As children we are prepared for the world by fantastic images of an impending future. We are routinely told by our parents, teachers, and loved ones about the procession of life and what is to be expected as we reach adulthood. The framework goes a little like this….
‘Work hard in school and get your degree!’
‘Land that dream job and get married!’
‘Kids, dream home, a couple of cats and you are set!’
While all of this sounds fine and dandy, no one really gets into the nitty gritty of how difficult life is to navigate as an adult. We are encouraged to pursue high paying professions, without being taught the basics of financial literacy. Unfortunately, even though we are in the year 2020 today, proper financial literacy is not taught in Canadian high schools. The courses that are offered in your senior years are barely enough for those heading into the ‘real world’ to be able to effectively manage their finances.
Once in post-secondary, young adults are creating a financial future full of debt and bad spending habits. As of January 2019, on average Canadian students have a whopping $30,000 for just completing a base level of post secondary education. Professional colleges and further post secondary lead to yet even more debt. To add to this, graduates stepping into ‘real adulthood’, have already developed terrible spending habits, increased credit card debt, fast loans, and accumulated lines of credit to name a few. According to a study done by the accounting firm MNP, about 44 percent of Canadians are $200 a month or less away from financial insolvency. We are currently facing an era where millions of Canadians are surviving pay cheque to pay cheque and are facing financial crisis. With increased cost of living, rising inflation, and lagging wages, the future looks bleak for many.
All is not lost however, there are ways to gain control of your life and finances, the best place to start is by establishing a budget. Simply stated, a budget is an estimate of income and expenditures for a set time period. Budgeting is no longer just for businesses, every individual or household should have and maintain a yearly budget. Moreover, budgeting is excellent for our deen. We are advised in the Qur’an and Sunnah on how our wealth should be used and how we should strive to become the upper hand and be self sustaining.
Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “The upper hand is better than the lower one (i.e., the spending hand is better than the receiving hand); and begin (charity) with those who are under your care; and the best charity is that which given out of surplus; and he who asks (Allah) to help him abstain from the unlawful and the forbidden, Allah will fulfill his wish; and he who seeks self-sufficiency will be made self-sufficient by Allah”. (Al-Bukhari, Book 1, Hadith 296)
Budgeting seems like a daunting task, where should one begin? Getting back to the basics is key, the following are some tips on how to start:
Set Realistic & Achievable Goals
It is imperative to set goals that are realistic and achievable. Setting a goal for your money will aid in your expenditures.
Track Your Spending
You are already aware of how much money you have coming in every month, however, you may not have the same awareness of where it all goes. Track your spending, every single cent, to see where all that hard-earned money is going. Once you do the simple task of tracking, your results may be astounding!
Distinguishing Needs & Wants
This is where you will be setting up your priorities. Here you begin the assessment of whether or not you really need that $400 jacket you have been eyeing, or, that you just want it. Will purchasing that jacket take away from your budgeting goals? This is where you will distinguish what you can live with or live without to reach your financial goals.
Calculate Your Budget
There are many free, easy to use, budget calculator spreadsheets online. It’s a good way to start from there and balance your budget so that you are not spending more money than is coming in! Having a visual of your wealth, expenditures, and possibly savings provides that motivation to work harder to maintain a healthy budget.
Implement your Budget
Put your budget into action! Allocate funds to necessities first and foremost, move onto debt repayment, savings, and an assigned portion to all extra personal expenses. At this point it is a good idea to also assess annual expenses and how you will prepare for them such as taxes, seasonal expenses, memberships, etc.
Once you have established a budget, know that budgets are ever changing with your situation. You will always have to re-assess, tweak, and possibly even re-invent your budget. You will have to look ahead to the future and see where you can make improvements in the following months or the following year.
Creating a budget will not only help you with your financial situation, but it will also help you prioritize your wealth and spending for the sake of Allah SWT. Establishing a budget will aid in you having more wealth to spend on charity, which in turn will benefit you in this life and the after life, inshaAllah.
Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) as saying:
“Charity does not in any way decrease the wealth and the servant who forgives, Allah adds to his respect, and the one who shows humility, Allah elevates him in the estimation (of the people).” (Sahih Muslim)
Keep looking out for more articles in the coming months for the exclusive series, “Exiting Cruise Control: Life Management Edition”.