How do I start saving when I have so much debt? 

According to the latest Credit Bureau Monitor (CBM) data, 9.76 million of South Africa’s 24.31m credit-active consumers have impaired credit records. 

This means that 40% of consumers are struggling to repay their debts. Consumers’ debt burden totals a whopping R1.6 trillion.

The CBM also shows there are a total of 82.42m consumer credit accounts, which means that the average credit-active consumer has more than three such accounts.

Many people ask: “Should I put money aside to save, or should I pay off my debt?”

The Credit Ombud handles disputes pertaining to credit bureaus and credit providers. Some of the complaints are from consumers who are drowning in debt and struggling to make ends meet. 

The ombud, Nicky Lala-Mohan, says: “For many consumers, an additional loan seems to be their best option to get themselves out of financial stress. However, this leads to a debt spiral.” 

There are ways to save, despite your debt. Lala-Mohan has the following tips:

• Negotiate for better interest rates. It is important to understand exactly what interest rates you are paying and to negotiate for the best rates. A good credit record will help you to negotiate better rates.

• Draw up a budget and stick to it.

• Pay off some debt. This is a way of saving, because debt can be very expensive. The sooner you close some debt, the more you save on interest.

• Avoid using credit for day-to-day essentials. This is an indication that you are living beyond your means.

• Set up an emergency fund. Many consumers who do not have funds available for emergencies find themselves having to borrow, with the exorbitant charges this entails.