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Budgeting 101 - Part I: Finding the right budgeting strategy

Updated: Jun 7, 2021

Figuring out budgeting and what that not only meant for me, but how that would work for me, was one of the best wake up calls ever!

Pacific Island culture does not necessarily frown on budgeting – but it does see it differently in comparison to Western standards. Personally I don't think they should be compared (because, 'apples, oranges'!), but for the sake of this blog, I'll try and be as broad as possible.

For us, wealth (particularly familial wealth) is communal, and to be used by the family.

It is not uncommon to have siblings contribute together towards extended family’s children’s school fees; or combine money for a family wedding, or death.

As alluded to in a separate blog, the unintended consequence of further education for some of my peers, has resulted in what I call ‘culture-induced overwhelm’.

So for you to say to your family ‘I’m budgeting’ or when you do tell your family you do not have enough funds to lend them, but they see you spend that money somewhere, there is a quiet backlash.

By Western standards, you are entitled to do as you please with the money you have worked for – but by Pacific standards, you are ‘selfish’ and not respecting your elders or putting your family first, when you withhold your money for yourself.

I use the term ‘family’ loosely, because the word ‘family’ is all-encompassing for us.

Matriarchal or patriarchal, we are tight-knit communities, who are raised to treat our aunts and uncles like second parents – our cousins, once or even twice removed (and further), as we would our own brothers and sisters.

Some of us are even raised in homes together with our cousins.

Some get passed through aunt’s and uncle’s homes growing up because our parents are back home in the provinces and not living in Honiara (Solomon Islands’ capital) where most of the best schools and opportunities for further education, are situated.

There is then an unspoken equivocation that you are hence indebted to them for assisting in raising you, most particularly if you become well-educated and hold a decent job.

But the yardstick for measuring that debt is transient.

Is it $5,000 or $50,000?

Is it re-entering the cycle and taking on another less fortunate child in your family and also putting them through school?

I think there has to be a give and take.

I feel I need to spend time and make this distinction because there are nuances to our family dynamic that would never be completely understood from the Western POV.

I also want to state that this is not in any way, my being negative of the way that I have been raised. I would be nowhere without the support from my 'village', particularly in raising our son, whilst having a full-time job; and the community spirit and reciprocity I have grown up around has shaped the way I view life [in my opinion] for the better.

There is an inordinate amount of obligation and familial loyalty my peers and I have for our elders. Together, their unit put us through our formative education – which, if you think about it is an incredible amount of money and resources.

Unintended consequences of this however, has been that my peers and I have been known to take out loans and go into crippling debt and more, in an effort to try to repay that struggle.

As a driven and passionate advocate of education and empowerment (particularly for women), I want to be able to give back to the communities that raised and shaped me. To mentor and teach another young girl or boy who would in turn teach another, down the line. I do not, however, want to re-enter a cycle that rears insufficiency.

So I went searching.

With limited means and very little financial know-how (alluded to in a separate blog as well), there aren’t very many tools out there to help a struggling Pacific millennial – but there is the internet. So I read up. I read blogs and books and subscribed to TedX talks by the gazillion. Links to all these for a blog for another day (a few are on the video carousel in my members area, if you have subscribed to my site)...

During this time, I found two names that stood out the most for me:

Now Dave Ramsey is synonymous with budgeting. The Barefoot Investor however, I found him to be more practical. This may have been because I also read The Barefoot Investor's book (loaned off a big sis - thank you Nancy!) - AND the Roth IRA's that Dave Ramsey speaks of in his Baby Steps weren't something I could easily translate into our Pacific context and relate to (but we all know what retirement savings are!).

So I blended both their techniques to one that would be more suited to my own situation and had at it.

If you are a youth and just starting out in a job after university, please follow Part II of this blog series that takes you through the steps I took to get a handle on my money - and see if something similar would work for you.

If someone had had these resources available when I was fresh out of uni – and I had found them - I think I would be in a very different position to the one I am in today. I am however, extremely grateful for the learning curves in my journey and am happily sharing what I have learnt with you.

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