In the past, when I made transactions at the ATM, I always chose ‘do not print slip’. I used to tell myself I was saving trees by not using unnecessary paper, but let’s get real… I, like so many others, would rather avoid seeing my poorly considered decisions printed out in black and white. And while I had a rough idea of what was coming in and going out of my account, my assessment of my monthly spending was very touch and go.

Then, after reading two fantastic books – The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason and Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill – I came to a realisation: I was too afraid to really know what was going on in my finances, and my fear led to inaction. I was (and am still) in a lot of debt, I was unable to save up for anything nice, and I was broke every single month at least 10 days before payday. I had had enough of being a slave to my money. So, starting with 2018, I decided to change the way I approach my finances, with the help of a few nifty apps.

22seven

22seven is a personal finance app designed and launched by Old Mutual. Once you’ve fed the app your banking details (completely safely, don’t worry), it will analyse your spending and break it down into different categories according to what you swiped your card for, and where, as well as any online transactions you’ve made. I ignored my necessary spending (rent and insurance) and went straight to categories such as restaurants, takeaways, entertainment and clothes. And I was shocked.

I could see I was spending way too much money on eating out. At an average of R1 920 per month, this luxury was getting out of hand. Shockingly, I didn’t realise I was spending more on takeaways than on groceries! I immediately deleted UberEATS, set my eating-out budget to R1 000 per month, and added R900 onto my grocery budget.

After spending a few hours going through my spending habits, setting budgets in each category and, most importantly, prioritising certain parts of my income, I felt empowered, in control and, you know what? excited too.

YNAB (You Need A Budget)

‘Five steps to gain total control of your money’ is YNAB’s elevator pitch. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? It did for me. So, first thing’s first, this app costs R1 299 per year, which sounds like a lot but, at just under R110 per month, you really get bang for your buck.

Much like 22Seven, it works on the basis of breaking down your expenses into different categories, where you can view and manage what you spend and when. But those functions aside, what I loved most are the other resources available through YNAB, like the online forum, where community members talk about issues like managing debt, loans and even running a business. Sometimes it’s great to get insight from normal people, and not a suited man behind a desk.

BUDGT

Now that I was on my way to wiser spending habits, with the added insight into what other people were doing, I was determined to do something I’ve never done before: save. A friend suggested BUDGT. This app is only R29 and it’s super-simple to use. You enter the amount of money you have, as well as your expenses, and the app tracks how much you can actually spend every day. For me, it was an eye-opener. I was spending far more per day than I actually could afford, and thus I was broke before month-end.

How does this help you save money? Because you know how much you can spend, you can easily stay under your target. You can also compare with previous months’ spending to track your progress and you can edit all the different categories to make it a truly personal experience.

I’m slowly getting there. I’m still terrible, but I’m better. There are days I can’t help myself and I do spend R150 on lunch, even though I packed sandwiches for work. But I know where I stand and how I need to save to clear the debt I’m currently in. I never thought I could save up money to go away for the weekend – I mean how could I? I was broke before month-end every month. But I can, and I did. And so can you.

More: Everything you need to know about side hustles in 2018