EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is part of our Money254 Partner Series produced in partnership with Absa Bank Kenya to celebrate the launch of their new digital savings account. For more on Absa’s new digital savings account, read here.
"Babe," she said, her voice trembling with a mix of excitement and apprehension, "we are going to be parents."
It was a moment suspended between the realms of disbelief and wonder. I was scared stiff about the possibility of taking such a huge responsibility at the tender age of 26. What was unmistakable, however, was the feeling of our destinies intertwining, forever binding our hearts to the boundless journey of nurturing and shaping a precious life.
The news came to me just weeks after my 26th birthday. This was in October 2021. I was barely financially stable, still struggling to furnish the one-bedroom apartment I was renting in Kahawa Sukari.
I have lived in Kahawa Sukari since I came to the city in 2015. I first lived in a hostel as I was pursuing a B.com degree at Kenyatta University or KU as we call it. In 2019, while in 4th year, I moved into a bedsitter to prepare for life outside campus. It was around the same time when I met Irene, now my wife. She was a year behind me, taking B.Ed.
Like other students, we did not have a budget for going out. Irene and I spent most of our spare time indoors, reading, watching movies, a drink once in a while with our campus friends. Towards the end of 2019, I graduated and in January 2020, I got a paid internship at a real estate firm. Ksh15,000 a month.
We were able to cook meat for four days, up from once a week. Breakfast changed from black tea with slices of bread to occasional eggs, white milk, and noodles. At the end of the 3-month internship, I was given a one-year contract to work as a sales officer. The salary was increased to Ksh40,000. But not so fast.
Days after I started working as a sales officer, the global pandemic reached Kenya. Soon, my salary fell to Ksh24,000, down but not out.
Fortunately, by June 2021, there was some relative normalcy, and the full salaries were reinstated. It was a beautiful season of my life, I was making some decent sales even though the economy was still slow. Irene and I moved in together. She had completed her coursework and was at my place most of the time. Paying rent for her underutilized bedsitter made little financial sense.
It was two months after we moved in together that I got the news of her pregnancy. She had gone to get medication for her acne and the doctor insisted on a pregnancy test before prescribing the medication. Immediately after the call, I sat in my living room, staring at the TV with my mind deep in thought.
How could I, a young man just starting to navigate the intricacies of adulthood, shoulder the immense responsibility of raising another human being? Doubt crept into every corner of my mind, whispering harshly about my inadequacies and lack of experience.
Yet, amidst the chaos of my thoughts, a flicker of hope emerged. I reminded myself that with every challenge comes an opportunity for growth. In the following days and weeks, I embarked on a journey of self-discovery. I sought guidance from experienced parents, eagerly soaking up their wisdom like a parched sponge. I devoured books on improving personal financial management.
With each passing day, my fear gradually transformed into a sense of purpose. I began to envision a future where my child would grow up surrounded by love, support, and boundless opportunities. I realized that my youth was not a hindrance but rather a unique advantage. Armed with boundless energy, passion, and a relentless drive to succeed, I could navigate the challenges of fatherhood with the same tenacity I had brought to my nascent career as a salesman.
On April 14, my beautiful daughter was born at 7.15 am. We named her Raisa. The biggest worry had been finances. I had heard stories of the maternity bill going beyond the limit covered by the insurer.
A friend had to pay Ksh150,000 in cash after a complicated delivery went beyond their maternity cover. In the nine months, Irene was pregnant, I had set aside an emergency fund to which I contributed 30% of my salary. This translated to about Ksh16,000 per month.
Luckily for us, my wife had a smooth delivery and the medical cover was able to cater for the whole bill. By this time, I had about Ksh144,000 in a current account I had opened for this special purpose. I figured I would continue keeping the money there for use on any extra expenses that baby Raisa would bring along.
Towards the end of June, my bosses informed me that they had decided to promote me to sales executive after observing my great performance. The new position came with a Ksh30,000 salary bump, pushing me to a six-figure salary. Technically, however, my take-home was not in six figures as the Ksh100,000 gross salary translated to about Ksh75,000 net pay.
Since the pregnancy had come at a time when I had no savings, I had to teach myself to develop a savings habit. I had learned of various budget rules, including the frugal minimalist rule that I initially used while we were waiting for the baby to be born.
After Raisa’s birth, the frugal minimalist rule became untenable since we needed a bigger house, the baby’s expenses were significant, and a house help became necessary to help Irene with household chores.
I found the 60/40 rule to be a great starting point, given the circumstances. The 60/40 budget rule is a simple guideline that suggests allocating 60% of your income towards basic expenses and wants while saving at least 40% of the net income. With the salary increase, 60% of my salary came to about Ksh45,000.
I spent a total of Ksh35,000 on basic expenses including rent for a 2 bedroom apartment, the house help’s salary, food, and transport to work. Another Ksh10,000 went to my wants including internet subscriptions, entertainment, and support for my parents and siblings.
I had distributed my savings into two categories, long-term and short-term savings. I joined a sacco where I saved Ksh15,000 every month - hoping to take a loan in the future and buy a plot on the outskirts of Nairobi.
The other Ksh15,000 went to my short-term savings which I was still keeping in a current account. In December 2022, I was googling to find the highest-paying savings accounts in Kenya, frustrated by the fact that I had accumulated a substantial amount of money that was not earning me any interest.
This is how I learned of the Absa Digital Savings Account. I had by then saved about Ksh235,000. However, I was left with about Ksh170,000 - having spent some of the money to renovate my upcountry Simba ahead of our December annual trip to the village. The Absa Digital Savings Account sounded like the perfect fix for my dormant savings.
It had a 7% annual interest rate (3.5% standard and 3.5% bonus for savers who maintained one withdrawal per quarter). There were no fines for emergency withdrawals, and it was fully digital from the opening process to managing transactions and tracking progress.
It took me less than 10 minutes to set up my account using my smartphone. I moved the Ksh150,000 from the current account where I had kept my savings since learning I was going to be a father. I initially had a goal of keeping it for six months, just in time for Raisa’s first birthday.
Besides, at the time, interest was paid out on a quarterly basis (every three months). I continued making the monthly savings contributions, this time, instead of manually depositing through mobile money, I put up a standing order to have Ksh15,000 automatically deposited to my Absa Digital Savings Account.
In March, I had about Ksh197,000 in the savings account - over Ksh2,000 was interest that my money had earned in just 3 months. It was a great experience to witness my money grow after months of keeping it in a current account where I was earning nothing.
I was looking forward to the next payout in June when I got a notification from Absa. The Absa Digital Savings Accounts was revamped in May with the following terms:
After the changes, I had over Ksh230,000 at the end of June, the lapse of what had been my initial lock period.
I had planned to take Irene and Raisa to Mombasa for her birthday. However, with the new investment, I figured we deserved an even better vacation on the Island of Zanzibar.
The difference in the cost was Ksh25,000 and In a year’s time, I calculated that my savings would have earned more than Ksh20,000 if everything remained constant. Not a bad way to thank yourself, I said to myself.
As I write this from the balcony of my Airbnb in Zanzibar, I am grateful for the fear that once consumed me. It propelled me to grow, step outside my comfort zone, and embrace the remarkable adventure of fatherhood.
I am equally happy that it led me to a journey of greater personal finance discipline and to the Absa Digital Savings Account that allows me to grow my savings hassle-free. Interested in the Absa Digital Savings Account, you can open one here: