My Money is a series looking at how people spend their money – and the sometimes tough decisions they have to make. Here Charmel Flemming from Johannesburg, South Africa takes us through a week in her life during the coronavirus pandemic.
Charmel, 37, and her husband Michael each run their own businesses from home and have two girls, aged six and three.
Charmel founded her business in 2018, providing entrepreneurs with accounting and administrative support services. She only uses cloud accounting via the internet which means she could continue servicing her clients without interruption since the start of the pandemic.
She loves the “magic of baking” – the planning, preparation, presentation and how it brings people together. She says baking, cooking and being in the kitchen is where she finds her happy place.
Over to Charmel…
A slower start to my day than what I had hoped for but the girls are on mid-term break, and I get them ready for the day. The late (10:00) exercise session adds to the slowness of the day. Twice a week, my trainer and I have a Zoom training session, which is my splurge during lockdown!
When we started lockdown in SA, we were not permitted any form of exercise outside your property, so we had to make do. Training helps my mentality. Since lockdown I bumped it up to two sessions a week. Nothing feels better than when the endorphins kick in, and all is right with the world. Each session is 225 ZAR or South African Rand ($13.5, £11).
The mid-term school break for my girls makes my life exponentially crazier. The kids have been nagging to decorate the Christmas tree. Yes, I am aware that it is six months early, but it also gets me 90 minutes relief.
After my gym session, I head to the fuel station to fill up my car for the first time in about 100 days. After I started working from home, I filled up every four to six weeks. So 100 days is a new record. Total cost: ZAR 564.55.
We try to stock up once a week although this is virtually impossible. I plan the week’s meals in advance but always change my mind at the last minute and then realise I don’t have all the ingredients.
My first stop was to get bulk cheese (two different variants), butter and eggs. Yes, I know we consume way too much cheese and butter, but life is short. ZAR 344.10. Next stop: the spice shop which is around the corner from the cheese place. My favourite part must be the aroma of the store, and I usually spend too much time buying things I don’t need. But today I am focused: baking supplies and spices. ZAR 239.10.
Next was the shopping for the week ahead. I head to Pick n Pay simply because I need basics, and I know they are well stocked. During the stringent level five of lockdown, I realised that previously well-stocked stores simply don’t have what I need, not even an alternative. I end up store-hopping just to make sure I get everything. Very frustrating.
I get a few discounted items (I’m a sucker for a promo sticker) and some essential foods for our domestic worker to send home. Her mom lives in Zimbabwe, and she sends supplies to her whenever she can. It’s cheaper than trying to get it in Zimbabwe. She sends rice, oil, sugar, maize meal, flour and baking powder. ZAR 923.40.
Last stop is the pharmacy to get a zinc supplement for the girls. ZAR 60. Today was a real banger of a spending day.
Total spend: ZAR 2,356.15 ($142, £116).
I can knock out a batch of pancakes in under 20 minutes, including getting the girls to help. I have found that adding two drops of food colouring makes any food more appealing to the girls. Today’s colours reminded me of Avril Lavigne’s Sk8er Boi.
Today was a more productive day, kind of, if you take into account the puzzle building I did before lunch and the bike rides late afternoon. The welcome distractions were rather pleasant after a frustrating day, which is a whole other story.
Lunch was a very colourful stir-fry with stuff I had in the fridge and homemade ramen noodles. For my last birthday, I had been gifted a voucher and indulged myself with a pasta maker. I would never spend my own money on anything like that.
I also make my yoghurt (coconut and dairy), and bread (most of the time). It’s not a cost factor but a health one. My husband owned a bakery a few years ago. I was shocked at what goes into a loaf of bread. Some of the ingredients don’t even have a name; only letters and numbers. I prefer to make it myself when I can.
My insurance policy is due for renewal soon. The initial increase was ZAR 267.16 per month, which isn’t a bad increase, but I do enjoy the challenge of negotiating. Thirty minutes later, I managed to increase some of my benefits with a decrease of ZAR 55.25 per month on my current premium.
Total spend: ZAR 0
In my corporate job I made really good money and spent it frivolously. When I started my business, I reassessed my spending habits and cut back. I thought I was doing well but then Covid hit and I realised that I might have slipped back into some of my lousy spending habits.
My Instagram scrolling also took a turn for the worse but I was introduced to some amazing local brands that I should be supporting. As a business owner in South Africa I feel obligated to support other local businesses but sometimes it gets expensive. Let’s take loungewear for example. ZAR 1,000 for a top and bottom set. I think it’s a bit pricey for glorified pyjamas. I am still trying to navigate buy local at a premium vs cheaper imports. #buylessbuylocal
Total spend: ZAR 0
I had to replace the gas cylinder for the stove. Each one lasts about eight to 10 weeks. So no big hassle. Total spent ZAR 209.
My youngest daughter has physio sessions once a week to work on her core instability. Before Covid-19 it was done at school and that was great because it meant I didn’t have to take her to the session. With schools being closed that all changed. Under Covid threat level five we did Zoom sessions, which as you can imagine was a nightmare. Under threat level four, we managed to see the physio again. Each session is ZAR 498.
Total spend: ZAR 707 ($42, £35)
We have wooden floors in our house, and after moving in we realised that there was some termite damage. Besides treating the house itself, we are supposed to treat the garden every three months as a preventative measure. It does slip my mind, and I only just treated the garden a year after the last treatment. Total cost ZAR 1,610.
I feel guilty about the lack of time I spent with the girls during their mid-term break while I was working. I booked pony rides for the afternoon. ZAR 200 per child, ZAR 400 in total. It was such an excellent outing for us. The set up was more than merely pony rides, we spent an hour, brushing Joe the pony, getting him strapped in, riding around the garden and playing fun educational games. We had to take an Uber there and back, my car battery is completely flat. Return trip ZAR 112.
Decided today was takeout Friday and it didn’t go as planned. Ordered pizza and sushi from different restaurants and the sushi place got our order wrong. So instead of spending ZAR 529 for both, I only ended up spending ZAR 205. Some kind of a saving.
Total spend: ZAR 2,327 ($140, £114)
More blogs from the BBC’s My Money Series:
Today started with a brutal Zoom training session. At the end of the session, my thighs were in tears. I come to the realisation that a takeout is the same price as a training session. ZAR 225. Should I skip takeouts completely and increase my training sessions? Just a thought.
Most of the day I spent preparing for a board meeting, which was almost as brutal as the training session.
With the ongoing conversation about equality and diversity, I have appreciated the small things. I ordered 10 packs of Colour Me crayons. Each pack contains 12 shades of skin colours that celebrate diversity at ZAR 40 per pack . Total spent ZAR 400 – merging continuous diversity conversation with local brands: priceless.
We streamed Jungle Beat: The Movie, which is excellent for the kids and entertaining for the adults. ZAR 35 and it’s available for 48 hours.
Total spend: ZAR 660 ($40, £31)
To make sure my thighs won’t hate me forever, I went for a little run. I only do little runs, no more than 10km. I ended my little run (3.44 km) at the Pick n Pay to get things for the week ahead and to make sure we have everything for the braai (barbecue). It has become a tradition, either Saturday or Sunday my husband takes over the cooking responsibilities by having a braai.
I got loads of fruit, veg, meat, and lunch supplies for my eldest daughter, who returns to school next Tuesday and Thursday. Once again I couldn’t get everything at the one store and had to do two stops. ZAR 1,143.39 and ZAR 996.09 between the two. At the end of the shopping trip, my husband picked me up. The little run was about stretching my legs, not a weightlifting exercise.
The girls watched Jungle Beat again. At least I get my money’s worth from the BoxOffice movies.
A Sunday breakfast tradition is koe’sisters. It is prepared from balls of dough flavoured with cinnamon, aniseed, ginger and cardamom deep-fried in oil, allowed to cool, then cooked for one minute in boiling syrup and rolled in desiccated coconut. Which is too much work for me! My mother-in-law makes it in bulk which I can freeze, pop into the syrup, roll in coconut and ta-da! A dozen koe’sisters would usually cost ZAR 54.
Total spend: ZAR 2,139.48 ($128, £105)
Savings: ZAR 54
Total spent this week: ZAR 8,189.63 ($492, £402)
How does Charmel feel about her week?
Emotionally each week is entirely different from the next. This week was filled less with anxiety, probably because of the mid-term school break. The girls were allowed to sleep in, had too much screen time and went to bed way too late. It is surprising how much angst having to oversee a six-year-old’s schooling brings. I spent more than an average week because of the one-off costs, but I couldn’t avoid it.
We’re looking for more people to share what they spend their money on. If you’re interested, please email or get in touch via our My Money (World) Facebook group, or if you live in the UK, please join our My Money (UK) Facebook group and we’ll aim to contact you.