A couple of years back, I made the worst but also the best mistake of my life - I quit my job. Saying that I hit rock bottom would be an understatement. You have no idea how hard it is to constantly worry about where your next meal is going to come from, if the landlady is going to kick you out, if that stomach-ache is another episode of monthly cramps, ulcers or hunger… But if there's one - well, a couple of things that macabre experience taught me, is how to be an economic genius.
Experience has taught me that the cost of living will always be on the rise; irrespective of how much you make. And so, to help you navigate and make life less harder, you need to embrace a couple of smart economic tips:
1. Vegetable Shopping (Farmers Market): In every neighborhood, you'll come across a small roadside kibanda that sells almost all the vegetables a wo/man needs. Last I checked one tomato was going for 10/-, a small slice of pumpkin or watermelon for 20/-, one onion for 10/-, three bunches of kales for 20/-, a quarter cabbage 25/-, one small chili pepper for 1/-…and the list goes on. Small money right? But if you were to calculate just how much you end up spending on these items per month, you'll be shocked. Thankfully, I found me the perfect vegetable shopping outlet - where you can buy one full gigantic cabbage for 20/-, a kilo of onions or tomatoes for 40/- or less, 10/- can get you like 100 chili peppers… All these can be found within the bigger soko and most especially during market days.
Alternatively, you can find someone from the countryside to be sending you these items - so much cheaper!
I believe that when looking for a house, other than focusing on its proximity to schools and work, you should also check if it near a farmers' market.
2. Buy In Bulk: This is no secret, the higher the quantity of a product, the bigger the save. If you can afford, buy all the essentials, like toiletries and foodstuff in bulk (and make sure that you have a good storage system). What if you don't have enough cash? You can always buy a few items in bulk and, push yourself into buying more as time goes by.
And hey, don't forget to look out for and take advantage of promotions, like BACK TO SCHOOL, Valentines, Easter and Christmas offers. Also, don't wait for these offers to come to you. Everytime a new mall or supermarket opens, be sure that it'll be offering very smart deals, so rush there and SAVE.
Lastly, calculate. For instance, if 250g of coffee costs 300/-, and 500g costs 625/-, grab two small ones, not the one large one.
3. Loyalty Cards: I don’t happen to have any of these, coz the only time I took one from Naivas, it disappeared and those weirdos said that I had to pay 500/- to have it replaced. Plus, I just don't like so many organizations having my personal info. All the same, I believe that they are amazing to have for you accumulate points everytime you shop and, can easily talk paranoid shoppers like myself into let you take our points. Come that very financially unstable time of the month, you can redeem these points at the counter!
4. Budget - for Everything: No need to emphasize on the need to budget for the usual - rent, transport, medical or food. What most of us fail to include is a budget to cater for emergencies - like when you find yourself stranded somewhere and need to check into a motel, or take a taxi instead of a matatu, pay bail, or even give a bribe. Also important to include, especially among ladies, is an impulse budget. Very important. Having one will save you the agony of feeling guilty when you buy a pair of shoes you'll never wear, a handbag to show off or jewelries that your friends will steal before you get to wear them.
5. H2O: How much water are we supposed to consume daily? Who cares, none of us takes as much anyway. But, for someone like me, who doesn't take any processed drink or hot beverage, water is my best friend. And need I mention that most homes in our beloved country don't get access to clean and safe water? As we all know, buying bottled water is too expensive, especially if you have a family. Though I have the privilege of living near a water bottling plant which makes it easier and cheaper for me, there's always the alternative - but soft water (20/-) per 20 litre can and boil, or if you like to challenge your immune system, drink it as it is (tastes better that way).
6. Paying for Electricity: If you have a pre-paid meter, here's something you may try. Instead of buying your tokens in the usual way, OKOA STIMA. So this is how it works - you kopa 200 shillings but you get 180 (that's what will be used to buy your token). Interestingly, this 180 shillings of borrowed money will get you like 26 units. But, had you used 200 shillings (from your account) to buy tokens, you'd have got about 18 units.
I hear buying your tokens during the first week of the month also earns you more tokens. Not sure about that but, you can give it a try.
7. Shop on the Road: I don't know much about where you're from, but where I'm from, there's plenty on the road. Pure pishori rice for as low as 90/- per kg (far much cheaper than the cheapest brand in supermarkets) and lots of fruits and vegetables. Trust me, the little shopping you do on those trips saves A LOT.
8. Join a Sacco: Remember that old saying, 'chema chajiuza, kibaya chajitembeza?' That's how you can define a Sacco. To start with, they are perfect for saving, regardless of how much you make. When in need of loans, unlike banks, they offer the lowest interest rates. Come the end of every year, you get a dividend. Their benefits are limitless. Visit one today and you'll be amazed.
9. Online Deals & Coupons: Jumia, Rupu, Kilimall are just but a few of the amazing e-shopping sites that offer great deals and discounts and not forgetting, free shipping. I've used them severally, and they've never been a let-down.
Which of these 9 work for you?
Got more that you'd like to share?