Savings – How I can afford an international trip

Many people whom I tell I am going for a month to the USA have sentiments of “oh I wish I was rich enough to travel” and “Wow, you must be rolling in money” to mention just a couple of the comments.

Let me start by saying, I’m not rich, I’m pretty darn poor. But, what little money comes into my hands, I choose very carefully how to spend it!

Many people hate to talk about money matters, but I don’t really care either way. I’m not rich, by any means, and I view money not as the most important thing in my life, rather as a means to an end, a protection and a buffer.

So I’m going to be pretty frank, forthright and open today.

My income

My income is not constant, nor is it much. On my really good days, I get maybe R100 a day, if I get tips, perhaps it’ll push up to R150 (for those of you not from here, that’s about US$12-15). On the quiet months, I might only get income on 5 days, the rest of the month is dry.

So, I don’t have much to work with.

My living arrangements

Probably the biggest way I save is by living at home with my parents. Honestly, sometimes it’s annoying and I wish I had my own space. I’m capable of living on my own,but why would I? It’s comfortable, safe, cheap, and a loving environment- which lets be honest, where else would you get cheap accommodation, with breakfast in bed and truly feel safe with your roommates? Before you go thinking I’m totally leaching off my parents, I work for them and work really hard (admin, web design, PR, guiding,and general labour), and well, as you saw above, I don’t get much for it. So we can say instead of working for money, I’m working for board and lodge. And right now, I wouldn’t change it for anything!

My spending habits

My biggest output is probably shopping. Now here’s where you can benefit from this blog post. I do spend money on things. I spend my most on keeping my car going, from the R400+- service every 6 months, to the full tank of petrol at least once a month (at last full up, it was R13.46 per litre) to my R79pm 3rd party insurance. My second biggest expense is my cell phone and data usage, normally around R175pm. Occasionally I’ll buy treats for myself, like a slab of chocolate, a new pair of earrings, or new shoes, or a new point and shoot camera.

But, and here’s the thing, I shop around religiously before spending ANY money.

Take the car insurance for example, I got quotes from at least 6 different companies before choosing First For Women. Then I looked at the risks, and decided that I could deal with 3rd party, and rather just keep the R300+- that I would use for comprehensive insurance in a bank account and gain that interest myself. Petrol price sadly we can’t pick here as the government sets that price, but by keeping my car in good condition, I can make it run more economically.

My cellphone, well when I bought my new phone (Nokia 620), I shopped around for the best deal and eventually found this one for R1000 at pick’n’pay. My airtime, I buy at pep stores because they give a discount. It used to be about R2 for every R100, it’s now only about 30c/R100, but every cent I save works towards a Rand.

If I’m going to buy a treat for myself, it’s almost always going to be from the “mark down shelf” or from a second hand store (clothing), and instead of buying gifts, I make them. Plus I have a mom who sews, so seldom do I actually buy clothes.

I also don’t pay for entertainment if I can help it. I live in Durban, we have loads of parks and beaches, as well as great weather most of the year, so entertainment is often free. I don’t eat out, but if I’m “hanging” with friends I generally will buy food at the supermarket, it’s still cheaper to buy ready made from the supermarket than takeout at a restaurant. Maybe twice a year I’ll go with a bunch of friends to the movies and have pizza, but even then, we go on a Tuesday evening when pizza price is “2 for 1” and movies are R25 instead of R45pp.

I join the promotional programs that chain stores and the mall offer (Pick’n’pay smart shopper, Dischem and Clicks club cards, even Spar’s new rewards card) because it’s easy to simply swipe the card and stack up points, then once in a while pay with only the points and not my hard earned cash for groceries.

It’s simply a way of life to live simply.

My banking

So after I get an income, and I spend some of it, what do I do with what’s left over? After much research, I decided to bank with Capitec bank. I won’t go into all the comparison details (because I just don’t remember them all and I don’t have time to waste on unnecessary research today), but pretty much Capitec was offering me a current account with a debit card and high interest for a fraction of the cost from any of the other South African banks. Plus, one of the few things I don’t mind spending on, Capitec has decent and quick service. So I’m getting 4.4% interest per month on my money just for keeping with them, I don’t have to do some fancy account, just the regular global one account. I have a MasterCard debit card that I pay for things at the shops, with no charges. I pay R1.50 if I want to draw money at the tills. And I pay 70c if I’m doing an EFT transfer.

Plus, here is the most important point of all, I NEVER go into debt! It’s just not worth owing anyone anything! If I’m going to buy something, I better have the money itself to buy it. My car, rather than paying it off, I saved up before hand to buy it. My big USA trip, I have overspent on it,but I still will not go into debt for it, I am only using savings for it, not credit!

I also keep strict watch of my accounts, every month writing down what comes in and what goes out so I know if I ought to curb my spending habits.

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I didn’t know I was going to do this big USA trip a year ago,6 months ago, or even 4 months ago. But what I did is save. Every cent matters, I literally do pick up those pesky 5c and 10c pieces people drop on the ground. I choose carefully how to spend every single cent. And I save. I’m not rich at all, but I was taught good money skills by my parents.

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