Money matters

27 Jul 2019

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On growing up, there are many things that you learn to handle and take responsibility for. While some of these are adult things, such as doing a job, driving a car, cooking a meal, buying your own stuff and what not, there are other things that are helpful to learn how to do from a young age. Handling money is one of those things.

I am sure you know what money is and what it is used for. You have had some of your own too, in the form of pocket money, eidi and as a gift on different occasions. And you all must have enjoyed spending it on chips, drinks, toys and so many other things. Some of you must have also saved money to buy something special and expensive, while a few would have given it to your parents for safekeeping.

have given it to your parents for safekeeping.

All of these are common ways in which money is used in childhood, but as we grow older, its usage takes on a whole new and often more complicated meaning. Then money needs to be considered in terms of earning, expenses, budgeting, savings and investments, to mention just a few things. It is not possible to just wake up one fine day and become money savvy or make the right decisions about using money wisely.

You have to learn the value of money and how to handle it smartly from a young age to develop some sensible financial habits, because habits learnt at a young age have great influence when you grow older. But this is not to say that you can’t learn things when you are an adult, it is just that the younger you start with being money wise, the better it is for you.

Moreover, in today’s world of credit cards, online banking, ATMs and cashless transactions, there is the danger that many people, both adults and children, can lose sight of the fact that any spending or transaction being done takes place without our wallets becoming empty or cash leaving our hands. This can take away the whole feeling of having spent money on something.

With credit cards, we do not have to worry about paying for something we are buying right now, but we will have to do it eventually and for that we have to earn, budget and save money. Spending money without first saving it is a sure shot formula for going into debt.

But I want to make it clear that nothing that is going to be discussed here implies that money is very important — no, money is only as important as the use to which it is put. It is useless if you waste it, and it is very useful if you utilise it wisely and save it smartly. You have power over it, so you need to learn to exercise that power wisely, after all, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Where’s the money?

Money is earned, in some cases it is also given or gifted, and even that money that you get as a gift on your birthday or Eid, had to be first earned by someone.

There are some people who earn thousands in a single day while others barely make a few hundred rupees after working all day. And for these two kinds of people money has different values — the one who earns in thousands will not think much about dishing out a couple of thousand rupees on a single meal, while the one who earns a couple of hundred rupees a day will try to get at least two, if not three, meals for his family with his earning.

So what money means to different people depends upon their earnings and savings, and their spending reflects this too. It is a bit rude to ask people how much they earn, but you should have a general idea about the income, financial standing and monthly budget of your family to be able to understand what you should be spending.

This is particularly important when you go out shopping with your parents. This will help you understand what you can demand your parents to buy for you and what is too expensive to get unless it is a necessity and need.

So when demanding to eat a burger from the newest restaurant in town, or a particular dress, try to learn if it is falling within the budget of your family at that particular time of the month. Yes, time is also important as both salaried and business people get money at a particular time and then have to make it last until it is pay day again. And, generally, towards the end of the month, the spending budget gets very low so leave all non-urgent expenses for the time when cash flows in again.

Needs and wants

Many of you probably have a concept of these two terms. For instance, you ‘need’ food but you ‘want’ eat a burger from an expensive fast food joint. Sensibly speaking, you should meet your need first — which in this case can be fulfilled well with anything cooked at home — and only go for fulfilling your wants if you (your parents basically) have enough money to spare from more pressing needs.

So understanding from an early age what you need and what can be put off in favour of saving money for later use will help you a lot when you start earning and have to manage your budget to last you until the next pay day.

Learning to budget

One of the best ways to learn how to use and spend money wisely is to have some money of your own and plan how you spend it.

This is not to say that all kids should get pocket money. I didn’t get pocket money when I was a kid as my parents could not afford to give me extra money every month to do what I liked with it after they fulfilled all my needs and some wants too. So you should not be asking them for pocket money if you are not given any.

But every child gets cash in different ways at different times of the year through cash gifts. Those can be used wisely in the following way. Ideally, divide your money in three ways — for spending on whatever you want with the permission of your parents, for saving to be used later and for giving away in charity.

The last one is very important as unless we develop the habit of helping those less fortunate than us, we will not remember to do so when we grow older. And don’t think that a couple of rupees are too less to give away and will not make a difference to anyone. To Allah, a person who has less but shares that is far greater than one who has a lot to spare and gives away some from it.

And another important thing about budgeting is to make sure that you spend your money in such a way that it doesn’t finish in one go or too soon, and you are left with nothing for a long time.

For instance, if you get a hundred rupees to spend at the school canteen and you don’t get this amount every day, then do not spend it all in one go by getting a drink, chips, rolls and whatever else that comes in that amount in one day. Get just one thing each day, for instance, get a packet of chips on the first day, then save the rest of the money to buy a drink on a hot day.

Shopping list

Before going out, adults often make mental notes of things to buy or even a shopping list. Help your parents make the shopping list and try to limit the purchases to only those things. This helps to avoid overspending because in superstores it is very easy to over spend as you walk down the aisles, putting things in the shopping basket.

It is also smart to compare prices of similar items on the shelves to see which ones are on a discount and do remember that taxes are frequently added on the cash counter so that should be taken into account.

Invisible money

When paying in cash, it is easy to see how much money you are spending and how much is left. But this is not possible when you make the payment through credit/debit card, online payment/transfer and online shopping — you just don’t feel you have less money than you had before.

So when trying to keep track of your spendings and savings, avoid these cashless transactions and stick to only the amount you had planned on spending. And the best way to use the credit card is to only spend that much amount which can be paid off the very next month, otherwise one can easily fall into the debt trap.

So these were just some of important money related matters that everyone needs to know from a young age to understand and use money better, both now when your parents are taking care of your financially needs and when you grow up and have to earn and budget your income.

Published in Dawn, Young World, July 27th, 2019