I don’t know about you, but I grew up around women who didn’t have much control over the financial issues within their households, which often left them disempowered when strife arose. Some were fortunate enough however, to have transparent husbands who ran through the details of every transaction with the while others were quite the opposite – having to explain why they bought two kilos of tomatoes as opposed to one and why the change was less than what the waiting husband expected.
Recent years have witnessed more and more women stepping out and taking a more active role in financial and investment decisions at home. Perhaps with the growing economic impasses of Zim and some husbands having been retrenched, it was a classic case of do whatever we can to keep our heads above water. I know plenty of women who have turned to selling everything from purses to weave, shoes to kitchen gadgets and so on because this is what the environment has called for. Complacency is no longer an option when hefty school fees amounts are called for every few weeks. Adulting is real and a woman must be about understanding money and all its workings.
“A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.”
My grandmother always said – and still reiterates this every time we speak – “Mukadzi ngaaite mari yake yekuzvisevenzera” (“A woman must earn her own money out of the work of her hands”). My mom often says “Money answereth all problems,” a true assertion given the capitalism we contend with every day. Moving to America taught me to be independent, to pay bills even though I couldn’t save much. It was a stressful time and admittedly, part of my problem was that I always liked nice things – some of which I couldn’t afford. So did well to learn the art of hunting down the next best bargain, driving to the hood to harness some great deals sometimes.
I’m a little older now and see my relationship with money a lot differently today. Moving back t0 Zimbabwe on January 7 2007 brought with it experiences that made me realise that she that is liquid is queen. Y’all remember the fuel and bank queues, barter trading chicken for Surf washing powder or coupons for Mazowe? Yeah…that.
Leaving Zim in 2010 taught me not to be complacent about opportunities to save and invest. I have seen a little diligence and commitment go a long way in making some financial headway. As such, here are a few nuggets I would like to share with you that continue to teach and build me:
1. Grow comfortable with discussing the subject of money.
How many of you actually grew up hearing people openly discuss the subject of money. For many of us, it was taboo to ask for money, to ask how much one earned or where they got money from.
Whether you are single or married, raising children or planning to start your family, you should take every opportunity you can to learn about money. Attend investment or financial advisory workshops; ask your parents, aunts, uncles and others who have gone before you how they got to where they were and what financial decisions they made to get ahead. Some advice is really quite practical - like downsizing your home to lessen you rent or changing the kids’ schools so the tuition bill is more affordable. You may have to go a few seasons without a big vacation to some exotic destination so you can manage all that needs juggling. Ask questions and take advice. You’ll be amazed at just how much you can learn just be asking questions.
2. Understand who your source is and that opportunities aren’t to be toyed with
“Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man's dwelling, but a foolish man devours it”
- Proverbs 21:20
I have a friend who got a really great opportunity to work abroad, then blew it by not putting in half the work she had said she could deliver in her interviews. GOD is our source and He enables us. He blesses us with opportunities that require much from us. Don’t be that person that becomes uber chill now that you have received your breakthrough. If you’ve been believing in GOD for a personal loan to start a business, invest or pay off a debt, don’t book a flight to the trending shopping destination once your loan is approved. If you’ve been praying for a job, work like your rent depends on it because it does. None of this booking annual leave before probation is over! Stick to the script even when your prayers are answered. GOD blesses but often times, it is us that lose the blessing by doing something foolish!
3. Prioritise your investments
How many of us have a couple months in salary saved up for a rainy day? Are you planning on buying your first home and if so, is a plan in place to save up for that deposit? Managing money requires that you are an active participant in the entire process. So if you are a married woman, these are conversations you should be having with the husband often – the how much by when and for what conversations. If you are single, you should be truthful with yourself about what’s important to you and how are going to stay on top of your financial goals.
4. Take smart risks
I pay a lot of attention to opportunities in Zim, knowing full well that I need to take advantage of this window I have in converting my currency to investments. Zimbabwe may be a zoo in as far as its economic landscape, but there are some opportunities in all that mess to own you little pieces of something. Do your research diligently. If you can’t afford cash purchases find institutions that will allow you to purchase land or property with a deposit assess whether such opportunities are for you. A lot of banks own land that they are selling to their clients whether locally-based or living abroad. City council almost always has land for sale too so it’s worth asking to see what land developments they have in their pipeline.
We witnessed a season of many women getting drawn into trending network marketing ventures, but few were conscious of just how hectic it is to convert the sales into a viable business. Network marketing isn’t for everyone and usually benefits those that bring it in a market as “the new thing”. I encourage you to ultimately only put money towards something that in the least interests you. Apart from that, it will just be throwing money down the drain or into someone’s pocket with no real benefit to you.
5. Learn to create and stick to your budget.
I’m an impulsive buyer. I see a nice rug and my mind starts envisioning where it will fit in our place. I love statement jewellery, handbags and shoes. It is for this reason that I avoid the mall completely unless I have a need that cannot be addressed anywhere else. All those 25% deductions and BOGO sale banners have a way with messing with a chick that struggles with disciplined spending.
So I created a budget that accommodates the household needs, the kids’ entertainment and clothing bits that pop up randomly, my daughter and I’s salon dates, dinner with the girls, my study modules and so on. I have a routine on when I shop right down to quantities I buy knowing how long they should last. This has helped me to put money aside from my own income in my “mama’s piggy bank” aside from our other monthly savings instruments. It’s not always easy but it’s working, and I love that I’m rarely dead broke by mid-month.
If you are one for keeping receipts do that. If you are one of having excel spreadsheets do that also. There are also apps available that help you with recording every cent you spend, which will also help you stick to your budget. It’s ultimately about doing what works for you as you work at staying on track with your financial management.
So there it is lovelies. The money conversations are often difficult to have even with ourselves. But they are conversations that must be had. Even if you don’t control the finances in your household per se, there should at least be some accountability from who does, and you must be in the know on all things that affect the financial standing of you and your loved ones.