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‘Address debt and saving soonest’

South Africans are officially in the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, and it has become abundantly clear that there are neither easy fixes to the virus, nor to the financial fallout experienced by many individuals, households and businesses.

JustMoney, a trusted online source of information and advice on money matters, has revealed initial findings of a survey it’s conducting on responses to the vaccination roll-out.

The first 300 respondents have listed physical, emotional and financial wellbeing as areas where they have been most impacted. Although 63,7% of respondents believe that the successful roll-out of the vaccine will help them stabilise their financial circumstances, 32,6% said the vaccination would make no difference at all to their earning potential.

JustMoney’s marketing manager, Shafeeka Anthony, says: “This is worrying, and although the vaccination rollout will improve matters, we need to brace ourselves for another difficult year at least. We need to protect our health as much as possible, and also our financial well-being. Taking steps now and planning for the future sounds daunting, but these will pay off later.”

As a starting point, Anthony advises budgeting, tackling debt, and saving.

1 - Work out a budget: Track the amount of money coming in, list your regular monthly bills, then all your variable expenses - those that change from month to month. Bank and credit card statements are a helpful place to start. Soon you will see where your money goes, where you have money left over, and where you can cut back. Check whether you can freeze payments on services you are not currently using.

If a spreadsheet sounds too formal, read up about three alternatives to traditional budgeting here.

2 - Reduce your debt: Firstly, understand the difference between good and bad debt. Debt is acceptable if, for example, it takes the form of a home loan and allows you to buy a flat or house for your family. Debt is bad if it does not increase your wealth in the long term, for example spending money on the latest gadgets and fashions.

If more than a third of your income is allocated to paying your debt, and you find yourself taking out loans to get through the month, you may well need debt assistance. Anthony urges all who are over-indebted to ask for help before a legal process is instituted. Find a handy JustMoney guide to debt counselling here.

3 – Save: If you have found yourself saving money due to the lockdown lack of social spending opportunity, be warned that there will be greater temptation to splurge as more people are vaccinated and matters return to a form of normality. Entrench your new, positive habits now, such as setting up a debit order to an investment account.

“The pandemic has helped us to focus on what really matters, like our relationships, families and friends. Cut out what you don’t really need, get into good financial habits, and continue with these so that they are second nature even when this crisis is over. Addressing budgeting, debt and saving now can have a positive impact for decades to come.”

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