Money Matters

by Claire Minnaar


When I was a kid and I asked my Mom for money: “Do you think money grows on trees, Claire?!” (Keep in mind that this was most likely the response due the fact that I had probably asked for money way too many times already that month!).

My typical response would be a sheepish smile with the response of “Well, NO, Mom….BUT, can I still have some money?

Fast forward 2 decades and now I don’t have a Mom who I can just ask for money – I’m a grown up now and I need to look after myself and I have a family to support. Yes, sure, family can help and maybe you have some helpful (or rich) friends, but for many – money these days can be a sensitive subject or something that we don’t really like to look at or understand.

This is where budgets and understanding where your money goes comes into play. We have to do it whether we like it or not. For the purpose of this article, I’ll refer to this as debt management, given that saving money is about us managing our debt and we do that by reducing our spend, of course!

Did you know?

A research report suggests that of the 13.9 million of credit active South Africans, 36 percent of this demographic demonstrate signs of being over their heads in debt.

News publication City Press recently made mention of the fact that South Africans are allocating 76% of their income to cover debt. With figures like these, it’s difficult to not be left feeling disillusioned.

Depressing, right? Well don’t worry, there are ways you can reduce your spend and start managing your debt more effectively. To help, I thought I would share some debt management tips that I personally found has helped in my life.

Important to Consider

Before I list my Top 10 tips below, one thing worth mentioning is that if whether you use public transport or own your own vehicle, the ever increasing FUEL COSTS have a direct impact on your budget and monthly spend. That being said, you will have to ensure you review your budget every time a fuel increase has been implemented to avoid getting yourself into possible debt unexpectedly.

My Top 10 Tips to Saving Money, Getting on Top of Money and / or Reducing Your Spend

  1. Create and USE a budget: This is something I personally avoid, but it does make your life easier if you know how much money you want to allocate to various “categories” of spending. If you aren’t clued up on doing MS Excel calculations, don’t worry – there are lots of free budget sheets and tools out there:
  2. Invest in online banking: All the banks have it, so learn to use and you will save long term. Going into the bank costs you money in fuel, bank charges and your time.
  3. Reduce bank fees: Visit the various bank websites and weigh up the cost of the various bank fees. Each has their own bank fees, so depending on what you do e.g. more debit orders, online banking, debit card purchases, etc.
  4. Use your phone: If you have a smart phone, make use of an online application that helps you keep track of your spending. I recommend these 22seven.
  5. Buy in bulk where possible: Make use of shops like Makro and Game where you can buy in bulk. Initially, it may be expensive, BUT you do save long term. Don’t go wild though – check before you buy items in bulk to make sure you’re actually getting a saving. Buy in bulk for things like coffee, tea, toilet paper and non-perishable goods are best.
  6. Buy frozen foods or cooking foods that can be frozen: If you find you waste food regularly or throw out stuff that has expired, look at changing your ways by buying frozen foods or cooking meals in advance and freezing them. (Ice trays work well for this).

  7. Make a list of what you REALLY need before you go to the grocery store: If you think this point sounds silly, then let me tell you what I discovered in my cupboard yesterday – 3 bottles of Sunlight liquid because I keep seeing the empty one on the sink and the full one never gets taken out. So, check your cupboards (thoroughly) and make sure to add items to the list you actually do need and ONLY buy the ones on the list.
  8. Use a Flask: Yes, believe it or not, if you are someone who boils the kettle regularly, then this one is a must. After doing some testing with an electricity measuring tool, I have identified that other than the obvious heaters and stove, the re-boiling of the kettle uses a substantial amount of electricity. So, invest in a flask and potentially see a drop in electricity spend!

  9. Buy weekly and not monthly or daily: I find buying monthly too difficult and often things go to waste. Every Sunday night, you will find me alone (me time!) at the grocery store buying my goods for the week. Since doing shopping like this, I find I have more time to focus on my work (billable hours) and there’s less spending when I have to “pop” into the shop for some bread or milk and land out coming out with a packet of items.
  10. Increase self-control: Ask yourself the question “DO I REALLY NEED THIS OR DO I REALLY WANT THIS?”. If the answer is you WANT IT, don’t buy it! Simple as that!

Bonus Tip: Look at where you can save money by making use of online comparison tools out there such as:

  • Hippo: A comparison website offering debt management assistance  that could save you some research time, redirecting you to a suitable service that matches your budget and your pocket.
  • a comparison website where you can find the most cost-effective products available on different online stores in South Africa.

I grew up always wanting to be independent and earn my way. I started working at 15 in a pharmacy. Waitressing was a disaster and I never went back to it after stabbing a fellow waitress while running to get dishes to the kitchen and spilling hot tea over an old guy who just wanted a nice meal. Needless to say, those jobs didn’t last and I thankfully have found a career I can earn a living with and help people and / or their businesses.

However, it’s important for us to not become complacent and get too comfortable, because things can change quickly. So, stay on top of your finances as best you can! Good luck!

More Reading Material on Saving Money

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