WISE shoppers always look for better ways of using their hard earned cash. This is especially true in these tough economic times with salaries barely growing. Financial restraints are really putting Mzansi shoppers under pressure.

Michelle Beetar, managing director of Experian South Africa, told SunShopper that these were all indications that a more conservative approach to how one uses money has become even more essential.

Earlier this month, Stats SA released its quarterly employment figures revealing that 15 000 jobs were lost during the first quarter of this year.
Those who have not lost their jobs will also feel the impact of the economic downturn as May’s BankservAfrica Disposable Salary index revealed that the average wage increase in Mzansi is barely above inflation.

But don’t despair! There are ways to survive without compromising on hard-earned wealth. “During times such as these, our first instinct is to dig into our savings to maintain our current lifestyle,” she said. But with a small mind shift you can come to understand that it is more beneficial to cut down on expenses and find ways to manage your money.

“This is a far better option than having to face the prospect of inadequate funds for an emergency or a rainy day – or even retirement one day,” said Beetar. Beetar shared advice on how you can become a smart shopper:

- Smart budget
A careful balance of your income against your expenses can be beneficial not only in the short-term, but also in the long-term. Become aware of what you have versus what you really need.

- Identify ways to cut down
By carefully assessing your contractual agreements – and monthly bills – it becomes easier to identify the unnecessary add-ons and still receive a service that covers your basic needs.

- Keep track of your credit report
Sometimes in a tough month we can easily slip up on a monthly payment. While it is advisable to notify the credit provider as soon as possible and see if a payment agreement can be made, it is also important to regularly check your credit report using services such as Experian’s Credit Expert.
A service like that allows you to see whether your credit report is up to date and accurate.