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How to cope as a breadwinner

By Faeza
08 July 2016


These days it is not surprising to find women breadwinners in many households.

They work hard to pay the home loan, school fees, electricity and groceries for

their families.

Sometimes they also have to provide for their parents or extended family members. This has led to a term being coined called black tax. A major challenge or most breadwinners is that they want to please every one, from buying their kids whatever they want to helping

their brother who has dreams of starting a small business.

The best way to avoid being taken advantage of is to put boundaries in place.

Move! helps you find ways to be in total control of your finances as a breadwinner.


As a breadwinner, your salary is the primary source of survival for the household. You look after basic needs, including food, transport, medical expenses and many others.

Managing to get by can be difficult, but It is possible with sacrifice and careful budgeting.

Financial expert Keabetsoe Mdintsi says, “You should have your own financial plan. Speak to a financial adviser to avoid being financially vulnerable, should an emergency arise."


Keabetsoe says often, breadwinners cover expenses that in some households are paid by two or more people. “This is a huge responsibility and it is important to realise that

because you are providing the single income, you might experience problems and challenges.

But the most important thing is to remain in control and not let small

problems let you lose focus.” Also try and create happiness and

fun as a family that does not involve a lot of money.


Your expenses might exceed what you earn. So learn how to do proper budgeting, smart spending, as well as practical ways of saving and stretching your monthly income.

Keabetsoe says, “Write down all your basic needs first and then, for example, if you are spending more on groceries, rather go for no name brands, which cost less the next

time you go shopping.

Every cent you save makes a difference.” If your basic needs are covered but your clothing accounts are in arrears, for example, make an arrangement with your creditors to

pay whatever you can afford. Keeping quiet about your situation only makes matters worse and in the future, your silence might affect your credit record, making it hard for you to get credit just when you need it. You can also cut down on things like fast food, which is expensive.


The people you are taking care of might think you have all the money in the world because you are able to take care of them, yourself and your children. This might lead them to expect much more than you can give. They might want you to pay for their leisurely activities besides the basic needs that you cover.

If you are confronted by this kind of situation, it is important that you do not keep quiet. Gather your family members and make them understand the difficulty

and challenges of being a breadwinner.

Estimate for them the household expenses and costs involved in taking care of yourself, your children and them. They must put themselves in your shoes and share with you

how much pressure you might be experiencing.

“Communication is important. If you don’t tell your family members the strain you feel, then they might not know and will continue with their behaviour,” adds Keabetsoe.


“Women live longer and therefore need more money on retirement than men. Yet statistics show us that women tend to have significantly less savings on retirement than men,” says


She adds that as a breadwinner, even with many responsibilities, try to put away at least R100 whenever you can towards your retirement. “Even though it is not a significant amount, it will make a difference in the long run or when you need it

the most,” she says.

In the meanwhile, she says, you can find comfort in knowing that your family does not go to bed hungry and that they can rely on you for anything and because of your efforts, the male members of the family will not consider resorting to crime.


As challenging as it is to be a breadwinner you can still manage your finances and improve month on month. The first step is to draw up a budget. Your expenses should include fixed expenses that don’t change each month, and those that change such as electricity and water services.

This total should be subtracted from your income. Secondly, you, your children and family should separate wants from needs. If your expenses are greater than your income, it’s time to take action. Knowing what you want and need is a tough exercise but it helps to show where there are areas you can cut back on.

As a breadwinner, it easy to become over-indebted because whenever something unexpected arises and you don’t have money, you might be tempted to borrow.

But borrow responsibly and make sure you can afford to pay back that money come month end. Rather than paying for medical expenses whenever someone in the family is sick, find an affordable medical aid which you pay monthly.