If you feel like you’ve never been under more pressure as a consumer, then you’re not alone. Over the past year or so, consumers around the globe have faced rates of inflation not seen in decades.
Africa hasn’t escaped either. Far from it. In fact, data released in October last year showed that South Africans were paying R600 more for the same basket of groceries than they were in 2021. With inflation having barely slowed in the intervening months, that figure is likely even higher today.
In the face of that inflationary pressure, consumers are frequently told that they can mitigate its effects by making better choices. You’re probably familiar with the kind of advice given: shop around for the best deals, better manage your home appliances to save on electricity, and put away a bit of money every month to save for a rainy day.
But knowing that you should be doing those things and actually being able to do them are two different things. After all, it can be difficult to manage work and life’s other demands without deal-hunting, running around your house switching appliances off, and scraping together whatever rands and cents you have spare.
Fortunately, it’s increasingly easy to do all of those things without having to put in much effort at all. With the right technology, you can automate many of the functions that make your life easier as a consumer, while saving you money and helping you invest.
Making smart use of automation
Take electricity consumption, for example. With the latest round of tariff increases announced by the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) you’re going to be paying almost a third more for electricity by April 2024 than you currently are (when you have it, that is). Chances are your salary isn’t going to go up 30% in that time, meaning that your best bet is to reduce how much you spend on electricity.
One of the most effective ways of doing that is to simply switch off your most energy-intensive appliances when you don’t need them. And when it comes to energy-intensive appliances, it’s hard to beat your geyser. Depending on which source you consult, your geyser can account for up to 40% of your electricity bill.
But switching it off manually can be a pain, especially if your DB board is in an inconvenient position. A geyser timer can automate the process and take as much as 60% off your geyser expenses.
But automation isn’t just about saving you money, it can also give you more of the most precious resource in your life: time. Automated services can help you plan your day, ensure that you don’t have to go to the grocery store for dinner or try and remember a password every time you need to log in to an app or website.
Automate savings and investments
Perhaps the most powerful things you can automate, however, are your savings and investments. Think about it: unless you’re incredibly disciplined, manually putting away a set amount of money every month can be seriously challenging. For that matter, so can knowing where to put those savings to generate maximum returns.
Many South Africans are already familiar with the idea of automated savings thanks to their banks’ savings pockets. But savings pockets can only achieve so much. To really make a difference, that money has to be put to work.
Knowing that is a large part of the reason why we founded upnup. It gives people the chance to automatically round up their purchases, which are then automatically converted to Bitcoin every month. We also allow people to put aside a set amount every month in a “set and forget” model.
While putting money into Bitcoin might feel stressful in the midst of a so-called crypto winter, it’s important to remember that it was the world’s best-performing asset in the decade leading up to March 2021. It’s also important to remember that, despite recent dips, its price is still higher than it was in 2020 when interest in it was incredibly high.
And if it’s money that you would’ve spent (rather than invested) anyway, you’re far more likely to come out on top.
Navigating turbulent waters
There’s absolutely no doubt that navigating the turbulent economic waters that are so predominant at present is challenging. That’s true not only from a financial perspective but from a mental one too. Utilised effectively, automation can be of serious assistance on both fronts.
And, with the right tools, you might even come out of the current period of turbulence better off than when you entered it.
By Ricki Allardice, head of product at upnup