How Saying No to Takeaways Totally Changed My Life

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Jolted into action by a Spring-clean of wasted food in a fridge, a lover of takeaways decides to eat at home for a change. The benefits are plain to see, not just in a  leaner credit card bill, but a pair of too-tight jeans that finally fit. Are you brave enough to give it a try? 

By Dave Luis

Three packets of bacon: eighty-seven ZAR. One delightfully pungent brie: thirty bucks. Roughly two hundred ronts’ worth of free range lamb loin chops and the same amount again of prosciutto. Throw in a hundred rands’ veg and an unopened two litre milk.

This is not some bizarre recipe for a heart-attack inducing meal for the most indelicate of palates. It is the expired food I tossed out when I was forced to spring clean my fridge because it was too full and starting to smell less than welcoming.

y pattern is this: after a long day at the office, I stop at the grocery store on the way home.

I pick up the ingredients for a sumptuous dinner, but as I am so exhausted by this stage of the day, the thought of slaving over a hot stove is torture, and so I also stop at the drive-through and pick up takeaways, telling myself “Self, tomorrow you don’t need to shop because you have enough food!”

Except that the next day I do shop, and I go through the same routine. And I always pick up a takeaway dinner.

Added to that the takeaway lunches I buy at work, and I am spending around R150 – R200 every day of the week on takeaways and I pack all that unused grocery shopping in my fridge and leaving it to rot. Shameful. I know. And a ridiculous waste of money.

So I have put myself and my credit card on a diet. I’ve even hashtagged it, because that seems the popular and responsible thing to do these days, to show you’re serious about something. For the month ahead, I am #NotEatingOut.

No takeaways. No light and fluffy melt-in-your-mouth cronuts at the office from the patisserie over the road (this is the difficult part of the challenge.)

There is so much good food at home, that all I’ve needed to do was to occasionally pick up a couple of tomatoes and onions or a fresh loaf of free-range, organic, banting-paleo bread. (Just kidding! Standard government-issue white loaf for me, thanks.)

I have planned my menus and cooked at night, even when I was tired and really, really didn’t want to. In fact, especially then. And each time I cooked I made a little extra to fill my lunch box for work the next day.

Soon I had to pack in a little extra on top of that because my work mates really took to my cooking and I am by nature a gregarious, sharing kind of guy.

Ultimately, once the sixty days of #NotEatingOut are done, I want that regime to become my monthly habit. It just makes financial and wellbeing sense.

I’ve learned a few valuable lessons along the way. Curry cannot be hurried along in an electric frying pan. Fresh garlic is better than that tasteless rubbish in a jar.

Frying bacon in a bit of olive oil is perfectly acceptable, and of course, you can never have too much bacon. But I knew that last point already.

So what’s changed? Well, there has been an unexpected health benefit. I have lost the horrible bloated feeling that a diet of mostly processed foods gives me, and the size 42 Levi’s I bought in November 2015 that I could never fit into now actually close.

Also, I’m not throwing out hundreds of rands of spoiled luxury foods, so that’s a win.

But mostly, the change that I am most impressed with is that I saved between R3000 and R4000 just in October. And that means my credit card will hate me less with each passing month.

And that means that when friends suggest a sushi dinner at that quaint place in Sea Point, I can legitimately enjoy a night out without any guilt or credit limit anxiety, and I get to actually enjoy the food as a treat and a change from my daily routine.

This article first appeared in The Comet, an online platform by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes. The opinions expressed in this piece are the writer’s own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BrightRock.

 

 

If You Value Your Children, Teach Them the Value of Money

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The biggest gift we can give our children is not that brand-new smartphone or a luxury holiday by the sea. It’s an understanding that learning to look after your money is a legacy that will last a lifetime. By Maya Fisher-French

When you become a parent, you are faced with the reality that you have to form a value system within which you will raise your children.

In a world that has become increasingly materialistic and where people are judged not on the content of their character, but on their exterior image, how do we raise children to be financially sensible and to appreciate how much they have?

Upon hearing that I was buying a cellphone as my son’s birthday present, an acquaintance asked me “are you getting him an iPhone”? No, I am not buying my 16 -year-old son a R13,000 phone!

The reality is that some of his friends do have iPhones, but some do not. My son is not particularly brand conscious so it is not an issue, but if it was, that is the sort of thing he would have to buy himself.

If I raised a child who believed that his whole social well-being depended on the type of cellphone he had, I would have failed my own value system.

Need vs Want

Then again, my younger son told me that he “needed” the latest PlayStation because the game he played at his friend’s house is only available on that platform and not on his Xbox.

I just laughed and said: “Really? Need?” Fortunately I did not launch into the “you spoilt child” speech that was forming in my mind because my son understood exactly what I meant. He understands the difference between “need” and “want” and why that matters.

I have found that the best defence against so-called peer pressure and children’s demands is to bring them into the real world when it comes to money.

Most children have no real idea of what things cost relative to the income coming into the family. They also have no idea of how much it costs just to live each month!

I don’t have all the answers and only time will tell if the financial education I impart on my children will bear fruit one day, but I have formed some sort of plan and value system and so far my children seem to be on board.

It’s okay to talk about money

We talk openly about money and finances. My children know we have a budget and what we are budgeting for.

For example, my sons know that this year our goal has been to replace our old car (and they know that we only buy cars for cash) so other luxuries will take a back seat.

We set limits on how much we will spend in total on birthdays, including the gift and party, and only pay for one additional extra mural a term, so they have to choose carefully which extra murals they want to do.

They are hardly deprived, but setting limits creates the awareness that money is a finite resource and they have to make wise decisions on how it is spent.

The best way to learn is by doing

My children received pocket money from a young age, and through this they learnt to save up for things they wanted. Probably the best lesson they have learnt is that by the time they have saved for the item, they no longer want it – their interests are short-lived.

As a result they have more money saved than they planned. As adults, too often we are still paying off our credit cards long after the enjoyment of the new purchase has faded.

What children really want is financial security

Living beyond your means in order to give your children a lifestyle you did not have, is not a gift. It is a burden.

Believe me, I was raised in a household full of financial stress so I know that children can feel the stress in a household and it will create negative money memories for them so that in adulthood they may inadvertently repeat the pattern.

Showing your children you are in control of your finances is the best way to make them feel safe. Share with them how money in the household is allocated and allow them to have some input into the budget allocations.

It will make them feel empowered and also make it easier to have the conversation around “wants” and “needs” and how they can work towards their “wants”.

Part of that security is making sure I have sufficient insurance in place to provide for them if I am unable to contribute to the family financially. I have also worked at putting away money for my retirement so that I do not have to depend on them in old age.

Leaving a legacy

My father died when I was still young and we were left in financial dire straits. There was certainly no inheritance or financial legacy, but I did still receive a good education.

That was invaluable and has allowed me to build my own future. We have one overriding financial priority when it comes to our children: providing them with best education we can afford.

Afford, however, does not mean taking on debt or neglecting our savings; it means other financial sacrifices like not driving new, financed, cars.

* Maya Fisher-French is an award-winning financial journalist with a flair for cutting complex money matters to their core. Find out more on  mayaonmoney.co.za. Maya on Money, Your Money Questions Answered, is published by NB Publishers.

* The opinions expressed in this piece are the writer’s own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BrightRock.

This article first appeared in The Comet, an online platform by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes.

Save Your Life!

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Here’s how to make the most of your money and your life now and in the future.

You want to get there happily and safely, and you want to enjoy the journey. But there are obstacles along the way: potholes that can trip you up and scuttle your best-laid plans.

Life is a highway that leads you to the ultimate destination. Your future. You want to get there happily and safely, and you want to enjoy the journey. But there are obstacles along the way: potholes that can trip you up and scuttle your best-laid plans.

That’s why it’s important to get in gear for a better tomorrow, by making sure that you’re financially roadworthy. Are you in control of your spending? Do you feel financially secure? 

For almost two-thirds of South Africans, according to the Consumer Financial Vulnerability Index, compiled by MBD and Unisa, the answer, in both cases, is no.

And yet it is possible to take charge of your money and your life, says BrightRock’s Executive Director: Distribution, Sean Hanlon. As the big holiday season rush gets underway, Sean offers some pointers for avoiding the potholes and staying on track. The key to making your money last, he says, is to “start with what you’ve got”.

That means

If you pack your own lunch, instead of buying takeaways, for example, you could save up to R500 a month. There are many easy to use mobile apps, including the free 22seven (22seven.com), developed in South Africa, that can help you track when and how you’re spending your money, says Sean.

Knowing where your money is going, down to the last cent, will empower you to make the right financial decisions. Identify your priorities, and work hard at digging your way out of debt. Also see Maya Fisher-French’s article on great budgeting tips.

Pay off your highest interest debts, such as store cards and credit cards, as soon as you can. Once you’ve paid off your debts, you can start saving. And don’t forget to set aside some money, ideally equivalent to three months’ salary, as an emergency fund.

Planning is the key to financial security, says Sean. You can save an average of 10% by paying school fees in advance. If you book your holiday early, you can save up to 40%.

If you’re buying a home or car, save as much as you can for a bigger deposit. The smaller your loan or shorter your loan term, the less interest you pay. Taking charge of your finances also means being a savvy shopper. “Make conscious spending decisions,” says Sean. Shop around for the best deal, in-store and online, and negotiate, negotiate, negotiate.

Even when it comes to your medical expenses, you have the right to negotiate with healthcare providers. You can save by asking for a discount – don’t be shy! At the same time, don’t compromise on quality. For some expenses, like brakes and tyres, your mattress and your toothbrush, it’s cheaper in the long run to buy the best.

If you’re fortunate enough to get a bonus, put it to good use. Put money in your bond, pay off debt, boost your emergency fund or add to your retirement savings.

You’re in charge of your money, and you’ve got the power to make it last. But don’t try to do it all by yourself. A trusted, qualified financial adviser can make a wealth of difference. You can check our your adviser’s professional and industry credentials at www.fpi.co.za or www.fsb.co.za.

So here’s all you need to do to get ready for the road ahead:

  1. Start with what you’ve got
  2. Plan for what’s to come
  3. Stick with the plan

Please note: These tips don’t constitute financial advice. It’s important that you get financial advice from an independent financial adviser who is qualified to assist you.

 

This article first appeared in The Comet, an online newsletter by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes.

 

Keep the Change!

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Interest rates have gone up, the price of petrol has soared, and the cost of living is skyrocketing. Maybe it’s time to take a good look at your expenses, and how to keep them in check. Try these tips for starters… by Maya Fisher-French

When it comes to cutting expenses, there are small changes you can make in your spending behaviour that can add up to big savings.

While some expenses may seem minimal, you would be surprised at how much money you could save over just a few months, by putting these frugal tips into practise.

Avoid a shocking electricity bill

Save R480 a year by installing an energy-efficient shower head which uses 40% less hot water. To test your shower head, hold a bucket under the shower head for 12 seconds.

Measure the amount of water in the bucket with a measuring jug. If you have collected more than two litres of water, your showerhead is inefficient.

Cut 5% off your electricity bill by maintaining your geyser temperature at 60°C. First, switch off the electricity circuit at the mains. Then, undo the cover over the electrical element of the geyser and turn down the thermostat using a screw driver.

Save R500 a year by insulating your geyser with a geyser blanket as well as the water pipes leading from the geyser for the first three metres.

Reduce the electricity used by your appliances by 20% by turning off your appliances at the plug. Appliances such as televisions and DVD players, which remain on “standby” when not in use, draw about 20 per cent more electricity than if they were turned off properly.

Cut a further 10% off your total electricity bill by reducing your pool pump’s operating hours to just six hours a day.

Cut your lighting costs by 75% through installing compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). Lighting accounts for 17 to 20 per cent of your electricity bill so switch off lights in rooms that are unoccupied.

Eat in at work

Take a packed lunch to work instead of buying your lunch from the canteen or takeaway around the corner. If you pay an average of R25 for lunch three times a week, that quickly adds up to a saving of R300 a month.

Be a cost-conscious shopper Shop smart. Check the unit prices on products instead of just looking for the lowest price. A larger pack will have a higher price, but usually works out cheaper per unit.

For example, you might find it’s cheaper to buy a 1kg tub of margarine in one shopping trip rather than two 500g blocks of margarine over two shopping trips.

If you’re contemplating a purchase that is not an absolutely necessary item, give yourself a week to think about whether you really need it before you hand over your hard-earned money.

Check your Bank Charges

Watch your ATM fees. Use your own bank ATMs wherever possible and avoid making several withdrawals over a short space of time.

Rather, work out how much cash you need and then make one withdrawal. Do some research into the various account options that different banks offer to see if you could make a substantial savings by moving banks or changing over to a different charging option.

Watch your TV budget

Cancel or downgrade your satellite television subscription. Do you really need more than 300 TV channels? How many channels do you actually watch and how often do you watch TV?

Consider spending more quality time together as a family or downgrading your satellite package to a more affordable option.

For example, if you downgrade from the DStv Premium package (R625 a month) to DStv Compact (R275 a month), you will save R350 a month or R4 200 a year.

Make the right call

Save on your phone bills. With Telkom’s 19:00 to 07:00 Callmore time, Blackberry’s BBM service and Whatsapp, you have little excuses for high phone bills. Make calls only when you have to.

Drive costs down

Check your car insurance premium annually.

Your insurance should be adjusted each year to account for the fact that your car depreciates in value. Not all insurers make this adjustment automatically. You snooze, you lose!

With the price of petrol at an all-time high, consider forming lift clubs for school and getting to work, but inform your insurance company first.

Save your health

If you are on chronic medication, shop around for the best price. Although we have a single exit price for medicines in South Africa, the dispensing fee differs between pharmacies and this can add up to a hefty annual saving.

Check which pharmacies are approved by your medical aid scheme and also look out for national chain pharmacies that can offer you lower prices.

Teach your children well

Instead of shelling out for new uniforms constantly, check out the school secondhand shop. You will pick up good-quality clothing that is priced reasonably and is only likely to be used for one year or even just one or two terms, depending on your child’s growth rate.

* Maya Fisher-French is an award-winning independent financial journalist. Her accessible and practical advice on personal finance and investment issues has appeared in several leading South African publications, including the Mail & Guardian, Maverick and BestLife. She currently edits the “My Money, My Lifestyle” section for City Press. Maya holds a BA Honours degree in Economics, and she worked in stockbroking and private banking before embarking on her journalistic career.

 

** This article first appeared in The Comet, an online newsletter by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes.

 

 

Kids Cost a Fortune!

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A good education is the best investment you can make, which is why it’s all the more important to make sure you’re saving enough to give your children the future they deserve. By Maya Fisher-French

If your child started Grade 1 at a public school this year, you can expect to pay around R450 000 for their 12 years of schooling. A private school could cost around R1.5 million, once uniforms,
learning materials and extramural activities have been added.

A three-year degree at university will cost around R350 000 in fees alone, excluding travelling, accommodation and allowances. If your child is born today, you’ll need to save R1 500 each month for public schooling and a three-year degree, if you increase your premium with education inflation; and R3 200 each month if you keep your premium level.

To pay for private schooling and a three-year degree you’ll need to start saving R3 800 per month – that’s if you increase your premium to keep pace with education inflation, which is around 10% a year. But if you opt to fix your premiums, you’ll need to save R8 100 per month. Faced with these, quite frankly, terrifying figures, what are parents expected to do? Something somewhere has to give, and it usually happens in two areas. Firstly, sacrifice retirement savings, and secondly,they take on increasing debt. By having a strategy in place, you can find a way to provide an education for your child without ruining yourself financially:

Watch the debt:

Many parents complain about the cost of education yet drive around in a R5 000 per month luxury vehicle. Your child’s education is far more valuable than a luxury car and education doesn’t  depreciate! When you buy a house, car or take on any debt, do not do it at the expense of your child’s education.

Grow your savings painlessly:

Use the Save More Tomorrow plan to boost education savings. For example if this year you received a 7% salary increase, sign a debit order immediately to put 2% of your additional income into
a savings account. Every year commit to increasing that debit order by a further 2% of your salary.

Within five years you will be saving 10% of your salary without having to cut back on your spending.

Set realistic goals:

It is very difficult to save enough to pay for your child’s secondary or tertiary education in full. Rather target the growing gap between your salary increases and the increase in school fees, in other
words have savings to supplement your school fees.

You also need to save for the jump in school fees when your child moves into high school as the difference in fees between primary and high school can be as much as 20%.

Use the government bonus:

This is a government initiative enabling you to save for a child’s studies towards an accredited qualification at either a public college or university.

You’re paid an annual bonus on the investment which can be 25 per cent of the money you save annually up to a maximum of R600 per child.

If you save R100 a month, you get another R300 a year. To receive the maximum bonus of R600 you have to save R2 400 in total a year. The bonus can only be used by the learner. You can withdraw your own money but will then lose the bonus.

Study loans:

Most students have to consider study loans for tertiary education. Parents can assist by paying off the interest portion each month so that when the child graduates they only have to pay off the capital and not the accumulated interest.

There are also government assisted financial programmes such as The National Student Financial Aid Scheme.

Have a plan:

A good starting point is to enrol your child in a school that you can afford on your current salary. Then as soon as your child starts Grade 1, immediately increase your savings by the difference
between primary and high school fees.

You will then be setting aside a realistic percentage of your salary for your child’s 12 years of education and the savings will supplement the annual fee increases in high school.

For example if Grade 1 costs R1 000 per month but Grade 8 costs R1 500 per month, you need to save R500 a month from the beginning of Grade 1.

Note this would be simply to cover future increases in school fees and not tertiary education.

Start a fund:

Every parent needs to be saving towards their child’s education, unless they plan on inheriting a large fortune. To boost those savings, ask family to add money to their education fund rather than buying birthday or Christmas presents.

Children need an education more than they need toys.

Invest for growth:

If you are saving for five or ten years before you will need the money, ensure that you invest in a fund that will grow faster than the increases in school fees.

Cash-like savings will not be enough as they return around 5% at most compared to school fee increases of around 10%.

Consider investing in a unit trust that has exposure to property and equity (shares). A balanced unit trust would be a good option and several unit trust companies offer investments from R200 to R300 per month.

This article first appeared in The Comet, an online newsletter by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes.