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Campus Money: Frugal Advice For Fresh College Graduates
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Campus Money: Frugal Advice For Fresh College Graduates

The first few steps into the world of working can be daunting for any college graduate. Nothing can prepare you enough for the hours and hours you spend, sending job applications and sulking after receiving regrets. 

Even if you were lucky like me and landed a position as soon as you graduated, it will be a lot tougher to get by before it can get better. There will be tons of bills waiting to pounce on your small starting-salary. 

But you want to spend less, save more and invest, right? That is what we preach here every day, after all. 

There is tons of helpful advice out there on how to correctly start your career, what to do once you get your first job, etc. All the good stuff. So we won't go into that; instead, we will give a cheat sheet of how to live frugally and survive even on the thinnest of budgets. So take a pen and paper and follow along. 

Also Read: Campus Money: How Internships Can Launch Your Career (Paid or Unpaid)

1. Live In a Cheap House

In most cities in Kenya, housing can be very expensive. So be very realistic while choosing a house as a fresh graduate. Do not focus on the luxuries. While starting, focus on having a roof over your head first and then go from there. 

Research the cheap neighborhoods in your town and find modest but comfortable housing on those sides. But also, while looking for an area to settle down, consider other costs like the transport cost to your prospective job area and the time you will spend on the road to get to and from work.

For further insight, read our previous article that discusses whether it is wise to live in the outskirts of Nairobi here

2. Stretch Your Food Budget

Meals can easily drain out your whole budget - especially with the current increase in food prices. So purpose to go full mode frugal on your meals.

Do not get me wrong. I don’t mean that you should reduce your standard meal portions or start going hungry in order to save money on food. Instead, consider doing the following:

  • Learn to cook. It's almost always cheaper to cook at home than going out and buying pre-made food. Although it might feel easier to go out and buy a plate of pilau for Ksh400, you can probably cook the same (and prep for future meals) for about half the price.
  • Shop frugally. Always find the best deals when grocery shopping. Here is an elaborate article that gives you tips on where and how to shop without breaking a bank. 

Also Read: 8 Grocery Shopping Tips That Will Save You Money

3. Buy Only What You Can’t Do Without

Don’t pour money into things you can do about it as a fresh graduate. Focus on the basics for now.  For example, if you are living on a tight budget, don’t focus on expensive aesthetic procedures such as manicures, spa visits, massages, etc.

These might be a ‘big-buy’ on your budget at the moment. They can wait, or you can choose to enjoy them occasionally rather than them taking a permanent spot on the budget. 

The same goes for clothes. Buy only what you need and focus on quality over quantity. 

Also Read: Want to Tame Bad Spending Habits? Try the 30-Day Rule

4. Shop Second-Hand

If you are fresh out of college, you should already know the best second-hand/thrift joints in your area. If you don’t, it is time to find out. For example, if you are in Nairobi, Gikomba open air market is a great place to shop for gorgeous second-hand clothes and other personal accessories. There are also various small markets around town, including Toi Market, Kawangware, etc. 

You only need to figure out what you want, draw a budget and find a thrift market closer to you that suits your budget. Remember, no impulse buying - well, because cheap second-hand items have a way of inspiring overspending. 

You could extend the second-hand buying hack to other items such as furniture if you are so inclined. It is very possible to get good deals on peer-to-peer sites such as Jiji and PigiaMe etc. but you need to be very, very careful. There are also many second-hand stores where you can buy basic household items such as table top gas cookers, pots and pans. You, however, need to determine what you are comfortable buying second-hand and what you would rather save up for and buy new.

Also Read: How to Save Up for Big Purchases, Painlessly 

5. Repair Before Replacing

We are in the era of FOMO (Fear of missing out) where everyone feels the need to have the latest everything - the best phone, the latest fashion, etc. They want to have it new even when the previous model is still in perfect working condition. 

As a fresh college graduate, avoid this habit. Instead, make the most out of what you already have. Mend your clothes, fix your devices and allow them to serve you longer before you jump into getting a replacement.

Also Read: 10 Tricks to Stop Impulse Spending in 2022

6. Take Advantage of Community Resources

Look around your community and find resources that you can use for free. Is there a park or an open ground around your area where you can walk or run instead of registering for a gym membership or just hanging out and enjoying a picnic? 

Is there a public library around you that you can visit and enjoy reading and maybe free internet as you send out your resume? 

Also Read: Chill for Cheap: Places to Relax On a Budget in Nairobi

7. Have Like-Minded Friends

Birds of a feather flock together. So go out and get yourself some accountability partners. 

Hanging around  'spendy' people on a regular basis is the easiest way to forget one's savings goals. Seek out people with the same goals as yours. This is the best way to stay on track as you share tips and to hold each other accountable.

Also Read: Want to Achieve Your 2022 Financial Goals? Get a Money Buddy

8. Keep Learning About Money

When it comes to money, the learning never stops. Ensure that you are constantly reading, discussing, and experimenting with ideas around money - cutting costs, saving, investing, etc. Also, continue learning the best ways to practice frugal habits without being cheap. 

Also, join groups with like-minded people to share ideas and learn from each other. 

Also Read: Money, Wastage & Me: Regrets, Lessons From 10 Years of Employment

9. Think Long-Term

When making critical decisions, think long-term. Before spending money on anything non-essential, first assess the short-term and long-term benefits of the purchase. 

For example, before you use your last Ksh20,000 to buy a designer bag, think how that purchase will affect your finances both short-term and long-term. 

Will it eat into your food budget, making you turn into borrowing before the end of the month? Or Will the short-term joy be worth missing on a few bills the following month or two? 

Also Read: Money Mastery: How to Set & Actually Achieve Your Financial Goals

10. Be a DIY Queen (or King!)

Nurture your ability to fix things yourself and only call a repair person (or replace the item) if it’s beyond your capabilities. In addition, before you make a purchase, first ask yourself if you can make it a fun DIY project.

For example, instead of buying potted plants from a flower vendor, you could purchase flower pots (or even custom-made ones) and plant them yourself. Such a project will save you money and give you great satisfaction in the process. 

See this video that shows you how to make gorgeous flower pots from recycled plastic. 

Also Read: What are the 3 Methods of Saving?

11. Use Everything up to the Last Drop

Remember on campus when we used to cut open a bottle of toothpaste in order to scoop out every last bit of the toothpaste? Yeah! If you did not do this, you are in the ‘rich kid’ category. 

There is nothing shameful about making sure that nothing goes to waste. The point is to ensure that you make maximum use of everything you buy. Preventing unnecessary wastage can help save you money. It all adds up in the long run.

While we may not expect you to stretch the limits of your toothpaste anymore now, the idea that you can minimise wastage and make some savings should be very attractive. And you can make it a fun activity. 

Also Read: How Not To Waste Money: Use The Cost Per Use Formula


Although this stage might be only a phase on your way to making big bucks, it can be very challenging if you get in without a proper plan. This is the stage where the real ‘adulting’ starts.

This article lists frugal ideas that will help you successfully sail through and be a full-grown independent adult. Consider it a cheat sheet to a more financially liberating post-college life. 

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Doris is a finance professional, freelance writer and SEO expert. She has experience helping businesses of all sizes create content that helps improve their site quality and increase their online traffic. She is a personal finance and wealth creation enthusiast and a frequent contributor to Money254. Visit Doris' personal website to learn more about her work.

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