Recession concessions

2018-10-08 11:14
Begrudging buys that eat into South Africans’ monthly budget.

Begrudging buys that eat into South Africans’ monthly budget.

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Have a glass of water. Not before, not after, but instead.

That’s the contraceptive advice women used to give their daughters many years ago, before the Pill revolutionised the way we prevented having babies and allowed us to enjoy less fraught sex lives.

During a recent trip to the mall I chuckled as I remembered this while admiring a really expensive outfit. I thought that advice could equally apply to impulse buys in the current economic climate, where we end up having to spend heaps of money on things we wish we didn’t have to, instead of the things we really want. I left the outfit where it was and scarpered out of that particular shop.

Many of us felt the petrol price increase this week as a particularly unpleasant punch in the gut. I winced because it kicked in as I was planning a little road trip spanning three provinces. If you’re anything like me, you resent the huge amount of money your tank sucks in each month. Fortunately, my ride is a little car that’s pretty modest about her drinking habits. But, as the price of petrol rises, many of us have to do without something to work the hundreds of rands we spend on the liquid gold into our budgets. This may mean one fewer meal out a month for example, or at the very least, that much less you manage to save for your retirement each month.

And the thing about petrol is that you have nothing to show for the 600 bucks give or take you forked out for it, really. It’s in your tank, but you don’t take it out from time to time to admire its golden hues or sense-assaulting scent. You don’t show it off proudly to your friends. It hides away, lurking where no one can see it. It evaporates too fast and as you watch your tank drain dry and the needle barely rising on your dashboard, you may start to dread the next inevitable visit to the petrol station. Especially if it falls around month-end.

Other begrudging buys for me are the huge amount we have to spend on household cleaning products every month. It’s a massive rip-off but we have to buy these products to be sanitary. Our homes would be grubby and sticky without them. Many of the cheaper versions of the big household names are so watered down that it’s hardly worth getting those so we end up paying the big bucks for things as arbitrary as bathroom cleaning products and toilet cleaner; you may as well flush that money down the loo.

Data is another begrudging buy, because it’s ethereal and doesn’t exist as a palpable thing. “Oh look everyone. Admire my wonderful data. It cost me a small fortune. But it will be gone in no time at all.” If you’ve ever had a weekend away from your Wi-Fi, and seen how fast your data gets chowed, you’ll know what I mean. But we have to have it to be functional people nowadays and so we pay. Through our noses.

I also resent paying big bucks for things that don’t last as long as they’re worth. How about R525 for a root touch up at the hairdresser and a month later, you need to go back to keep your silver halo at bay, because damn it, you’re just vain. For R525, I expect it at least to last six months. When are they going to invent that pill that stops from us going grey? If they do, I hope it’s cheap.

And none of it’s going to get better any time soon. In a few years’ time I suppose we’ll all be saying to each other: “Hey, remember when petrol cost less than R50 a litre?” Maybe by then, we’ll all have solar-powered hover crafts with free Wi-Fi. Here’s hoping. 

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  recession

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