Just last week I was catching up with a friend about the days of old, when we both were much younger and grew up practically in the same circles as our families were close.
She actually reminded me of times when a bunch of our mothers would come together as a part of a savings club, or “Stokvel” as it’s more commonly known in South Africa.
Mothers would gather together once a month and brought along with them their money and their books and whichever lady was hosting would provide sweet treats and pots and pots of tea.
The club had simple rules, you needed to put in a certain amount of money each month, should you be absent from a meeting you were fined R100 when attending the next month’s meeting. The money went into an investment account and every December the treasurer would go into the bank and remove all the money and at the final meeting everyone would get their share and more depending on the interest rate.
As I grew older and moved away from home I began saving for my own stuff, travelling, holidays, concert tickets but never to save for December or January and every year I feel it, that “Janu-worry” feeling, where I have no savings stored for the dry period of never having money because I lived December as if it was my last. This same friend told me about a grocery club which her sister had started a couple of years ago. A club, similarly to the mother’s savings club, where a group of women gather with sweet treats and tea and also a few non-perishable grocery items to store away in someone’s cupboard. Their rules were just as simple, bring how ever many items you wish to bring and it will be written down under your name each month and your accumulating list will be updated and emailed to you. In January everyone collects their groceries to fight the dry season of Janu-worry.
Since hearing of this grocery club she then started spreading the word around her friends in Johannesburg, myself included, and has been trying to figure our way around how the club would best operate. Only problem was, where would we store the goods? Hopeless, we gave up and never started the club and December 2013 lead once again into a terrible season of Janu-worry.
The season took such a toll on all of us that we gathered again over a cup of our morning coffee and began brainstorming ideas. It was the only mother from our group of youthful colleagues that suggested the idea of using gift cards instead.
Our rules were simple: Every pay day we receive our cards from the card bearer, we go to our respective stores and put no less than R50 on our gift cards, we return the card with the receipt and hand it back to the card bearer. The card bearer nicely files each person’s card and receipt, packs it away until the next pay day. Should you miss a month, you include a penalty of R50. You are allowed to load as much money as you like, the only requirement is to provide a receipt of the amount loaded onto the card. They will be delivered back to you the day work shuts down in December.
This way, no one needs to collect hard cash, no one needs and more importantly no one will have a dry season of Janu-worry the money gets used specifically for groceries in those respective stores chosen (Pick n Pay, Checkers, Shoprite or Spar).
You load your money and you save your money, just another way that gift cards are making life simpler. We’ve decided to call it: The modern day Stokvel. All that’s missing are the sweet treats and pots of tea, but then again, that’s why we made sure we have a mother join our club!