To Save Money, Be Ready To Spend Money

Man removing bundle of money. Image from

Recently, I’ve been invited to some party. It is one of those parties people throw just for the heck of it. Or on flimsy grounds – like a housewarming party which, while portrayed as a harmless, pleasant, convivial affair, we all know is an opportunity for the host to publicly flaunt the evidence of their upward economic mobility.

The party was in a part of a big city I wasn’t familiar with. I figured a taxi was too expensive for a 25-minute trip (about Sh. 6000). Hence, I decided I would find my way there by public transport and good old Google Maps. It would take longer, but the cost was a fraction of the cab fare (about Sh. 500). I also figured I wasn’t silly enough to lose my way, and the savings would more than justify the extra 30 minutes it would take to get there. So, I hopped into a bus and took a last glance at the map showing the connecting trains I would have to take.

I quickly lost my way mid-journey and, faced with the prospect of a dying phone battery, I grudgingly requested an Uber. Only that it was peak time and fares and waiting times had gone up significantly. I got to the party late, moody, and tired. With a sinking feeling that I had been ripped off. Not a good way to start anything, let alone a party you weren’t crazy about attending in the first place.

I should just have called a cab initially, given that I was unfamiliar with the place. But my penny-pinching ways had the better of me, and I ended up out of pocket close to 10 grand. I was woefully frustrated.

This wasn’t the first time I had been penny-wise, pound foolish. I am sure you too can recount times you have ended up losing large sums of money because you tried to scrimp on a purchase. For example, when you buy, say a visibly lower quality power extension cable, because it’s cheaper than other brands, only to end up with a blown TV set, or a damaged refrigerator. Now you’ll have to spend thousands of shillings on repairs or replacements, perhaps even deal with a fire incident, because you were trying to save a few hundred shillings.

This lesson becomes acutely clear for people who are buying their first car “on a budget” – meaning someone buying a car when they really shouldn’t be buying one. Somehow, the jalopy they are considering buying is always advertised as “very clean, fully loaded (whatever that means), lady driven, owner relocating abroad”. It doesn’t take long after the purchase for the buyer, out of necessity, to cultivate a close working relationship with breakdown services, car mechanics and spare part shops. I am a victim myself, I thought I was saving fifty thousand shillings on a car deal, but I ended up spending quarter of a million shillings trying to bring back a dying contraption of a car back to life. By the time I was putting it on OLX, I was willing to pay to get it off my hands.

The adage cheap is expensive is proven true in even the smallest of purchases. The consequences may be more than just financial. Like when I was in college and on my way to the campus from some business in Nairobi, I bought a bunch of “bei ya jioni” bananas at a dark alley in Githurai. Only to discover, once I got to my well-lit hostel room that they were teeming with live maggots – and that was after taking a gluttonous bite.

Of course, there are times when the price is too high. A higher price tag doesn’t always mean something is of a higher quality. But those are exceptions. In this world, you get what you pay for, mostly.

There was a time I used to reason that, instead of buying a solid pair of shoes for, say twenty thousand shillings, I would rather buy four pairs for five grand each. Well, what you end up with is four pairs of shoes that you hate. Having just one pair that you love, is perhaps a better proposition, isn’t it?

Our daily purchases, big and small add up. It will save you money in the long run, if you buy one reliable car, one good bag, one solid seat, one great shirt… instead of having numerous bad quality ones. Also, you won’t spend as much time thinking about stuff that needs mending, replacement or fixing – which by the way costs not only money but time too.

You also need to be careful about sales and the quality of the item you are getting. Check out Buying Products – Be Careful About The Value And Quality You Are Getting From That Item On Sale.

Saving Money Only Will Not Make You Wealthy. You Need To Increase Your Streams Of Income

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@TheSoww tweets about money and markets, with a particular interest in personal finance.