Questions from the paying off your house posts – food, savings and utilities

I promised I’d address some questions I had from the paying off your bond posts.

From MamaCat

What about ensuring you have available cash already saved? For emergency situations?

The way we do it is to have a set amount that you automate to go into normal savings, in addition to the increased amount to pay off your house quicker.

The trick with savings is to do it first. For me, it’s the second thing I pay – first, my tithe and then my savings. I tried for a month or two in 1998 when I got serious about money to see what was left at the end of the month, and that just never worked.

The best is to decide which amount you want to save and move it out of your main bank account immediately – you will somehow make the rest of the money work if that’s all you see.

Your savings will then be used for true emergencies (not “we need new furniture”, but insurance excesses and such) and infrequent expenses, like TV licences, car services and so on.

The financial gurus recommend that you save at least 10% of your income; my aim is much higher 🙂

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From Jacqui

How do you handle the ever escalating food/petrol/utilities prices? I feel I need my annual increase to fund all these unavoidable increases in daily expenses.

I feel your pain. Really I do.

Electricity – we had “open” electricity at the old house which I do not recommend. At the new house we have a prepaid meter and we’ve not spent more than R1000 per month. At the other house our bill was in excess of R5500 for rates, water, electricity, sewerage and refuse removal.

Water – I almost don’t want to speak about this because it is my current cause. I’ve already investigated prepaid water meters and will be installing one of those soon. I’m afraid I’m suspicious of the metering system because I can’t see how it can be accurate….

Food – I feel like a broken record but the more I am intentional and menu plan, and then shop accordingly, we actually are okay. Cook two meals at a time and put one in the freezer. If you have leftovers, don’t throw them out. Put them in the freezer. Some nights I take out 3 – 4 different things, lay them out on the counter and it’s a buffet for everyone to help themselves 🙂

Things that throw out the budget are all the junk food and convenience food. If you need to buy a box of something, then choose whatever is on special that week. I haven’t bought boxed fish for months because it’s just too expensive. So chicken it is.

The very obvious one is also if you shop for food at the W store, you’re going to blow your budget immediately. I would much rather put that extra money in my bond…

Also, write the date you start using an item on the container in permanent marker. It’s psychological…. when I forget, we fly through margerine, butter, etc. but when I write the date, somehow it lasts for the full 3 weeks…. Do the same with cleaning agents so you know how long things last.

I also don’t believe in stockpiling. When I stockpile, I’m poorer, and that’s a fact. I buy what we need for the month because the shops are just down the road if you need something and also, you could just make do 🙂

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Weigh-Less has been a big help here too because I’m aware of what actual portion sizes should be. It’s a strange thing; because produce is so expensive, I’m very aware that we have to eat all the apples/ oranges, etc. because I don’t want to waste a bag that cost R25 – R35.

If we’re not going to get through things, I toss them into the freezer (broccoli, etc.) or cook up the fruit (granted, only apples!) so they don’t go to waste. In winter, I make soups.

Evaluate what portion sizes actually cost. My kids liked a particular brand of muesli but a 500g box cost about R40 and they’d finish it in two days. Not okay. So now they can get that once a month but the rest of the month, they eat more economical cereals like oats, Weetbix, or they have toast.

Petrol – there’s nothing much you can do except to drive properly so you don’t use up too much petrol, take your car to be serviced and don’t speed. Other than that, I always tell myself, at least I don’t live in Ireland (which has been the most expensive petrol I ever saw – R22 per L in 2009…). Funny story, when I saw the price of their petrol, I vowed there and then to never moan about the price of petrol ever again, and I don’t.

If you travel for work, explore whether Uber might be cheaper for you. I have many Pretoria clients and about a year ago, I took an hour to do some homework. I found that in all those cases, it’s cheaper to Gautrain + Uber rather than drive my car, so that’s what I’ve been doing for the last year.

Hope this helped, ladies.

Readers, please share your tips in the comments below.

PS If you’d like a fresh eye to look over your situation, send me a mail. We often can’t see things objectively because we’re too close to the action; I’m happy to help. And it’s my passion 🙂

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Comments

  1. Prepaid electricity. Meal planning. And nip wasteful habits. I actually stop buying stuff if my kids go through it too quickly. Eg. a jar of peanut butter was lasting less than a week. I didn’t buy for nearly 3 months! Now they are super careful and take good care to make it last for at least 10 days. Same with rice. If they waste, I stop buying. I make fruit salad with extra fruit and it’s dessert with dinner. In winter I do soup. We rarely have leftovers and if we do, it’s lunch the next day. Right now I am looking at prepaid water and savings upgrades.

  2. Sorry, I did not see this until now. Thank you so much for answering my question. I love your posts, even if they did not get as mush attention as you would have liked.
    I have also learned to “pay” my savings first. There is no other way. Any extra money (hubby gets overtime) goes straight to savings.
    I was skeptical about not stockpiling, but I now agree with you, it does not help my budget. The only thing I still do is washing powder because the brand we use is horribly expensive, however, I am reluctant to change.
    Menu planning is a huge money saver, though the price of food is so high…it still costs more every few months.
    We also pay our holidays before we get to the holidays.
    Do not overpay accounts, especially school fees. The discount on upfront school fees does not save money, rather stick that lump sum into an investment. The return is higher than the discount offered by the school.
    Consistent house and car maintenance works in saving money.

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