How can I take control of my cash?

ANNA TURNER
Last updated 11:27 23/11/2012

I've always thought I was a pretty responsible adult.

I vote. I use contraception. I don't break the law.

But there's one area of adulthood in which I am still decidedly juvenile - my finances. 

I tend to ignore them and just let them handle themselves. 

My haphazard financing "system" goes a little bit like this:

My pay goes into my bank account fortnightly. I have a rough idea of how much is in there most of the time.

My rent comes out in an automatic payment and another automatic payment goes to EK and my joint account from which he pays the bills.

Well, I hope he does ... I've never really thought about it. I like to open the most exciting looking mail - like birthday cards - and leave the rest in a pile.

We got a joint credit card when we moved in together, which I stupidly thought at first would give me access to $9999 worth of internet shopping.  

I was sorely disappointed the first time I came home and he was waving the statement in front of me, the purchase of a $200 handbag highlighted.

So, strangely, my credit card actually saves me money because I can't buy anything without him knowing and berating me.

I'm debt-free. There aren't a gang of thugs waiting around the corner to break my legs because I haven't paid them for my latest cocaine delivery. I'm not stupid - I paid that in full.

Well, if I'm going to be honest with myself, there is the small matter of that $50,000+ student loan debt.

I once plugged my current salary and minimum repayments into Studylink's online calculator and it told me I could pay it off by the time I'm about 68-years-old.

After that, I decided it was such a ludicrous amount of money that I may as well pretend it didn't exist.

When I want something, I buy it. Nothing extravagant - my car is modest, my cellphone is old - but I don't stress over picking up a new pair of shoes - or two- at the mall.  I have champagne taste, but it's the cheap $12 plonk kind rather than Moet.

However, recently two things happened which put my financial situation into perspective:

1. My trusty old laptop broke and I had to fork out quite a bit for a new one. Then, I needed new tyres for that modest car of mine. The rough estimate of the money in my account took a sharp, rough, drop. Ouch.

2. My friend bought a house. She graduated at roughly the same time as me and earns a similar amount, but slaved away saving until she had enough for a deposit. I want a house in the not-too-distant future, but am no-where near being in the position to buy one.

The green-eyed monster in me raged (I could only get it to simmer down when I reminded myself my shoes were much nicer than hers).

So, I have decided to grow up and take control of my cash. I  just don't know where to start.

Do I sit down and write out exactly where my money goes? Do I make a realistic saving goal for the future?

Please guide me through the puberty of my financial maturity. I know it will be traumatic, awkward and potentially pimply, so help me out here.

What are your best budgeting tips? Are you a saver or a spender? 

Comment below, email me at anna.turner@press.co.nz or follow me on Twitter (https://twitter.com/AnnaTurner22).

- © Fairfax NZ News

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