Most of us set our goals too high when we make New Year’s resolutions and so we give up because they become unachievable.

Caught up in the excitement of a New Year’s Eve party, we commit to running the Comrades, climbing Kilimanjaro or learning the saxophone. Then, the first agonising run round the block, gasping for air, brings us crashing back to reality. Mostly we don’t keep trying. 

The same is probably true of our financial resolutions. Lofty plans to get out of debt, start saving and maybe make some investments soon get shelved. We then find ourselves reverting to old habits, buying things we don’t need and missing repayments.

Here are a few simple suggestions that could help struggling South Africans take better control of their finances:

Take a hard look in the (credit) mirror
Your credit score is the way the financial world sees you, but most South Africans have no idea what their credit score is, much less what to do about it.

You are entitled to one free credit report a year from one of the credit bureau. This will tell you your score. It doesn’t provide any context or what to do about a bad score though.

Free online tools such as DirectAxis Pulse will give you an easy-to-understand credit rating. It shows you what is affecting your credit score and what to do about it.

A better credit score will mean the financial world will see you as less of a risk. This means they’ll be more inclined to do business with you. Potentially scoring you lower interest rates. 

Be dependable
Paying your debts on time will earn you a good financial reputation which reflects in your credit score.

Check your credit profile regularly, to assess which debts to reduce first. Usually these are short-term debts with the highest interest rates. By paying these off first you may also save yourself some money.

Set a budget
It’s not as hard as it sounds. Make a list of what you need each month. Then estimate the cost and set that as your budget. This gives you a realistic idea of how much you spend, reducing the temptation to put unnecessary items in the trolley.

Once you’ve mastered your shopping budget you can try to draw up a household budget. You may not get everything right the first month. Over time this will give you a better picture of where you might be able to cut back and save.

Improve your financial knowledge
If you don’t feel you have a good grasp of financial affairs, don’t feel alone. Most of us don’t. At first glance the financial world can seem complicated. But, if you’re prepared to look for it, there’s plenty of understandable information and explanations available. You can search for topics, tips and even videos at

Choose a few subjects you may like to find out more about and start there. Compare what you find with friends and colleagues. Over time you’ll find sources that give you the best information that suits your needs.