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The secret of saving when you’re earning peanuts

The secret of saving when you’re earning peanuts

You’re not saving for yourself, you’re saving for the self you want to be.

"What this meant, when I was retrenched, was that I’d built up a decent cushion for those rainy days. Rain which ended up as a hailstorm".

You’re not saving for yourself, you’re saving for the self you want to be

At my first real job, the one that came after being a waitron, I earned half-a-peanut. Other folk I’d gone to school with had stepped into corporate and were earning peanuts, plural.

Some years later I got the opportunity to relocate to a different job in another city. It was there that I earned a full peanut.

When I signed on the dotted line, I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that I’d be earning double my income. The jump seemed unprecedented.

My sister pointed out that I should be mindful that my expenses did not increase with this new income tier. To temper my spending and live within my means – one of the mantras umama taught us.

And so, fortunate that my cost of living hadn’t changed all that much – spending more on accommodation meant I was able to spend less on transport – I was able to save that additional half-a-peanut for a rainy day.

I opted for a monthly debit order into a savings account, and I continued to live my life comfortably on my half-a-peanut.

What this meant, when I was retrenched two-and-a-half years later, was that I’d built up a decent cushion for those rainy days. Rain which ended up as a hailstorm.

Fortunately, during this time, I was also working as a freelancer and scoring an income from a handful of sources. Together with my safety net of savings, this made a world of difference.

With the help and support of my family, I was able to survive, earning very little, for another two years.

But then the savings dried up and I ran out of options. I was planning to move home, where key costs would fall away, thanks again to a supportive family. This would give me time to regroup and work out the next step.

It was at this point that I landed a job where I’d earn more than I’d asked for in the interview. Another piece of luck. At this point my cost of living had increased, with taxis giving way to petrol and service plans.

So, I did what I knew and debit-ordered my savings, splitting them into different accounts. One for car maintenance, because my service plan would eventually expire, another for travel if I wanted to visit loved ones or go on a sho’t left, and an emergency fund for emergencies.

And so, these accounts evolved as my life priorities did. Hence the addition of a long-term goal account.

The aim was, and still is, to limit the trauma that comes from limited options. The aim is to increase my financial resources, because my experience has taught me that resources lessen anxiety, strengthen sanity, and contribute to feeling empowered, even when you begin your journey with half-a-peanut.

Nobhongo Gxolo

Change expert, Nobhongo Gxolo, believes that the big change equals big opportunity.

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