Is it actually possible to save?

Saving money is a goal that many of us strive for, but it can often feel like an elusive target. However, with a few simple strategies, you can start building your savings and reaching your financial goals. 

Women holding up 20 rand notes

By Koketso Mamabolo


After petrol prices hit all-time highs in South Africa, leading to price hikes across the board, many were left wondering – is it actually possible to save? The answer is yes. In June we looked at how you can save on petrol, in July we looked at how you can save on electricity – now it’s time for us to look at how you can plan ahead with a smart household budget.


50/30/20 rule

The 50/30/20 rule is straightforward and one of the most popular household budgeting tools. 

  • Needs – 50%
  • Wants – 30%
  • Savings or Debt – 20%



Half of your net income should go towards fulfilling your needs – the things that you genuinely could not live without:

  • Housing
  • Transport
  • Groceries
  • Utilities
  • School fees


Housing could be your rent or mortgage payments – either way, you need a roof over your head and it’s important to allocate a significant amount of that 50% to ensure you have shelter. Transport covers car payments, petrol, ride-sharing and public transport. You can bring your transport costs down by finding ways to save on petrol, or buying monthly bus passes, which can save you as much as 50% compared to buying a ticket every day. 



The most difficult part of going through a budgeting process is coming to terms with how much of what you spend your money is unnecessary spending. You don’t need to stream series and music – you want to. You don’t have to order food to your doorstep – you want to. You don’t need to buy the latest smartphone, despite upgrading the year before – you want to. As difficult as it is to come to terms with, you need to spend less on the things that you want. Thirty percent is still a significant portion, allowing you to indulge here and there, but when the crunch hits, as it has in recent months, you will need to dip into your wants to fulfil your needs. In other words, you need to be one of those “there’s food at home” people when the kids ask for takeout.


Savings or Debt

This is the part of your spending that will have the most long-term impact. Because of how forward-looking it is, it can be difficult to see the benefits now and hence easy to overlook. From saving for retirement, saving for your children’s tertiary education, paying off debts or building an emergency fund – this is an aspect of your budget that you will be happy you considered when you look back years or even months from now.


Be smart with how you manage your money


Having a framework in place is great but what are some of the steps you need to take along the way? Here are five things you can do to help you build a framework plus ways that will help you be smarter with you money:


1. Know how much you’re working with

It’s important to know how much you have to spend. What’s your income after tax? What are your bank fees? 


2. Track your spending for a month

By keeping track of what you spend in an average month, you’ll have an idea of where your money is going. What are you spending the most on? What are you spending too much on? 


3. Find out what your spending on bank fees

Card purchases, withdrawals, debit orders, transfers etc. these all come with varying fees which can pile up. Some are unavoidable, but it’s worth it to consider withdrawing less cash (it’s safer too) and swiping/tapping more. If you need to withdraw, try to do it when you visit the supermarket for groceries.


4. Try rewards programmes

Rewards programmes at banks and supermarkets can save you money without you realising it. From discounts on groceries, to points that you can use to buy goods, there’s something for everyone. 


5. Get the family involved

Work with your partner on the budget. Teach your kids about the cost of living. Develop a savings culture. Having buy-in from the whole family will help you keep the spending in check. 


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