Getting 1% Better with Money Every Day
What inspired you to be financially conscious?
Every Saturday night before I retire to bed, I pick 5 outfits, iron and hang them separately in readiness for the coming work week. When doing so this week, I realized that I currently own very few clothes especially those that I can wear to work. Our office dress code is smart casual. This means I can wear jeans, t-shirt and sneakers every day but from Sunday to Wednesday, I like to throw in official pants; with sneakers, easy button-down blouse; with jeans, some chunky heels; with a figure-hugging skirt, and an impeccably pressed blazer; with a fitting tee. Never 100% official; I have this fear that I’d look too serious even for myself. I can’t go all casual because I end up looking like a teenager and I’m afraid the corporate world might not take me seriously especially when I have to sit in project meetings where I’m the only woman. A petite, black woman in Asia. On Thursday, I’m full-on casual.
Instead of deciding that I’d go shopping over the weekend or at the end of the month, I felt overwhelmingly proud because, over the last six months, I had been faithful to other pressing financial priorities. This also got me thinking about events in the past that had influenced my decision to be financially conscious.
1. Caroline Mutoko’s video
3 years ago, I was scrolling through my YouTube feed, not looking for anything in particular to watch. Well, maybe Family Guy reruns. I came across this video by Caroline titled ‘Gosh! Where Did My Money Go?’ I clicked on it because I was curious to know why such a renowned media personality would be talking about such a trivial ‘poor people’s problem.’ By then, I thought only poor people experience this dilemma. There was no way she could be having financial challenges, she must be out here to mock us.
‘This is particularly for the girls especially if you’re under 30. Stop buying rubbish…’ was the opening statement. She went ahead to describe how for most of our lives in our 20’s we own junk. She also explained the value of buying quality over quantity. Apart from costing much more in the long run, you also get to have the rubbish lying around your living space and you waste quality time deciding which handbag to carry every morning. This stuff needs your attention to clean and organize. I hate organizing, especially folding clothes. The less I own, the easier my life becomes.
“Look around, all that clutter used to be money.” — Anonymous
Of course, I still went ahead and bought crap that filled my house, wasted money and went deep into debt while at it. But, that video planted a seed in my mind on the importance of minimalism. In fact, any time I remembered it, I’d feel guilty and promise myself to do better the next time I got tempted to buy second-hand clothes in the streets of Nairobi that I hadn’t budgeted for.
When I finally beat the debt cycle and started working on other aspects of my financial wellness, that is the one video that I went back to and rewatched a couple of times. If you’re still struggling with debt or any other part of your finances, don’t think that accumulating financial knowledge such as through reading this series is a waste of time. Feed your subconscious mind with wisdom, it’ll save you heavily in future.
“When you buy quality, the price is eventually forgotten. When you buy junk, the price will haunt you.” Wealth Theory
2. The realization that women too can make money. And have money.
To pay for most of my upkeep in uni, I weaved and sold customized floor mats and carpets. I made beautiful cozy rugs that I’m proud of to date, and my clients can attest this. One of my first clients back in 2012 was this lady who was in her late 30’s at the time. When I delivered her rug in town, she asked me to follow her to the ATM to withdraw some money so she could pay me. We went to that Cooperative bank ATM on Biashara Street. I stood outside while she proceeded to get the money. I was stunned when I looked inside her handbag and saw what looked like $400 in cash. I couldn’t recall ever laying my eyes on such an amount of money that belongs to a woman before then. As I walked to the bus stop that day, I remember feeling ambitious and hopeful. That one day, even I could have such an amount of money if I worked hard. She’s a go-getter, one of these days I should tell her that she planted a seed of greatness in me.
In my first job after uni, I had this bubbly workmate called Irene. She was the Finance and Operations Manager and partly my boss. She would assign me operational tasks. She’s the first person I ever interacted with who would openly have money conversations, both personal and finances in business. She didn’t tell me how much she earned, but she would tell me where and how she saved her money. I remember the jaw-dropping moment when she signed up to save $600 of her salary per month so that she could fund her MBA program in 4 years. At the time, I didn’t see the value of saving, all I paid attention to was the fact that she could afford to save more per month than my gross salary.
When scouting for my first house, she advised me not to spend more than a third of my salary on rent “you won’t afford to foot all your other bills” she said. At first, I thought she was weird, too loud and dishing too much unsolicited financial advice. I took the advice anyway and later learnt that she was right. Before moving in, she helped me come up with a budget that would help me foot all my bills without falling into debt. That woman had no debt, bought her first car in cash and was immensely proud of it.
I still went ahead and made major financial missteps, but when I decided to clean my mess, I had a practical example of someone who was living proof that it’s possible to be in control of your money. I still remembered all the lessons she taught me on budgeting, saving, living debt-free, filing taxes and the power of talking about money.
Do not overstrain or try to save too much. If one-tenth of all you earn is as much as you can comfortably keep, be content to keep this portion. Live otherwise according to your income and let not yourself get niggardly afraid to spend. Life is good and life is rich with things worthwhile and things to enjoy. — George S. Claso — The Richest Man in Babylon.
My uncle had this small book among his possessions. The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason. It’s a small, old copy with mouldy pages that have turned yellow-ish. I borrowed it during one of those long holidays that government universities dish out. I didn’t have any interest in personal finance back then, all I wanted was something to read. It was the only book he owned, so my options were limited. The book was written in the 1920s which would make one assume that it has no relevant modern-day financial tips.
One lesson stuck when I read it during that holiday; a lean purse can be cured. That meant that given time, I could escape poverty.
This copy is one of my most treasured possessions and I have read it at least 10 times. I also prescribe to all my friends as soon as we establish a comfortable environment to talk about money.
The medium of exchange by the time it was written was gold. As a summary, here is an excerpt of one of my favourite pages;
The five laws of gold
- Gold cometh gladly and in increasing quantity to any man who will put by not less than one-tenth of his earnings to create an estate for his future and that of his family.
- Gold laboreth diligently and contentedly for the wise owner who finds it profitable employment, multiplying even as the flocks of the field.
- Gold clings to the protection of the cautious owner who invests it under the advice of men wise in its handling.
- Gold slippeth away from the man who invests in business or purposes with which he is not familiar or which are not approved by those skilled in its keep.
- Gold flees the man who would force it to the impossible earnings or who followeth the alluring advice of tricksters and schemers or who trusts it to his own inexperience and romantic desires in investment.
My tongue always has a ball when reading laboreth, slippeth, followeth…haha
Okay, lemme leave you with more wisdom and tongue rolling
The 7 cures for a lean purse
- Start thy purse to fattening
Save one-tenth of your earnings.
2. Control thy expenditures
3. Make thy gold multiply
4. Guard thy treasures against loss
5. Make thy dwelling a profitable investment
Buy a home.
6. Insure a future income
7. Increase thy ability to earn
Are you still holding on to the lesson on the magic of compounding interest? My experiences above are proof that even knowledge compounds.
Go ahead and give yourself the gift of becoming 1% better every day.