Raising three boys, all under the age of 15, is a task for the strong and brave…

“I’m the sole provider, doctor, taxi, chef, psychologist and referee at times. In between I juggle a career. I do everything and the financial implications are enormous,” says Leanne Downing, a divorced, single mother from the Free State.

While being moms, entrepreneurs and industry leaders, women have to manage daily routines and keep up with life’s never-ending expenses. “New clothes because the current ones are sitting snug, meals upon meals and fuel costs for the school trip – it all adds up,” says Leanne.

Keeping the balance between daily life and continuous bills is not easy

“The current economic situation makes living tough,” says Leti Levey, mother and Chartered Accountant.

“Women struggle because of it,” adds Linda du Plessis, married mother of two and Managing Director of Zeeva (debt counselling for women by women).

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Almost half of 2000+ South African female respondents surveyed by Zeeva (2017), indicated that life is too expensive and that it is difficult to save on a regular basis.

“Life is hard enough as it is and managing finances should not be a burden to women as well. It’s time to become financially fit,” says Linda.

“Career mothers have to get creative to manage work and home,” adds Trudie de Beer, single mother and Banking Industry Manager. While it seems implausible, it is indeed possible.

 “Career mothers have to get creative to manage work and home”

“Take a look at the bigger picture,” says Linda, who encourages women to plan and get their own mini-economy going. They can manage their daily load by improving their financial decisions and by adding ‘exercises’ to their day-to-day financial management.

The frugal punch

First of all, women need to add fierceness to their routine by grabbing their finances and punching their financial woes in the face.

But how exactly?

“Planning and budgeting are very important and are key points when it comes to finance management,” says Linda. A budget keeps finances ‘close’ and helps women plan accordingly – especially when juggling bills and additional costs.

A budget needs to include a schedule and detailed list indicating bills, savings goals and investments. Linda insists that women use a simple and ‘user-friendly’ budget. Women can be old-school by placing their monthly budget on the fridge, by using an excel sheet on their computer, or even a phone app for the technophiles. There is no excuse not to have a budget.

The ultimate reverse kick

Alright, the exercise routine also needs a bit of ‘meat’. What would a monthly budget be without adding a pre-planned shopping list to it?

Grocery, household items and clothing are part of women’s budgets. Choosing wisely and only buying the necessary goes a long way. Trudie explains that career-driven mothers can find themselves in difficult financial situations when they overspend. And research shows that women tend to overspend when shopping to cheer themselves up.

Research shows that women tend to overspend when shopping to cheer themselves up

Furthermore, “buying what they need, not what they want” is Trudie’s golden rule. Don’t be fooled by retailers’ so called ‘sales’ – they do not necessarily offer a ‘discount’. Women should therefore not repeat former purchasing behaviour. So, draw up a monthly shopping list and stick to it. A few rand not wasted on unnecessary items can fill the savings bucket (like emergency savings) in the end.

The well-needed squat

An emergency (like an accident or retrenchment) can pull the mat from under a woman’s feet and what’s more – it is entirely unpredictable.

With this in mind, women need to force themselves to put away money, advises Leti. And although not easy, this is a must to make provision for difficult times. Experts suggest that the best emergency fund consists of three months’ salary.

Saving for emergencies sounds impossible right? But, even more impossible is having to juggle daily tasks and handle a crisis situation’s financial implications without an emergency fund. The message is clear: women need to save more. It works best to save a suitable amount as soon as women receive their salaries. Better to start small than not save for emergencies at all.

The savings-wise plank

It’s good and well to save for unplanned situations, but what about savings or investments women can plan for? With a blink of an eye retirement will be knocking on the door. Many women convince themselves that there’s always time to save for retirement. Ah…no!

“In fact, women need to save on a monthly basis,” says Trudie. In spite of this, research shows only seven percent of South Africans are financially independent when they stop working.

Research shows only seven percent of South Africans are financially independent when they stop working

Face it, retirement is not the first thing on women’s minds but it should be. They need to be savings-wise, bearing in mind their retirement investment. Women can begin by saving a small amount at first – R100 or R200 a month, and adjust the monthly payment accordingly. They can do thorough research and choose the best, affordable option for their current (and future) needs. Biting the bullet now is definitely hard work, but worth it in the end. Women have to remember: if they are not keeping fit by continually saving (for things like retirement), they are making more debt.

The ‘get yourself together’ pull-up

So what about the moms that are feeling the strain already? What about indebtedness? Getting out of debt is as important as saving. It is essential for women to know they are capable of improving an unfortunate situation.

They need to take a look at their budget, bank statements and start making use of the so-called snowball effect – getting their smaller debt out of the way first (like a clothing account). “They basically have to re-evaluate their dos and don’ts” says Linda. And if they receive help from others in doing so, it is A-Okay.

The financially-free push up

Career moms may feel isolated and miserable when making financial decisions but expert advice is around every corner. It may not always be easy to ask, but a good place to start is to go and see a financial planner, a banker or, in over-indebted scenarios, a debt counsellor. Trudie also advises keeping abreast of new developments in the markets.

Of course it is not a walk in the park to become financially fit, but women are in the perfect position to turn over a new financial leaf

Women can do this by subscribing to daily financial newspapers and blogs. Financial freedom is real, but are women ready to push themselves up by getting the help they need? Women need to admit their struggles, search for help and know they are never alone in the process.

Of course it is not a walk in the park to become financially fit, but women are in the perfect position to turn over a new financial leaf. “They just need to be true to their femininity,” says Trudie. Linda adds that “women need to get busy living or get busy dying”. What better way to do so than by implementing money savvy exercises. Leti concludes that career moms can certainly manage life and daily bills: “If being mothers and having a career is important to them, they only need to manage their finances and time well.”

And through the day-to-day juggles, Leanne continues to keep her chin up: “My best is always good enough. One day I’ll reap rewards for the seeds I’m sowing now. I realise that I’ll be okay, and so will they…”