Turn the negative economic news into a positive bank balance. While the interest rate cut is adding savings back into your monthly household budget, Samuel Seeff, chairman of the Seeff Property Group says with some creative thinking you can do more and build a financial buffer to protect your bond repayments and biggest financial asset.The news around the economy, state-owned enterprises and need for further cost rises are not great, and consumers and homebuyers need to focus on cost-cutting and saving. Rising costs and interest rate fluctuation pose a big threat to home budgets and who knows, it might just be the opportunity to finally become less reliant insofar as electricity and water needs are concerned.Lifestyle and habits cost money and you can often find savings that you had not even considered. Seeff gives an example of what a middle-income household can do to easily add R2 500 and more back into their household budget, but he says you need to be smart and discipline yourself to invest the savings.Here are some tips: Buy below your means Aim to buy for only 90% of what you afford on monthly bond payments. Invest more cash as a deposit or buy lower. A R1.8 million home loan would cost about R18 500 per month compared to R16 500 for an R1.6 million loan, thus resulting in a saving of about R2 000 per month on your bond repayments. By bonding it below the value, it will also have a bit of equity. Focus on long-term equity creation rather than thinking that additions and renovations will add value. Rent out a roomConsider turning an outside room into a rental unit or rent out a room (if you can). Short-stays are a popular option and you can earn upwards of R500 per night or as much as R2 500 to R4 500 per month for a room or studio, depending on the area. Although subject to tax, you can still add a bit of extra cash into your household budget. Satellite TV and cellphonesConsider downgrading your satellite to streaming and save as much as R500 per month. Don’t take extras on your cellphone contract and stretch the time before renewing it to save a bit. Use applications to cut your call and message costs and make use of free Wi-Fi when you can. Water and energy efficiencyCosts are rising rapidly, so start switching to smart energy by replacing appliances and lighting with energy efficient products. Keep doors and windows closed in winter and open in summer for cost-free heating and cooling. Use energy-efficient heaters. Turn your geyser down and get a geyser blanket. Only boil as much water as you need and keep lights off. You can save R500 per month at least. Washing and waterShower rather than bath. Use a dishwasher, it takes less water and you can wait until it is full before running a load. Use an automatic washing machine, it takes less water and effort compared to a top loader. Meals, groceries and cleaningMake daily lunches and cut the extra sides at dinner. Make Monday to Friday easy meal dishes and “splash” on the weekend. Cut processed and fast foods by making your own. Prep meals on weekends. Cut your cleaning materials to what you actually need. Cut the plastic and packaging and add to environmental conservation. Smart shopping and cooking can easily save R1 000 to R2 000 per month. Waterwise gardening Plant indigenous trees and shrubs. It adds to conservation, reduces your carbon footprint and uses less water. Reduce lawn with hard landscaping such as pavers and stones. Use container gardening for smaller gardens. Rainwater harvesting is vital for all watering and non-potable needs including swimming pool top-ups. Drive less, walk more If not using public transport, join a lift club. Social media groups make it easy to find lift clubs. If driving, plan your routes and shop on the way from work or only once a week. Drive less, walk more and get financially fit. You can save R500 per month (or more) with a lift club versus your car.