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. Here’s how you can save a little extra.
“Stepford” up your budget game
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.
What’s on the menu?
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!
Top tip: Beware of presuming that the house brand is cheaper, as this is not always the case.
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
Cheap out, on a day out
If you are on a tight budget there is no reason to resign yourself to a homebound 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 discover historical monuments or galleries in your area?
Want more ways to save money this month? Check out these suggestions from Teljoy.