Sunday 23 February, 2020

Smart savings: 5 ways to use less USD ahead of Christmas

Trinidad and Tobago continues to be faced with a foreign exchange shortage, which has left many businesses complaining about the availability of US dollars required to access goods and services.

Most recently, online courier Websource announced that it was forced to cut the number of flights for bringing in items, due to a shortage of USD.

And, with Christmas fast approaching, citizens may begin to feel the pinch of the shortage.  

Here are a few small ways in which Republic Bank Economist Garvin Joefield says citizens can relieve some of the pressures on the country’s forex reserves.

1. Buy local: Make a choice to purchase domestic goods and services as far as possible. Joefield suggests conscious efforts like purchasing locally manufactured cereal over the imported brands. He says while this would not eliminate the current issue, it would help in some small way.

2. Exercise restraint: Joefield says there is no need to buy everything online, especially when the items are being sold locally. Using the example of local clothing stores he explained that foreign dollars are used to bring in the items sold and purchasing the same items online is almost a case of “double counting” as USD is again accessed to make these payments through the use of credit cards. While it may not seem like a significant amount of money, the Republic Bank Economist says “every bit counts”.

3. Budget: Prioritising purchases is a great place to start when budgeting. Joefield noted that many people tend to throw out old furniture and purchase new sets when the old ones can remain in use with a few modifications like new upholstery. In the context of Christmas, he says consumers should refrain from impulse buying and spend only what they need, and the benefits will be realised in the long run.

4. Start a kitchen garden: This may be one of the less obvious ways to save on those foreign dollars, but Joefield assures that choosing to consume local fruits and vegetables over imported ones can help. He suggests making a conscious effort to choose fruits like pommerac rather than apples as the latter is imported. Saving on forex usage aside, the benefits in starting a kitchen garden are undeniable. 

5. Be realistic: Joefield’s final word of advice is to manage expectations. He says while all these measures can contribute in some small way to the relieving the pressure on the country’s foreign exchange reserves, there is no need to put one’s financial well-being at risk just for the sake of buying local. If it’s cheaper to purchase those jeans online than at the local retail store– then do just that.

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