Bonolo Mokua

Surviving 'black tax' and setting financial boundaries

Values & Money , Budgeting , Saving , Planning , Family

When you come from humble beginnings, it’s a little harder to say, “No, I can’t help you this month” to a family member, especially if you have been made to feel that you must pay it forward because someone else sacrificed to help you get you to where you are today.

We are constantly searching for guidelines or practical steps on how to deal with and disconnect from people and spaces that cause us emotional turmoil. But how often do we think about how we relate to the people and habits that cause us financial turmoil? In a lot of our lived realities, especially if we are lucky enough to have a job in today’s tough economic climate, it is often seen as our duty to subsidise relatives who are less well off.

Many of us have experienced ‘black tax’ in one way, shape or form; where we find ourselves having to stretch our rands and find extra money to send back home every month to support our extended family.

If you aren’t familiar with the concept of black tax, it refers to unspoken expectations of financial assistance by parents, siblings, and other relatives. It mainly affects professionals from historically disadvantaged groups who typically carry the burden of being the “first everything” to their families, and because they are the first graduate, they are obliged to provide financially for their families.

There is a certain level of anxiety that comes when you are inundated with “Please call, I need money” texts from a relative who feels entitled to receiving help from you. You convince yourself that the regular contribution you make to your family member is fair and due until life comes at you, and you suddenly can’t keep up with your contributions. You are now facing retrenchment, or you take a pay cut because the company you work for isn’t doing as well anymore, or your rent goes up with no salary increase in sight and suddenly your money can’t stretch any further. So how do you start setting financial boundaries before life and circumstances force you into an unsustainable situation?

Tips for setting financial boundaries

The same way you would set boundaries in every other aspect of your life to achieve emotional and mental stability can be applied to your finances.

1. Determine your financial goals and priorities: Before setting financial boundaries, it's important to know what you want to achieve with your money. This could mean saving for a specific financial goal like a down payment on a home or investing in your retirement.

2. Create a budget: A budget is a great tool to help you set financial boundaries. It allows you to see how much money you have coming in and going out each month, which can help you identify areas where you might need to cut back and where you can apportion money to help others. Your budget will also be guided by your financial goals, your values and your priorities.

3. Think carefully about which requests you say yes to: This is where the difficult part comes in. Saying no when someone asks you for money or to borrow something can be hard. Setting boundaries means being firm in your response and communicating your financial limits. You need to stand strong in your decision, remembering what the ultimate goal is, and that will make the guilt of saying “no” a lot more bearable when you have to do it.

4. Avoid overspending: Overspending can quickly lead to financial stress and debt. Create limits for yourself when it comes to spending and stick to them.

5. Be honest with yourself and others: Honesty is important when it comes to setting financial boundaries. Be honest with yourself about your financial situation and what you can afford. Being truthful with others about your financial limits will also help reinforce your boundaries.

Remember that while it’s noble and even commendable to share what we have with others, we need to remember that a lot of times, those on the receiving end don’t always know when to stop asking or taking.

Want to add to the conversation? Why not comment on our social media posts about this article. 

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Bonolo Mokua

Bonolo is a multimedia journalist and content creator at Heartlines. She has experience in online and radio media production and helps spread the Heartlines message on multiple platforms.

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