Friday, 29 July 2022

Costs of living and a good salary

 In my opinion, a good salary is one where you do not have to stress about covering your basic expenses every month - rent, insurance, medical, fuel in your car, vehicle maintenance, school fees, food on the table, food and vaccinations for your pets - and having a little for extras and to save. 

'Basic expenses' varies according to what you consider your basics to be. 

Rent figures depend on location and type of accommodation. George is more expensive than Parys and not as expensive as Jo'burg or Cape Town, but getting there! Township, almost-township and other-side-of-the-railway-tracks is less expensive than leafy suburbs. A room in a house is less than an apartment all your own; and a garden cottage on someone's property is less than a small house, which is less than a big house.

Once you're in a place, you need to cover water and lights, clean it, maintain the garden, fix dripping taps, replace light bulbs - rent or bond repayments are not the end of it.

Whether you have home, vehicle, medical, life or death insurance is a choice, but, I consider most of these basic expenses because the consequences are high if something goes wrong and you don't have them. I don't have life or funeral, but I do have the others.

I have a car. Cars cost to run. It needs fuel and maintenance. My car enables me to do my job efficiently in a way that public transport would not allow. It is also old and paid-off a long time ago. Keeping it going and in great condition is a basic expense that buys me mobility freedom. That said, with fuel the price as it is, I don't go driving around much or just take trips willy-nilly. Not any more. I drive for necessity.

I don't need to pay school fees or buy clothing for growing children, but I do need to care for my dogs. Annual vaccinations, deworming, Bravecto and food. And vet visits if they are ill or injured. I do pay for dog school lessons, which are as good for me as for the dogs. My attendance is regulated by my available funds.

We need to eat. Eating could be tuna and noodles with a glass of water or steak and salad with wine. The former is 'basics' for one; the latter is 'basics' for another.

Where some may consider eating out once a week and buying new clothing regularly their basic expenses, these are non-essentials for me. I do not do either very often and I cautiously weigh up invitations to go out because these are unplanned expenses that zap money I may have assigned for something of higher priority. 

Being able to cover your basics, save for bigger purchases or unexpected extras like vehicle repair or medical bills, and to put away for retirement determines what your 'good salary' would be.

Salaries vary hugely by type of job and your location. Salaries in Parys were abysmal; George doesn't seem to be much better and certainly not in relation to living expenses.

Minimum wage in South Africa is R23.19/hour. For a 40-hour week, that is R3,710. This is definitely not a living wage.

This article from Feb22 on The Business Tech website raises the issue of minimum wage vs living wage.

While South Africa prepares to introduce a new minimum wage in the coming months, it is unlikely to be sufficient to lift people out of poverty. This can be contrasted to a ‘living wage’, which is a wage that is sufficient to allow workers to maintain a frugal but dignified standard of living, says professional services firm PwC.

This represents a wage that is enough to cover the expenses of food, water, housing, education, healthcare transport, clothing and other essential needs.

A research study mentioned in this article found that the average South African needs to earn >R7,911 per month in order to maintain a decent standard of living. 

I'd argue that on this amount, it is only 'living'. Once you've paid for transport to work, minimum rent, basic foods, electricity and hygiene products, there would be nothing left for unforeseen expenses, travel, holidays, going out, or saving for retirement. You can't plan for the future either and every month will be a stress.

The article mentioned that "55% of South Africans – some 30.4 million people – are currently living below the upper-bound poverty line of R1,335 per month". Terrifying!

Rent of a small townhouse in a not-quite-township area in George, without a geyser, is R2500/month. A one room garden cottage on someone's property in a not-fancy suburb is R5,500/month. A one or two bedroom apartment could be R7,500 - R10,000 depending on the suburb. A simple house in a nice suburb will be R13,000 - R18,000/month. And then it goes up and up and up from there.

Ideally, your rent should not exceed 1/3 of your salary.  On R7,911, you are in for township or near-township living. For a simple house with a rent of R13,000, you need to earn R36,000/month. 

As a high school teacher in George earning maybe R21,000/month, you will be challenged to live on your own in a small apartment in a decent suburb and have medical insurance and a car. 

Then consider that running shoes are now R2,500 to R3,000 a pair...

Keeping up with socio-economic Joneses and their event-participating, holiday-ing and eating-out lives presented on Facebook is a source of puzzlement to me. It makes me wonder: how much do they earn?


Shawn said...

Dr House said "It's a basic truth of the human condition that everybody lies. The only variable is about what." So maybe the question shouldn't be "How much do they earn?" but rather "How much do they owe?"

adventurelisa said...

Good point Shawn!