Due to the fast pace exploitation of consumers’ shopping experiences and need for instant gratification, it is undeniable how easy it is for consumers to thoughtlessly swipe a store, credit, cheque or awards card these days. Many South Africans currently find themselves in this so-called “mindless-swiping culture” and it is doing more damage than good.
South African consumers that swipe their cards left and right end up having more and more holes to fill with too little money. They can’t shy away from this ‘no-thinking, just swiping culture’ that has been created. This type of behaviour can indeed cause serious damage to mental health, physical wellbeing and financial prosperity for themselves and their loved ones.
According to 46% of the 1000+ respondents that took part in DebtSafe’s Financial Reality 2019 Survey, they were not up to date with their debt repayments. The typical agreements that respondents indicated they were in arrears with, were: retail credit like clothing accounts or store credit (44%) and a credit card or overdraft (30%). Old Mutual’s 2019 Savings and Investment Monitor stated that a total of 29% mainly use a credit card for everyday expenses (groceries and food) and the primary reason for 67% of consumers to use a store card is, to buy things now, that they can’t pay cash for, and pay it off over time instead – which is definitely a swipe in the wrong direction.
Apart from the financial damage that consumers’ debt and swiping behaviour can create, the financial stress caused in the process can most certainly add some serious damage to an individual’s mental and physical health as well. A staggering 56% of the total of DebtSafe’s 2019 survey respondents indicated that financial stress has influenced their overall stress levels, 40% explained it affected their sleep patterns and 29% said it disrupted their decision-making abilities.
By keeping the above-mentioned subsequent damages in mind, it becomes clear that many consumers are setting a distorted example of what a financial steward really is. What type of heritage or ‘fiscal legacy’ are South Africans currently leaving for their dear ones – a debt-filled one? If so, what can they do to prevent this?
Before consumers find themselves in some serious debt damage or become part of the “mindless-swiping culture” statistics, they should keep the following five suggestions in mind:
- Consumers should only make use of credit when it is absolutely necessary to do so, and in good financial terms NOT use credit for basic living costs such as fuel or grocery expenditures. But rather, for example, use it for an unforeseen emergency.
- They need to set up a monthly budget to make sure they are aware of their own financial picture (nett income minus investments/savings and expenditures equals a surplus or minus total that is left for the rest of the month).
- Expenditures should not exceed a consumer’s income. South Africans should never live beyond their means, since they will struggle to make ends meet and find themselves in severe debt situations.
- When it comes to a store or credit card – consumers need to pay it off in full each month to avoid paying interest.
- If, however, consumers are already finding themselves in nerve-racking circumstances or having sleepless nights about some serious debt damage, they need to fix their situations in a sustainable manner. They can speak to their financial planners, bankers or give the National Credit Regulator a call to see if debt counselling/review would indeed be a feasible option to consider. This process protects over-indebted consumers and has a ‘rehabilitative spirit’ to avoid any more excessive swiping during the duration of the program.
It is time for South Africans to go back to their financial drawing boards and be done with creating or being part of a “mindless-swiping culture”. They should think about setting a plausible behavioural pattern and example for their family and friends to pursue. Happy Heritage Month South Africa (September 2019). Cheers to less damage (aka, future card swipes) and more financial savviness.