I know the Jones. I see them on a daily basis. They live in the richer side of town in a huge house. They own a luxurious car and wear really nice clothes. Their children go to the best private schools, and both the husband and wife have really good jobs that earn them good salaries and life seems perfect. Is it?
The Joneses also have a huge housing mortgage, a motor vehicle loan, and they are also paying an educational loan. On a monthly basis, between 40 and 50% of their salaries are dedicated toward servicing their debt. They also pay cable, electricity, water, internet and phone, and private school bills for their children. Many nights, the Joneses cannot sleep because the weight of their mortgage is weighing on their minds. To further compound their financial burdens, they have personal problems between themselves because their lifestyle slowly deteriorates as the months goes by.
You on the other hand, your house is not very huge, but it is comfortable. Your car is not fancy, but it is in good condition and energy efficient. You do not live on the rich side of town, but your neighbourhood is relatively peaceful except for the occasional fights that occur every now and then. Your children go to the public schools, and they are doing quite well. Fortunately, you have a good job, though your salary is not very high. You are able to service your mortgage and other debt commitments and still have sufficient surplus income to live comfortably. Your lifestyle is not elaborate but comfortable. You can sleep peacefully without having to worry about your loans, and you and your spouse come together to work out any financial distress your family may be facing. So the question is, should you be trying to keep up with the Joneses or should the Joneses be trying to keep up with you?
Many times persons compromise the financial security of their families in order to try and live a lifestyle that they are not ready for. Because their neighbours have acquired something, in their mind, they do not want to be left behind, so they do the same. On many occasions, persons may be living a particular lifestyle that has become terribly difficult to maintain because of circumstances outside of their control. However, instead of cutting back on some of the things they do, they try to maintain this way of life in fear of what others may say and/or think.
Consequently, it is high time that persons attempt to attain greater financial security by taking charge of their finances, focusing on their personal situations, and stop looking to see what their neighbours and friends are doing.
As of January 2014, persons in Grenada earning between 36,000.00 and 60,000.00 XCD annually is required to pay 15% income tax as revealed by the Prime Minister in his address to the nation on Wednesday 30thOctober 2013. What does this mean for individuals? It means that our debt obligations and utility bills will remain the same. Food prices will remain constant and occasionally increase, gas prices will be relatively constant, and school fees will continue to rise yearly. HOWEVER, our SURPLUS INCOME will now be reduced.
So one might ask, what should we do? We now need more than ever to take full charge of our personal financial situation. We need to stop buying things that we do not need, even if they are on sale. We need to stop buying things that we cannot afford and paying with future income. Every home should implement a budget because it will be critical that we keep track of our expenditure and income. Our expenditure should never under any circumstance exceed our income, and if it does, we need to cut back on our spending. On many occasions, we tend to confuse wants with needs in our budget. For instance, having all the cable channels is not a need. Also, although the internet is great to have, it too is a want.
Here are a few more useful tips that can be used during this belt tightening period. Firstly, we should pay off our debt with the highest interest rates first, and then focus on the rest. Secondly, we can lessen on the amount of times we eat out and carry our lunches to work. Thirdly, pay bills that will require high reconnection fees and arrears if they are not paid on time. Fourthly, avoid making your lifestyle more elaborate when you get a 3% increase in salary; save it or invest for higher returns. Additionally, we need to avoid excessive use of credit cards. Also, pay yourself first; no matter your income, you need to save a percentage from it. 10% is normally the recommended amount. Furthermore, negotiate everything. You would be surprised by the number of people who will be willing to lower their prices for you when you are shopping. Finally, to maintain healthy financial standards, STOP TRYING TO KEEP UP WITH THE JONESES.