Personal Finances – The Struggle Is Real

I’ve wrestled with whether or not to write this post because it’s a subject that makes people feel uncomfortable and some a little ashamed. I personally don’t think it’s something to be ashamed about but I get that it makes us uncomfortable.


Can we talk about the uncomfortable subject of personal finance? I’ve wrestled with a decision that has broken my heart recently. Both my husband and I have had to sit down and have a long hard look at our finances to find ways to cut back on our spending. 

We’re not alone!

I did a short poll on Instastories yesterday, asking if any others had also felt that the cost of living had increased exponentially over the past few months and here are the results:

One hundred people participated in the poll. Of the 100, only 2 said they hadn’t felt the pinch of the soaring cost of living, lucky them. Ninety eight of you, like me, are feeling the pinch.

This tells me that the average South African is struggling. And if it’s tough for us, can you imagine what that struggle must be like for the poor?

My little lament over on Instastories yesterday was very #firstworldproblems. Really, I am self aware enough to realize that I have nothing to complain about in the bigger scheme of things. We have food, good food, every day. We have a roof over our heads that we are able to pay for. We have one fully paid off car and another car that we were able to secure finance for. Our children go to private school and we have an incredible full time nanny, who we pay way above minimum wage and who we simply couldn’t manage without.

Yes, we’ve had to sacrifice some things. We don’t shop at Woolies (shame) anymore, we disconnected our DSTV a year ago because we couldn’t justify the cost anymore. I hardly ever spend any money on clothes or things for myself and when I do, it’s always bargain hunting. My husband spends nothing on himself except his regular haircut. Yes, I get my hair done but not nearly as regularly as it used to be and I no longer get my face threaded, reverting back to waxing my own eyebrows and lip. I never buy makeup anymore and I’m so very thankful for the goodies that I do receive through my blog, because that is what you see me wearing. 

Recently, the City Of Johannesburg did a reevaluation of our house and our rates are having a massive increase! I checked also on my personal tax and yup, I fall into the tax bracket that is hardest hit by the budget speech from last week. I just don’t know anymore…..

I know, I know, all very #firstworldproblems

But I am so thankful to those of you reached out to me. I’d been in tears yesterday morning, realizing that my one great passion, my horse riding, which is expensive in the greater scheme of things, would have to be drastically cut back if I’m to continue keeping my head above water financially. In January, we had to let our gardener go, he’s been with us for 10 years and has young children, it was a crushing decision to make, but when it came to the crunch and looking critically at our expenses and where we could cut back, it was a decision that had to be made. The same with my horse riding, my decision to cut back, affects a business, which employs people and directly or indirectly affects them. And it’s so very very hard. But we have to shrink back into ourselves and see what cost cutting methods we can use to try and keep our heads above water.

Your stories broke my heart too.

Husbands who have been laid off, people having to work reduced hours because of business cost cutting methods. Families with enough financial back up to get them through another couple of months and then they’re financially ruined, but with no light at the end of the tunnel. It made me realize two things:

  1. The decisions I’ve had to make, while tough for me, are a tiny drop in the ocean in comparison to what some people are going through. There’s always someone out there worse off and at least we are still in a position to shave off on our expenses to keep ahead.
  2. Everyone (except for 2 people in the poll) are struggling financially at the moment.

So I guess my message is this….. you’re not alone, we’re all struggling. 

It can be so very exhausting. I am fortunate enough to make a small but inconsistent income from my blog, which sometimes gets us through the last few end of the month salty crack snacks. It also means that I am constantly hustling and it can be hard to bear up under that, it’s tiring as all hell and I work, aside from my day time job, I work a lot.

But what can we do? 

Don’t make comparisons from what you see online, it’s not real life. Don’t be wooed by carefully curated images and by what people let you see, I strongly believe, when you scratch the surface, most people, if not all, are struggling in one way or another.

Chin up, boobs out, raise in your fist in the air and show a finger to the sky, we’ve just got to soldier on! 

Feature Image: 

Jeff Sheldon

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  • Raylene De Villiers
    Reply Raylene De Villiers

    Absolutely agree. We have done the same recently. We are selling off a property we own as it’s not making us any money and also a business we started a while back that is just not making any money for us. It’s hard decisions to make but I just want to get to a point where I’m above water and not always sinking. You are not alone.

    February 26, 2018 at 8:35 am
    • The Blessed Barrenness
      Reply The Blessed Barrenness

      Right? Like payday doesn’t even mean anything anymore. It’s a constant struggle and worry and it’s exhausting.

      February 26, 2018 at 8:47 am
  • Bianca Erasmus
    Reply Bianca Erasmus

    We are still trying to recover from 2 retrenchments at the end of 2014 and then having to move to CT for jobs. Another retrenchment at the end of 2016 pushed us over the edge. My tutoring jobs aren’t permanent, but they help.

    February 26, 2018 at 8:52 am
    • Reply Sharon

      I’m so sorry Bianca! Things are flipping tough out there at the moment!

      February 26, 2018 at 9:07 am
    • The Blessed Barrenness
      Reply The Blessed Barrenness

      I am so sorry! Things are seriously tough out there at the moment!

      February 26, 2018 at 9:10 am
  • Reply Jonelle

    Things are REALLY hard for almost everyone I know right now! It’s ridiculous how much the cost of food has gone up. Honestly, I’ve been cleaning my own house for the last year because our domestic worker just disappeared on us and I was actually relieved. It’s impossible to keep up with the low incomes and HIGH cost of living. I want to be those two people. Must be lovely. lol

    February 26, 2018 at 9:10 am
    • Reply Sharon

      Right? I just want a few months of not having to worry and scrape to get by. It’s exhausting.

      February 26, 2018 at 9:14 am
      • Reply Jonelle

        Every single damn month!!

        February 26, 2018 at 9:16 am
  • Pam Fotiadis
    Reply Pam Fotiadis

    It’s a REAL struggle! Feel the rope tightening around my neck as my 3 little ones need clothes,shoes,stuff for school…. but we also need to eat! I never get my hair done ever, I don’t buy clothes for myself,every little I have goes to supporting 3growing kids….

    February 26, 2018 at 9:18 am
  • Pam Fotiadis
    Reply Pam Fotiadis

    We are also still paying medical fees from July 2017 because of high fees frlm specialists of 300% + for emergency hospitalizations for 2 of our kids….

    February 26, 2018 at 9:20 am
  • The Blessed Barrenness
    Reply The Blessed Barrenness

    We’ve cancelled our medical aid and now only have a hospital plan.

    February 26, 2018 at 9:24 am
  • Reply Melissa Javan

    Thank you for your empathy. Yes you may experience “first world problems” but you still feel it by cutting down (cutting out things you enjoy). Tough decisions

    February 26, 2018 at 9:33 am
  • Pam Fotiadis
    Reply Pam Fotiadis

    It’s so scary… we can’t afford to not have thay savings cause we don’t have enough spare cash to carry us

    February 26, 2018 at 9:40 am
  • Pam Fotiadis
    Reply Pam Fotiadis

    The savings gives us that blanket of extra for incase

    February 26, 2018 at 9:41 am
  • Simone Cameron
    Reply Simone Cameron

    I don’t even look at my payslip anymore, especially now that my husband isn’t working…I’m like what’s the point. Don’t think I’ll be buying groceries this month as I want us to use what there is until there’s nothing left in the cupboards.The kids will never go without….but ya. Did a post on dealing with the mental side of unemployment recently…..the financial side is a whole other story.

    February 26, 2018 at 9:43 am
  • Reply Cindy

    It’s actually scary how difficult it is to keep heads above water right now. We are in much the same boat as you and it doesn’t feel like it’s ever going to get easier. I know this may sound like a sad little punt, but one way to reduce a bit of monthly costs is to look at your insurance options for your cars etc, there may be something much more affordable than what you have in place at the moment?

    February 26, 2018 at 9:54 am
    • Reply Sharon

      HA! Funny you should mention that, but we have a meeting with our financial advisor this week to review and see what we can do!

      February 26, 2018 at 9:57 am
  • Reply Sam Tech Girl Wright (@TechGirlZA)

    Definitely feeling the pinch too. Seriously though friend, I’ve seen a big difference in my finances in the last year because of two things:
    1. I have the most incredible tax consultant who has helped me navigate my taxes – definitely worth chatting to him.

    2. I finally sat down with my brother, who works at PSG. He worked out incredible ways to help me make my money work for me. When we were younger my mom was left almost destitute in an ugly divorce. One of the things that drove my brother mad was how unhelpful her so called “financial advisors” were. How they were more interested in offering her the packages that gave them the best commission return vs actually helping her long term and allowing her to grow her money. Anyway, the point I’m trying to make – he got in to his line of business to try help people like her and me and you – not the big spenders. The guys struggling. He’s really good at taking a look at policies and finding ways to make them work better for you at less expense. Might be worthwhile asking him to take a look at your RAs, investments etc just to see that you have an optimal set up.

    February 26, 2018 at 9:55 am
  • Reply An Ordinary Gal

    I literally started crying half way through this post… I am facing financial ruin myself if my husband doesn’t find something in the next 2 or 3 months. 3 is pushing it. Sadly…I know there are people going through so much worse…and I am one salary down, but do you think I can give up my Woolworth addiction???? Goodness…that cut up pineapple doesn’t taste the same anywhere else. lol

    I think I’m going to follow suit though and look at being more cutthroat with my budget….though honestly I don’t even have one anymore. I feel there’s no point. I don’t go for treatments, I cancelled all my beauty subscription services. We don’t take the kids out anymore. I don’t buy makeup anymore. I don’t buy new clothes for myself. So I mean, realistically…where do we cut down? I actually want to do a post on that….practical tips for cutting down expenses…but I need to figure it our first before I can try to help others.

    Great post Sharon…and I guess it’s comforting to know we aren’t alone and to count our blessings.

    February 26, 2018 at 10:07 am
    • Reply Sharon

      Please write the post, I need to read it.
      We’ve made a number of changes that have helped, but each time I think to myself: This month will be better, something screws it up. Last week Monday, 5 days before payday, the battery on my car died! I was in tears!

      February 26, 2018 at 10:31 am
      • Reply An Ordinary Gal

        Shit…car problems are the WORST! So expensive 🙁

        That’s one of my biggest blessings I meant to add…we have 2 paid up cars. So I know push comes to shove…we have something to sell.

        February 26, 2018 at 10:36 am
  • Reply nunu5

    I had a tough year last year until finally my company gave us a below inflation increase (every bit helps). So this year is going a little better. But yes we cut back on meals out and I only buy luxuries (clothes, gifts…) on sale now. (again yes 1st world problems).
    Along this line have you seen the prices of easter eggs this year!! I think I am going to take the money I would spend on chocolate and buy them a toy each. It is better value for money.

    February 26, 2018 at 10:19 am
  • Reply Anthea O'Neill

    Thanks for sharing this. It’s kind of encouraging to know we’re not the only ones trying to make ends meet! I remember the days of having a monthly hair and nails appointment… Do you mind telling me who your hospital plan is with?

    February 26, 2018 at 10:27 am
    • Reply Sharon

      Our hospital plan is through FedHealth. We currently have GAP cover as well, but we’re planning to cancel that too.

      February 26, 2018 at 10:45 am
  • Paula Gruben
    Reply Paula Gruben

    Oh Sharon, I hear you. But if our #cANCerous government hadn’t fucked up the economy so badly, we wouldn’t have to feel guilty for our so-called #firstworldproblems (I hate that term, actually), because there wouldn’t be so much damn poverty & unemployment around us. If our taxes were used properly, we’d all be living in a pretty awesome, prosperous country.

    Over the past few years, my husband & I have made some BIG adjustments to get on top of things financially. Firstly, because we couldn’t afford private school fees, we did everything in our power to get Goran into KEPS, which is still a really good government school. Secondly, when our rescue dogs had to be put down due to old age & illness, we didn’t replace them, because vet’s bills & the cost of kennelling whenever we went away had just become astronomical. Thirdly, when we realised we couldn’t afford to keep living in our freestanding house in Northcliff, with a pool & a gardener, we made the decision to sell. We had built the place from scratch 10 years prior, & made a ton of awesome memories there, but it was time to move on. We used the profit from the sale of our house to settle all our debt, including paying off my husband’s second-hand Kia Sorento (I drive an almost-12-year-old MINI Copper, which I paid off years ago.) We are now 100% debt free, & have no credit cards. We moved into a huge rented flat in Killarney, which is much closer to KEPS, in Houghton, so we save a lot of time & petrol on the school commute. Goran has compulsory sport every day at KEPS (one of the main reasons we wanted to send him there), & most weekends he spends at the karting track in Zwartkops or Vereeniging, so he’s never felt like he’s missing out on a pool or garden to play in. When my mother-in-law died last year, my father-in-law moved in with us, which meant I was finally able to go back to work full-time, because we now have someone to look after Goran during school holidays. (Our domestic helper only comes in 3 x half-days a week – although we pay her what most full-time helpers get paid, because I don’t believe in slave labour, & she also has 3 kids of her own.) I haven’t been on an overseas holiday since before Goran was born. But now that I am working again, we are saving to go on a family holiday to the US in 2019. For the past few years we’ve been going away once, maybe twice a year, for a long weekend. Over December / January, while half of Gauteng heads down to the coast, we staycation. The only one who gets birthday or Christmas gifts is Goran. I have my hair coloured maybe 3 or 4 times a year, & if I have 3 pedicures over the summer months, it’s a lot.

    Where I am not prepared to compromise is the quality of my food. I still buy my groceries at Woolies (I like my meat & dairy free-range & hormone + antibiotics free, & I love their rewards programmes & CSR initiatives). And we still eat out & buy takeaways quite regularly, as I really hate cooking.

    So yeah, although the cost of living has skyrocketed over the past decade or so, it’s amazing what you can do to cut back on expenses if/when you really have to.

    February 26, 2018 at 10:47 am
  • Reply Moipone Islam

    I reduced my medical aid , no more DSTV from the 1st of March . Its just hard out there and having to send my mom money because she is not working.

    My little sister had a stroke which means she wont be working for the rest of the year, so they will be looking at me for support. Being the only sibling working.

    Also trying to get a house of our own tired pf renting , it’s rough out there.

    Changed my FNB account to Capitec to save more.

    At least i pay 299 for my comprehensive lite cover with Iwyze.

    Gosh do I have to give up the Woolies Cheese Cake?.

    Feeling the pinch . Had to pass up the opportunity to study Psychology with Unisa.

    February 26, 2018 at 11:16 am
  • Vanessa Kilian
    Reply Vanessa Kilian

    Everyone is feeling this . No one we speak to even those that usually spends alot is cutting back .

    February 26, 2018 at 11:52 am
  • Reply Rachel Goldstuck

    Please be careful of cutting GAP cover, maybe look around and get a different package, medical aids only pay up to a certain percentage and you can be in trouble having to pay off accounts in an emergency especially as so many doctors are above medical aid rates. Even with my GAP cover, I’m still paying off my caesar a year ago.

    February 26, 2018 at 12:32 pm
  • Reply Rachel Goldstuck

    Also to add my story, I got retrenched and then fell pregnant with my daughter who’s just turned one. I only got employed again a week ago and my husband is a commission earner. So life has been hard… with lots of changes and I’m now forced to consider debt counselling to manage our debt that built up during my lack of an income. The emotional stress is also just as difficult

    February 26, 2018 at 12:35 pm
    • Reply Sharon

      I’m so sorry! It’s absolutely exhausting.

      February 26, 2018 at 12:45 pm
  • Reply Saskia

    If anyone understands the pain of cutting back on your riding, it’s me! 3 years ago, after giving everything up when we were going through infertility and treatments etc, I found my way back to riding too. It pains me to even think of cutting down on that part again, when I was already forced to, once before. We are cutting back everything else, before we get to that point but, I know it’s coming 🙁

    At least we aren’t alone but, kak man, I really hoped that, by this point in my life, things would be easier and not harder!!

    February 26, 2018 at 1:26 pm
  • Reply Saskia

    Oh yes and, the IFAASA numbers for RHM (25% discount) this month, are waaaaay down on last years so, that also tells me how much people are struggling! Paying for treatment is going to go the same as DSTV and woolies 🙁 We will need to hit the medical aids, even harder for cover, because of this!

    February 26, 2018 at 1:50 pm
    • Reply Sharon

      Sometimes I feel like we would be better off financially if we hadn’t spend over R700 000 in 7 years trying to have a baby.

      February 26, 2018 at 2:09 pm
  • Mariza Maz Halliday
    Reply Mariza Maz Halliday

    Shaz can you share your hospital plan details with me? How does it work? I just can’t justify paying discovery anymore…. We run out of funds by the middle of the year and they cover fokol

    February 26, 2018 at 6:27 pm
  • Rushda Hendricks
    Reply Rushda Hendricks

    It is tough but have faith God will never forsake you, something will come along soon in God’s time all things happen.

    February 26, 2018 at 7:45 pm
  • Reply stephanie videira

    Great post, yep its really tough and only going to get worse, we all need to find ways to cut back

    February 26, 2018 at 8:36 pm
  • Zoe Hawkins
    Reply Zoe Hawkins

    Thank you for writing this!! I was definitely feeling the pinch on food prices before we left, but since moving it’s been 100% hustle and I was having serious “grass was greener” nostalgia for SA. Times were and ARE hard. Every. Month!

    February 26, 2018 at 11:37 pm
  • Fran Charlie Viet
    Reply Fran Charlie Viet

    Yeah. This is the new reality. Every year it is economizing on the already streamlined budget. Giving up more so our kids can have the basics. Seeing the salary disappear as it comes in. Realizing that the 5% raise one got will not even cover the increase in school fees let alone food. My parents are often horrified by how much the basic living costs for a family of 4 are. But somehow we keep going. And we are lucky to both have ok paying jobs, having been in the position of only having one income before.

    February 27, 2018 at 12:35 pm
  • Reply runnermum

    I went from a half day job mum with a husband that earns 5 times what I earned to a single mom when my husband decided he wants a divorce and sold the house we lived in.
    It’s been interesting…

    February 27, 2018 at 2:40 pm
    • Reply Sharon

      I am so sorry! I can only imagine how incredibly difficult this has been for you. xx

      February 27, 2018 at 8:11 pm
  • Reply Kristi

    Finance is such a tough topic, i come from a devorse torn home, that had my mom and us 3 kids living in a garage for ages but you learn so much. Now that i have my own familyto support i use some of thoses tricks. For example, i have a rough idea of my kids growth, so i buy clothes on sale for the next season, like PnP just had a massive sale on kids winter clothes, youre looking at R25 for a really lovely long sleeve top. Waiting to shop at checkers closer to 5pm means you can snatch 50% off deals on fruit and veg. Look at ways to use products for more than one thing, dishsoap can scrub a bathroom clean and floor without any issues so why buy different cleaners for every item. Use your food, dont throw away so much food, and get savvy with your meals, my budget buster last week turned out so yum, its like your own edition of chopped Take your own shopping bags, those R2’s add up. Stop buying ice, make your own, bake a tray of muffins for lunchboxes, and you can even do your own tuckshop treat bags, cheaper then sending money to school.

    February 28, 2018 at 2:39 pm
    • Reply Sharon

      Some great tips here! Thank you and good luck!

      March 4, 2018 at 2:00 pm
  • Reply Bridgette

    We now do groceries in bulk, thats the only way we save when theres a sale. We also cut back on the maid/nanny from 3 to twice a week and enlisted the help of my mom..apart from that theres not much else left to cut..we also embarked on debt rescue..and yes I agree…had we not faced enormous fertility costs prior to adoption we would be alot more financially secure now. We have even stopped RA contributions, and hope it will get better sooner. Sharon, pls re consider cancelling GAP and medical expenses are crazy!

    February 28, 2018 at 4:40 pm
    • Reply Sharon

      I wish we could rely more on our family and village but unfortunately for us, they all live very far away so that’s just not a cost we can afford to cut.

      March 4, 2018 at 2:00 pm
  • Reply Merle Cutten Westcott

    Don’t cancel you gap cover, my husband had surgery last year and without Gap cover we would have had to pay over 50K for his hospital stay. Internal bleeding so no option but to go ahead. We pay R300 a month for three of us.

    March 1, 2018 at 9:16 am
    • Reply Sharon

      Ja, we’re not going to. We are downgrading our hospital plan, still the same benefits, but limiting the hospitals we can visit.

      March 4, 2018 at 1:59 pm

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