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Cutting expenses: tips to help you make every cent count

Aug 30, 2013

When it comes to cutting expenses, there are small changes you can make in your spending behaviour that can add up to big savings.

cutting expensesWith at least 72 per cent of South Africans cutting down expenses in their budget, you too may be wondering how best to shave off some costs so that you can keep up with inflation.

Watch the electricity meter

  • Save R480 a year by installing an energy-efficient shower head which uses 40% less hot water. To test your shower head, hold a bucket under the shower head for 12 seconds. Measure the amount of water in the bucket with a measuring jug. If you have collected more than two litres of water, your showerhead is inefficient.
  • Cut 5% off your electricity bill by maintaining your geyser temperature at 60°C. First, switch off the electricity circuit at the mains. Then, undo the cover over the electrical element of the geyser and turn down the thermostat using a screw driver.
  • Save R500 a year by insulating your geyser with a geyser blanket as well as the water pipes leading from the geyser for the first three metres.
  • Reduce the electricity used by your appliances by 20% by turning off your appliances at the plug. Appliances such as televisions and DVD players, which remain on “standby” when not in use, draw about 20 per cent more electricity than if they were turned off properly.
  • Cut a further 10% off your total electricity bill by reducing your pool pump’s operating hours to just six hours a day.
  • Cut your lighting costs by 75% through installing compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). Lighting accounts for 17 to 20 per cent of your electricity bill so switch off lights in rooms that are unoccupied.  (Information provided by City of Cape Town.)

Count your pennies

While some expenses may seem minimal, you would be surprised at how much money you could save over just a few months:

Lunch at work
Take a packed lunch to work instead of buying your lunch from the canteen or takeaway around the corner.  If you pay an average of R25 for lunch three times a week, that quickly adds up to a saving of R300 a month.

Grocery shopping
Shop smart. Check the unit prices on products instead of just looking for the lowest price. A larger pack will have a higher price, but usually works out cheaper per unit. For example, you might find it’s cheaper to buy a 1kg tub of margarine in one shopping trip rather than two 500g blocks of margarine over two shopping trips.

Slow down and take a breath
If you’re contemplating a purchase that is not an absolutely necessary item, give yourself a week to think about whether you really need it before you hand over your hard-earned money.

Bank charges
Watch your ATM fees. Use your own bank ATMs wherever possible and avoid making several withdrawals over a short space of time. Rather, work out how much cash you need and then make one withdrawal. Do some research into the various account options that different banks offer to see if you could make a substantial savings by moving banks or changing over to a different charging option.

Satellite TV
Cancel or downgrade your satellite television subscription. Do you really need more than 300 TV channels? How many channels do you actually watch and how often do you watch TV? Consider spending more quality time together as a family or downgrading your satellite package to a more affordable option. For example, if you downgrade from the DStv Premium package (R625 a month) to DStv Compact (R275 a month), you will save R350 a month or R4 200 a year.

Save on your phone bills. With Telkom’s 7pm to 7am Callmore time, Blackberry’s BBM service and Whatsapp, you have little to no excuses for high phone bills. Make calls only when you have to.

Car insurance
Check your car insurance premium annually. Your insurance should be adjusted each year to account for the fact that your car depreciates in value. However, not all insurers make this adjustment automatically. You snooze, you lose!

If you are on chronic medication, shop around for the best price. Although we have a single exit price for medicines in South Africa, the dispensing fee differs between pharmacies and this can add up to a hefty annual saving. Check which pharmacies are approved by your medical aid scheme and also look out for national chain pharmacies that can offer you lower prices.

School uniforms
Instead of shelling out for new uniforms constantly, check out the school second-hand shop. You will pick up good-quality clothing that is priced reasonably and is only likely to be used for one year or even just one or two terms, depending on your child’s growth rate!

Save petrol
With the price of petrol at an all-time high, consider forming lift clubs for school and getting to work, but inform your insurance company first.


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Maya Fisher-French author of Money Questions Answered

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