12 ways you can still eat good food and have a social life despite rising living costs

One way to reduce your spending is to cook more meals at home instead of ordering takeaways or eating out. Picture: Pexels

One way to reduce your spending is to cook more meals at home instead of ordering takeaways or eating out. Picture: Pexels

Published Oct 25, 2023


South Africans, like many people around the world, are being financially squeezed by the cost of living crisis as inflation and interest rates keep going up.

While those with higher levels of wealth may have to cut back on luxuries like fancy holidays or expensive, pre-packed foods, others are left with no choice but to reduce the number of basic food items in their kitchens.

After all, it is no secret that rising food prices actually take the greatest toll on those with lower incomes as the majority of their budget goes towards groceries.

Middle-income South Africans who do have some level of choice when choosing what to reduce spending on, however, may be able to still eat the foods they like and enjoy the occasional splurge on social activities or entertainment if they get smart about how they spend their money.

Here are some clever ways to rethink your spending habits so you do not need to be beaten down by rising inflation.

1. Shop around for cheaper alternatives

Don't just buy the first thing you see. Compare prices at different stores, both online and offline. You can also look for generic or store-brand products, which are often just as good as name brands but cost less. Always compare prices before making a purchase. Online tools and apps can help you find the best deals and discounts.

2. Buy in bulk

If you have the space, buying in bulk can save you money in the long run. Just make sure you'll actually use everything you buy before it expires.

3. Avoid impulse buying

Pause and think before making any non-essential purchase. Ask yourself if you really need it or if it’s just a want that you can actually do without.

4. Cook at home more often

Eating out is expensive, especially when prices are rising. Cooking at home is a great way to save money and eat healthier. There are many easy and affordable recipes available online and in cookbooks.

5. Energy efficiency

Invest in energy-efficient appliances and practices. They may have higher initial costs but can substantially reduce utility bills in the long run.

6. Cut back on non-essential expenses

Take a close look at your budget and see where you can cut back. Maybe you can cancel unused subscriptions or reduce the amount of driving you do. You can also negotiate with some service providers for better rates on products like insurance, vehicle tracking, and internet/WiFi connectivity. Many companies are willing to offer discounts to keep customers. Also, review your insurance policies annually as you might find better deals or coverage options that suit your current needs.

7. Use public transport or carpool

Fuel prices are high, so if possible, use public transport or carpool to save money on transportation costs.

8. Get creative with your entertainment

Instead of going to the movies or out to eat, watch movies at home, play games with friends, or go for walks around your neighbourhood or public parks if it is safe to do so. Also consider low-cost or free entertainment options, such as hiking, picnics, or local community events.

8. Borrow instead of buy

If you only need something for a short period of time, consider borrowing it from a friend or family member instead of buying it.

9. Repair instead of replace

If something breaks, try to repair it instead of replacing it. This can save you money, especially on big-ticket items like appliances and electronics. Embrace DIY by learning basic repair and maintenance skills. Fixing things around your house on your own can save a lot in service charges.

10. Sell unwanted items

If you have things you no longer use, sell them online or even at a garage sale. This is a great way to declutter your home and make some extra money.

11. Shop during sales

Many stores offer sales throughout the year, so be sure to shop around for the best deals. You can also sign up for email lists to be notified of upcoming sales.

12. Use coupons and promo codes

There are many ways to find coupons and promo codes, such as online, in newspapers, and in apps. Many retailers and restaurants also have loyalty cards that offer their customers points to be converted into discounts on products or even cash-back benefits.