2023 was a tough year! But here you are at the end of the 12 months, ready to take a relaxing break. Before you kick back and relax, spend a few minutes rating your money management throughout the year. Your ratings will show if you were on track to meet your financial goals and what good (or bad) financial habits you have! And, if your rating is not as high as you want it to be, we’ve got some tips to help you score higher in 2024!
How to score your 2023 personal finance report card
Answer all 10 questions and rate yourself on a scale from 0 to 10 for each question. Be honest, but also not too hard on yourself! We’ve given examples of what a 10 point, 5 point and 0 point answer would be to help you give yourself a rating (any number from 0 to 10) that best matches your experience! Add up your score as you go.
1. Do you know how much money is in your bank account right now?
10 points: Yes, to the rand
5 points: I’ll need to check my bank account
0 points: No idea, don’t care
Top tip: Regularly check bank accounts and statements to know your bank balance. This helps you know how much money you have, if you are over or underspending against your budgeted spend, and will help you pick up any fraudulent transactions quickly.
2. Did you adjust your budget to cope with price increases and manage to stay out of debt?
10 points: Yes, I had to adjust my spending as the cost of living and interest rates increased, and I managed to stay within my budget
5 points: I tried to cut back with some success, but didn’t manage to stick to my budget every month
0 points: No, I carried on spending as before and took on debt to cope with price increases and extra expenses
Top tip: Monitor your budget so you know if you are sticking to it, and where necessary cut expenses and/or find ways to earn more income. Truth About Money’s Cash Crunch course can help you find extra cash for your expenses!
3. Do you have an emergency fund?
10 points: Yes, and it is as much as I need
5 points: Yes, but it is not as much as I need and I don’t contribute regularly
0 points: No, and I have no plans to start one
Top tip: Your emergency fund, no matter how small, will help you avoid situations where you have to take on more debt to pay for the unexpected expenses! Start one today and contribute regularly.
4. Did you pay all your debts on time in 2023?
10 points: Yes, I paid all my debts on time!
5 points: I paid most accounts on time and made up missed payments within a few months
0 points: I missed payments/had to sell/return items and/or have court orders and judgements for unpaid debts
Top tip: Keep a record of your debts so you know how much you owe and when, and make payments on time! Consider debt counselling if your debt has become unmanageable.
5. Did you use one debt to pay another?
10 points: No, never
5 points: On one or two occasions
0 points: All the time, and my outstanding balances are getting bigger not smaller!
Top tip: Reduce your debt by paying them off and not taking on any more debts! You can take Truth About Money's Ditching Debt course to help you find ways to pay off your debt.
6. Have you named a beneficiary on your life and/or funeral policies and pension and retirement funds?
10 points: Yes, with all the updated contact information and ID numbers
5 points: Yes, but I am not sure if there are contact details or if they are up to date
0 points: No, I have not named any beneficiaries
Top tip: Make sure you have named a beneficiary or beneficiaries and given up to date contact details on your life and funeral cover and any investments, pension funds and retirement savings such as a retirement annuity. Review this at least once a year or when there is a major life change such as you get married, divorced, and/or have a child.
7. Do you have a valid will that is signed, dated, names an executor and is safely stored?
10 points: Yes, and my family and executor know what it says, where it is and what to do when I die
5 points: I have a will, I think there is an executor, and I know where the will is but my family do not
0 points: I don’t have a will
Top tip: Get a will today! Truth About Money’s Wills and estate benefit can help. And, review and update your will where necessary once a year.
8. Have you submitted your tax return and checked your assessment?
10 points: Yes, and yes! And I queried any discrepancies so all my deductions are taken into account
5 points: Yes, but I did not check that all my expenses were reflected
0 points: No, I still need to submit
Top tip: Submit your tax return on time to avoid penalties, following SARS guidelines. Also remember to check that your return and assessment list all your deductible expenses! SARS may not know that you have a designated home office or that you paid specialist fees and medication out of your own pocket.
9. Do you save for your goals and major life changes such as a holiday and retirement?
10 points: Yes, I have several goals and savings and investments that I contribute regularly to, to help me achieve these goals
5 points: I have a vague idea of what I want to do and some savings and investments I contribute to when I can
0 points: I have no savings or investments, and have not set any financial goals
10. How do you pay when replacing old appliances and cars?
10 points: I save a minimum of a deposit, often more, look around for good deals and buy when repayments are well within my budget
5 points: I save some money towards a deposit and take the rest on credit
0 points: I pay the total cost on credit and borrow up to the maximum
Top tip: Make a list of appliances and cars, estimate a date when you will need to replace them, find out the replacement cost and start saving! The more cash you have, the easier it will be to find a good deal and avoid expensive debt.
Earn 10 bonus points
Give yourself an extra:
5 points if you talk to your family about money, your budget, your investments, insurances and your will.
5 points if you are teaching your children about money, such as helping them save, budget, open a bank account – and other age appropriate activities.
Have you got a pass mark?
Add up your totals to get a mark. The year has been tough financially, so your mark might not be as high as you would like, but anything over 50 is good, 70+ is better, 80+ and you are doing brilliantly! However, there is always room to improve in the new year with the top tips above, especially if your score is below 50!
Managing your money takes time and patience
And some of that patience is with yourself because it is impossible to manage your money perfectly all the time! Life just gets in the way and presents expenses you just hadn’t thought about. But, with some time, patience and effort you can beat your 2023 report card in the new year. You are ready to be a better money manager!