This week, actress and model Pearl Thusi and award-winning rapper Cassper Nyovest revealed that they’re using their celebrity status to espouse the value of spending less to save. The two have legions of fans: Thusi, who is 28, has almost 725 000 followers on Twitter and 923 000 followers on Instagram. Nyovest, who is 25, has 1.8 million followers on Facebook and 939 000 followers on Instagram.
Since the beginning of July, which is National Savings Month, their fans have been drip-fed a stream of messages that show that these two are into saving, not the conspicuous consumption you would expect of people living the high life. Nyovest, for example, has posted photos of himself having his hair cut by a roadside barber, with the caption, “As good as it gets and half the price”; and buying his braai meat in bulk (caption: “Buying bulk = spending less”). The response from fans has been off the charts, attracting thousands more comments, likes and shares than his run-of-the-mill posts.
“Really appreciate your being real about money and how it should be spent wisely, hope the masses are listening,” commented tha_ceez on Twitter.
Thusi’s Instagram post a week ago that “Rich people stay rich by living like they are broke. Broke people stay broke by living like they are rich,” attracted more than 4 300 likes and her savings tips have also been a huge hit, showing that these messages resonate with audiences.
Thusi’s savings tips include: cooking in bulk to save money and time; being a smart shopper, including buying items of clothing second-hand (“If it has to be expensive for you to feel good, you’re the problem,” she says); mending rather than replacing old clothes; DIY manicures (to save a pretty packet and get in some quality time with her daughter); ditching an expensive gym membership to work out at home, which also saves petrol and time, and gives her more time with her daughter.
“Thank you for this @pearlthusi You are so real, stylish and beautiful. It’s about style not about the price tag,” said abbiconroy.
Could saving be sexy? Could it be hip to be thrifty? When people you admire are serious about living within their means, would you be inclined to imitate them? Sanlam reckons you would, and that saving can be appealing.
The financial services giant is becoming synonymous with novel ways to mark Savings Month. Sanlam was the force behind the One Rand Man and the One Rand Family, which were social experiments that successfully showed how being more in touch (literally) with money changes our perspective on money and influences how we spend it.
This year, Sanlam chose Thusi and Nyovest to work in partnership with the Conspicuous Saving initiative because the celebrities believe in the message.
Nyovest gives credit to his grandparents for teaching him how to work with money. “They never borrowed money; everything they owned they worked for and paid for in cash. I would love this to be the new culture in South Africa,” says the rapper, who has no tolerance for people who have entitlement issues or expect hand-outs. He’s a big believer in hard work and “doing it for yourself”.
Thusi also has a staunch work ethic and is a business woman in her own right – she has her own range of hair products. She says she has a “good handle” on her finances. In spite of her remarkable professional success (she has just landed a role in the second season of the American TV series Quantico), she considers the role of mother and provider as her most important role in life. She strives to teach her daughter good values, including how to look after money, which means being a big saver rather than a big spender.
Sanlam believes that taking control of your finances and being a “conspicuous saver” should hold more bragging rights than over-the-top spending, Cora Fernandez, the chief executive of Sanlam Investments: Institutional Business, says.
“The truth is that few of us can afford the glamorous lifestyles we see projected in the media,” she says.
Compounding the problem is that social media gives users a platform to craft an image of themselves and their lifestyle that isn’t authentic. People don’t always understand that when the social media user is a celebrity, they’re often paid to endorse expensive products and services that the average person can’t afford.
Thusi says the lifestyle that her fans think she’s living is not entirely real. “What people don’t realise is that those beautiful dresses you see me wearing: I don’t own them; I’m just modelling them. The same goes for the accessories. They aren’t mine. I couldn’t and wouldn’t spend that much on clothes and accessories. There are more important expenses, such as paying extra into my bond and saving for my daughter’s education.”
Living in the spotlight comes with the territory, she says. “It comes with the expectation of the life I’m supposed to be living.”
Thusi says she decided to get involved in the “Conspicuous Saving” initiative when she realised that the more frugal side of her personality had been hidden. “What I put on social media wasn’t the full picture, and created the wrong impression of me. As a role model, I have a responsibility to enable and empower others in my community. It’s a responsibility I take seriously, and is the reason I jumped on board – to let my followers see the other side of my world; the side where I make smart money choices and save extravagantly.”
It’s a powerful message in a country where most consumers are living beyond their means.
“If we constantly live beyond our means we’ll never have enough money to afford the lifestyle we aspire to. So it’s important to make saving a priority, so we can turn our income into sustainable wealth,” she says.
Sanlam wants to enable all South Africans to build wealth. It starts by spending less in order to find money to invest.