Balancing a Budget – A Wife’s Predicament

Balancing a Budget – A Wife’s Predicament

By Umm Isam – Writer and human resource trainer

Maurice Baring once said: “If you want to know what the Lord thinks of money, you have only to look at those to whom He gives it.” I couldn’t help but laugh heartily. Images of many people went through my mind; I feel that most of them are undeserving of the privileges they enjoy, yet there they are rich and rolling in bucks. Who are we to say?

Now, let’s think in terms of our personal relationships and explore whether money really makes a marriage happier.

In At-Tabaqat, it is narrated that Fatimah (rta), the Prophet’s (sa) daughter, used to go hungry for days. On a particular day, Ali (rta) noticed that she looked very pale and weak. He enquired: “What is the matter with you, Fatima?” Fatimah (rta) answered: “It has been three days, and we haven’t found anything to eat in the house.” Ali (rta) asked: “Why didn’t you inform me?” She replied: “On the night of our wedding, my father, the Messenger of Allah (sa), advised me: ‘O Fatima, if Ali brings you something, eat it, and if he does not, do not ask him.’”

How many of us have had to starve for weeks? The gravest challenge that we face is living within our means. And, believe me, if we brace ourselves and our children for some sacrifice, patience, conditioning and a shift in our perception of ourselves and others, we can live within any amount of income. Try living by the following rules and experience the liberation yourself:

  1. Give yourself no option but to live within your income. Looking in all directions for aid and waiting for someone to bail you out (parents, siblings and friends) should be completely unacceptable.
  2. Take pride in your husband’s abilities and what he is able to bring to the family. If you wear a cotton outfit and your sister wears silk, it does not indicate your husband’s incapability to provide for more. Rather, cotton is what Allah (swt) has ordained for you to wear.
  3. Spend time in the company of those who are content with their provisions, rather than those who complain to death. Contentment doesn’t mean being unambitious; it means submitting to Allah’s (swt) will and being happy with it.
  4. Always remember our Prophet (sa) chose poverty over the riches of the world. There is great wisdom behind it. If you own little, you will be accountable for less.
  5. Do not choose a lifestyle that is not supported by your income. It will only cause misery and family rifts; it may also open doors to Haram (impermissible) earnings.
  6. Never befriend people who size you up by the weight of your wallet. Those who love your family will accept you the way you are.
  7. Similarly, although Islam doesn’t allow severing familial ties, you can restrict your family’s involvement with relatives, if you fear falling into Hasad (envy) or a rat race.
  8. Try to stay off TV, magazines and any public places that tempt you and your family with their hypnotizing lures.
  9. Pray to Allah (swt) for a content and peaceful heart that longs to stay happy in whatever circumstances Allah (swt) keeps it in.
  10. Lastly, a widow once shared: “Each morning, it should be enough for every wife to find her husband beside her, breathing. Many women have been deprived of this blessing as their better halves have left them alone in this journey of life.”

A Respectable Household Budget

Regardless of your monthly income, following are some fixed or varied costs that households may incur, along with suggestions to streamline expenditure and release financial hardships, Insha’Allah:


Fixed costs
Zakah This is a must. If are eligible, pay Zakah even if you have to sell some of your gold to do so.
Loan repayment To ensure future credibility, pay back your loan in installments as early as possible.
Suggestions to reduce expenses under extreme financial difficulties
House rent Consider sharing space with another married sibling or your parents (if they are independent) to divide the cost.
Home maintenance If the above is considered, maintenance cost can also be divided among family members. Otherwise, keep minimum household stuff to reduce wear and tear.
Salaries of servants Delegate home chores to each family member (including boys), without employing servants and thus saving the cost.
Grocery and eatables Shop as per need. Look out for discounts and bargains. Use local products that are cheaper. Cut down on wasteful expenditure of snacking. Cook less variety of dishes for each meal. Try making more curries.
Utility bills Make all family members understand the importance of conserving resources — electricity, water and gas. Sleep in one room to run one AC for a few hours only. Use energy saving bulbs. Use buckets instead of showers for bathing. Fix all leaking faucets and toilets. Use the geyser only in winters.
Toiletries Dilute concentrated detergents for dish washing by adding water. The same can be done for shampoos. Do not keep out entire bottles of creams, powder and lotions. Ration them according to weeks, especially if you have small children, to prevent wastage.
Schooling Choose your kids’ school for its affordability (not popularity), as schooling consumes nearly 45% of your salary. It should be close to home. Home education is a very sane and popular choice for many moms these days. You can join their network at If you are unsure, try with younger kids first to gain confidence.
Fuel Try walking to get groceries or other chores close by. Cycling is also a possible alternative for kids.
Entertainment Go to places that are free of cost, such as the beach, parks and nature walks. Pack a picnic meal to save cost of food, especially beverages.
Sadaqah No matter how much costs pinch, maintain a steady payment of Sadaqah to the deserving, even if it is just Rs.10 per month. Doing so will maximize your Rizq, Insha’Allah.


Ideas for generating a support income for your family:

  1. Work from home for a few hours in a skill you have mastered. It could be catering, offering tuitions, writing for publications, computer-based skills, etc.
  2. Pool in a kitty/committee with trustworthy friends, family members, or colleagues, especially for the months in which you need to pay taxes, give children’s school fees, prepare for Eids, etc.
  3. Invest in Islamic institutions that are interest-free.

Pinching Paisas…

quart jar full of coins, pennies,nickels,dimes and quarters, with clipping path

Hiba continues its series on money management. In the second article of this series, Sumaira Dada, Noorjehan Arif and Aisha Ashraf Jangda talk to people and get tips on how to save money.

Whether you call it using resources responsibly, saving for future generations or just plain pinching Paisas, you know exactly what we are getting at. During the times of rising prices and falling incomes, we all need to look around for little tips on saving money. Here’s what we found.

First Step

The first step, in order to reduce the mountain of unpaid bills, is to start cutting off unnecessary expenses. Beena, a homemaker, cut down all the imported cosmetic items she used to buy. She started using local products instead. She also started making clothes for her children out of her old ones, all by herself! Monia, a Quran teacher, states that understanding the Quran helps in controlling her spending habit. On a witty note, she claims that wearing an Abaya helps reduce spending on clothes!

To cut the rising costs of electricity and fuel, you can control the excessive use of air conditioners during summer. Having mint-lemon drinks and wearing cotton and lawn clothes can do wonders in keeping you cooler! In winter, a better idea is to use warm clothes and blankets, which can help you, cut down on the fuel bill and also keep you warm.

Second Step

The second step is to be creative in fulfilling your needs. One enterprising grandmother used to make quilt blankets out of old cloth pieces! An aunt, who is known in the family for her taste in furniture, reused an antique sideboard from her mother, got it polished and painted so well that now she has placed it in her drawing room. A friend of my mother had a great idea of saving money on buying expensive paintings to put up around the house. She framed the 500-piece cardboard puzzles that her teenage children had discarded and hung them on the walls. Trust me; a framed puzzle usually catches any guest’s eye, just as it caught ours!

Third step

The third step is to start saving money with a group of like-minded people. Monia gives the idea of a Voluntary Committee (VC), a pool of funds, where every member puts in a certain amount of money on a monthly basis. At the end of the month, the entire amount accrues to a certain member. This helps to save a significant amount of money with little hassle. This discipline can be taught to teenagers as well, with an adult involved in safeguarding the money.

Quick Advice: Preparing an emergency fund is also very useful, as emergencies such as a job loss, illness, home or auto repairs, can be a significant drain on the finances. Most experts agree that you should keep between three and six months worth of your living expenses set aside in your emergency fund. Evaluation of your situation and the number of children in your family will determine what amount is best for you. Initially, you can begin with Rs.1000 a month and then increase the amount gradually. After a few months, you won’t even notice that Rs.1000 is missing, so you would be able to increase the amount you put aside. The best way to get started would probably be through your bank. Open up a new account in an Islamic Bank, if you currently don’t have one, and begin to save in it. The next step is to get into the habit of making regular deposits into this account. Once you make saving automatic, you won’t even have to think about it.

Working People

1) Saving Money at Lunchtime

We’ve all heard the advice to bring lunch from home to save money. But does it mean missing out on eating out with your co-workers?

  • Ask a few colleagues, if they’d like to join you in brown bagging lunch. Chances are they’d like to save money, too. You can set up a potluck in the break room or kitchen with everyone’s leftovers or favorite sandwiches. Not only you will get to know your colleagues better, but you will also be able to try a variety of foods. This may lead to recipe-swapping.
  • Avoid eating unnecessary and unhealthy snacks like chips, biscuits and ice-cream at work. They may be excellent munchies and you may want a crunch during that afternoon slump, but fresh fruits or vegetables brought along from home are more healthy and lighter on the stomach as well as your wallet.
  • Avoid eating out too often. Eating out is extremely expensive, and it leads to overeating, since the sizes of portions are larger than usual. If everyone at work decides to eat out, you could either eat your own food by staying back or simply order the cheapest option on the menu.

2) Saving Money on Commuting

Do you cringe at the price of filling up your gas tank? Consider cutting your fuel costs and saving wear and tear on your car by changing your commute. See if you can:

  • Search for an alternative route.
  • Avoid rush hours. Go to work half an hour earlier and leave an hour later.
  • Carpool with a co-worker or someone who works nearby.
  • Take a bus. You may enjoy the time usually used in driving to read or listen to translation of the Quran on your mobile.
  • Get your chores done along the way. Pick up grocery items or laundry, while you are coming back from work. This can save you time, money and fuel.

Save Money on Gifts

Have you ever had to give gifts to co-workers, because they’ve just got married or someone has just had a baby? Most organizations have a policy, where you can give a gift to colleagues or customers financed by the department budget. Find out if your organization has such a policy and utilize it, thereby saving your personal income.

Another way to save on gifts is to pass on gifts that you have received from others or be a little creative and design a card or clothes or even bake a cake. You can also pick a bunch of flowers from your garden. In fact, there are endless options of saving money on gifts – all it takes is some creativity and a willingness to pinch Paisas!

Handy Tips for Smart Savers

Home Economics

In the Kitchen

  • Buy your groceries on a weekly basis to avoid wastage which may incur due to monthly stocks.
  • Supervise your servants to ensure they don’t waste your valuable stocks.
  • Use your meal leftovers to prepare tasty dishes.
  • Buy local food products instead of imported ones – this will support the economy too.
  • Cook food for your dinners instead of getting it catered.

Using Electrical Appliances

  • Never keep any appliance on a stand-by mode.
  • Switch to energy-saving bulbs.
  • Irons use maximum electricity in the first ten minutes – iron a maximum number of outfits in one go.
  • Use sunlight instead of dryers to dry your clothes.
  • Switch to split air conditioners for an economical electricity bill.
  • Use air conditioners with timers

Credit and Banking

  • Avoid credit cards altogether
  • Be wary of bank charges on ATM withdrawals

Shopping Cautions

  • Always shop on a full stomach to avoid purchasing unnecessary eatables
  • Make a list and shop according to that
  • Be wary of sales – only buy what you genuinely need
  • Make less trips to the market to avoid temptation
  • Whenever you think of buying something, rate it on a scale of one to ten. If the rating is below 5, consider it as a luxury and not a necessity

Compiled by Umm Isam

Is the Price Hike Controlling You?

Vol 5 - Issue 4 Is the price hike conyrlling youOfaira Ateeq Husain and Sumaira Dada spoke to some people to find out how they are managing the price hike

It may be quite hard to believe, but it is only when my mother-in-law goes for a vacation that I get a glimpse of house management. Now that she is visiting her daughter in Canada, I am looking after the house. This time around everything seems to be different because of the price hike. I cannot help but wonder how everyone else is managing. Along with a colleague, I decided to speak to a couple of people on how they are coping with the spiraling prices.

What They are Saying

Sharifa, a Quran teacher and a grandmother of three, manages the budget strictly. She records her daily expenses and trims down what she believes are unnecessary expenses. Instead of getting her clothes made by the tailor, she sews her own clothes and sometimes also those of her two daughters-in-law. Food expenses are also kept under control. The entire family eats together, and whenever possible, the food is cooked without a lot of oil. Instead of consuming high quality basmati rice, the family eats the cheaper broken rice.

Nausheen, also a Quran teacher, prioritizes while managing the household budget. Hers is education; therefore, she is willing to keep her children in good schools, despite the increase in fees. She says that the family has limited eating out to once a month. Her advice for mothers is to stop children from consuming junk food, which is not only of low nutritional value but also heavy on the pocket.

Maria, a lecturer at a business school, feels that the car pool arrangement for her school-going children has helped cut expenses. Moreover, she has been thinking of having the petrol-driven car finally converted to CNG, to save on fuel cost.

Dr. Saba, a sonologist and a mother of two, has been doing grocery shopping more carefully, refraining from impulsive buying. However, she continues to buy well-known brands for essential items as milk and cooking oil.

Zahida, a government school teacher and a mother of two, has tried to bring food expenses under control by preparing dessert twice a month. She has also cut down travelling expenses by going shopping only on the weekends and that too in the family car.

Amna, a baby sitter, is trying to cut down her travel cost by commuting on foot whenever possible.

Simplicity is Part of Faith

Instead of whining and complaining all the time, we should take this as an opportunity to follow the footsteps of the Prophet (sa) and his companions. From Aisha (rta) we know that the Prophet (sa) used to repair his shoes and mend his dresses. He used to check his own clothing and, milking the sheep and catering for himself were some of his normal jobs. (Mishkat)

The Prophet (sa) has also said: “Will you not listen? Will you not listen? Will you not listen? Verily, simplicity is a part of Iman (faith). Verily, simplicity is a part of Iman. Verily, simplicity is a part of Iman.” (Abu Dawood)

Rapidly rising prices is a phenomenon, which the authorities are duty-bound to control. Nevertheless, keeping an attitude of gratefulness despite the decrease in the number of tasty foods and less desserts to savour will, Insha’Allah, yield benefits in this world and in the Hereafter. After all, Allah (swt) says in the Quran: “And indeed We bestowed upon Luqman Al-­Hikmah (wisdom and religious understanding, etc) saying: ‘Give thanks to Allah.’ And whoever gives thanks, he gives thanks for (the good of) his ownself. And whoever is unthankful, then verily, Allah is All­-Rich (Free of all wants), Worthy of all praise.” (Luqman 31:12)

A Penny Saved is a Penny Gained

Regardless of what our salary is, we must strive to save a certain percentage of it for the rainy days. It is sad but true that even if earn more than what we need, we generally end up spending that entire extra amount, believing citing our luxuries as our needs. Remember there will never be an end to the wish list, but the bucks saved today will come in handy tomorrow.

Never Stop Sharing

When we are required to tighten our own belts, the first causality is our sense of generosity and giving. Sadaqah and Zakat always bring Barakah in our earnings – this is Allah (swt)’s promise to the Believers. We may lessen our contribution to charity in accordance with our revised budget but we must not deprive our less-privileged servants and relatives of our patronage. You will discover that the more Sadaqah you give, the more bounties of Allah (swt) will come to you from unimaginable sources.

Avoid Wastage

In general, Islam highly discourages wastage of any kind, but it is decidedly even worse to indulge in the wastage of already-scarce resources. It also results in Allah (swt)’s anger. At all times, make a conscious effort to utilize your blessings effectively and help your children realize it too.