How to spend better

How to spend better

how to spend better

If any of your resolutions cover money habits, here are a few guidelines on how to spend it better and buy quality items when out shopping.

Being frugal with your money isn’t just about living with less or sacrificing the things you really want. It can also be about buying quality – looking for things that’ll last a lifetime and not fall apart or break down after a few months’ use. Here are some guidelines and insider secrets that’ll turn you from impulse buyer to savvy shopper…

Better clothes

Although temptingly low priced, garments made from synthetic fibres have a short lifespan and will have you reaching for your fuzz-away shaver after the first season. You may argue that natural fibres such as cotton, wool, hemp, and linen are more expensive and out of reach for the average shopper, but the fact is raw material is often softer, stronger and will wear much longer than heavily processed cheaper counterparts. Weigh this up against the slightly higher price tag.

Becoming a label expert is not just about monitoring carbs and sugars! Knowing about fabrics is also important. Synthetic materials like polyester, acrylic, rayon acetate or triacetate, nylon, anything overtreated called wrinkle-free, moth-repellent or stain resistant are best avoided or bought in moderation. Chances are they’ve been treated with harsh chemicals to give them these appealing characteristics. The chemicals are not only harmful to your body and irritating on your skin, they’re environmentally unfriendly too.

Sale caution 

A store you’d normally not be able to afford is having a sale at the end of the season… you swoop in and scoop up a real bargain. It’s all fun and games until you spot ‘Dry clean only’ on the label. Unless you make regular trips to the cleaners, and can afford dry cleaning when needed, it’s a bargain that’s going to cost you in the long run.

5 easy-to-spot signs of a quality garment… (don’t let a high price tag fool you)

Other than made with natural materials, additional signs of a quality garment include:

  1. It comes with spare buttons and thread to sew them on.
  2. Its seams are secure. If you can see daylight through the seam stitches when holding the garment up to the light and stretching the seam, it probably won’t last, especially if it’s a fitted garment.
  3. Patterns line up at the seams.
  4. Stitches are even and straight and reinforced in areas of tension. Turn the item inside out. Neatly serged (overlocked) seams are an absolute must, but you’ll know you’ve found real quality when your garment
    has French or bound seams.
  5. Metal zips. They far outlast the plastic counterparts and also don’t stick as easily.

A note on shoes…

  1. The area where the sole and upper meet should be a clean edge, with no gaps or smears of glue. Stitched soles will outlast glued ones.
  2. Look at the stitching. You should see strong, waxed thread that can resist moisture and fraying.
  3. If genuine leather, examine the left and right shoe: does it look like they’re from the same piece of hide?
  4. Give the leather a tiny scratch with your pinky nail (find an unobtrusive spot). Well-tanned leather should not reveal a different colour underneath.

Better toiletries

Products containing microbeads (made from polyethylene, also called microabrasives or polypropylene) are being
phased out of exfoliating products as they accumulate in our oceans and waterways. BHA and BHT also bioaccumulate and pose a risk. Triclosan, common in hand sanitisers, was recently classified by the European Union as potentially harmful to aquatic life and waterways. It’s slow to degrade and thought to be behind the rise of antibiotic-resistant organisms. Synthetic fragrances, not only irritating to your skin, are not efficiently broken down by wastewater treatment plants. Instead, they accumulate in the tissue of fish and other organisms. Studies show that chemical sunscreens (such as oxybenzone) are linked to declining coral reefs. Siloxanes (or silicones) are used in the
production of hair, skin and anti-ageing products but accumulate in waterways and find their way into the food chain. While it’s difficult to avoid these ingredients (which function, among others, to prolong shelf-life, and improve the feel, fragrance and efficacy of a product), consumers now have more knowledge and choice about what goes into products (and consequently into your body).

Did you know? 

One tube of exfoliator can contain up to 350 000 microbeads.

Enviro-friendly ranges we love 

  • Avène sunscreen promises minimal environmental impact (available from Clicks and Dis-Chem).
  • Team Dr Joseph only uses glass, wood and paper in their recyclable packaging.
  • Lush claims you can eat their products, so gets an earth-friendly thumbs up!

Better appliances

Appliances can really be grudge buys when your family budget is already spread so thin, but the upside is they shouldn’t need replacing that often. When shopping for these, durability and reliability are key factors, and your guarantee period, depending on the item, should be a minimum of 12 months for heavy-use items like irons and kettles, and up to 5 and 10 years for big ticket items like fridges and washing machines. Eco ratings are becoming increasingly important due to the rising cost of energy, so look for the energy label on the item you want to buy. For
South African products, it’ll be rated from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient). If imported, your item may carry a European energy label, with ratings from A+++ through to D. Products from the US are likely to carry an Energy
Star label if deemed fairly efficient. In the absence of an energy label, your product has either not been through
testing or is poorly rated. Labels will also carry an energy consumption number, measured in kilowatt hours.

There are other factors to consider when assessing quality and durability. Read user reviews online and learn from others’ user experiences. Ask the salesperson about the appliance’s noise levels, or test them in-store (sometimes decibel levels are noted in the manual). How is the appliance made? Are markings stamped on or embossed? Will you be able to operate it when markings have faded or rubbed off? Do handles and seals appear strong? Are replacement parts such as shelves/salad crispers/handles widely (and locally) available? Make sure you’ve measured your available space before purchasing.

Did you know?

Most tumble driers are C energy rated at best.

Warranty or guarantee?

A warranty is a promise made by the manufacturer to repair a faulty item within a certain period. A guarantee is more widely accepted as a promise to replace a product that fails within a certain period. Be advised though that the terms
are often used interchangeably by retailers and you should always check the conditions of sale when buying, and ask about the service you can reasonably expect in the event of a breakdown.


Check or in-store to make sure you’re paying the right price. Many retailers will match a current special offer, so it’s worth asking the salesperson if another retailer offers a better deal.


Joni van der Merwe

About Joni van der Merwe

Your Family’s Digital editor. Avid retweeter. When I’m not scrolling Instagram you’ll find me in my garden. Keen on DIY and I don’t believe there’s anything that can’t be fixed with some chalk paint.


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