When South Africa emerges from lockdown, we will face a very different economic reality to what we were used to just over a month ago. Here’s how to stretch your finances
The shutdown came soon after the country fell into a recession. Not long after that Moody’s downgraded South Africa to sub-investment status – the last of the major ratings agencies to do so. While we can’t do anything about the broader economy, we can use some of the remaining time in lockdown to take control of our own finances. Benay Sager, chief operating officer at DebtBusters, suggests the following ways:
Count your cents and supplement your (reduced) income: Now is the time to look for any spare money that may be stashed away. Sit with your family and make sure to account for everything in all your bank accounts, cash you may have at home, or prepaid phone accounts. This may not amount to much, but there is also relief in the form of the unemployment insurance fund. You can claim income from UIF if you or your company have been contributing. Your employer can also claim from the Temporary Employer/ Employee Relief Scheme if they are not an essential services provider and have lost revenue due to the lockdown. There are limits on what can be claimed, but every little bit helps.
Stop the impulse buy(s): You may have seen others at the supermarket hoarding toilet paper or some other necessity. South Africa has a strong food supply chain and almost all the food is produced locally so there is very little risk of shops running out of necessities. Instead of spending R50 on toilet paper, because others are buying it and you may not immediately need it, save the money or spend it on essential items you need now.
Look for the bargains: There are lots of bargains available as businesses, both local and international, are trying to protect market share or just get through the crisis. For example, some companies deliver food or essential items for free. Do your research and find these bargains.
Review your budget: Before the lockdown, you may have made some assumptions that have now changed. For example, you might have been expecting a salary increase or a bonus which you will now not be receiving.
By reviewing your monthly income and expenditure you’ll have a better idea of where you stand financially.
It may also give you an early warning that you may be getting into trouble. If your income assumptions no longer hold true, but your debt obligations still need to be met you will need to make some decisions. You may be able to cut some expenditure so you can pay our debts, apply for relief such as a payment holiday or discuss options with your creditors.
Get help if you need it: Many consumers are reluctant to seek help because they feel embarrassed or think they’ll be stigmatised if they undergo debt counselling. The earlier you realise that you might have a problem and do something about it, the better you chances of getting back on a sound financial footing.
How have you been stretching your salary? Share in the comments below.
Words: Benay Sager, chief operating officer at DebtBusters.