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Tighten your belts, draw up a budget to control your funds

Tough economy, high cost of living spook consumers

While you are paying for food, petrol rices have also soared.
While you are paying for food, petrol rices have also soared.
Image: Antonio Muchave

SA is currently faced with a tough economy and the cost of living keeps increasing.

The latest household affordability index compiled by the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity Group (PMBEJD) shows that the average cost of a food basket has increased by R572.64 from R4,335.70 in February 2022 to R4,928.34 in February 2023.

That is nearly R5,000 for a food basket.

Maize meal, spinach, oranges, samp, butternut, cabbage and green peppers are among food stuffs which increased by 5% or more in February. Foods that increased by 2% or more included salt, rice, potatoes and apples.

While you are paying more for food, petrol prices have also soared. On top of that, the interest rates are currently on the rise with experts warning that they are nearing peak.

Now is the time to tighten your belts, and to get started you need to gain control of your finances.

“Whether you are trying to get out of debt, save some money or simply stay in the green, a basic budget is one of the most underrated tools for gaining control of your finances, managing expenditure, saving and avoiding debt,” said head of Budget Insurance Tyrone Lowther.

The insurance company set out steps one can follow when drawing up a budget.

They are: 

  • First step: draw up a list of your fixed expenditures and other monthly deductions and tally these up against your income. If your expenses are more than your income, then you need to begin planning how you are going to reduce them.
  • Some areas are easier to trim down on: so concentrate on them first. Remember, even the smallest adjustments can make a meaningful difference over the long term.
  • Trim down your expenses: you can start channelling the extra money you have into paying off your debt faster, starting with those with the highest interest rates first.
  • Make sure your budget has a goal: whether it’s to pay off your credit card debt or save money for a family holiday. Working towards a goal provides direction, makes it more fun and delivers a sense of accomplishment when the goal is finally achieved.
  • Be realistic: if you set too lofty a goal and reaching it means deprivation on all fronts, the likelihood of you sticking to your budget is minimal.
  • Be honest: look at your debt obligations and your expenses so that you have a clear and realistic picture of your financial situation.
  • Cut, but be careful: there are certain expenses you may be tempted to cut, like vehicle and home maintenance or your monthly insurance premium. This could bring some short-term relief but may end up costing you far more in the long run.
  • Stockpile: you can save thousands of rand every month by looking out for and taking advantage of discounts and specials. By buying more, at a lower price, you’ll be able to stretch your rand and shrink your monthly shopping bill. 
  • Get that emergency fund started or boost it: it’s recommended that you have three to six months’ worth of expenses saved up in your emergency fund.  Start by saving a small amount each month. Commit – don’t withdraw anything from this fund unless it’s a crisis.
  • The 10% saving goal and the 30-day rule: Saving every month is hard but you should make it a priority. The rule of thumb is to try keep 10% of your salary aside for savings. Also avoid instant gratification by waiting 30 days to decide whether a luxury purchase is really worth it.

Lowther said it is important to “remember that even the smallest adjustments in a number of areas of your budget can add up to significant savings”.

“The small changes and sacrifices you make now will be worth it in the long run,” said Lowther.


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