Winter is coming - don't get caught in the financial cold

Tristan Naidoo
How to keep your winter costs down low

Winter is coming. While we prepare to dig out the additional blankets and heaters, South Africans should remember to factor in the accompanying increase in monthly expenses that comes with the chilly period. Whether these are for medicines, gas or electricity, it’s easy for these costs to add up.

“Unlike putting on a little extra winter weight – which can be swiftly dealt with in spring – additional expenses during the colder season demand immediate monitoring to prevent long-term impacts on your finances,” says Tristan Naidoo, Legal Adviser at Old Mutual Personal Finance.

“We all increase electricity consumption through the use of electric blankets, heaters, and the increased use of kettles, stoves and ovens to cook winter-warmer foods.  It is essential to factor this increased usage into our monthly budgets. The importance of this exercise is compounded considering the 5.2% electricity hike which kicked in on 1 April 2018.” 

He adds that we need to be aware of several other winter-specific factors. “These include extra medical costs to combat the increase in the incidence of colds and flu during winter or a general increase in entertainment budgets, as indoor activities tend to cost more than outdoor options during the summer season.”

Naidoo offers 5 tips to keep your bank account warm this winter:

1. Back the bargains
Take advantage of freebies and discounts this winter. Most medical aids and pharmacies offer a free or discounted flu inoculation and health screening to help you prevent illness and unwanted medical expenses. Check your policies for value-added benefits and make the most of bulk, bargain specials on winter food.

2. Practise digital restraint and curb excessive online shopping
Avoiding the cold naturally means spending more time indoors, and often online and at home. This heightens the temptation to overspend on data costs, clothing and grocery shopping online. Make an effort to cut back on impulse purchases and only buy necessary items that are within your budget and be mindful of your data usage.

3. Stay close to home
Staying in helps cut costs, but this doesn’t mean you have to hibernate. Host a supper club, watch a movie at home instead of at the cinema, or rediscover old board games. If you must eat out, keep it pocket-friendly by tracking down the restaurants in your area that offer winter specials.

4. Chill-proof your home
Keeping heaters on for hours on end can be costly, so help ward off the outside cold by sealing leaky doors and windows with foam self-adhesive sealing strips. Warm up your living area by introducing plenty of hygge elements. Hygge (pronounce ‘hoo-gah’) is a Danish word that refers to the sense of warm cosiness you get from an abundance of fluffy blankets and pillows, soft candlelight, thick knitted socks and mugs of thick soup or steaming hot chocolate. 

5. Be in the know
With hundreds of free budgeting apps available, there’s no excuse for runaway expenses. Old Mutual’s free budgeting app, 22Seven, centralises all your accounts in one place and uses the data to generate a tailor-made budget that tracks your actual spending against what you planned to spend.