Is your personal budget a disaster area? Check which things you can save on – and which you shouldn't.
Between interest rate fluctuations, up-and-down petrol prices and rocketing food prices, South Africa is in a state of shock. Ask anyone shopping at the supermarket whether their salary increases have kept up with inflation – chances are you'll get a tub of yoghurt on your face. The no-name brand version.
But looking after yourself is not just about money – it's also about giving your body what it needs.
So what are the things you shouldn't skimp on?
Contraception. Most medical schemes don't pay for the Pill, but you can get most types of contraception free at government clinics, and often at a minimal fee from gynaecologists. Even if you have to pay for it yourself, it is still much cheaper than a baby. Same goes for condoms.
Brakes and tyres. Somewhere between the latest and greatest imported tyres and cheap retreads from a possibly dodgy dealer, lies the truth (in both financial and safety terms). Have your brakes checked regularly. New brakepads cost much less than your insurance excess or facial reconstruction.
A decent bed. You spend a third of your life on it. A sagging mattress will give you back problems in the long run, and this will cost much more than it would have cost to buy a decent mattress in the first place.
Insurance. Don't overkill here. You need comprehensive insurance on your home contents and car – combine the two if you can. If you have a bond, you will have house insurance, so you're covered if a wall caves in or your gate blows down. You only really need life insurance if you have dependants. Medical aid or a hospital plan is a non-negotiable.
A decent toothbrush. Proper regular brushing will save you a fortune at the dentist. And don't wait until the bristles of the toothbrush have flattened out and frayed before replacing it.
Fruit and veg. An apple a day keeps the doctor away – and it's no joke. Fresh fruit and vegetables in season are cost-effective, and eating these every day will lower your chances of picking up viral infections doing the rounds. It will also aid your digestive system.
Regular exercise. Even nine minutes a day of brisk walking cuts your heart attack risk by 50 percent. Your body needs exercise. Walk to the shop, use your gym membership, join a walking group – do whatever it takes.
You don't really need...
Exclusive-brand makeup. Skincare products are one thing, if you've got a tricky skin. But mascara? The South African industry has nothing to apologise for, so stop footing the bill for all that import tax.
Cigarettes. They're expensive, and eventually half of all smokers will die from smoking-related diseases. So smoking is a bit like paying lots of money so that you can become ill and miserable.
Expensive medication. Whenever you get prescribed medication, ask about generic equivalents. These often cost much less and mostly have the same contents as the expensive drugs.
(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated May 2012)
(Picture: insurance concept from Shutterstock)