How easily do you spend other people’s money?

People are very careful about what they spend their own money on but, when it comes to money that’s not theirs, they’re not so particular. This is one of the reasons that state-owned enterprises and government departments end up overspending on all sorts of unnecessary items and events.

One of the lessons in life I have learnt over the years is this: it takes much intelligence, discipline and self-control to not spend money, but it requires none of that to spend it – anybody can do that.

When you have to work for your money, you make darn sure that it goes as far as possible. There’s no way you’re just going to hand out your hard-earned cash just because someone wants you to. No – you’re going to make sure that your money benefits you and your family.

But what about the money you are responsible for that you have not earned? If you’re responsible for a budget at work, are you just as careful with that money or do a different set of rules apply?

To illustrate my point, consider this story about several men in a golf club locker room …

A mobile phone rings.

“Yes I can talk,” says the man answering the call, “You’re shopping, are you? That’s nice.”

The listening men smile to each other.

“You want to order those new carpets? Okay. And they’ll include the curtains for an extra twenty thousand? Sure, why not?”

More smiles among the listeners.

“You want to book that week in Mauritius? They’re holding the price at twenty-two thousand? Sounds a bargain. You want a fortnight? If that’s what you want, honey, okay by me.”

The smiles on the faces of the other men turn to expressions of envy.

“And you want to give the builder the go-ahead for the new conservatory? A hundred and twenty-five thousand if we say yes today? Sounds fair. Sure, that’s fine.”

By now the listeners are exchanging glances of amazement and awe.

“Okay sugar, see you later. Yes, love you too,” says the man.

As he ends the call, he looks around at the other men and says, “Do any of you know whose phone this is?”

You might not be directly responsible for a budget so you think that this doesn’t necessarily apply to you because you don’t spend other people’s money, but what about the excessive time off that you take, resources that you waste or abuse, like paper, stationery, telephone calls (to mobile numbers) and all those other things that you assume you deserve simply because of where you work? That’s the same as spending someone else’s money.

You would never want anyone else to spend your money, so why not treat other people’s money the same as yours? If you do so, you will develop a totally different way of doing things.

Our country needs more people who are just as careful with other people’s money as they are with their own. That will result in a lot less wasted money, which could be put to better use in helping those who have gone without for so long.

Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine,, @HRFuturemag, and assists leaders to achieve self-mastery using IQ, EQ, PQ and SQ.

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