Tightening belts: Needs, not wants, are what matter

2013-05-19 10:00

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‘For us it’s about needs, no longer wants. The standard of living is very expensive,” says Toffie Grové (52).

Toffie and his wife, Esme, live in a three-bedroom house in Joburg on the grounds of the school where they both work, as a caretaker and office manager, respectively.

Food is one of the biggest expenses for their family of four.

“We spend more than R4?000 a month on food. Sometimes I buy the meat in bulk – that’s the rare times when we actually buy mutton,” says Toffie.

Esme adds: “But that only happens when there is money available, because we would be spending about R2?000 on meat.”

Their monthly grocery list includes basics such as eggs, rice and vegetables including butternut, baby marrow and salad greens.

Toffie says they try to save on food costs by making a stew that lasts for two to three meals, or macaroni and cheese.

Most meals cost them between R80 to R120 for them and their two children, who are both at university.

Esme says their salary increases don’t come close to covering the food, petrol and electricity price hikes that have been imposed in the past two years.

“We’ve had to cut back. We’ve gone to eating takeaways only two to three times a month, unlike we used to,” says Toffie, adding that sit-down meals at restaurants are more expensive because one has to leave a tip.

“Sometimes, when our two kids have gone out, we quickly make a turn to Spur or something and have a sit-down meal. It’s cheaper when its just the two of us,” says Esme.

The Grovés have not just cut out luxuries, but have downgraded their medical aid from a “very good one to just a good one”.

“And we do a lot of self-medicating for regular ailments like the flu. Compare R80 for over-the-counter medication to R500 when you visit a doctor. It only makes sense,” says Toffie.

Holidays, previously spent in the KwaZulu-Natal coastal town of Port Edward, are now planned to destinations in Limpopo and Mpumalanga “to save petrol”.

But they haven’t skimped on dog food.

“What we’ve found is that when you buy the more expensive dog food it actually lasts longer than the cheaper stuff. Boela (their bull terrier) gets all his nutrients and doesn’t need to eat a ton. We buy a bag for R140, which lasts for the month,” says Toffie.

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