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How to beat Janu-worry - for good!

20 January 2022
5 minute read
Woman thinking in front of laptop

Say goodbye to Januworry – for good

By guest writer Ncumisa Ndelu

Congratulations! You made it through the festive season and the stress associated with it – largely from spending money you don’t have so that the holidays can feel like the holidays!

Now it’s Januworry, I mean January, the first month of the year. So why are you Januworried? Is it because, again this year, you had the perfect financial plan but failed to follow and implement it? Or is it because your budget is just some writing on a piece of paper to throw in conversation with friends and family, and not a living document that should direct your financial decisions throughout the year?

Wait, is it because you planned and budgeted for Januworry but then the festive season came, and you tapped into your January savings?
The current economic environment demands that we be mindful of how we spend every cent, and that includes keeping track of what happens 12 months a year, planning accordingly and executing our plans to the best of our abilities. This can be particularly overwhelming in January as it is the first month of the year, has the most responsibilities – especially when it comes to children – and in a way sets the tone for the rest of the year.

Cost-cutting steps to remove the worry from Januworry (and the rest of the year too!)

Hopefully by now we all know that we need to change our financial habits and behaviour in order to make ends meet, otherwise we condemn ourselves to a life of living from pay cheque to pay cheque.

The truth is that most of us cannot afford the lives we lived at the same time two years ago because everything has gone up: fuel, food prices, school fees, medical aid, etc. The only thing that has remained stubborn is the salary.

So, how do we cope with a salary that hardly moves when everything else is going up? Below are a few steps to consider on your journey to making life bearable again and aim for a JanuHappy 2023.

  • Downgrade – there are so many things that we can downgrade in our homes, from our cars and entertainment systems to buying cheaper but equally effective brands. (Now is not the time for brand loyalty!)
  • Intentional bargain hunting – this involves actively looking for bargains and changing your favourite store where necessary, because what’s the point of remaining loyal to a business when your bank balance consistently tells you that you can no longer afford to shop in that store?
  • Shopping only during sales and promotions – this may sound daunting, but it’s doable. But first, make sure the sale or promotion is not another retail trick aimed at making you part with your money. Make sure you know what the original price was before the sale/promotion.
  • Bundle shopping – this is one of my favourite promotions at the moment, but it’s also not without its downfalls, so before you purchase, it will serve you well to look at the unit vs. bundle price, as well as checking which gives you more in terms of quantity.
  • Stockpile – stockpiling or bulk buying is an old shopping method used in many families; however, we now have to be smart about stockpiling. Today stockpiling is about buying more when the price is low to save on future spending. It is a genius way to save money that allows you to eliminate certain items from your grocery list for periods up to a year, thereby reducing your monthly bills. My favourite items to stockpile include paper products, grain, pasta, detergents, beauty and hygiene products and any other product with a long shelf life so that on a monthly basis I just top up!
  • Loyalty programmes and coupons – almost all retailers and even garages have loyalty programmes, so take advantage of them! My personal favourite is the WUHU Rewards programme from Unilever that gives you 5% cash back when you purchase their products. I love the double benefit of saving in store and getting 5% cash back from the manufacturer! I also enjoy collecting my points from Shell throughout the year and using them to fill up in January!
  • Most schools offer a 10-15% discount on school fees paid before the end of February or March depending on the school. Every year we must strive to save enough to be able to take advantage of this. Remember, the worst time to buy uniforms and stationery is January! The queues are long, and stores are not about to give you any discount because that’s their only busy time, so they milk it for all they can get! The best thing to do is to buy uniforms after the January/February rush or any other time during the year! In January everything goes on sale, as stores clear their shelves of festive stock. It is also the best time to buy bridal wear, as most bridal shops have sales.
  • For months such as February with Valentine’s Day, May with Mother’s Day and June with Father’s Day, gifts of service like massages, car wash, cooking and cleaning, etc. are a “thing” – consider those and save a little money. You should also aim to shop the day after the big day when everything goes on sale and stockpile for presents to give to loved ones throughout the year!
  • Over the years marketers have wired us to think what they want us to think. They tell us when to buy what, and it’s time to flip the script and make our own decisions! When the signs go up and you’re told what’s “in” you buy what’s “out” and save money!

One last nugget of wisdom from me is to make your children part of the budgeting process. No, I don’t mean including them in your budget, I mean including them in the budgeting process itself, so they know what’s happening in their home. This will save you from random requests for money!

The sad reality is that our lives have changed. The challenge is how we adapt to the changes. It is critical for each family to identify its unique needs and plan accordingly. The trick to removing worry from Januworry is in understanding that it cannot be done in January, because it’s an all-year activity that requires commitment from the entire family.

The above can be adapted to accommodate each family’s unique needs. The point is to start the conversation and get families moving on cutting their spending because the prevailing conditions seem to be here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future.

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