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Brace yourself for big waves of spending

Surf’s up: see those big waves of spending coming (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

Every one of us complains that we are spending too much. It would be wonderful if we could blame someone else, but we can’t do that.

Sometimes the husband complains that his wife spends too much at the grocery store (not easy to avoid these days of course) and that she should be more careful. Husband feels in control. Then the spending reverses itself when husband pops off for a few libations. Wife now feels in control.

On and on it goes. One day one spends too much, the next day the other. Even if we live alone some days, we spend too much and other days we feel great because we only bought two coffees and a newspaper (we made a sandwich at home for lunch).

The problem is that even though we faithfully prepare a personal budget on a regular basis (we do, don’t we?), we often find it difficult to stick to it. Of course, if we don’t prepare a budget then there’s nothing to compare our spending to, so perhaps that’s the main reason why many people don’t prepare budgets.

The unfortunate truth is that spending comes in waves — usually unpredictable.

How many times have you said to yourself: “I seem to have been having to pay for one thing after another this month.” You didn’t plan it that way — it just happened. Is that bad planning? Probably not. Expenses mount up until eventually we are forced into paying them.

In other words, for a few months at a time we seem to have control of our spending — which is when we do indeed check our budget faithfully. When we are good boys and girls, we relish our self-praise. When our spending is out of control, we refuse to look at the budget.

The problem is that our spending patterns move up and down month by month. The car licence is due this month. And, of course, our car insurance as well. And because that is all tied to our birthday, we need to spend and celebrate. More money.

Luckily, we only have a birthday one month a year. Do we really need to buy doughnuts for the office as well?

Waves come in all sorts of sizes.

Little waves can be handled easily. They merely ruffle our feet. But the big ones knock us off our feet.

At this time of year, a trip to the beach can be a learning exercise. If we accept “waves spending” then we can appreciate the size and speed of them at the beach. If we’re smart, we’ll carry the vision of the waves crashing on to the beach over to our budgeting. It will help us appreciate that when the big spending wave hits us, then as long as we don’t get bowled over (a Cup Match analogy!), we will ride the wave and come out the other side safely when the little ones are tickling our feet.

The trick is to prevent the big waves from hitting us month over month over month.

Predicting the big wave is the secret to all of this – if we can.

If we know that a big wave will hit us three months from now, we can balance out our spending until that month arrives. It’s not really saving for the big event but simply shaving a little bit off our spending to keep a higher balance in our chequing account so that when the wave hits we have the cash accumulated and not having to take a big hit on our credit card to cover the shortfall in the big spend month.

Just like being at the beach. If you look up, you’ll see the big wave coming and you will naturally brace for it. When it hits you’ll be ready.

Try that with your spending pattern and you will enjoy your day at the beach – and not be worrying about whether you can have that extra ice cream.

Wave goodbye to money concerns.

Bill Storie is chief executive of The Olderhood Group Ltd, Bermuda and is a CA (Scotland). He is also producer and host of the weekly radio show The Ozone on Magic 102.7FM every Thursday from 9.30am to 11am. For more information, visit www.olderhoodgroup.com