Reining in consumer expenses during tough times

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“Post-festive season we had a 50 basis point hike in the repo rate, and then we’ve got our budget speech, increasing fuel levies and many other pressures that are coming to the consumer. It is tough at the moment, and consumers are really feeling the pressure,” Zanele Mbere, head of deposits and payments at Standard Bank, told CNBC Africa.

The pressure on finances has also trickled down to rental payments, where a recent survey indicated that South Africans are struggling to pay their rental payments on time, and in some cases making partial payments.

(READ MORE: Late rent payments on the rise in South Africa)

“Your rent or your home loan is something that a consumer pays, so if that is being delayed, obviously the consumers are under pressure. The first advice that we always say to our customers is speak to your bank. They are the first people who can actually assist you in these hard times,” Mbere explained.

“The other thing that a consumer can actually do on their own is reviewing their budget. If you don’t have a budget, start one. It’s really important to see exactly what you’re spending your money on.”

Mbere added that those receiving bonuses can also use them to pay off large expenses such as school fees, loyalty schemes and other credit-based services that are regularly used.

“We have financial advisers who actually sit in our branches and they’re accessible. It’s very difficult nowadays to navigate through all these solutions about financial wellbeing,” said Mbere.

The ease of transactions, from accessing cash to borrowing credit, however dealing with finances much simpler and provide a range of payment and saving methods.

“The fact that people can make payments off internet banking, that’s actually bringing it back to the customer’s control, where anywhere and anytime you can make payments. You don’t need to always rely on the automatic things like debit orders,” Mbere added.

(READ MORE: The price conscious festive shopper)

“What we always say is review your insurance and savings plans regularly. You need that comfort that you’re still okay, especially now in such difficult times. [Do it] more than once a year. You need to go back to your insurance, your savings plan, just to make sure that you’re still okay for the next two, five and 10 years.”