It always feels like the current generation is hang up on success. Numerous books and articles have been written on the subject of success and many times it feels like we are consuming an unhealthy dose of different success formulae. This success craze is made worse by our obsession with quick fixes.
People want to know how to succeed at the workplace, we want to be super mums and dads, we want our children to be successful at school, we also want five quick tips on how to lose weight successfully and four short steps to financial freedom. We are looking for the short formula to a great marriage and three things we need to do to raise successful children.
Interestingly, as one delves into this success mania, you stumble upon an age old truth failure can define you more than your successes. History has demonstrated that though we are all hang up on success, failure has the power to transform your life and make you special. In fact in many cases the bigger the failure, the bigger this opportunity. Failure can liberate, transform and propel you to achieve a more meaningful life. As such, we must never squander the lessons learned from any failure and never waste a crisis by refusing to learn from it.
To this end, I have learnt to analyse my failures particularly in the area of personal finance whether big or small and use them to challenge me to make the necessary changes. One of the things I do in the last three months of the year is to take stock of all my decisions for the prior 12 months and see which ones are costing me financially. This is a practice I learned from my mentor about five years ago and it has served me well.
Let me share with you some of the small failures or mistakes of prior years that I have learnt from, the correction of which has saved me a bundle of money. I once hired a super-efficient maid who washed and ironed our laundry every day. I thought she was the best thing that had happened to me until I checked my water and electricity bill.
Her enthusiasm was costing us quite a bit. Changing her schedule and getting her to wash the laundry three times a week and iron once a week translated into meaningful savings. Then, there was the small matter of washing our cars using a hose pipe as opposed to using a bucket – that seemingly minor detail was doubling our water consumption we lived in a very dusty area and needed to wash the car daily.
There was the decision to carry food or a snack to work as opposed to buying lunch or snacks. This also had significant financial implications if you calculated the annualised cost. We have about 22 working days in a month, multiply that by 11 months (assuming that leave and public holidays take up the twelfth month).
Then the decision to examine my phone bill revealed some painful realities as this particular expense line is very avoidable. I hated SMS and preferred to do all my communication on voice big mistake. In 2006, I travelled to Singapore for three weeks and was naive enough to communicate with my family using my Uganda number (on roaming) what was I thinking? I leant that ignorance is expensive I am now an expert at SMS.
Impact of self-audit
To date, the biggest impact of this self-assessment has been around our decision as a family to live as near as possible to the children’s school and to our places of work. We made the difficult decision to break the emotional attachment to our home located about 12 kilometres out of town and move to a location 10 minutes away from the children’s school and 20 to 30 minutes (depending on traffic) from our work places.
Prior to this, we had agonised for three to four years about having to leave home at 5:30am to drop off the kids at their school and make it to work before 8:00am. The idea to move house came as a brain wave one morning and even then it sounded ridiculous.
How do you leave your home where you are a landlord and start renting a house nearer town just to avoid the traffic jam? To cut a long story short, that is exactly what we did we got a tenant for our house and with the rent plus the substantial savings on fuel and car repairs, we rented a house nearer town.
I have to say that this is the best financial decision I have ever made. One cannot measure in financial terms the cost of peace of mind and relief that we experienced by not having to stress about the traffic situation in Kampala. We will never know how high a price we were paying by waking the children up at 4:30am to be on the road by 5:30 am. What I find intriguing is how long it took me to agree to move house even after seeing that the economics of this solution made sense we were not going to be financially worse off by the move.
I can’t wait for next month as this is when I will start introspecting and critiquing my current expenses. I am looking forward to discovering what foolish things I have done since November last year, which is when I did the last self-audit.
Grace Makoko is Standard Chartered’s head of financial markets, East Africa
SOURCE: Daily Monitor