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How to survive winter on a budget (and have fun)

12 May 2015
4 minute read

survive winter on a budget

This is the winter of your discontent. Or rather, this is the winter of your discontented budget. Electricity prices are soaring, fuel prices aren’t far behind, and you weep every time you get to the check out and have to fork out hundreds of rands for a meal. For one. 

There’s no denying that South Africans are under financial pressure. While the global economy seems to be recovering, we have our own local pressures to contend with. Cost saving is the name of the game, but if you see another article about how you should stay home, drink wine and play Scrabble… with the lights out… and no heaters… you will, well, weep.

But don’t despair. We have done the research and there are lots of other ways to save money that you could try out – and some of them are even fun. Here’s our guide to surviving winter with your budget on track and your sense of fun intact.

1. Adjust your expectations

Unfortunately, to save money, you have to make sacrifices. So, the first step to beating the winter budget blues is accepting that you’re going to have to make some changes. Consider, for instance, the portion of your income dedicated to “Latte Factor” expenses – those seemingly insignificant costs that add up every month. Have a look at this infographic to help you to do the maths and give you some inspiration to start cutting.

2. Develop a taste for beer

We don’t literally mean beer. There’s that saying, “You have champagne tastes, but a beer budget.” Well, the time has come to let go of your champagne tastes. There are plenty of perfectly delicious options at the beer end of the spectrum.

In terms of home cooking, that means planning your meals around what’s affordable (most supermarket chains have advertising broadsheets with specials for the week), and cutting back on the high-end food items. That can mean changing from fillet to stewing steak, or from meat to vegetable curry. You can try out these end-of-the-month meals or these budget meals to unleash your inner Jamie Oliver while still keeping the costs out of the kitchen.

3. Turn off the lights

We’re sorry, OK? We know it’s boring and done to death, but with electricity having increased by an average of 12.69% this year, and an additional time-of-use tariff over peak periods for Johannesburg smart meter users in winter, reducing power usage is an important way to control costs. If you have the budget, you can realise long-term savings by converting your power-guzzling geyser to solar, and if you’ve already done all you can in that way, you can use these tips to reduce your daily power consumption.

4. Entertain cheaply

People spend a lot of money on having fun. But by the time you’ve called a taxi, paid for dinner, paid entrance to a club, bought a few drinks, caught a movie and caught a taxi home, there’s a gaping space in your wallet the size of the Big Hole of Kimberley (but with no diamonds in it).

The only solution is to stay home – but this doesn’t have to be boring. Invite your friends around, and let them know that in the interests of saving money, everyone is bringing their own booze and one course of a meal. Everyone has fun and no one has to rob a bank. Here are some other great ideas for affordable entertaining at home.

5. Become an expert on your cheap city

Even if you do venture out, there are ways to do it without spending money. Even in winter, the South African weather isn’t bad, so bundle into your winter woollies and do a hike or even just have a picnic in your local park. Here are some great suggestions for cheap things to do in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

6. Have fun with the kids without spending a fortune

Any parent will tell you that children burn a hole in your wallet. They need so much entertaining and it’s hard to deny them anything. Rather than making cost-saving about denial, focus on the fun things that you can do as a family that don’t cost a cent. Here are some low-cost kids’ entertainment suggestions for Cape Town, but you’ll have to dig a little for the affordable gems on this list of things to do with kids in Joburg. And here are some activities you can keep them busy with at home (put away your phone!).

Another important aspect of saving money when you have kids is planning. Don’t leave the house without a snack, prepare them for what they can and can’t buy while you are out in advance so that they’re not disappointed, and enlist their help in cutting costs. Offer to reward them with something inexpensive of course.

There’s always Scrabble

If all else fails, you know what to do. Break out the candles (yes, another pack), grab a hot water bottle, open up the games cupboard and start the Great Winter Scrabble Championships of 2015. Just because it’s done to death doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea.

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