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File Image: IOL

How young people spend their money

By Alan Duggan Time of article published Dec 23, 2018

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For its 2017 spending survey, Student Village studied a sample of 3 249 students, of whom 28 percent lived in campus residences, 32 percent lived at home, and 40 percent lived in rented or other accommodation. Some 53 percent were in their first or second year of study.

They spent an average of R1 616 a month on extra tuition, R554 on housing services, R439 on medical and personal health, R546 on groceries, R220 on takeaways, R554 on stationery and supplies, and R298 on public transport.

It seems partying was high on their radar. White students spent an average of R243 a month an alcohol, followed by black students (R232) and coloured students (R231). Black students spent the most on clothing and jewellery (R633), and white students were the biggest smokers (R252 a month).

When it came to high-value items such as mobile phones, Samsung were the big winners, accounting for some 49% of purchases, followed by Huawei (15%) and Apple’s iPhone (11%).

The survey revealed that 29 percent of the sample had credit cards, with Capitec Bank holding a formidable 30 percent of their business. Standard Bank accounted for 23 percent, Absa for 20 percent, First National Bank for 18 percent and Nedbank for 12 percent. (Here it’s worth noting that the banks’ market shares since shifted, even before the recent Capitec-Viceroy controversy.)

(Source: Student Village)

Case study #1: Jodie Pothier, 19

After completing high school in 2016, Jodie travelled to Ireland, where she worked as a full-time waitress for the whole of 2017. She returned to South Africa and started at university in February this year.

“I have always enjoyed saving my money rather than spending it. I opened a savings account when I was about 17 and still try to put as much money as I can into it each month. I never know what I’m saving up for … I just know that it’s a good idea to have backup money.

“I do enjoy the ‘fun stuff’ but try to limit what I spend on it. The question I like to ask myself is, ‘For how many hours will I have to work to afford that?’ (a new cellphone, concert ticket, and so on) and then decide if it’s still worth it.

“When I was waitressing, I earned an hourly rate of €10 (about R150), and most weeks I’d be working between 40 and 50 hours. Because my tips were in cash, I tried to use this income as my ‘spending money’ when shopping or going out. My actual wages were reserved for bigger expenses, such as rent, and I would save the rest.

“My advice to school-leavers is to avoid getting sucked into expensive hobbies like partying every night, buying the latest iPhone. There are plenty of ways to enjoy yourself without spending too much money. Rather decide what you can afford to place in a savings account each month – and stick to it. (This assumes you will be starting work and receiving weekly or monthly wages.) Depending on your circumstances, you should be aiming to save more than half of your earnings, and right now is the best time to start. Never spend money you don’t have.

“Because I’ll be driving to university from this year, my parents have agreed to pay half of my petrol costs. I will be living with them for the duration of my studies, but eventually hope to find a place of my own. I probably don’t know the full extent of my parents’ support, but my dad likes to discuss the monthly electricity and water bills with me and my siblings, so I have some idea.”

A parental perspective

Siobhain Pothier (mother of Jodie): “It’s important for children to become financially responsible and independent, but I think Jodie spent too much time working and earning money during her gap year and not enough time on travelling, socialising and exploring. There are four children in the family, so they have always been aware that our money needs to stretch further than in families with fewer children, and I think they are probably more aware than many other middle-class children of money issues.

“Jodie mentions discussing the bills with their dad. This seems to have given them a desire to earn their own money, so they are able to buy quality things for themselves. They can afford to be generous with their money in terms of buying gifts, donating to worthy causes, and so on.

“There are no hard-and-fast rules. I like to buy them the odd treat, whereas my husband feels they should pay for their own luxuries and half of their own petrol costs. They are not expected to fund their own education: we have undertaken to pay for their undergraduate degree, but on the understanding that if there are any bursaries they go into the fees account, not the child’s pocket.”

Case study #2: Liam Mostert, 19

Liam is a third-year student at the University of Cape Town. During the past three years, he has earned money as a restaurant waiter, pizza delivery driver and water polo coach at his former high school.

“I didn’t give much thought to saving while I was in high school, but once I started working in part-time jobs I quickly realised that there was no point in immediately spending it all. In other words, it was time to get real. During grade 11, I worked in a market, then became a pizza delivery guy during my matric year. I’m now in my third year at university, and I earn extra cash by working as a waiter and coaching water polo at my old school.

“School-leavers would be well advised not to rely on their parents for everything. Being self-sufficient, or at least making an effort to become independent, is very good for your pride and self-esteem.

“My parents helped me to set up my first bank account when I was in primary school, and I’m still with the same bank, with an Achiever account. I have also opened a savings account with the intention of financing an overseas trip in June this year. I’ve been putting cash away for the past three years, and it feels good to have that nest egg.

“I don’t underestimate my parents’ help. I see all the family’s bills, so I know exactly how much it costs to run a household, including bills for things such as wi-fi, insurance, security, car insurance, and so on.

“I found that the easiest way to create a credit record is to buy just one item from a store on credit, then pay it off quickly. You can usually leverage that into more credit – but don’t go overboard. I bought a car in my father’s name and pay it off every month without fail.

“What should I be doing differently? Perhaps eat out less often and give up a few indulgences. My aim is to find a balance between financial conservatism and a reasonable quality of life.”

Case study #3: Aidan Bailey, 18

Aidan has just finished high school (where he did rather well) and is about to pursue further study in the realm of information technology. He believes the “tomorrow may never come” mindset is quite acceptable during one’s high school years, and he maintains a good credit record by the simple expedient of not borrowing money.

“I think it’s quite reasonable for parents to carry my costs. After all, it’s something that I too will have to endure one day. I didn’t secure part-time work while at school because I wanted to focus on my studies.

“I do make sacrifices, but these are generally in the form of not drinking or going out, so I can conserve my money for another night. My friends and I have been looking up prices of various digs and apartments, although I definitely won’t be moving out this year. The idea of going it alone doesn’t scare me, though.

“Any regrets, or something I should have done differently? I shouldn’t have invested in Bitcoin, that’s for sure.” (He does not elaborate.)

A parental perspective

Ann Coltham (mother of Aidan): “Our children are keen to continue living at home while they complete their tertiary studies. Since starting school, they’ve received a modest sum as pocket money, amounting to double their age in rand value. For instance, at the age of 10, a child would receive R10 x 2 x 2 = R40 per week. I entered this amount onto a spreadsheet that became a record of savings, additional income and spend. They could view it any time.

“If they wanted more money for anything that wasn’t related to education, sports or hobbies, they had to work for the money. A few years ago, I heard a guest on Bruce Whitfield’s radio show saying that the first thing we needed to teach our children when they left home was that the wages they earned for jobs in the home were not market-related wages. So, for the past few years, I have continually reminded our kids of this fact.  

“Now that they’re older, they receive a basic allowance for their personal expenses. They still do chores in the home but don’t receive any money in return. They tend to save rather than go into debt.

“Our daughter earns money by tutoring. Our son has just finished school, and, while he was there, he took the view that great academic grades could open doors, so he put a lot of pressure on himself to do well academically. He’s achieved his objective and has set himself up really well for a career in IT. 

“My children’s long-term goal is to become financially responsible and independent after completing their tertiary studies – so yes, it’s important for them.

“Our kids contribute to the running of the home by doing chores, and they participate in family meetings where we determine the most effective ways to manage the home. When my husband and I are out of town, which happens quite regularly, the children are required to look after the property. Once they start earning a salary, they’ll pay us rent and something extra towards amenities.”


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