7 money-saving hacks to help you combat rising inflation

By Dean Gerber

  1. Short Term insurance: Use your emergency assist home call-outs 

If you have a plumbing or electrical issue at home or at an investment property, it’s worth checking if the problem qualifies for a free emergency call-out. Many Insurers offer a built-in emergency assist programme for both vehicles and properties. The vehicle assistance is well marketed. 

Few people seem to be aware of the home-assist benefits. My own insurer, for example, provides five free home assists per year. This covers the call-out cost of a provider, as well as the first hour of labour (spare parts are not covered). Depending on the circumstance of the emergency, they cover electricians, plumbers, locksmiths and even beekeepers! These “free” emergency call-outs do not require you to make a claim against your policy and therefore do not affect the pricing of your premiums. Assuming an average cost of R1 000, there is the potential to save up to R5 000 per year.

  1. Shop around for day-to-day medical costs 

It sounds counterintuitive to “shop around” to save on medical costs. But in a non-emergency situation, comparing prices before committing can save you a lot of money. Even if your medical aid covers out-of-hospital costs, they will likely come out of your medical savings account. Any savings on these costs will allow you to stretch your medical savings further.

Pathology (Blood Tests): Your doctor may give you a form that carries the logo of a particular pathology lab. But it’s easy to compare prices – labs are usually situated in the same area in a clinic environment. Pricing can vary significantly. One lab, for example, gives a 20% discount for an upfront payment of an account. Where your medical aid does not cover a particular test (or your benefits have run out), paying for your tests on the spot could make sense.

Radiology (X-rays): As with Pathology, when performed out of hospital, Radiology is usually not covered by medical schemes or is, at best, deducted from medical savings. A doctor might send you for an X-ray or scan at the hospital in which their rooms are located. However, there might be significant savings on the cost at other hospitals. If you deem the X-ray or scan straightforward or homogenous, you could easily phone around to find it cheaper elsewhere. 

Planned surgery or in-room procedures: Members often assume that their medical scheme covers all “in-hospital” costs. This is mostly true in relation to a contracted-in hospital account (bed, operating theatre, medication). However, specialist doctors can charge up to 500% of the standard medical aid rates. These Doctors are running a business, just like any other. You should not feel bad about asking for a detailed quote, an explanation of the rates, or even asking for a rate more aligned with what your medical aid will cover. 

Note for those who manage their cashflow well and are great with admin: You could also decide to pay all of your medical costs upfront on your credit card to earn reward points, and then claim back these amounts thereafter. 

  1. Avoid making large top-ups on your pre-paid electricity account

If you are the type who tops up your pre-paid meter with large sums to avoid remembering each month, you may be costing yourself up to 46% more for electricity. As an example, the Eskom electricity pricing for residential apartments (Homepower 1) in Johannesburg works as follows:

0-600KW = R2.11 per KW

>600KW = R3.33 per KW

This means that if you top-up for more than 600KW (or R1 266), you will be subject to a higher price on the amount purchased above 600KW, even if you don’t use the excess units in the current month!

Let’s say that your average monthly usage of electricity is R1 000. You add R5 000 worth of units, so you don’t have to worry about running out for the next five months. On average, you will be paying 46% more per unit than if you had bought R1 000 worth of units at the beginning of each month.

  1. Shop around for diesel fuel

I bought a diesel car a few years back, but it took me a while to realise that the price of diesel (unlike petrol) was different at every petrol station. The price per litre can even differ significantly amongst stations with the same brand. This is because diesel is unregulated, so the government does not control the pricing. Every station is free to sell at the price they choose. I’ve seen some that charge up to R4 per litre more than their competitor down the road. This could make as much as a 20% difference to the cost of a tank of diesel – or around R200 for a 50-litre tank. It may be worthwhile to take note of the prices at your local garage and to compare them with others in your area. 

  1. Never select to pay in Rands on a foreign credit card machine or website

With international travel ramping back up, you might find yourself booking hotels, flights and rental cars online for overseas trips. You may also be ordering goods online from foreign websites or swiping your credit card in shops and restaurants while away.

Many foreign websites and credit card machines automatically recognise the country in which your credit card was issued. The website or card machine might give you the option to pay your bill in your own currency (Rand/ZAR). You should never select the option to pay the account in Rands, as tempting as it might seem. When you do, the foreign bank or provider can charge you up to 12% more for the convenience of converting the currency/

Always select the option to pay in the local currency of the country you are in or traveling to. Your South African credit card issuer should only charge you around 3% to convert the costs back to Rands on your credit card statement at the end of the month.

  1. Order gas bottle refills for delivery

For longer than I can remember, I switched my empty gas containers out for full containers at my local petrol station. I had always assumed that the pricing of gas would be the same everywhere. During the lockdown, I decided to order replacement gas bottles with an online delivery service. I shopped around and found that these providers were often significantly cheaper than the petrol station or local hardware store. In addition, the delivery options are usually free, and save you lugging the old bottles back to your house. They will also connect the replacement bottles to the pipeline for you.

  1. Convert armed response to on-demand apps

Armed response providers can charge anywhere from R500 to R800 per month for a residential subscription (plus an annual radio license fee). Having this subscription may help you sleep better at night. However, if you live in a gated estate or an apartment, responding vehicles may still need to call your phone from the front gate to gain access to the property. This detracts from the benefit of having an “automated” armed response system.

There are now various on-demand armed response apps available. These apps provide a panic button (on your phone or a physical button) for around R50 per month. The closest contracted armed response vehicle is called out when you push the panic button. I tested one of these apps, which dispatched a car from the very same company for whose services I used to pay R500 per month. 

You can also call an armed response vehicle to wherever you happen to be – via your phone’s GPS location. For instance, while out at an event, running, or cycling. Some banks and insurers offer these app response services for free to their customers. 

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