Thursday, April 8, 2010

How to have fun in a recession

It's 2010, the year that everyone said would be better, the year of the 2010 Soccer World Cup, the year that would lift us out of the doldrums of 2009, the annus horribis. 2010 seems to be the year in which I have officially joined the ranks of the nouveau poor, as opposed to unofficially.

One has to learn to have fun while being a recessionista. Even if my life has become a series of ever-increasing restrictions and frustrations, some newfound penny-pinching habits have become a source of comfort and amusement. They appeal to the bargain basement diva in me and I intend never to desert them in better times.

1. Watching TV with the lights off, and enjoying an unearthly flickering on the walls which looks as though the aliens are in conference in my flat. Living by candlelight is terribly romantic so I get those little tea light thingies and float them in water, which makes the place look cool. Those solar lanterns from the Cape Union Mart or The Space are also quite fetching, especially out on the balcony. You could guide Boeings in with those things. They remind me of the hurricane lamps which my grandparents used on their farm.

2. Buying my loo rolls at Diskem for R24 for 10 rolls (in fact, buying all my toiletries there, instead of at the supermarket, as every time I buy something it creates points which means I can get something free somewhere down the line. Yay, free stuff!). You know you are down to the wire when you have to use your paper napkins when the R24-for-10 pack is finished. Or the tissue paper that you stuff your shoes with. Or you have to nick some from the nearest shopping centre loo. But I am always grateful for something to wipe my bottom with as my ancestors had to use grass.

3. Putting stuff back on to the supermarket shelves and remarking loudly to other shoppers: "Can you believe these PRICES?". Giving the manager level stares as you do this. In other countries you get to clip coupons but our mean supermarkets doesn't believe in letting us get soft and, shame, they have to make a living as we starve. I have also got very good at saying NO to myself especially in those queues in Woolies where they put all the good stuff along those lanes.

4. Buying Lotto and Powerball tickets every chance I get, just in case I hit the jackpot. My ticket showed two correct numbers and a Powerball number yesterday ... the machine made melodious little noises five times and I thought: "Gosh, what would it do if I won all six numbers?" Probably explode into a great ball of fire! I have given up SMSing numbers from Coke can tabs or Easter eggs as even in my desperation I have lost the power to suspend disbelief to that degree. Those guys are just scam artists.

5. Cooking on a Cadac gas stove. I was thrilled when I found that the garage up the road fills gas bottles but mine has lasted me since February 2008 so I don't need to use their services just yet. Even my tea is made on the gas stove. Sucks to Eskom. Outside braais are good too, but with the colder weather coming, gas is better.

6. Shopping at secondhand clothes shops. Thieves probably look at me on Facebook and think, well, she's a rich bitch, but I forgot to mention that the designer threads always go back. Instead I go off to Rags and Lace in Craighall Park with my old schmutters and find amazing things like Chanel sunglasses or suits from Paris or beautiful hand-painted silk scarves from a woman called Sanny Nijkamp who lives in Emmarentia.

7. Using pay as you go on my cellphone. Friends are used to conversations being cut dramatically short as my airtime runs out. I have found a way to recharge via the phone now, so this should no longer happen. But usually in my newfound thriftiness I ask them to phone me back. SMSs are also good.

8. Trying to do all my errands at once in a particular area so I don't have to drive around and use up all my petrol.

9. Watching movies with the old age pensioners on Tuesdays. Tickets on Tuesday are ostensibly half price for the OAPs, at R25, but the price is still equivalent to what it was about eight years ago. I have also invested in a movie card, so I accumulate movie moola and get to watch a free film once in a blue moon. Ster Kinekor has made it easy to save money on snacks as the Coke machine is generally on the fritz whenever I visit their establishments.

10. Finding a good backyard mechanic. If you like me have a Renault or an imported French car you know the pain of dealership prices for parts and labour. These cars break down a lot and are expensive to fix ... If you have a look at any passing towtruck you will always see a Renault Clio on board! It's important to know when you can use a generic part or ask your mechanic.

11. Shopping for appliances at places like Cash Converters/Cash Crusaders. So many people have left the country or sell off their worldly goods to these secondhand dealers that it is easy to find practically brand new appliances here at half the price. DVDs and CDs and jewellery are also nicely priced.

12. Using a laundromat instead of a home washing machine/tumbledrier. This does mean that you get nasty people who take all your stuff out and leave it in a wet pile while they do their load but they are in the minority. Laundromating is a great way to catch up on all the gossip too, who's doing what to whom and all that.

13. Buying your veggies, fresh produce in the country, or at a food market. I used to go and get a huge box of stuff (fruit, nuts, vegs, honey) at a fruit and veg shop but now I go and pick stuff myself from the soil for a fraction of the price.

14. Shopping around for car, hospital and household insurance. I was glad I was with Outsurance when I had an accident as I had a car hire policy and could keep the car for 31 days. Each insurance policy has pros and cons so you need to check out the small print before committing yourself.

So there you have it. Joining the ranks of the nouveau poor can actually be enjoyable as you figure out ways to beat the system. Or you could just go on moaning about everything. Do what you've got to do!

1 comment:

Kittie Howard said...

You're right, you've gotta do what you've gotta do. Your rand-pinching habits will pay big dividends...and you'll probably keep some habits when the recession ends (as I did when our last one ended some years ago)... anyway, I hope there's light at the end of the recessionary tunnel for you in the States (hey, no one ever called me to ask if we were getting greedy here in the U.S. ... we were/kinda still are) we're kinda, sorta, sometimes seeing light at the end...but have a bit to go...hang in there...this too shall pass...