About the Book
Whether you're single or married, a dependent relative or an independent professional, an indulgent grandmother or a thrifty businesswoman, money plays a key role in your life. And, let's face it, dealing with it is almost always a challenge. Financial independence does not necessarily mean freedom from financial stress-what to do with the money you have is often as nerve-wracking a proposition as getting the money.
In today's world, when money is a key factor in determining many things, including your relationships with family and peers and the way you handle your work-life balance, it is absolutely essential to master your money-and The Petticoat Journal tells you how.
About the Author
Shruti Kohli is an Indian entrepreneur. She started her career as a journalist and reported for various media organizations, beginning with the central Indian newspaper The Hitavada. Subsequently, she reported for The Times of India, The Indian Express, CNBC TV18, Outlook Money and India Today. After a decade in journalism, she quit the field in November 2009 to float her own company, Spink Turtle Media Pvt. Ltd, of which she is currently the chairperson and managing director. Her book takes its name from Spink Turtle's magazine for women, The Petticoat Journal (www. petticoatjournal.com), which she edits and which is one of the various news, production and event management businesses of her company.
This is my first book. In that capacity, it should begin right at the beginning. And right in the beginning there is a cheque for Rs 2,000. It's a rainy June afternoon. I take the cheque and walk out of the swanky NIIT office in Jabalpur, my hometown. I pick up my bicycle and start pedalling in the direction of my house. I reach home, hand over the cheque to my parents and go 'Hurrah!' And why not? That, right there, is my life's first paycheque. I am just sixteen years old. And here I am with Rs 2,000 at my disposal every month! It seems like some impossible dream.
I hand over the cheque to my parents and I'm given Rs 2,000 in cash. Out of this, I spend Rs 800 on treating my friends and family to celebrate. Of the rest, I put Rs 100 aside for charity, another Rs 100 goes in my piggy bank, and with the rest I buy canvas, paint and brushes. I am now going to make paintings and greeting cards. During my visit to Delhi earlier that year, a friend had introduced me to a shop that sold handmade cards and paintings by amateur artists. They had offered to exhibit and sell my work. Two months later, I am ready with three handmade cards and two paintings. I hand these over to the shop on my next visit to Delhi in September that year. A fortnight later, I get a phone call to say that all my stuff has been sold. My profit is a whopping Rs 5,000
During my research while writing this book, I met a lot of people who questioned my credentials to give advice on money. Some people told me that I had had a well-off upbringing, and so I might not really know about the other side of life, the one without money; this, they thought, made me ineligible to write about the subject.
Well, I wouldn't completely write off their misgivings. I did grow up in affluence: my father was a government servant in the capacity of an engineer. We lived in a sprawling, state-provided bungalow with vast green lawns and two huge kitchen gardens. One of the gardens had a well too! Almost every variety of vegetable and fruit grew in our gardens. The gardens, lawns and other household chores were managed by the state-provided domestic help: Beti bai, Jasodha bai, Pancham bhaiyya, Bihari bhaiyya, Kunjilal bhaiyya, Gopal bhaiyya and Vishnu bhaiyya. My brother and I were undoubtedly born with silver spoons in our mouths.
But consider this: as early adolescents, when my brother and I asked our mother for a new pencil, she would ask us to kneel down at the prayer corner, join our hands, dose our eyes, and 'pray to God for a pencil.' We would both obediently follow the instructions. After a while, she would ask us to open our eyes. And bingo, the pencils were right there before us!
It was not just about pencils. Our 'God' gave us anything that we genuinely needed. Yes, mind the word' genuinely', because our God did not bless us if we lost our things too frequently and came looking for a replacement. He obliged only after we had been punished in school for having lost whatever it was.
This trick was played on us till we were mature enough to understand that it was a trick. But by that time, we had become responsible about our possessions. We had learnt the value of money; we had learnt that it came after much toil.
Besides this, I grew up seeing my father jotting down notes every night in a notebook with a turquoise cover, with inputs from my mother. That was the cash flow record my parents maintained. Ever since I started working, I have also kept a record of my income and daily expenses.
Growing up in such an environment, it's no wonder I did what I did with my first salary!
Actually, my cordial relationship with money has its roots in my father's rags-to-riches story. As a child, my father had seen life without money. This had led him to first pull his parents and siblings out of the debt trap and raise their financial status to a decent level, and then to ensure that his children learnt the value of money from the very beginning. Once my father had finished his engineering studies and found a lucrative government job, the first thing he did was to pay off all his family's debts. Besides this, he handed over his fat salary to his parents every month. With this, the family's financial woes came to an end; none of my father's younger brothers ever had to part with their salaries.
Although my maternal relatives had never seen financially depressed times, my mother always supported my father in his efforts to keep the family finances in perfect order.
When my brother and I started working, each of us had our own struggles with managing our money right. But these were problems common to everyone entering the workforce. I set my house in order a couple of years after I started working. I began by saving, and then moved on to investing. I was to realize the advantage of this later, when I became an entrepreneur and my business went through a difficult patch.
One afternoon in June 2011, I logged on to pay my phone bills. The transaction was unsuccessful! I tried again. Same results! I checked and found, to my shock, that there were only ten rupees in my bank account! The day before, a couple of bills had been paid through ECS and these transactions had slipped my mind. I had never thought it was getting that bad. Since May that year, my business had been registering a slump. And now, my bank balance was zero. Well, almost.
At first, I thought I would have to borrow some money. But then I remembered my investments. I redeemed a couple of mutual fund schemes. However, what with staff salaries, office space rent, and bills to be paid, those saw me through only for two months. Now my net worth was an absolute zero. The returns from my investments and my bank balance had been used up. My rent would be unpaid and my staff would go without salaries for three months.
For a while I thought I had ended up as an also-ran entrepreneur and that it was time to look for a job. But I was too attached to my baby to abandon it so easily. So I confined myself to the four walls of my flat and worked out a plan to revive my sinking business.
It took me three months to prepare and execute the plan.
In the meantime, I picked up an assignment writing weekly columns for a central Indian English daily, The Hitavada. This took care of my basic bills for three months. By February 2012, I could see the first ray of hope at the end of the dark, damp tunnel. It came in the form of a sponsorship. We were back in business! There's been no looking back ever since.
Those nine months of financial hardship, from May 2011 to January 2012, was when I applied all the lessons I had learnt from my parents to my own situation. I stayed resolutely away from borrowing. Borrowing was the last of the last options on my list. This again came from my parents, especially my father, who was against borrowing on principle. He even refrained from loans.
The money values my parents inculcated in me have brought me far. They have rescued me from sticky financial situations every now and then. And now I'm writing about these values, so that other people can benefit from them too.
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