LIFE HACKS TO NAVIGATING ECONOMIC SLUMPS with household tips from Helgard the harried househusband

Author: Esti Woznica

At 5:30 exactly, Helgard jumped out of bed. He ran through the morning schedule in his head as he hopped in the shower. Eight and a half minutes later, he was out and drying himself. He brushed his teeth (being careful to turn off the tap in between), pulled on yesterday’s still-clean clothes and made a dash for the kitchen where he set to work preparing simple but healthy school lunches and making the kids’ breakfasts.

At 6:20, he woke up the kids, and popped a cup of steaming coffee next to his wife’s bed. While the rest of the family tucked into breakfast, he fed the dog, carefully measuring out the correct amount of food. At 7:00 he herded the kids into the car and dropped them off at school. Back home, he straightened out the house: he put the kitchen scraps in the compost bin; put the plastic, glass and tin waste in the recycling bin; vacuumed and mopped the floor with a general cleaner (no expensive floor cleaners here!); and washed the dishes in just enough hot water with a little clean water for rinsing.

He scanned the local newspaper for grocery specials and wrote up the shopping list; whipped up a quick chocolate batter and made two dozen cupcakes for his daughter’s cake sale; and mended his son’s hockey jersey where the dog had bitten a hole in it. Helgard made himself a sandwich for lunch and sitting back to enjoy it, realised it was already time for the afternoon school run. He calculated if he got back home after extra-murals at 5pm, he’d have just enough time to try that budget-beating family supper recipe he’d found in his free loyalty club magazine last night.

Managing a household can be costly and incredibly time consuming. But if you carefully examine your and your family’s routines, you can find ways to save both time and money. Here are Helgard’s top 10 hints for cutting costs during difficult economic times:

  1. Buy your groceries online. Bulk shop on payday for the month ahead. You’ll save time and money with free delivery, and (with no temptations at hand) only purchase what you need. Pack children’s snacks and lunchbox treats into four different containers – one for each week of the month – and only use that week’s stash to ensure they last until month end. Buy good quality fruit and veg and store them correctly to reduce spoilage.
  2. Scrutinise your bond statement. It’s likely you’ve been paying increasing insurance premiums each year. Do a comparative quote today, and you could save hundreds of rands.
  3. Meat-free Mondays. Not only will forgoing meat one day of the week reduce your carbon footprint and help to improve your health, but it’s better for your budget too. Experiment with vegetarian suppers, and use fresh produce from your garden. For the rest of the week, try cutting out red meat in favour of more affordable alternatives. Helgard makes a divine organic harissa and lime chicken bake.
  4. Insulate your roof. This can make your home more energy efficient and save on heating and cooling costs.  Consider switching to prepaid electricity or reducing the temperature on your geyser for further savings.
  5. Cut out the store-bought coffees. You can save as much as R1 000 a month by making your own coffee every day. Investing in a good quality thermos cup will allow you to keep your coffee hot, and drink it while on the go.
  6. Cancel subscriptions. Check your apps, magazines, music and club membership fees. Most can be replaced with free options. Switch from DSTV to Netflix or Showtime at R99 p/m.
  7. Pack lunch for work. Cook a little extra supper each night, and pack the leftovers for lunch at work the next day. If you don’t do leftovers, make a delicious sandwich or two or a healthy salad, and take that instead.
  8. Frock swap. Reinvent your wardrobe by joining a community of sharers and wearers or try a thrift shop.
  9. Avoid binary trading or betting on bitcoin. There’s no quick fix. Don’t invest the money you can’t afford to lose in risky trading! Never make financial decisions out of desperation.
  10. Review your bank fees and reward programmes. You may be paying unnecessary costs, so check the updated fee structure and plan withdrawals and payments accordingly. Using reward programmes effectively can pay for as much as a tank of petrol each month. Close your overdraft facility if you can.

As tempted as you may be to break the piggy bank, switch to a money market account or disinvest your shares or unit trusts, don’t do it. Contrary to popular opinion, the ALSI does not move in line with Zuma’s mouth. One can’t make financial decisions based on emotion and fear.

Selling out funds when performance bottoms, and buying into funds when performance peaks, is self-destructive investor behaviour and could also incur CGT. So, keep calm and remain invested.

Helgard recommends his blissful blue lavender smoothie to keep anxiety at bay.  Serve it in a tall glass, sip and relax!
1 ripe pear
½ cup fresh blueberries
¼ avocado
¼ cup gluten free oats
½ tsp macqui berry powder
½ tsp lavender flowers
1 cup ice
1 cup coconut milk
sweeten with agave or raw honey