As the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) holds its repo rate at 8.25% as of January 25, 2024, a move that didn’t come as a surprise, the impact of steady inflation rates on everyday financial planning becomes a pressing concern. This decision marks the fourth instance of steady rates, following a series of increases totalling 475 basis points since late 2021 aimed at curbing rising inflation.
The central bank’s approach reflects the ongoing challenge of inflation, which, despite a gradual decrease, remains above the desired midpoint target. With headline inflation receding to 5.1% in December from 5.5% in November, yet still over the 4.5% target, the focus shifts to managing personal finances amidst these economic conditions.
Here are five strategic steps to consider in your budgeting plan during these high-inflation periods:
Housing Cost Management
For homeowners, mortgage payments are a significant budget item. Refinancing could be a viable option for savings, particularly if you have a strong credit score and stable income. Assess the potential benefits with a mortgage refinance calculator, considering your current interest rate and future housing plans.
If refinancing isn’t an option, another cost-saving measure is to explore more competitive homeowners’ insurance rates to lower monthly expenses.
Managing and Consolidating Debt
High-interest debts, such as credit card balances and personal loans, can strain your budget.
Consider consolidating these debts into a single loan with potentially lower interest rates to make repayments more manageable. It may only be feasible if your credit score has improved since applying for the original loans.
If your credit score isn’t high enough to qualify for a lower interest rate, it may not make sense to consolidate your debts. You may also want to think twice about debt consolidation if you haven’t addressed the underlying problems that led to your current debts, like overspending.
Paying off multiple credit cards with a debt consolidation loan is not an excuse to run up the balances again, and it can lead to more substantial financial issues down the line.
Energy Use Evaluation
With energy costs significantly influencing inflation, evaluating, and reducing your household energy consumption can lead to savings. Some simple ways to reduce energy usage include:
- Putting on a jersey, or using a blanket, when it’s hot…or opening the windows, or chewing on ice when it’s hot…as opposed to switching on the air-conditioning system.
- Using energy-efficient lightbulbs
- Unplugging electronics when not in use
- Keeping your tyres properly inflated
- Carpooling to share fuel costs
These are just some of the things you can do to reduce your energy expenses and put money back in your budget.
Rethinking Subscriptions and Banking Fees
It’s possible that you may be throwing money away on subscription or streaming services each month. As an example, as of April 2022, the median spend for fast, reliable internet was R790 per household per month. That’s R9, 480 per year on internet costs alone, not accounting for the accompanying streaming and gaming services.
If you’re trying to cut expenses in the face of higher prices, then ditching unused subscriptions can be a good place to start. Personal finance apps can assist in tracking these expenses, making it easier to decide which to keep and which to cut. A commonly overlooked option when assessing your subscriptions is banking fees.
It’s something you don’t often think about, but banks are like any other business that charges for its services. Checking to see what you’re paying (and what you’re getting in return) and comparing your options to find out if you can get a better deal could add up to significant savings.
Smarter Grocery Shopping
With food costs continually rising, adopting smarter grocery shopping habits is essential. Here are some money-saving tips to help you manage your grocery budget:
- Swap out brand-name items for generic products as much as possible.
- Buy in bulk if it allows you to purchase items at a lower unit price.
- Incorporate more meatless meals into your family’s diet.
- Use grocery store weekly sales flyers to plan budget-friendly meals.
- Shop local farmers’ markets if that’s an option where you live.
- Incorporate more low-cost staple items into your meals, such as pasta or rice.
Planning your meals ahead is a simple, yet effective way to combat inflation and higher prices at the supermarket.
Conclusion: Securing Your Financial Future in Inflationary Times
Navigating through inflation requires more than just a reactive approach; it calls for a strategic and well-informed plan. By reassessing and adjusting your expenses, such as refinancing debts, lowering energy costs, and smart grocery shopping, you can make significant strides in maintaining financial stability. However, the journey to financial resilience often benefits from professional guidance.
Working with a financial advisor can greatly enhance your ability to achieve and maintain these budget changes and savings. A financial expert can provide personalized advice, tailored to your unique financial situation, helping you to navigate the complexities of an inflationary economy with confidence. They can assist in identifying opportunities you might have missed and offer strategies to strengthen your financial position.
For expert assistance in financial planning and advice on managing your finances during challenging times, consider reaching out to the experienced team at Luthuli Capital. Our expertise in financial guidance can be a pivotal resource in helping you safeguard and grow your wealth, even in turbulent economic conditions.