The first week I moved into my bed-sitter, I had everything figured out. You see at home, weekend breakfasts would be eggs, sausages and bacon. When I moved out on my own I had planned to have that every single day of my life. I would live a lavish life as I fathomed living alone would mean a fancy life. So the first week before reopening school the next week, I was indoors. I would eat anything I want, live the lights on and invite different friends for three different meals a day. As a matter of fact, I was a hotel. Soon enough, my small gas ran out, my expensive whitening Colgate toothpaste was halfway gone and my juice was no more. The excitement of having your own little place while in university is adorable for the first few weeks until you start sighing when your neighbours who are possibly older ask for your spices and juice every other day. So I learnt a few hustler tricks.
For one, Christmas is not every day. Invite relevant friends when necessary and sometimes go to their place. Trust me without knowing it you’re all benefiting from the struggle (yes Diana, this is why I come to your place a lot). When you do invite a lot of friends over, if they are really your friends ask them to help a brother or a sister out and chip in some money or bring the ingredients or drinks needed.
When I was back home, meat was bought from the city market in kilograms, vegetables in plenty and food was in plenty. Halt! Stop right there. You are no longer in your parent’s house, let them be. They have made it; you need to stick to your lane. It is very possible to buy what your parents buy because more often than not their taste is quality. But leave the kg’s shall we? Buy goat meat for 150, onion for 10 bob, and tomatoes for 20 which are three items and trust me you can do without bell pepper and actual basil leaves unless you are Chef Ramsy’s son.
If you’re living like a normal student in either a hostel or a bed-sitter look for the famous mama mboga. This is when you humble yourself, and forget the comments your mother made about better veggies from Nakumatt and how mama mboga may have weird sukumas. Remember, thou shall stick to thy lane and reality. The reality is you need mama mboga’s kales and the boiled githeri or beans she has. A cup should be about 30 shillings and this should last you till the next day, this is only if you do not donate to your whole hostel or apartment floor.
Delmonte, I love your mango juice. But quencher is cheaper and quenches my thirst. Yes, if at all you need juice, my friend you shall dilute thy drink. Delmonte is when your family decides to come bearing gifts such as juice, Cadbury chocolate and lasagna. These are very rare events but when they do come, indulge yourself because we both know you cannot afford Osteria restaurant.
Enough about food, I hope you understand by now that you are substituting what you are used to at home for something that you can afford. The next thing that uses a lot of our money as struggling students is going to the rave. We so badly want to fit into the working-class bars that half of your allowance goes there. If most of your Sundays are filled with you looking at your wallet and you trying to budget of 100 bob, you’re not struggling, you’re surviving. Uber is your friend. Unless you have a safe driver like your friend who has a car and won’t drink and drive use an Uber. Uber is an app that allows you to order a cab, all you need to do is split the fare between you and your friends and sometimes you might have free rides. You must try and avoid alcoblow, because in that case, you’ll be calling your parents to pay for bail.
When it comes to drinks, it is best to also chip in if it is alcoholic, remember to have enough money for everything, and avoid friends who say “ooh, I forgot my money and my phone died, can I mpesa you first thing tomorrow morning?”. These kinds of friends are the ones you chase for at least two weeks before they pay you back without even money for withdrawing. I am sure you understand that university life needs you to think about what will make your life easier, and that means choosing your friends wisely.
My plan was to get a washing lady, to at least wash my clothes. Then I thought about electricity, food and transport. I immediately retracted. 800 shillings is a lot for a washing lady for clothes alone once a month. Older people, do not judge! I know you pay your house helps much more than that, but our struggle is real. Ever heard of route 11? Your two legs form the number 11. If you have a car it is best you learn to use your car if you won’t go home early and save fuel money. While using public transport it is walking that saves you money. For example, instead of taking a matatu from Daystar University, valley road to Uchumi Ngong road for 20 bob, you’d rather walk. Save the money.
Last and foremost, never ever devalue 1 bob. When you see your 1 bob around your room and you see it as useless, think twice. I have a tin which has coins, because psychologically if I had 50 shilling notes in there I would keep removing them, so put that in your bank account. In that tin, put all your shillings in. One day, when you are broke, it would amount to much more than you would imagine.
Be a wise university student, and live within your means. Even when you do have money use it carefully, and do not be exploited by your friends, you’re all in this together. Be beneficial to each other (thanks Liz for all the free food…hehe).
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