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Cost saving tactics to survive harsh economic times

By Peter Theuri | September 25th 2021

When the train honks minutes to 6.35am, Anne Mureithi rushes out into the morning cold and makes her way to the Mwiki Railway Substation. There is a reason she prefers the train despite it being infamous for overcrowding.

“When I use the train I pay Sh40 to town. If I used the bus, I would pay Sh80,” she says.

The train chugs its way slowly into town and the journey takes about an hour. The bus, she’s certain, would take more time as the crew calls out for passengers at every stage, and wastes even more time in traffic jams. Taking the train saves her time and money.

She follows the same routine in the evening, for her journey back home.

It is a tactic that is becoming more common as economic hardships intensify and households have to cut on spending.

Try public transport

Notify Logistics CEO Waweru Nderitu fancies public transport. For him, matatus are a convenient way to go to town and he can spend his time in traffic reading, or engaging his mind in other matters than staring into traffic so he won’t miss the slightest movement. In the process, he saves on fuel.

Nderitu is not alone. Many people have ditched their cars for matatus.

The prices of petrol and diesel are one of the hottest debates now, with a recent rise of to Sh134.72 and Sh115.60 in Nairobi, for petrol and diesel respectively.

Every little way to reduce spending gives a special saving trove for people, and this money could be used in the future for emergencies, or simply more significant issues.

Mary Mwangi, a marketer, goes for the cheaper alternative when she can.

Go for cheaper brand

“If I am shopping for cooking oil, I will go for the cheaper option. In the end, after all the buying, the small amounts saved here and there could be significant for purchase of something else.”

This is mostly countered by the belief that the more expensive good is the superior one in quality.

However, it is not always the case. Companies may produce the highest quality and still price it lower than their competitors’ owing to factors such as enjoyment of economies of scale, or merely to trying to attract new customers.

The coin saved here and the two saved there might add up to a considerable amount that can be used for other purposes.

Granted, some of the most crucial household items can be bought from pocket change, such as salt and matchboxes.

Alternative purchases may also mean that if something can be made in the house, then buying an equivalent may not be a very wise decision.

Boil that water

“Instead of buying water, boil. You used to eat meat every day, now instead buy grains for more days,” Mwangi says.

Smoothie lovers, armed with a blender, will experiment with everything they would want to at a fraction of the cost that they would pay in some of the town’s hotels, to get the same quality.

Vera Amani, who works in the city as a barista, discovered another secret to saving: buying in bulk.

Buy stuff in bulk

“I started doing bulk shopping, buying enough to last me three months. I found this more cost-effective compared to doing monthly shopping,” Amani says.

A baby diaper goes for Sh20. But a bag that contains 80 diapers will retail at around Sh1,000. This is an average as different manufacturers price their products differently, but around this figure.

In the best case scenario, during the time they use 80 diapers, a consumer who buys a single diaper a time will have spent Sh400 more on the same compared to the bulk buyer. Bulk buying saves shoppers money.

Pool contributions and buy wholesale

In some places in the countryside where people cannot easily afford some commodities, they pool contributions together, buy in wholesale, and then divide the products amongst themselves.

A 10-kilogramme bag of rice, once divided into ten, will cost every buyer considerably less than they could have spent picking a kilo of rice off a shelf.

Eat at home

Amani has also found out that eating at home saves her money.

“I save a lot that way, and that observation led me to adopt the habit of going for grocery shopping (from the open air market and not supermarket) that will last me a month,” she says.

Not only that. A lot of office workers now find it more efficient to make food at home and carry it to the office. It is cost-effective and gives more value for money as eating in restaurants every day could be costly, with the amounts of food one can get obviously way less than the same money would guarantee at the grocery shop.

Use a money tracker app

“If I eat out for say a week, I end up spending around Sh8,000. This is way above what I spend on groceries that last me a month,” Amani says.

Johnson Duro, a PR specialist, has a different way of doing things. He tracks his expenditure to the last coin. That ensures that he does not spend on ventures that are not worth it; he is focused on what matters most.

“I use an application called Money Manager,” he says.

“This is the best first step for anyone. Once you know where your money is going, you can restructure your finances to suit your needs.”

One has to be very disciplined about tracking down every single transaction; the tracking is not done automatically.

“I do it day by day, but even when I procrastinate, I do not let three days pass before I can do the tracking. I retrace my steps during the day, for instance after I left the house, what the first place I went to was and what I bought,” Duro says.  

“When I buy something in the supermarket, I sit down with the receipt and then note down each and every detail. It is really cumbersome but it helps me a lot, as I can make adjustments here and there, like where I need to make a payment for something, I know I can take some cash from here and allocate it there.”

You can adjust your priorities with time but will never fall outside the plan you have for your money.

In addition to this, Duro follows the mandatory saving and investing of 20 per cent of his income.

Switch off electricity when not in use

It is also advisable that people switch off electricity and electric gadgets in the house when not using them to save on energy and energy costs.

You can also buy energy saving bulbs instead of the normal ones.

For businesses, electricity costs end up being some of the most daunting overheads, but often inevitable. Households have more wriggle room, though.

Natural light could be used in the day to save on power that could be used to light a room later on. Developers are now alive to this fact and most of them come up with designs that allow for as much natural lighting as possible.

Considering costs and no other factors, alternative means of cooking can be taken up, with charcoal cheaper than electricity.

Spending more time indoors could also help in saving money, where preference for indoor hobbies, such as watching movies and reading, would mean that costs associated with eating out, travel ling and impulse buying are avoided.

Every way to save a coin matters, and especially in such unpromising economic times. 

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