With Savings Month upon us and the price of petrol at its highest ever, it’s time to reassess our spending habits and look for ways to cut costs.
If you’re serious about conducting a personal lifestyle audit, start with consumption: cut out the payday splurge dinners in restaurants, drinks with the boys/girls/colleagues, satellite television subscriptions, unused gym memberships, magazines that are barely read, and ballet classes for your graceless, klutzy darling who’s unlikely to benefit much from that investment.
Borrowing from Paul Simon: “It’s time to make a new plan, Stan.” Here are three things you need to consider when planning to save:
1. Food wastage
Fifty percent of food produced around the world is wasted during production, storage, transportation, processing, at retailers and in the kitchen. In the US and Europe, that equates to 300kg per person a year; in sub-Saharan Africa, it’s around 170kg per person a year.
In a paper on food waste, published for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in 2013, Anton Nahman and Willem de Lange suggest the total cost of edible food waste throughout the value chain in South Africa totals R61,5-billion a year, or 2,1% of our annual GDP in 2012.
And Fhumulani Ramukhwatho’s research for her Masters dissertation in 2016 indicated households in Tshwane generate on average 6kg food waste a week.
In the home, only about 20% of food waste is necessary. To avoid wastage, keep track of what’s in your fridge and larder. Keep a leftover calendar and a whiteboard on the fridge, as a reminder system. Most things that have reached “best before” dates are still fine to consume. Honey never goes off and tinned goods have a surprisingly long shelf-life: in the Norwegian Canning Museum, century-old canned sardines are said to be still edible.
2. Reckon on a longer future
Some scientists believe the first person to live to 150 or even 200 has already been born. If that is indeed the case, how can we future-proof our longevity? By securing our finances. Jeanette Marais, the chief executive of Momentum Investments, says small lifestyle changes, like giving up smoking, eating better and exercising help us live longer. But living for longer means that you're probably in for a longer retirement, which means that you need to save more.
“Thanks to inflation, even the little pleasures of life can become problematically expensive after retirement. Take for example, the cup of coffee you buy each day for R18. After a year, you will have spent R6,570 on getting that caffeine buzz,” Marais says.
Even if you’re only buying coffee during the work week, that’s R2 196 a year spent on caffeine.
After 30 years of daily coffee buying, the total reached is R197 100. Taking inflation into account (assuming at around 6% a year), that coffee habit will have cost you about R519 412. “That's more than half a million rand, just for coffee!”
Instead of splurging on little luxuries like coffee, Marais suggests rather to invest that R18 each day, which could have a major impact on your future finances.
“Imagine that tonight you're considering heading out to a good restaurant, enjoying something delicious and a good bottle of wine. However, instead of eating out, you decide to invest the money your meal would have cost you. Let's say eating at home saves you R500, which you then invest for a return of 12% per year, while inflation stays at a constant 6%. After 20 years, having given up just that one gourmet experience will have netted you a nominal amount of R4,306, or R1 513 in today's terms. In other words, it will have tripled in value. After 30 years, it will reach a nominal amount of R13 375, or R2 709 in today's terms and after 40 years, R41 541, or R4 852 in today's terms.”
It’s the small changes in behaviour that can lead to big results, regardless of the goal. “Starting an account for your children when they're born, and making a regular investment, could be the start of ensuring that your children are able to afford a great tertiary education – or, if they leave the money alone for longer – a very healthy sum later in life.”
3. Don’t cut costs on these
Cutting costs on essentials such as insurance and security are never advisable, because Murphy can be a blighter.
Jade Hanning, district manager for Cape Town South at Fidelity ADT, warns against cutting back on security. “Of course, we’re all trying to save money. There is a big difference between cutting on luxuries and cutting on necessities. I would strongly recommend against neglecting the safety and security of your loved ones. If you are looking around for other cheaper options, do your research properly.”
Hannes van Rensburg, a member of the Short-term Insurance Committee of the Actuarial Society of SA, advises against cancelling vehicle insurance because two thirds of all cars on SA roads are uninsured and chances are you’re likely to need it.
“Economic conditions are tough, and consumers are under serious financial pressure and desperate to make ends meet,” he says. “Unfortunately for many a quick fix is cancelling their short-term insurance cover.”
“If you are already in a position where your household budget cannot absorb another increase in the petrol price, having to cope with the unexpected costs of an accident if you don’t have insurance could cripple your financial position completely … Rather make lifestyle changes and remove non-essential expenses like a satellite television subscription, before you drive an uninsured vehicle,” says Van Rensburg.