Eight ways you’re ‘saving cash’ that are actually costing you more in the long run. By Jade Cooke
We don’t expect you to shell out for every little sniffle, but according to Cape Town GP Dr Michael Levy, you shouldn’t avoid seeing a medical professional if:
• An infection gets worse
• An illness doesn’t disappear over time
• You’ve been advised to have a follow-up visit
• You are due for a pap smear or prostate check, or haven’t had your blood pressure, blood sugar or cholesterol levels checked lately.
‘If not handled in good time, these can lead to much more complicated and expensive issues later,’ says Dr Levy.
Fix it ‘A visit to your nearest day hospital may see you sitting in a queue for most of the day, but would cost you very little other than time,’ says Dr Levy.
… or the hygienist
We may think we’re safe with regular brushing, but that’s often not good enough. ‘A regular visit to your hygienist helps prevent a build-up of plaque, which leads to tooth decay, gum disease, unnecessary pain, discomfort, loss of teeth – and the cost of restoring them again,’ says oral hygienist Paula Williams.
She also recommends making an appointment immediately if you experience pain, swelling, bleeding of the gums or bad breath, as these often point to more serious conditions.
Fix it Visit a dental training hospital to avoid forking out the equivalent of school uniforms for a check-up. The Phelophepa Train of Hope (trainofhope.org) is a mobile hospital that traverses SA offering medical assistance to rural communities. Also on board are a dental clinic, eye clinic, pharmacy and psychology wing.
Skimping on insurance
Insurance premiums sometimes seem like money down the tubes, especially if cash is tight. But not having this safety net can be an even bigger financial black hole.
‘Even if you’re cash-strapped, the potential for suffering a loss is still there, which could dramatically worsen your situation,’ says Lee Balding of commercial insurance brokers Intasure. The most common example would be motor vehicle accidents. With so many unlicensed drivers on SA roads, the odds of an accident are stacked against you, and not being insured could result in you shouldering hefty repair costs.
Fix it ‘You can get limited insurance cover at greatly reduced premiums,’ says Lee. ‘These are no-frills policies that cover catastrophes, preventing you from falling into more serious financial hardship. Third-party motor vehicle insurance is an example.’ This covers only the other person’s damages, which comes in handy when your Citi Golf nicks that Merc’s paint job.
Top tip Check whether your insurer offers any exemptions or discounts based on your age or the distance you travel per year. There are usually dramatic savings to be had.
Delaying a car service
Know what happens to your car during a service? If you did, you may not be so quick to put one off, says Garth Lines, the technical manager at Reeds N1 City’s service department:
• Engine oil is replaced ‘The oil loses its fluidity over time. If not replaced, it turns into sludge, which can cause engine failure.’
• Fluid levels are checked ‘The cooling system ensures you car’s engine doesn’t overheat. By identifying coolant loss early, you can prevent engine failure.’
• Assessing brakes ‘If the pads are worn and not replaced, they’ll damage the discs or drums. These are far more expensive to replace than the pads.’
• Cam belt service ‘If not done in time, the belt can snap, requiring a complete cylinder head overall.’
• Leaks ‘Rear main oil seal leaks can be detected and repaired, before any expensive clutch damage occurs.’
If you’re self-employed, freelancing or earning commission, tackling your own return isn’t easy. Most of us will struggle through it because the thought of paying a professional just seems like more money down the tax tubes.
‘However, the process of claiming expenses or declaring your business income can be complex,’ says tax consultant Michael Rushby. If you’re not really sure what you’re doing, you may under-claim and miss out on money owed to you, or over-claim, and the penalties imposed for errors in that case can be quite high. ‘SARS also has the ability to go back three years (more in some cases) so mistakes can often come back to haunt you years later,’ says Michael.
Fix it For a fee that is usually surprisingly budget-friendly, a professional can guide you through the process to ensure you don’t under- or over-claim.
Everyday habits to fix
Buying in bulk How often do you end up tossing half of the food because it went vrot before you could eat it? In future, buy only as much as you need, or split the bulk buy with a neighbour – you both save and nothing gets wasted.
Getting suckered by deal-of-the-day websites Ever though ‘I’ve always wanted to go windsurfing…’ and then never used the coupon? Waste! Rather wait till the deal is for an activity or place you already enjoy, so you know you’ll use it.
Buy cheap, buy twice You needn’t splash out on top-of-the-range everything, but buying the cheapest option – from your car to a kitchen appliance – usually means you’ll end up spending much more than the money you saved to replace it down the line.