When it comes to money, I tend to be a lot more focused on what’s coming in, rather than what’s going out. I’m not sure why this is the case – it’s probably just sexier thinking about the money you are making, rather than pinching a couple of pennies.
Nevertheless, I’m not too keen on being taken for a ride or wasting money on things I don’t need or want. So this weekend, I sucked it up and went through my latest bank statements with my trusty yellow highlighter to see if I could identify some fat to trim.
I was expecting to find one or two items of concern, but by the time I was done, my statements were full of yellow marks, which was kind of appropriate when you consider that I have literally been peeing away money every month.
Between my cheque account and my credit card, there were costs relating to no less than 13 items that were unnecessary, unexplained or unknown.
After some good self-flagellation for allowing this to happen, I set about the business of tackling these items, which I have placed these into three broad categories.
One of the easiest ways to incur serious expenses over time is through subscriptions, due to their recurring nature and notoriously difficult cancellation processes. They are like a thief in the night, chipping away at your finances each month, until you look back over time and see a big gaping hole where your money used to be.
In the digital age, it has become even easier to sign up for subscriptions for all sorts of things. Going through my statements, I realized I had somehow signed up for no less than three music streaming services over the last year or two, even though I really only use one (Spotify).
Of more concern, there were four separate items listed as itunes bills for roughly R130 each. I thought these were random downloads by my wife or daughter during the month, but each vehemently denied any guilt. After figuring out how to check subscription services on itunes (https://support.apple.com/en-za/HT202039), I realized that three months ago I had downloaded a “colour by numbers” app on phone for my daughter. At the time I thought it was a once off fee, but it turns out it was a recurring subscription – at a cost of R130 per week!!
Naturally, I cancelled all these items, which felt pretty good.
I also noticed I had subscribed to some sort of emergency roadside assistance service for R64 per month. However, it turns out that my motor insurance policy already includes this service. Another cancellation, another R64 saved.
Then there was the R99 a month I have been paying for an online trading account that I haven’t used in five years. It’s one of those “oh maybe I will start trading again so might as well keep it” but come on – its been 5 years!!! Cancelled.
Finally, as I no longer travel for work much anymore, I changed my gym membership to a single, rather than national, club package, saving another R50.
For some reason, banking fees really get my goat, maybe because of their opaque nature and how they subtly creep into your statement each month.
To be fair, some of these are self-induced. For example, I noticed that in March, I had incurred additional fees for my cheque account being overdrawn (for which you get charged an admin fee and interest) and for withdrawing funds from an ATM belonging to another bank. So I topped up my accounts and have vowed to keep them in the green and to only use ATMs belonging to my bank.
Infuriatingly, I also noticed that there was an expense of R20 per month being deducted by my bank for some sort of personal accident policy. I had noticed this amount before but had ignored it because it’s quite small. Turns out I had apparently (I can’t remember doing this) taken the policy out in 2006, which means I have been paying this premium for the last 13 years, despite not needing it for at least the last 10. Cancelled!!
Besides bank fees, one of the most likely sources of wasted money comes from your phone bill. I am ashamed to say that I have been paying a fixed line fee to Telkom of R79 per month for the last 10 years, despite not owning that property to which that line belonged for 9 of these. That’s about R10 000 unconsciously flittered into the ether.
Finally, I interrogated my cell phone package and realized I had not been using even close to the amount of data I was paying for each month. So I have changed my package appropriately, saving about R600 per month.
All told, I managed to cull almost R2000 from my monthly expenses in one weeked. Now that I am on a roll, I plan to tackle some bigger fish, namely my retirement annuity fund and my insurance policies. My goal is to slash another R2 000 in fees from these items each month.
If I can manage this, my cost saving efforts would equate to R50 000 a year in savings overall. Not bad for a couple days work.
MY LIST OF SHAME
|Item||Amount saved p.m.|
|Itunes game subscription||R520|
|Apple music subscription||R80|
|24/7 emergency assist||R64|
|Online trading account||R99|
|Gym membership (move to single club)||R50|
|Bank personal accident policy||R20|
|Other bank ATM withdrawal fees||R34|
|Bank overdraft admin fee||R57|
|Bank overdraft interest||R159|
|Additional credit card (non-primary bank)||R90|
|Telkom line cancellation (from previous property)||R79|
|Vodacom – move to new package||R600|