We’re all feeling the cost of living pinch this year, it seems just about everything has gotten more expensive. Regardless of your current income and savings, it’s never a bad idea to adopt some best practices to help save yourself some cash. We’ve outlined seven of the best tips below as a list of quite easily achievable changes you can make towards a more secure financial future.
1. Take Control of Your Energy Usage
Despite increasing contributions from renewable sources last year, 2021 still became the most intensive year for load shedding in South Africa. With that in mind, it’s essential to understand how much energy you’re using and how to cut that down.
Here are a few tricks to help minimise your gas and electricity charges:
- Install a smart meter – it’ll give you a heads up when your usage creeps up or identify the appliances using the most energy.
- Charge at night – electricity usually costs less in the evening, so think about when you charge your appliances or turn on the dishwasher.
- Changing your bulbs – smart bulbs, automatic timer plugs and thermostats are your friends.
Did you know that appliances use a tiny amount of power if you leave them plugged in when they’re not used?
Unplug things like washing machines and tumble dryers between uses, and the savings will add up.
2. Create a Weekly Meal Planner
We all know that we shouldn’t grocery shop on an empty stomach – but the best option is to plan out your weekly meals and make a list of every ingredient you need.
You can avoid the inclination to book a take-out when you’re lost for inspiration and streamline your regular shopping bill.
Smart shoppers avoid brand names, use bulk packs of things like cleaning fluids and toilet rolls, and shop at a great time when any fresh items that haven’t been sold are being discounted.
3. Prioritise Debt Repayments
Deciding to save is great, but if you have credit cards or loans, make sure they’re on the top of your outgoings list.
Even if you chip away at a tiny amount above the minimum repayment, you can get into a much better credit position if you focus your extra savings on reducing your obligations.
The credit provider Wonga explains this in more detail here – including additional tips on how to help repair a low credit score.
4. Plan Journeys in Advance
Travel is a necessary part of life, whether the daily school run, commuting to work, or driving to the shops.
There are multiple ways to cut back on fuel costs (another area where we’re seeing bumper living cost increases):
- Walk if you can – it’s great for your health, the environment, and your savings.
- Carpool – sharing journeys will ensure you all benefit from reduced travel costs since you can split the fuel bill.
- Make discretionary journeys at quiet times – you can burn endless fuel sitting in traffic jams.
Public transport might be cheaper than vehicle running costs – although only a potential swap if you have a second car and could rely on one.
5. Switch Your Call Charges
Messaging is far more prevalent than phone calls, but if you’re not paying attention to your charges, or data, you can quickly run up a sizable bill.#
Phones are a great way to see if you can amend your budget by:
- Switching to a cheaper tariff and making longer calls at optimal times.
- Using a landline (most broadband deals come with one thrown in). Old-fashioned landlines might be less convenient, but they’re usually cheaper than mobile calls by about 60%.
- Not upgrading to the newest smartphone model the second it comes out. You’ll probably be paying an unsecured debt, which will appear on your credit report.
You can use a free app like WhatsApp or Messenger and wait to send images, videos or GIFs till you’re home and connected to the Wi-Fi.
6. Shop Smartly
Many of us shop according to our mood or don’t compare prices, so we could be whittling down our savings potential every time we head to the mall.
Make lists of things you’d like, and prioritise them into essentials, must-haves (but not urgent) and luxuries.
You can check prices online, make full use of any vouchers, and avoid buying things as you pass.
7. Make Entertainment a Treat
Finally, if you’re serious about creating a decent savings pot, it’s important to be realistic about entertaining – a dinner out, cinema trips or leisure parks with the family.
Set a finite budget, limit your days out, or perhaps choose cost-effective activities, such as a picnic rather than a restaurant dinner or a play park rather than the movies.
It’s amazing how many low-cost facilities we can find when we take the time to look.