Friday, 22 January 2016

STAYING ON TRACK: January (Part 2 in the Budgeting Series)

Is it just me or is January a very long month?  I am running my budget from 25th-25th and even so, here I sit on the 22nd and every budget allocation is either exhausted or overshot.  Again. Damn.

I really was very conscious of every cent I spent this month because I knew I would have to account to y’all, and yet I still went over my grocery budget by about R800.  The good news is Woolworths allowed the use of Ucounts (Standard Bank rewards) for 2 weeks in January.  They did this last year too.  This enabled me to spend R1200 essentially free, as we had not used any Ucounts all year.  (Note to self: save this up again for beginning of year.)  So monetarily I stayed within budget, but really I went over….

On the subject of reward/loyalty cards; these are generally worth having.  Most don’t cost anything and if used judiciously they can save you quite a bit.  Just be aware of the psychology behind these, which is that when I walk into Clicks to spend my free R30, I will likely walk out with R300 worth of stuff I didn’t know I needed till I saw it!   To avoid this rather save up your points for December or January which are tight months, reserve them for gifts or only spend them on the thing you went in to get without putting anything else in your trolley!

This year we joined a medical aid.  This really is only a worthwhile exercise if your company is making a contribution.  We have always had a hospital plan – that’s essential if you want to avoid either tussling with national health care, or dicing with bankruptcy.  I have seen firsthand how my father went through R100 000 in bills after a serious fall.  So in my humble opinion, if at all possible, hospital insurance and car insurance are non-negotiable.  Medical aid, not so much.  Remember these companies make money.  Therefore on average you are putting in more than you are getting out.  If you have a facility to draw on when you need (eg. Savings, unit trusts, bond) and you have the DISCIPLINE to put the same amount away that you would give to the medical aid, then you can score by being your own medical aid.  We did this for several years, but the drawback is you often don’t get the medical care you should because you don’t want to spend money!

We are now in the fortunate position where the company contributes half, so joining the full medical aid makes sense.  One of the perks of this medical aid (Discovery) is that our kids can see movies for free – if you recall my last post, our entertainment budget is zilch, so this is a big perk.  And any popcorn or drinks have to come from their own pocket money – poor sods! 

I am a sales master. Virtually every piece of clothing my family and I own was bought on sale.  Again there’s a way to do this and not to do this.  You don’t randomly trawl through sales going, ‘Oooh! That’s nice!’  That’s what shops bargain on, that you will buy things you don’t really need or more than you need.  Instead have a list and be patient.  I may know for some time that my husband needs shirts or that I need another set of bed linen.  These are not emergencies, people!  Wait for the sale and go with your list.  If your kids are young, you know they will need summer pyjamas next year, or swimming trunks.  Fashion fads be damned!  It’s amazing what basic items you can save on at sales - underwear, socks, etc.  Woolworths is my favourite for these. So to emphasise – don’t waste time trawling through racks and racks of garments.  If you’re looking for boys’ shorts then you can quickly visit 4 or 5 sales looking only at those racks.  I used the January sales to buy 4 shirts, swimming trunks, 2 shorts and a pair of shoes for my boys. The original value of the goods was R400 more than the R700 I spent, that's almost a 30% saving.

Right, so I am still R3000 in the hole on my monthly budget.  How did I manage with that?  Well, I scored on:
  • Some Ucounts less those used on groceries over budget = Rx
  • We found our gardener 1 day a week elsewhere = Rx
  • I sold our 2nd hand textbooks from last year= Rx

That added up to just short of half the amount.  So I will have to come up with something more next month and I will HAVE to stay within my grocery budget (maybe the dogs can catch their own food? Kidding!!)

Let me know your tips!


  1. Have you seen Woollies' policy on mispriced items? My sister-in-law is an expert on it, and gets up to R3000 free stuff a month by using it. Granted she has about 4 Woollies stores near her, and visits them all! How it works is that if you get to the till and the item is misplaced (shelf or sticker), you get the first one for free. The next one (and all others) is at the lower price. If there is a two for the price of one offer, and it doesn't ring up like that, both items are free! But you have to tell the teller, because they don't apply it. (Long story). I'll post the sign that is going up in stores here so you can see. The strategy she uses is to watch which items were discounted and as soon as the prices go up again, and they haven't taken the stickers off (2 for 1,etc), she catches them out.

    1. sorry misplaced should read mispriced. dumb spellcheck!

  2. ok, i'm too dumb to past a picture here, clearly. Will share on FB.