Surviving January on a shoe-string budget: Tips and hacks

Just because something is on sale during Christmas doesn’t mean you have to buy it.

Just because something is on sale during Christmas doesn’t mean you have to buy it.

What you need to know:

  • When buying in bulk, have a plan to stretch your goods so that they don’t rot in the house and defeat the purpose.
  • If you spend Sh. 200 on lunch daily, start carrying packed lunch to work. This will save you Sh. 4,200 in 21 working days.
  • Do not over-borrow or else you risk being in the same situation for longer.

January thrifts

If you have a big family, thrifting and preserving cereals, groceries, and vegetables in bulk could save you some coins. Within Nairobi, the best places to get bargains on groceries, cereals, general household items, and vegetables are located in Nyamakima area, Marikiti Market, Wangige, and Korogocho Market.

“When buying in bulk, have a plan to stretch your goods so that they don’t rot in the house and defeat the purpose,” says Pillie Nkasara, the founder of EasyPizi Fruits & Veggies. Store your cereals in airtight containers away from light. “Carrots without tops or stems can last the whole of January when drained off moisture and refrigerated using plastic or ziplock bags. “Onions can last the whole of January without going bad, but preserved tomatoes and leafy vegetables will only last two weeks,” she says.

Strikeout expenses

 “If you spend Sh. 200 on lunch daily, start carrying packed lunch to work. This will save you Sh. 4,200 in 21 working days. If you pay a gardener to prune your fence and wash your car, you can save an extra Sh. 3,000 by doing it yourself over the weekend or whenever you get home early,” says personal finance coach Peter Kivinda. Using public transport instead of your car will further save on costs. For example, if your car consumes Sh. 600 per day from Nairobi CBD to Kikuyu Town, you will save at least Sh. 8,400 by using a matatu, instead.

“Reschedule your day to adapt to public transport. Leave home early and leave work during off-peak hours,” says Kivinda. If you have subscribed to multiple streaming services, find out which ones do not support your career and cancel them. You can reactivate them later when your financial situation improves.

Water and energy bills

You can minimise how much you spend on your water and power bills. Check how much you have been consuming on your washing machine, heaters, showers, and general lighting. If you work from home, schedule your shower times to coincide with times during the day when you can avoid using a shower heater. Avoid switching on your lights unless you have to. Do not leave your electrical equipment on power when they’re not in use. You can also make a habit of handwashing your clothes as soon as you remove them to avoid bulking them and to avoid the tiresomeness that comes with hand washing.

Borrowing

In January when you are at rock bottom, it can be tempting to download digital lending apps. This is a route you should be cautious about. “If you are at your rock bottom, you may borrow money from friends, relatives, or financial institutions. Do not over-borrow or else you risk being in the same situation for longer,” says Ken Gichinga, the chief economist at Mentoria Economics. Remember mobile loans are very expensive.

Future Decembers

To avoid struggling every January, tame your December spending habits. For instance, a December 2021 survey by WorldRemit showed that Kenyans spend more than half of their monthly income during the December holiday, leaving them with little for January. 54 percent of Kenyan households spend their monthly income on traditional Christmas meals, decorations, and gifts. According to WorldRemit, this high spending means these households dip into savings, borrow, or receive support from friends and loved ones. Make a habit of clearing January bills in December.

“If you have adequate cash, start off by paying rent for the month of January in December,” says Kivinda. If you expect to have difficulties paying school fees in January when schools reopen, you can break the fees into installments and start paying off in December. December salary is what is supposed to take you through January. Once your salary comes in, have a chunk proportionate to your January bills debited from your current account to your savings account. “This will help you stick to your holiday budget by denying you the luxury of whipping out your debit card or mobile banking app to buy things on impulse,” says Kivinda.

There are lots of television adverts, texts, and social media posts asking you to buy things. “Use the 24-hour rule to snag the temptation to buy. Just because something is on sale during Christmas doesn’t mean you have to buy it,” says Kivinda. The 24-hour waiting period will let you know if the deal is worth taking.

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