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13 Tips to Live Cheaply But Not Look Cheap
Money Management

13 Tips to Live Cheaply But Not Look Cheap

Do you feel embarrassed going with your workmates to a restaurant over lunch break and order chapati and beans while they order fish or chicken and rice? Do you feel the brunt of increased fuel prices but you cannot leave your car at home because everyone else comes to work with their cars?

We love to keep up appearances but sometimes it costs us more to keep up. But we would like to meet our financial goals so this means we have to live frugally. But how do you live like this and enjoy life at the same time?

Living frugally allows you to spend less than you get. Secondly, you could use the difference to pay off debt, save and invest. Living frugally doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have to enjoy life.

In this article, we take a look at how to live cheaply and still thrive. It isn’t about living such an austere and miserable life but instead figuring out how you can save more while you still live well.

Go For a Smaller House.

Yes, you can afford a huge mansion. But does this mean that you have to live in one? You could choose a smaller house and still be comfortable. This doesn’t mean squeezing a family of four in a one-bedroom apartment. You could save a significant amount and channel that to more growth-focused ventures. If you decide to declutter, you’ll realize you can do with less space.

Consider Renting Instead of Owning 

The debate on whether to own (buy/build) or to rent is undening. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Depending on what stage you are on your financial journey, renting could make more sense than buying or building your own house. 

If you calculate the interest you’d pay on a mortgage, insurance and maintenance, owning a home may be a big expense that you would not want to incur at the moment. 

If you decide to rent then invest a similar amount, you might end up way ahead in the long run. However, depending on your priorities and income level, the decision has to factor in several considerations. Do the math. 

Buy Second-Hand Items

If you need to buy something look around to see if someone may be having but not using it. Ask around your circle of friends and family if they have one and aren’t using it. You would be surprised with what you find. 

For example, when I was looking to get a laptop for my writing, I asked around. It turned out my friend’s neighbour was planning to relocate to a different country and wanted to dispose of their laptop since they had a new one. I got a laptop for a very low price saving me so many thousands of shillings. 5 years now and it's still giving me good service.

If you are interested in buying a car, bear in mind that new cars are very expensive and they depreciate significantly in the first year out of the showroom, this means there are so many deals to be found if you are willing to buy a second-hand car.

So many things can be found at pawn shops, Facebook sales groups and on peer-to-peer e-commerce platforms as well. However, if you plan to buy an item from a private seller, beware of counterfeit goods and do any transactions in a public place.

Gikomba and other thrift shops offer good deals when it comes to clothes, accessories and household items. 

Note that buying second-hand has its perils. As such, while there is enormous potential for making savings, every item available for purchase must be well scrutinised and the longer-term cost of ownership as compared to a new item considered. 

Buy at the Right Time

If you want to buy something, research the best time to buy. You can get some really nice items at great discounts if you are patient about when you buy.

There are sales cycles that enable customers to estimate when prices will be lower, and some types of goods reliably follow some kind of pricing pattern. For example, there are a lot of flash sales right around November and vacationing packages drop when it is not the holiday season, or other high seasons in the tourism industry.

Buy High-Quality Products

In addition to purchasing at the right time, be wise about how you spend your money. Getting an expensive item that you will use often could cost less in the long run than if you end up getting a series of cheaper items that you will not use that much. Plus, you are more likely to frequently use an item that works well or wear a cloth that fits you just right.

For more on this, learn the cost-per-use formula - a simple tool you can use to prevent money wastage. 

Go With One Car

Some families have at least two cars. They probably can afford to keep them running and enjoy the convenience offered. But it may still be possible for them to do with just one. 

“My wife and I both work, and we have four kids, and yet we have learned to manage with one car.” Says Simon Maina an investor in real-estate. 

“Having two cars, for us, was a bit costly to be honest. All the maintenance and operation costs. I had to work extra whenever both of them broke down. We did an assessment and came to a conclusion that we did not need both cars for us to operate efficiently and comfortably. So we sold one and invested some of the cash, fixed the other car and used the remainder to go on a vacation to Lamu.”

Go With a Smaller Car

Having a big car often comes with a lot of extra costs. Typically, it will consume more fuel and  parts are much more expensive. You can save a nice sum by going with a smaller car while still enjoying the convenience of having a car.

Choose Low-Cost Experiences and Goods

You don’t have to splurge money to create moments, that can be put on Instagram, that you'll enjoy. Visiting the arboretum for a picnic with your spouse can be just as enjoyable as purchasing an expensive lunch at a restaurant. 

Plus, the great outdoors scenery can give you photo opportunities that are great for social media sharing. Here are some great ideas to chill for cheap in Nairobi. 

As for food products, you could be getting them in bulk, in the case of cereals, at a wholesaler. Meat can be found in Burma or Kiamaiko at cheaper prices.

Read on>> Nairobi life hack: Saving on monthly shopping - where and when

Travel in the Off-Season and Use Loyalty Programs

When you are tired of normal daily activities and you plan on having a getaway, travelling in the off-peak season can be a good means to not only save money but also escape the rush that comes around during peak seasons like right before Christmas.

While you plan for your travel you could also look out for any loyalty programs being offered by travel companies. Some offer a free ride after travelling ten times with them. Another opportunity to cut down while enjoying yourself.

Embrace DIY Projects

Keeping up appearances doesn’t have to involve a lot of spending. No one will know if you go to an expensive car wash in town or you wash your car yourself. 

Also, you do not have to go to a very pricey gym to look fit yet you can do this from your home. You can hand wash your clothes and iron them instead of taking them for dry cleaning. 

Be Strategic About Presentation

Sometimes people create an illusion of luxury while spending very little. A couple can buy a small professionally decorated cake for display at their wedding reception but then serve their guests a less expensive cake they made themselves, yet still delicious. 

The bride can also rent an expensive-looking gown for the occasion and use cheap cut flowers for bouquets and create an impression of a grand wedding. It is all about presentation. The same strategies can be used for other events.

Carry Packed Lunch to Work

One of the largest expenses in our daily lives is eating out.

“I spend kshs 500 for lunch everyday,” Says Irene, a banker living in Utawala.

It’s much cheaper to just cook at home and carry the food in a lunch box to work. Moreover, it gives you the liberty to eat whatever you want and not be so limited by the high pricing of restaurants.


If you and some other colleagues live along the same route. There is no need for everyone to show up at work in their vehicles. You could carpool. 

If each person contributes some money for fuel, you will have the luxury of commuting to work every day, in comfort, less stressed and cheaply.


Living frugally doesn’t mean leading a miserable life. It is more of making a conscious decision to cut down on anything that can be deemed an excess and channel that money to areas that contribute to your financial growth. 

There are, still, a lot of small changes that you can do to your lifestyle to save so much money and live more simply.

This is closely related to the concept of minimalism which we have discussed in detail here

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Eunniah is an experienced business writer and editor. She is also a published author with two titles under her belt; Breaking Down and If My Bones Could Speak. You can find Eunniah on Twitter @Eunnyversal

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