8 expert tips to surviving South Africa’s rising cost of living

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  • With the rising fuel and food prices, many South Africans find themselves struggling to make ends meet.
  • The worsening cost of living in the country was exacerbated by the lockdowns and may result in crippled supply chains and food insecurity.
  • Financial experts say rideshares and taking advantage of loyalty programs are some of the ways to help you survive.

Due to the ongoing recession that comes with constant fuel increases, growing inflation, a surge in food costs and increasing interest rates - many South Africans have found themselves in a tight financial position and are struggling to make it through to their next payday.

According to a recent report by City Press, the worsening cost of living in the country began before the Covid-19 pandemic but the lockdowns exacerbated the crisis, and may result in crippled supply chains and food insecurity.

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To try to offset the situation, a number of financial experts have compiled tips that South Africans can implement to survive the rising cost of living:

1. Selling household goods that are no longer in use

According to a Gumtree survey, the average household has as much as R35 000 in unused goods in their homes, including old textbooks, electronics and exercise equipment.

Claire Cobbledick, general manager at Gumtree South Africa, adds that there is also more positive sentiment among South Africans towards buying second-hand goods.

“People are starting to realise and appreciate the value of choosing to buy pre-loved or gently used goods in good condition, instead of spending their hard-earned money at the mall,” she says.

“You might also consider joining freecycle groups and setting up watchlist alerts on sites like Gumtree, as another creative way of repurposing second-hand goods for profit. You can find items that people might be giving away for free, repair them and flip them in your own community,” she adds.

Founder of Wisi-Oi, an online fashion resale platform, Phumi Körber says that looking into selling pre-owned clothing online can be an extra source of income.

“One thing many of us do have as a potential source of income is our wardrobes. With a new app and online platform in SA, not only can you convert your unwanted and unworn clothing into cash, but you can also tap into the global trend of paring down and decluttering. There is no startup capital required to launch this side hustle, and enterprising thrifters can even source additional garments from others to sell via their boutique,” she explains.

2. Carpooling and rideshares

With the rising fuel costs, Marlize De Villiers, financial expert at Just Money, says limiting your kilometres can be a great way to save on fuel.

“Before you grab your car keys, ask yourself a few questions. Can you create a carpool and share the school commute with another family? Could you negotiate a work-from-home option with your employer, or decrease the number of days that you work in the office? Are there any planned errands you can combine into a single trip? An added bonus of keeping your car parked more often is that your carbon footprint will be shrinking, adding a feel-good motivation to your budgeting,” she explains.

3. Using loyalty rewards program to save on groceries

The high cost of food is also another subject on everyone’s lips. According to Just Money, the reasons for the increases range from the war in Ukraine to the weaker rand and natural disasters such as the floods in KwaZulu-Natal.

“Our advice to consumers is to roam the aisles across supermarket chains or make comparisons on the shopping apps, as there are plenty of discounts and specials to be found,” says Shafeeka Anthony, marketing manager of JustMoney.

“It makes such financial sense to become a savvier shopper, comparing costs on similar, if not exactly the same items, adding up rewards on loyalty cards, and calculating how much it costs to buy in bulk. These calculations, and the result of the latest JustMoney survey, reveal where the best savings can be found,” Shafeeka adds.

In the shopping survey, it was revealed that the following retailers rank as follows:

  • Pick n Pay ranks as most affordable
  • Checkers scoops best loyalty benefits
  • Woolworths ranks first for best shopping experience

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4. Forget brand loyalty

Assessing your financial situation in an honest way is vital, says Shafeeka.

“Getting back to basics and focusing on essentials is the only way that most people will cope with their present needs, let alone growing investments for when they can no longer work,” she explains.

And one way to do this is by trying out cheaper brands that you are not used to.

“Draw up a weekly shopping list and buy your supplies where you will get the best value. Try out a different grocery brand, you may be pleasantly surprised at the savings. Avoid popping into convenience stores for a few items, this comes at a price,” Shafeeka advises.

5. Reduce debt

Shafeeka also says that only keeping necessary debt is one of the best ways to save money.

“Firstly, debt is acceptable if it takes a form such as a home loan to purchase your own property. Debt is bad if you borrow money to buy the latest gadgets. If more than a third of your income goes to paying your debt, and you find yourself taking out loans to get through the month, get help before a legal process is started against you. Professional debt review companies will advise you on debt relief and protection from creditors,” she explains.

6. Grow your income sources

Getting a second or even a third job can be the solution to surviving the economic crisis.

“Many people are taking on additional part-time work, from book-keeping to teaching English. Online learning has also made it easier to build your skills and qualifications. Explore new ways to boost your income,” Shafeeka shares.

7. Stay money-motivated

It is essential to spend money consciously according to Shafeeka and she suggests checking how well you manage to stick to your budget at the end of every month. 

“When planning how to adapt and trim expenses, it helps if you think of the process as taking control of your life. Focus on your long-term goals. Being debt-free is great for your bank balance and your mental health and you are better positioned to realise your dreams,” she explains.

8. Plan your shopping

“Most retailers have reliable and efficient online shopping available, with free or cost-effective delivery options. Apart from the time and fuel that’s saved, you may well reduce your monthly grocery bill, as impulse buys are eliminated,” Marlize explains. 

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