ensure that you get your signed copy from the financial advisor.

Why you do not need a Budget.

A budget is based on estimates and most seems like a tedious task. A spending plan can help you divide and priorities your spending.