Sometimes the best money advice you can get isn’t from your bank or your financial advisor. Sometimes the best “a-ha” money moments are provided by other regular people facing the same challenges as you.
We put out the call on social media and sourced these money-saving lifehacks from ordinary South Africans, to help you spend less and save more.
It’s easy to think that the same old bills you pay every month are a fixed fee, but as these people reveal, everything is up for negotiation.
1. Get new quotes on services
It’s worth getting quotes on services with a monthly fee every few years. Check your bank charges and find out what a competing bank might charge. Colleen found she saved on her premiums when she shopped around for car insurance.
Karen says that the same works for armed response. It’s worth a call!
2. Consolidate your comms costs
When it comes to phone lines, Colleen says that if you have fibre internet, you should look at putting your landline number onto the fibre connection. Alternatively, it might be cheaper to get rid of the landline and use only your cell phone (depending on how much time you spend on actual calls in a month).
3. Slash the interest on your bond
Siphiwe recommends that you pay extra into your bond each month, or whenever you have spare cash. “Even only R500 extra means you will pay your bond back much quicker and pay less interest.”
Detergents and household cleaners are not cheap. But with a bit of planning and smart usage you can spend less or make them last longer.
4. Buy wholesale and save
Seek out discount deals. Georgie buys cleaning and household products from a wholesaler in bulk. She says that shopping through Cleaning Hub saved her R4 000 in 2018.
5. Buy on special
Jo says that she buys non-perishables that she’s certain she will use, like toilet paper and washing powder in bulk whenever she sees them on discount.
6. Use less
Agnes says that her household cleaner savings are not from buying more, but from using less. “I water down things like dishwashing liquid. It’s lovely to just squeeze in whatever amount makes enough bubbles. I’ve got a little scoop for washing powder and I’ve shown my children exactly how LITTLE to use - one scoop! Overall, I try to use only half of what I think I need. By being strict with everyone, I’ve managed to radically reduce our household detergent use.”
7. Know your costs
Bhavna has researched the “regular” costs of her top-twenty purchases – like toilet paper, butter, milk and bread. “I keep a document on my phone and compare prices constantly,” she says. Once you have the list, you can easily check if a special offer is all that special.
8. Buy with friends
Agnes is in a buying club with a couple of friends who live nearby. They buy cheaper bulk groceries and then split them. “I used to see so many special offers that I didn’t take because I knew I couldn’t use them up in a week, but by shopping with friends, you split your purchase into manageable amounts.”
9. Avoid pink tax!
Jo says she avoids “pink tax” – the inflated cost of items that are branded for women – by buying men’s razors, body wash, toys and stationery. “Boys toys and stationery are often cheaper than their identical but pink counterparts.”
10. Get expiry date specials
Ruth visits her local Checkers, which offers items at as much as 50% off if they are about to expire. “You have to get there half an hour before closing time, but it can make your shopping a lot cheaper – as long as you’re planning to cook the food in the next day.”
11. Look out for family meal specials
Ruth says that her local Spar also has meal deals offering a deli dinner of meat, starch and two vegetables - she finds that it’s an affordable way to feed a family, and it saves her cooking!
12. Shop online but compare
Shopping online can really save you a fortune – if you’re careful about comparing prices. Caro says that shopping at loot.co.za saved her hundreds of Rands on Christmas presents this year – overall, her basket of purchases was 40% less than it would have been at another leading online store or an actual shop.
13. Shop factory stores for the win
Factory stores offer great discounts. Kath says she goes to Trader’s Warehouse, which has branches around the Cape. “They sell end-of-line stuff from all the big clothing stores at much lower prices. When I went to purchase clothes for Christmas, I spent around R900 on over 20 items for kids, ranging from babies to teens.”
You can also buy perishable goods from factory stores. Jo visits Fifers in Isando for slightly imperfect Woolworths muffins, croissants, ciabatta, crumpets, pizzas, cakes and so on at a fraction of the price.
The kitchen is the area of your household where the biggest daily savings can be realised, because it accounts for so much of your daily spending.
14. “Harvest” from your fridge
Jo does a daily “fridge harvest” to see what she has and then either uses it immediately or freezes or “processes” it.
“Grate the dry edge of cheese and store it in the freezer for mac and cheese topping, toss whole tomatoes that are going soft into the freezer for use in stews or soups, peel and freeze (in bags) bananas that are overripe and use them for banana bread and smoothies, chop excess onion and freeze, squeeze half lemons and store the juice in small containers,” she says.
15. Power savings
You can also find ways to use less power when cooking and save yourself a packet. Agnes says, “Apparently your oven is a big user of energy in your home. When I heard this, I went out and bought a slow cooker, which cooks food for longer at low temperatures. I have to plan ahead a bit to get the food cooking before I go to work, but it’s made a big difference to our energy bill – especially in winter when we eat lots of stews.”
She says that a friend who uses a stovetop pressure cooker (which seals in the steam and cooks your food twice as fast) reports cost-saving results.
16. Extend your meat dishes
Meat is usually the most expensive ingredient in a meal. Helen says that any mince dish (and most meat dishes) can be stretched with any of the following: oats, grated carrot or red lentils. “There is no loss of flavour, the dish just gets heartier. It’s great for Bolognese, bobotie and curries.”
Loyalty and reward programmes are great ways to get discounts, but you have to be smart to get the most mileage out of your points.
17. Always check your rewards vouchers
Charlotte says she always checks her Pick n Pay Smart Shopper vouchers before she shops but is very careful not to buy anything that’s not on her list because it’s a rand or two cheaper than normal, “unless it can replace another item as part of a planned meal for the week.”
18. Know how your programme works
Standard Bank’s uCount rewards give double points on groceries if you pay with your credit card instead of a debit card, says Karen. But of course, you have to be conscientious about paying your credit card back by month-end or the interest you are charged will negate all your savings.
And Absa’s Rewards offer you R115 for every R100 you earn if you convert your points to Smart Shopper points, so you’re getting more bang for your buck.
19. Get fuel rewards
Petrol is a big cost for anyone with a car. Most bank loyalty cards and many retail reward programmes have a relationship with one or other of the petrol companies that get you cash back when you fill up. Agnes says, “When I am getting close to empty, I go into the Waze app and find the closest Caltex petrol station, because they have a partnership with uCount.” Check out your reward partners and plan your fill-ups accordingly.
The final, excellent savings hack came from Craig, who has just started doing it himself:
20. Save anything you don’t spend right away
“Open a savings account or investment account that you can easily move money into and then transfer in any money you unexpectedly don't spend. For example, go out for dinner and someone else pays? Put the R300 you expected to spend in. Win R500 in an office raffle? Put R500 from your current account in. Bought something you really need on sale? Put the difference away.”
In this way, you make sure that any money saved is actually saved up and not spent the next time you dip into your wallet.
These hacks should leave you inspired and motivated to changing the way you shop, spend and save in the coming year. Once thinking this way becomes a mindset, you’ll start coming up with your own hacks to make every cent count.
Get out of debt, start building wealth and secure your financial future with Truth About Money’s financial education course. Available at no charge to successful applicants. Apply today.