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85% Of SA Wallets Hit Hard By COVID – 10 Tips To Spring Clean Your Budget And Avoid Disaster

Spring is in the air, and while we get ready to embrace the warm days of summer, we should also brace ourselves for the financial challenges that lie ahead.

A new survey conducted by Debt Rescue revealed that 85% of consumers polled said that their financial situation was adversely affected by Covid-19. 45% of respondents said they’d been affected by either retrenchment, temporary layoffs or salary reductions, with many of them resorting to measures like digging into their savings, relying on credit and applying for payment holidays.

“The aftermath of Covid-19 has dealt consumers with a major financial blow. Keeping budgets in check has become more important than ever,” says Susan Steward of Budget Insurance. “Whether you are still coping, or staring a full-blown crisis in the face, there are quite a few practical things that you can do to spring clean your budget and streamline it to save anything from a couple of hundred to thousands of rands.”

Here are 10 tips from Budget Insurance for reviving and refreshing your finances:

  1. Update your income and expenses

If the last time you reviewed your budget was in January, consider the significant changes that have taken place since then, like inflation on the cost of goods, energy tariff hikes and the petrol price increases. An up-to-date budget gives you a good idea of where you need to save more, or where you now have a couple of rands free to pay off debt a bit faster.

  1. Be smart with your spending

It’s not always easy to keep track of your spending, especially when making payments and purchases happens at the tap of a card or a click of the mouse. Luckily, advancements in technology have also made tracking your spending easy too. Take advantage of the various budget planners and apps that are available like MyFinancialLife and Spending Tracker. Also make sure to always shop around first to make sure that you get the best value for money.

  1. Make some changes behind the wheel

There’s nothing you can do about the petrol price increase but there are things you can do to help your tank go further. Did you know that at 110km/h your car uses up to 25% more fuel than it would cruising at a more moderate 90km/h? Add to this: keeping a safe following distance, avoiding harsh braking and acceleration, and regular vehicle maintenance checks, and you could reduce your fuel spend significantly.  According to the Department of Energy in the US, smart driving could increase your fuel economy by as much as 40%!

  1. Update your insurance

Now’s the perfect time to ensure that your home contents insurance is up-to-date. If you’ve bought new items for your home, the amount you’re currently insured for may not be sufficient and you could be underinsured. On the flipside, some items may have devalued, you may have sold items or downsized and may want to reduce your home contents cover, which could save you a substantial amount of money

  1. Delete unnecessary and outdated fees

Are you paying membership fees for a gym you never go to? Fees for a bank account you no longer use? This is wasted money that could be going towards saving or paying off debt, so cancel these to free up extra cash.

  1. Budget for debt repayments

From credit cards to store cards, it’s easy to get carried away buying on credit. Go through all your statements and pay off outstanding debts or at least put a plan in place to do so. It’s a good idea to pay off debt with the highest interest rate first. So if you have a mortgage bond at an interest rate of 10%, a retail card at a rate of 20% and a personal loan at a rate of 25%, pay off the loan first.

  1. Kick bad habits

From piling up paperwork and not keeping accurate records, to slacking on saving, we’ve all done it from time to time but when it becomes a habit, it’s time to take action and make a change. So wherever there are areas to improve, like brushing up on your admin skills or revisiting your saving goals, there’s something that each of us can do to improve our financial health.

  1. Compromise and reprioritise

Those designer sneakers, pricey takeaways and online shopping splurges… they all add up and sometimes that leaves you making compromises where you shouldn’t. So to ensure you have enough money for the things you and your family need first, and then compromise on the things you want – find a more affordable deal, do without the sneakers or have less takeaway meals a month.

  1. Reap from your rewards programmes

Many of us are part of loyalty programmes offered by entities from banks and supermarkets to healthcare providers. Understanding how to make the most out of these programmes is critical to really enjoying their benefits – from earning the most amount of points to receiving the highest possible discount or cash back. Read the terms and conditions and frequently asked questions on the relevant websites to ensure you know exactly how and when you should be rewarded.

  1. Stick to your saving goals

Saving is hard but it’s not impossible!  There are many different ways to save from setting up a monthly debit order to an investment account and opening a tax-free savings account to increasing your pension fund contribution. It’s best to build savings into your budget as a non-negotiable monthly expense, which should help you to be more disciplined and save more.

“Implementing simple changes like taking advantage of technology, kicking bad habits and saying goodbye to unnecessary expenses will go a long way to regaining and maintaining control of your budget – putting the spring back in your financial step,” concludes Steward.