Budget and the balance

Source: Pixabay

In a day or two, the Prime Minister, who is also the Finance Minister of Malaysia, would be presenting the national budget for 2018. Now, I am not qualified in any way as an economist. The closest I came to studying economy in recent times, was back during my days studying at the university. Even then, I think I studied it because it was one of the compulsory subjects that I had to take. So, I may not be qualified in that sense, to say a word or two, about the budget once it is presented.

However, I am pretty sure that I will have a thought or more about the budget, just like my fellow Malaysians, once the budget is presented. It would be hard not to do so, when the budget would impact us in one way or the other, especially financially. The mainstream media and most blogs that focuses on finance or Malaysian current affairs, will provide us with colourful graphics, summaries and simplified explanation of the complex budget. All that is left to be done for us mere mortals, is to pour through all this information to digest what benefits are in store for us and how the budget affects us, if any.

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Source: Pexels

While thinking about the upcoming national budget, I reflected back on my own attempts to create and then maintain a healthy well-balanced budget. I can assure you, it was no easy feat. It was one that was built on observing how my parents balanced their budget and then making adjustments to the current economic situation and needs. Though I had the benefit of my parents’ experience, balancing my budget was mostly trial and error, with some really hard lessons learned early on, such as accumulating debts is not a good idea, especially unwanted debts.

Of course, coming up with a budget for one person or a family, is simple enough, although it may look daunting and complicated in the beginning. Considering the initial complexity, it made me wonder how much more complex it would be to come up with the budget for an organisation, let alone an entire nation. I then put some thought into what I would do, if I had to come up with the budget for an organisation as the person responsible for its finance. Three simple but interesting things came to my mind immediately, based on my experience in balancing my own budget.

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Firstly, I will only spend on what is needed for the organisation and more importantly, can afford to spend on. I will have to avoid the urge to spend on something that is needed but can be ill afforded at the moment. Better still, I will have to avoid the urge to spend on something that I would like to have but not really need, especially when I can’t afford it. It may be another matter of course, if I had an income the size of infinity but even then, I would have to learn to spend only on what is needed as there may come a day, when the income the size of infinity might shrink to the size of a little pea. In simple terms, this is a case of spending within the limit and prioritising what the money is spent on.

I could further reduce the cost of what I need to purchase by opting for different brands with regards to the item or service that is needed. For instance, when opting for a comfortable car, I may opt for Honda or Volkswagen instead of Rolls Royce or Bentley. Similarly, when opting for ballpoint pens, I may opt for the brands like Stabilo or Faber Castell instead of Parker or Sheaffer. I will definitely not be found buying pens consting in the range of hundereds, each.

Source: Pexels

Secondly, I will have to decide where to spend the money at. This sounds simple but can become complicated when matters of the heart or conflict of interests, comes into play. For instance, the decision on where to take folks at the organisation for a nice meal, as a treat for a job well done. If I don’t know of any friends, family members or simply, folks with vested interest, who happen to own a restaurant or chain of restaurants, then the decision on where to go will be quite simple. It would be made based on a place that provides a good meal, the right environment, meets the budget and fits all the other criteria of where to go.

However, if I do know of friends, family members or simply, folks with vested interest, who happen to own a restaurant or chain of restaurants, then the decision on where to go, could become complicated. Instead of deciding based on the agreed criteria of where to go, the decision might end up being made based on the relationship with the owner of the restaurant. Now, this may not be a bad thing, if it happens to fit all the other criteria on where to go, is it not? Then again, the easiest and also the right thing to do, would simply be to stay out of the decision-making process and allow others to make the decision based on the agreed criteria, on this occassion. I can’t have my organisation eating at my best friend’s restaurant every time, if I end up draining the coffers of the organisation to do it. I would most likely run out of money to pay for the next meal.

Source: Pixabay

Then, while preparing the budget, I would look into areas where I can reduce and if possible, eliminate any wastage and leakage. There are many ways this could happen. For instance, I may literally look into reducing and removing leakages. Getting someone knowledgeable, equipped with the right skill, to look into leaking pipes, taps and faucets would help reduce wastage, both in terms of water and money. There will likely be an initial cost involved, to get the right person to do the job. However, this money would likely be well spent in the long run, since it will reduce and eventually remove leakages altogether.

In terms of wastage, I may look into eliminating the need for printing out physical forms, bills or receipts, if there is no real need to do so. Most often, soft copies of these documents are more than sufficient and serves the purpose that the documents are required for, such as managing claims or submission of requests. Reducing the paper trail not only saves the organisation money but also goes some way to help save the environment.

Source: Pixabay

So, as much as coming up with a budget may be complex affair, I think balancing the budget could be easier, especially if we put in the effort to pull it off and bear in mind some simple facts or rules. Yes, it takes discipline, loads of it by the way, to maintain a balanced budget but in theory it is possible. Having struggled initially in coming up and then maintaining a balanced budget for my family, I do have a lot of respect and appreciation for the effort and thoughts that would have been put in by those responsible in coming up with the national budget. I am pretty sure, they would have thought about different and cheaper alternatives, made unbiased decisions and looked into reducing or eliminating wastage or leakages, among others, would they not?

Newton’s law on karma?

Back in school, I had always enjoyed studying Mathematics and Science, especially Physics and Chemistry. I found that Mathematics and Science, were pretty simple subjects to learn and grasp. The trick was, to simply understand the relevant concept, formula, theory or law. Everything else then falls into space. The other thing that I liked was that these concepts, fomulas, theories or laws had been proven as true and can be proven again with ease. They made a lot of sense, which again made remembering them that much easier.

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Some time during either a Science or Physics lesson, my classmates and I were introduced to a story about a man in England, in the 17th century, who was hit by a falling apple while sitting under an apple tree. What made this story interesting and remarkable was the fact that, being inspired by the apple that hit him on his head, he went on to come up with laws regarding gravity[1]. This man, known as Sir Isaac Newton, contributed immensely to the scientific community, including one of my favourite laws in physics, one of three laws, collectively known in physics as the Laws of Motion[2]. Just to digress a bit, we Malaysians are pretty sure that a Malaysian was inspired in a similar manner and came up with laws regarding gravity, way before Sir Isaac Newton. The only problem was, he never got to tell others about it, as he happened to sit under a durian tree.

Law III: To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction: or the mutual actions of two bodies upon each other are always equal, and directed to contrary parts. – Source: Wikipedia[3]

Of the three Laws of Motion, I like the Third Law of Motion, also known as Newton’s Third Law. In short, it states that “For every action, there is always an equal and opposite reaction”. Interestingly, there has always been a concept in the region of South Asia or what is today the Indian sub-continent, which sounds almost similar, if not, the same as that of Newton’s Third Law. It is even more interesting to note that this concept has been around, long before the 17th century. It simply is an ancient concept, as old as the faiths that have it at their heart. This concept can be described as the Law of Karma[4] or to many, simply as Karma.

The law of karma teaches us that all of our thoughts, words and actions begin a chain of cause and effect, and that we will personally experience the effects of everything we cause.” – Source: spiritual-encyclopedia.com[5]

Depending on one’s religious dispensation and believes, Karma can be perceived and understood in a variety of ways. The common theme is that, if one does something good, one can expect to receive something good in return. Conversely, if one does a bad deed, one can be assured of being in the receiving end of another bad deed. A simpler way of stating this would be, “You reap, what you sow” or “What goes around, comes around”. Now that sounds very similar, if not the same, as “For every action, there is always an equal and opposite reaction”, which just so happens to be Newtons’ Third Law.

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Source: Pexels

Both, Newton’s Third Law and the concept of Karma highlights something fundamentally important, yet neglected in the hustle and bustle of our life. The fact is, anything and everything in this world exists in balance and must remain so. If that balance is disturbed, the disturbance will be addressed, somehow, until balance is again restored. This is simply the nature of how things are and will be, explained by the concept of Karma and proven by Newton’s Third Law. The challenge of course is to live our life with the idea of balance in mind. It is so easy to forget it, what with so many distractions and things calling out for our attention everyday, or is it?

In reality, keeping things in balance, is as simple as remembering what we don’t like and ensuring that we don’t do the same to others. Nobody likes being cut off by another vehicle, when waiting in queue for the traffic lights to turn green. Nobody likes another vehicle swerving into their lanes at high speeds on the highway with no prior indication on the intention to do so. Nobody likes having an empty parking spot being taken up just as they were about to reverse and park their vehicle at that spot after having waited and indicated their intention to do so. Nobody likes having to wait for the next train because they couldn’t board one, as people crowded and stood by the exits when there was enough space to place an elephant inside the train. Nobody likes being yelled at or being embarrassed in public.

Souce: Pexels

The fact is, keeping everything in balance can be easily done, as easy as doing things that we would like people to do for us, to others. Who doesn’t like being greeted warmly when walking in to work in the morning? Who wouldn’t like having the lift door being kept open for them, as they rush in towards the lift? Who doesn’t like being given way to walk through a narrow doorway in a busy place? Who wouldn’t like being offered a seat when there is one, in a crowded bus? Who doesn’t like being told thank you when having done something nice, without being asked to do so? All these gestures are easy to do and cost us nothing.

A simple act of kindness, will go a long way in not just keeping everything in balance but also makes our day that much brighter. To top it off, we have also made someone else’s day, that much brighter as well. There is no need to spend lots of time or money to do a good deed, especially when one lacks such resources. Just simple acts, that cost us very little or close to nothing, is more than sufficient in keeping the balance just fine. Once one starts with these, keeping things in balance will become a habit, so natural that one won’t even realise it. After all, ancient concepts and scientific theories are good reasons to do so. The simple fact that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, is good enough a reason to do something nice, sooner rather than later.

P.S.: The feature image is sourced from Pexels.