Here’s how to keep or put money BACK into your pocket
The term “tighten your belt” has become as much a part of the South African economic landscape as “misappropriation of funds” and “budget deficit”. As the country’s financial prospects get bleaker every day, already-stretched consumers are being asked to make more cutbacks.
To some, tightening their belt may mean trading exotic overseas vacations for destinations closer to home; but for the majority of South African households, the implications are far more serious.
Fortunately, there are a few penny-pinching tricks that can be applied to your daily life that can save you a few R100 over a month.
And be smart about it! Many retailers have jumped on the reward programme bandwagon and our wallets are bursting with plastic loyalty cards that have the power to either save or slay us where spending habits are concerned.
It is important to remember that all rewards programmes are set up to entice customers to spend more money at the relevant stores, and this means that having a loyalty card may entice you into spending money on things that you otherwise wouldn’t have.
And this is where the “be smart about it” comes in. Leave those cards at home. And only bring them along if you have planned to treat yourself.
By doing this you will have made space in your wallet for the loyalty cards that you are likely to use more regularly, on more essential items such as groceries.
The Pick n Pay Smart Shopper card stands out among these as a programme that really benefits the consumer when used efficiently.
When making a purchase the teller will swipe your card and your spend will dictate the number of points you gain. These points can then be converted into cash for those times when there is more month than money. This, however, is just the beginning.
A visit to the electronic kiosk in each shop will allow you to sprint out a number of coupons that are tailored to your spending habits; so instead of giving a single, 18-year-old male a coupon for R20 off nappies you will be getting money off items that you regularly buy.
#TopTip Read your coupons as they may be for specific sizes or brands of an item.
#2 Clothing accounting
When it comes to credit cards and loans we are very conscious of the interest rates we pay. However, when swiping a store card, we almost never think about the interest we will be paying on our new flip-flops.
The fact of the matter is that retail accounts are expensive and those who do pay their accounts of purchase items in cash end up paying for those who don’t through increased prices and high interest rates.
And if you are really serious about saving where fashion is concerned, you need to awaken your inner fashionista and broaden your shopping horizons.
While the obvious big department stores may make fashion convenient by stocking exactly what’s in vogue at the time, it may be exactly what is preventing you from finding your own personal style.
Venture into the confusing and confounding world of PQ Fashions and discover a jumble of fantastic and fabulous items hidden among the less trendy and fashion-forward items – all you need do is dig a little because the difference in price can run into hundreds of rand.
PEP stores can always be counted on for cute kids’ attire, but have you had a look at their selections of scarves and hats? Their home stores, too, cannot be beat for crockery and super chic glassware.
Once or twice a year, my sister and I get together with a few close friends for a swop meet. Each of us is tasked with a closet clean up, discarding any unwanted clothing into dustbin bags and during the swop meet these bags are emptied onto the floor in one big pile from which we all “shop”.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and you may be amazed at the pieces you find.
You may even find that you claim your own pieces back some years later.
Once we have all salvaged our favorite pieces, what’s left is given to charity.
While our mothers and grandmothers may have been weighed down by gender inequality and the general evil machinery of patriarchy, those “broads” knew how to run a household! So take a leaf out of their book or, should I say, recipe book?
Home cooking may take more time but the benefits far outweigh the negatives.
Not only is it far healthier, it is much cheaper than readymade meals and fast foods. If time is your concern, spend a weekend cooking big casseroles, stews and pies that can be frozen to be enjoyed later in the week.
A crockpot (slow cooker) can be a fantastic time saver too. A chicken spiced and surrendered to a slow cocker on low in the morning will be falling off the bone by the time you get home from work.
And while we are on the subject, bring your own lunch to work.
Again, paying homage to a previous generation, the menu trick is one I learned from my mother. It has not only helped me keep my spending in check, but I always know what’s for dinner.
Every week make and plan out the following week’s meals.
Check what ingredients you have available in your kitchen and make a list of those you need.
You now know that your shopping list is complete and reliable, and you won’t find yourself playing the guessing game in the aisles – you’ll also buy exactly what you do need, and not blow your budget on things you don’t need.
This may sound oversimplified, but it can save you thousands of rand!
#TopTip Don’t rush through your shopping. Spend the time needed to compare the prices of different brands. And even when the price difference is mere small change on one item it can make a big difference on your entire shop.
#TopTip Beware of presuming that the house brand is cheaper, as this is not always the case.
#7 Make your own beer
If you are hard-pressed to give up your night cap, you will be glad to know that there is a way to have your ale without the budget fail.
Craft liquors have exploded in popularity in the past five years. What used to be the backyard doings of moonshines and bored chemistry teachers is now an urban trend, and the availability of information, equipment and ingredients has made beer and wine brewing a common past time.
The great thing about it is that when using basic equipment brewing kits it is easy and often as much as 45% cheaper than the shelf price. It may end up tasting better too!
Turning off lights and appliances that are not being used may seem like an obvious way to save money, but it is often neglected, to our own detriment.
There are many ways to save on power costs:
- Ensure your dishwasher is full before running it and switch it off before the dryer cycle
- Boil the kettle and keep hot water in a flask so you are not boiling a kettle for every cup of tea
- Air-dry clothing where possible. Tumble dryers are extremely power-intensive and should always be a rainy-day solution and not a convenient way to unwrinkle a shirt
- Install surge protectors on all your appliances; these affordable and easy-to-install tools may save you thousands in the long run where an unreliable power grid regularly causes power surges that could blow out some or all of your appliances
- Let food defrost overnight in the fridge, as opposed to using your microwave
- Use pressure cookers to reduce cooking times
- Replace all your light bulbs with energy-saving LEDs
#9 Discover Vitality
If you are a Discovery Vitality member being smart about how you use your benefits may be the difference between keeping and cancelling the extra cost every month.
Sign up for the healthy food benefit and Vitality will pay you money back for healthy foods you purchase from Woolies and Pick n Pay. While the marketing says that you can get up to R1,000 per month back, you can easily earn around R300 per month back without putting too much thought into it! This is more than a single person pays to have the Vitality benefit.
Recently, the Checkers Little Garden initiative taught us that growing your own veggies and herbs in a windowsill is not only easy, but possible for homes of all shapes and sizes. It also showed us that having fresh seasonal herbs and veggies at your fingertips is much more affordable than purchasing them in supermarkets.
If you are on a tight budget there is no reason to resign yourself to a home-bound existence because you can’t afford to go out. Rather become creative about your weekend activities and discover new hobbies.
Stay away from malls and big shopping centers; taking a walk in a park or going for a hike in a nature reserve is far more entertaining than window shopping; and if you have an empty wallet, it’s far less depressing.
When last did you visit the Botanical Gardens or committed to discovering historical monuments or galleries in your area?
By Leanne Parker