Pinching pennies in a flailing economy

Pinching pennies in a flailing economy

With the price of petrol set to increase again next month, Terence Pillay gives us some practical ways in which we can save money. 

Money in the piggy bank
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Take a listen to this week's episode of The Good, Bad and Ugly or read the details under the podcast.

Unemployment is at an all-time high – not everybody has a job and people are really struggling. Our economy is also not looking good; fuel prices have just gone up and are set to increase again next month - and you can afford less now than you used to be able to afford. In fact, your basic basket of goods is costing you a lot more now so it makes it a little more difficult to make ends meet. The thing is, with the fuel hike there’s a whole knock on effect on everything else.

And everybody is feeling the pinch; it doesn’t matter what part of the economic spectrum you’re on.

Some of the reasons we’ve got to this point is because we have not had fiscal responsibility, we’ve got a bloated civil service, the tax base is shrinking, and the cost of living has gone up because of economic and political misbehaviour. Foreign investment and job creation are also problems and our skills base is leaving the country.

A simple area like our civil service that has loads and loads of people employed at pretty good salaries and we still have a very inefficient civil service. You can probably do the job with fewer people who actually work every day as opposed to the hundreds that just sit around playing solitaire and watching YouTube clips or taking to their friends on WhatsApp.

I chatted to an estate agent recently who told me that she has at least seven houses for sale in one street alone in an area in Durban and all of them are immigration sales. She says if you look at 1994, there was a big exodus and she sold a huge number of houses for people leaving the country. She’s still an estate agent and in her opinion, the number of immigration sales now is equal to, if not more than the 1994 situation. The reality in terms of the economy is that you’ve got a whole group of people who are leaving the country across the racial spectrum.

The fact that there’s immigration means that skills are leaving the country and of course we are not producing enough skills here at colleges – we need artisans and technicians and we are not producing great people and all of this affects the economy. You have a whole system that’s under pressure. But we are a resilient, resourceful people and so we do all kinds of things to survive.

Home businesses are a big thing these days and people are starting to build a community-based economy. I’m on a couple of these WhatsApp groups where local people advertise their services and skills to each other. It’s like a little community-based business network that’s growing. So, for example, if I make frozen meals I can start selling it to my neighbours and if somebody else does a garden service or plumbing others on the group then use them. In so doing, you build a local economy and that’s a really good thing; and it becomes more self-sustaining.

There are so many people who are now using what they have already to set up businesses, for example Air BnB has become a huge thing here. So if you’ve got a room that you’re not using, you can convert that room into an Air BnB accommodation space and make some money in this way.

There are also people who have so many things they don’t ever use stored in their garages and cupboards. Why not simplify your life by holding a garage sale and getting rid of all the things that just take up space in your home. There are a number of buy and sell platforms that you can make use of. And this becomes another great way to make extra money. Depending on what you have to sell, you can use what you make to supplement your grocery or petrol bill and, in the long run, every little bit helps.

There’s also a whole world of possibilities online. You can offer your services on those sites that require English lessons via Skype to foreigners. There’s a website called Fiver where you can sell things like graphic art, for example, for five dollars a pop.

Then let’s look at practical things that can be done in unused spaces around your home: 

  • You can convert a vacant corner of your yard into a vegetable garden and grow your food. It’s a relatively inexpensive setup, but in the long run, it can save you hundreds of rands.
  • You can either start or join a buying consortium. You can get together with a bunch of people and go and buy things in bulk and then spread it out so you pay less for household items.
  • You can form a lift club so you aren’t using our car so frequently to work. Each one in the club gets to have a week where they drive everyone to work. You can save huge amounts of money in this way. Social media is great for this. You can try and find people who are travelling in the same direction as you and organise a lift club with these people. Or how about using an Uber XL and get six people in and split the cost of the trip. These are all practical solutions to saving money.
  • You can pack a lunch so you don’t spend unnecessary money on junk. Or better yet, turn it into a little home industry and pack lunches for your colleagues and charge them a small fee for this. If you’re going to make your own lunch anyway, why not make three extra and sell it to your work mates? A lot of companies are situated in places where you have to go out to get lunch or there’s a canteen, why don’t you become the canteen? I hope some enterprising person is listening to this and will take up this idea.

If you just think outside the box a little, you can make those rands stretch a little further. There are all these concierge services overseas at the moment and young people are driving people to shops or old people to collect their chronic medication and so on. There’s a huge need for it. And it can work.

The school holidays are coming up and so many parents will feel the pressure to take their children out and about, which invariably results in spending huge amounts of money. But why not use public places that are free. Pack a picnic and take them to the beach or a park. I did a picnic at Botanic Gardens with my nieces recently and they thoroughly enjoyed themselves. We took sandwiches, a blanket, and some books and just enjoyed being outdoors in the sun for a bit.

There are also plenty of things you can do yourself around the house without getting huge contractors involved. YouTube is an amazing platform to learn just about anything. And it will save you a packet of money.

So there’s plenty to whinge about when it comes to our shocking economy, but you can either sit back and do nothing in the hope that it will miraculously change, or you can do something practical yourself.

You can email Terence Pillay at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter: @terencepillay1 and tweet him your thoughts.

Main image courtesy of pexels/ Skitterphoto

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