Money matters

Shopping, paying and organising your cash

One of the very frustrating problems with having low vision is the struggle to shop independently. Simple grocery shopping can become a big stress. Which till do I go to? If there is an electronic voice prompt telling you where to go, then where is till number 8? How will I know the amount on the cash register? How do I explain to the teller that I can see enough to buy the required goods, but I need help to see the amount? How do I sort out the right amount of money without holding it right up against my nose, knowing that others are waiting for you to hurry up as the queues are long? All of these issues can allow a simple task to become a very stressful experience.

Here are a few tips to help you shop whilst still feeling confident that you can do this independently.

  • Try to shop at the same store as often as possible. The more familiar the environment the less stressed you will be.
  • Make an effort to memorise the aisles in the store and the till numbers. You can even visualise the environment mentally before you get there e.g. in this store there are ten tills and the number 7 till is directly in the front of the ‘snakey’ queue.

Paying for goods can be another stress.

  • Make a routine that works for you. I ask, “Please can you read the amount for me as I cannot see properly”. At the same time I wave my flat hand in front of my eyes – in a motion that shows that my eyes are not working. The hand action often seems to be better understood than my words.
  • Have a card pin number that is easy for your fingers to follow without having to look at the card machine. Remember that there is a pimple on the number 5 on all keypads.

Recognising cash

South African notes vary in size from the smallest R10 to the largest R 200 note. If you can still see colours then use that to differentiate between the notes. The R20 and the R200 can be confusing as the brown R20 is similar to the orange R200 so rather compare them by size.

  • Organise the notes in your wallet.

NotesIdentify what they are and then fold them in a specific configuration. e.g. In my wallet R10 is folded in a triangle, R20 is folded in one corner, R50 is folded in half width-ways, R 100 is flat and r200 is folded in half lengthwise.  In this way you can easily feel which notes are which.

If you cannot see the money, fold the note exactly in half and place the folded side down between your index and middle fingers. On my hand the R10 is in line with the cuticle of my index finger and the R100 is in line with the tip of my finger. Work out how the note sizes differ on your own hand. Using your hand to measure the money is quite useful as it is always with you (unless you’ve lent someone a hand!!?)

  • Coins can be identified by their size and weight.

coinsThe stop-start-silvers (R5, R2 and R1) have knurling’s/ridges on the outer edge that are interrupted by smooth edges. You can use your nail to feel the ridges. The R5 has a lip on the circumference, the R2 is smaller and lighter than the R5 and the R1, on my hand, fits between the wrinkles on the first two joints of my ring finger.

The covered coppers (50c, 20c and 10c) all have knurling’s all the way around the edge – that’s why I call them ‘covered’. Once again, work out the sizes against your finger joints or nails. E.g. the 10c piece fits snuggly between the wrinkles of the first two joints on my baby finger. Practice counting coins and you will become more confident in recognising them quickly.

Happy independence.

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