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Nine things Kenyans struggle to budget for

 Things Kenyans struggle to budget for (Photo: iStock)

It is difficult to manage your finances. Even without the bleak economic outlook, and the stubborn flour prices, budgeting one's meagre earnings is difficult.

There is always something that will demand your financial attention at the most inopportune moment, forcing you to use the common expression, "Acha nione vile ntafanya."

Here are some sneaky expenses that make it difficult for Kenyans to budget their finances accordingly:

Moving to a new house

It is nearly impossible to budget properly for a move. There is always something that comes up at the last minute, a random expense that you could not have foreseen, and which messes with your calculations.

Maybe you realise, after moving in, that you have to pay an additional deposit, the curtains you bought are too short, and you have to fork out another 50k just so your neighbours don't see you walking around naked.

Kids' newest obsession

Every parent understands the fundamental terror of going anywhere with their child. Beyond the constant threat of them embarrassing you, there is the looming possibility that they will see something, fall violently in love with it and refuse to stop screaming until they have it.

It could be a shiny toy they play with once and then break it, or a cob of roasted maize by the roadside. It could even be a stranger's phone. Most Kenyans, and indeed parents, generally forget to set aside a little something for the whims of their children.

Dowry payment

Does anyone ever pay dowry in full? I doubt it, because no one has ever shown me a receipt, and because I have heard a good number of married women complain that the 10 cows meant to serve as an introduction were never followed up.

Haughty in-laws sit down and draw graphs and charts of how their daughter deserves cows, goats and an additional Sh1.5 million, as well as a solemn promise to educate the rest of her siblings.

Even if you showed up having met all their demands, they will still find a way to manufacture a loose Sh500k requirement, a penalty, they will say, for knocking on the gate, or for smiling at her mother in a suggestive manner.

Random medical emergencies

You can plan for many things, but a medical emergency is not one of them. Even if your own health is good, the gods seem to visit maladies on aunties and grandparents seemingly at random.

So you might have squared Sh20k somewhere with the idea of apologising to the body at the end of the month, only to receive an urgent message that cucu's knees are clicking worryingly, and the hospital is asking for Sh10k. Maybe you are even forced to fill a prescription with powerful kaswende medication, courtesy of a Juja babe.


The December holidays are a stressful period for most Kenyans, and not because they are worried about Mary's safety as she hunts for an AirBnB. The fiscal responsibility that comes with the biggest of all the holidays is a large one.

Considering most of us struggle to provide during the year, it is not always possible to save for December. And so we cannot always welcome Christ with the chicken/chapati combination we would like.

Car maintenance

It is a blessing to own a car. But then you're rushing home to catch Kumkum Bhagya, and your car starts stuttering and emitting dry, hacking coughs in the middle of Thika Road. An hour later, one mechanic tells you your engine has epilepsy.

A week later, a second mechanic tells you even the oil needs to be replaced. And finally, a third mechanic shakes his head and informs you that it might be cheaper to just buy a new car.

Date night

No one ever thinks about romance until January is rounding the corner. Few husbands maintain the pretence of courtship two babies later, or after the cows have successfully been transferred to the in-laws.

So they are completely blindsided when the missus starts throwing out subtle threats; "I saw Richie took his girlfriend to Malindi last weekend. Must be nice." So now the poor man starts wondering whether dinner would get him out of the doghouse, or whether asking her to wait until his next paycheck will send her into the arms of another man.


A typical gas cylinder lives a charmed life; it can go three months without a hiccup, or even outlast a Nairobi relationship. But it can also sputter and check out after just a month of boiling githeri and beans. It is therefore impossible to budget for gas, because the damn things are as moody and unpredictable as a Nairobi girlfriend.

Endless birthdays

People just won't stop getting born! It's an ongoing problem. Those September babies are particularly problematic; they start warning us even before August has handed in its notice.

"It's my birthday month!" And then, "It's my birthday week!" Those reminders are as gentle as KRA emails, and just as stressful because now you have to buy alcohol and a thoughtful gift they will never use.

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