The Hidden Impact of Load Shedding on Household Budgets

As South Africa continues to grapple with load shedding, the impact is being felt not just on the economy but also in households across the country. From the cost of groceries to appliance damage and academic performance, load shedding has direct and indirect consequences that are taking a toll on South Africans.

The cost of load shedding to the economy was estimated by the SA Reserve Bank to be as high as R900 million a day. But the real cost is being felt by individuals and families who have to contend with the direct and indirect expenses of load shedding every day.

Direct Loss of Goods

The impact of appliance damage and replacing spoiled food from the fridge is not just anecdotal, as research from online provider TrendER/infoQuest shows. Three in four South Africans have had at least one home appliance damaged or destroyed due to load shedding, and a similar number have lost the contents of their fridge at least once. This is not just an inconvenience, it’s a direct cost that households have to bear.

For people working from home, load shedding has had an even more serious impact. A third of them have been seriously affected by load shedding and 16% have had a burglary due to their alarm system not working.

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Cost of Alternative Power

Apart from the direct cost of replacing or repairing household items, consumers are also forced to pay for ways to keep the power on in their homes. The purchasing or hiring of generators is the most common form of supplementary power, with inverters and solar power at similar levels. Overall, about 80% of respondents have made alternative arrangements of some sort to cope with the relentless load shedding.

Changes in Consumer Behaviour

The impact of load shedding is also being felt in significant behavioural changes, including grocery shopping habits and meal preparation. About three in four consumers are buying fewer groceries more often to reduce the risk of food going off in the fridge or freezer, while two in three claim that the types of meals they prepare have changed dramatically. About one in two are eating out more often due to load shedding.

Work-life balance has also been affected, with many people leaving home earlier to get to work and returning home later. This has a direct impact on family life and quality time spent together.

Academic performance of children is also being impacted, with 40% of parents claiming their children’s marks have deteriorated due to their inability to study or do homework because they have no power. Security during load shedding is also an issue for many households, with 56% of respondents putting extra security measures in place to ensure their safety.

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Expectations for Load Shedding

Unfortunately, the future for load shedding in South Africa is not optimistic, according to TrendER/infoQuest research. Consumers’ expectations are generally pessimistic, with 58% of respondents believing that load shedding will get worse over the next year, and only 30% believing it will improve. Women and older South Africans are more pessimistic than men and younger people.

On a positive note, 52% of respondents said that they tend to spend more time together as a family and communicate more when there is load shedding.

The cost of load shedding goes far beyond just the economic impact. For households across South Africa, load shedding is having a direct impact on their daily lives and their wallets. While some have found ways to cope, the real cost of load shedding is being felt by households across the country, impacting everything from academic performance to meal preparation and work-life balance. As load shedding continues, it is clear that South Africans will have to continue to find ways to cope with the impact of this persistent issue.

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