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How I Saved Ksh500k In 15 Months While Raising My Son as a Single Mother
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How I Saved Ksh500k In 15 Months While Raising My Son as a Single Mother

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.

Every morning, as I awaken, my eyes are drawn to a poignant quote that reads, “Saving money isn’t about being able to buy bigger and better things. It’s about being prepared to take care of your family.” I stumbled upon this powerful statement while window shopping at Leather House, and its impact on me was immediate. 

Compelled by its wisdom, I purchased the framed quote, intending for it to serve as a constant reminder of the importance of saving money. It now graces the walls of my bedroom, the last image I see before I sleep and the first thing that greets me when I wake up. 

The essence of financial stability, crystallized in those simple yet profound words, resonates with unyielding truth. It underscores the importance of saving, not merely for personal indulgence, but for the enduring well-being of our families. 

Whether it’s just you and your partner, a family with children, or you are walking down the path of single parenthood, like myself, embracing the habit of saving ensures a steadfast foundation of financial stability. It also provides you with the confidence to achieve both short-term and long-term financial goals. 

Depleted Savings

This year, the significance of this quote has resonated with me more than ever. As a single parent, financial stability has always been a pressing concern. Yet, the effects of the global pandemic served as a stern teacher, reminding me that no job or savings are immune to uncertainty. 

As an accountant in the hotel and tourism industry, I witnessed most of my colleagues lose their jobs. Even though I managed to retain my position, I faced the disheartening reality of working for months without pay. My savings, which were once a source of comfort, were now depleted, leaving me vulnerable and sinking into debt. 

During those trying times, I couldn’t help but question my own success. How can one truly flourish without the foundation of financial security?

It was during those dark hours of reflection that I made a resolute decision. I vowed to establish a solid emergency fund that would shield me from the ravages of unforeseen circumstances. 

Starting May 2022, as the world slowly emerged from the clutches of the pandemic, and with a newfound sense of stability in my employment, I embarked on my ambitious quest- to create an emergency fund with a goal of saving Ksh300,000 by December 2022 ( 8 months). 

Building an Emergency Fund 

To achieve this, I had to carefully manage my finances, considering both my regular job as an accountant and my side hustle of importing and selling handbags, jewelries and clutches from China to colleagues and friends.

My take-home pay from my accountant job amounts to Ksh72,000. While I haven’t fully committed to my side hustle, my profits can range from Ksh8,000 to Ksh15,000. 

When I entered the job industry, my mentor Cate introduced me to the 60/40 budgeting rule (or the 60-10-10-10 rule budget). It is a straightforward approach that I have faithfully adhered to up to this day. 

How the 60/40 budgeting rule works 

I allocate 60% of my salary towards basic needs, covering expenses such as bills, groceries, rent, and transportation. The remaining 40% is divided: 10% goes into retirement savings, another 10% into long-term savings, 10% into short-term savings (usually for commitments within a year), and the final 10% for discretionary spending on wants. 

In this case 60% of my salary went to basic needs, and the remaining 40% straight to the emergency fund which amounted to Ksh28,800.

I will admit, it may not be easy for everyone to limit their spending to only 60% of their salary, but from my experience, this budgeting rule is undoubtedly suitable for those looking to save money or invest. 

Getting Started

  • Setting up an Emergency Fund Account: The first step in my savings journey was setting up an account dedicated solely to my emergency fund. I opened a fixed deposit with the bank that was processing my salary account at the time and placed a standing order. 
  • Automating savings: With the standing order I was sure money was going to be deposited in my savings account every end month. I also automated all my side hustle profits to flow directly into the emergency fund account. 
  • Consistency is the real sauce: The key to achieving my goal lay in consistency- a lesson I learned and upheld throughout my journey. From April 2022 to Aug 2022, I remained steadfast in my savings efforts.
  • Initial progress: At the beginning of September, I had diligently saved Ksh144,000 from my salary’s standing order. I had also manually deposited an additional Ksh56,000 from my side hustle, bringing my total savings to Ksh200,000. The interest, however, remained negligible although I was not very concerned since getting the emergency fund up was the priority. 

Family crisis 

However, in the month of September, a sudden family crisis disrupted my financial course. My younger sister’s distressing call informed me of my father’s grave illness, and I promptly traveled to our upcountry home in Nanyuki, leaving my son in the care of a trusted friend. 

My father’s condition was dire, and as the most financially stable member of the family, the responsibility fell on my shoulders. My father, unfortunately, has no health insurance cover, despite our continuous urging for him to consider it. 

Withdrawal and consequences

I went to my fixed deposit savings account and made an application to withdraw my money. I was surprised that the withdrawal came with a Ksh2,000 fine with the option of having to wait for 5 working days. 

I opted to pay the fine, leaving me with no interest. I spent Ksh40,000 to support my father’s medical expenses, and an extra Ksh10,000 within that month to assist with his dietary needs, transportation, and other necessities. The health emergency left me with about Ksh150,000, which I was now keeping in the current account after the fine ordeal. 

Resuming the Saving Journey

Even though my dad’s health improved, my journey towards my savings goal seemed derailed. I did not make any contributions in October. 

Fortunately, November and December brought a turning point, as I made a total of Ksh65,000 in profits from the side hustle. I also resumed saving 40% of my salary. 

The festive season was particularly kind to my business, with people eagerly purchasing traveling bags for their travels; and clutches, and handbags as thoughtful gifts for their loved ones. 

My collection of traveling bags and clutches were a popular choice at the time. Also, the fact that my business was virtual and didn’t incur rental fees worked to my advantage. 

During the Christmas season, I approached celebrations with a thoughtful budget in mind. I prioritized financial prudence and avoided the pitfalls of overspending and reckless splurges. 

Moreover, I fostered a sense of togetherness in terms of celebrations and financial contributions by making the festivities a family effort. Unlike previous years, in 2022 I didn’t bear the sole burden of sponsorship.

By the end of 2022, I had saved about Ksh272,000 - slightly below my goal of setting up a Ksh300,000 emergency fund. 

Leveraging a Digital Savings Account

Before the Christmas break, my employer had invited financial experts to enlighten us about the benefits of digital savings accounts, and I was intrigued by the convenience they offered. During the holiday, I delved into research on various digital savings accounts, and after careful consideration, I settled on the Absa Digital Savings Account which had just been launched.

  • Seamless finances, anywhere, anytime: What drew me to the Absa digital savings account is the ease with which I can manage my finances across a variety of devices. Whether I am on my smartphone, laptop, or even my son's tablet, I have instant access to my savings, making financial monitoring and decision-making a breeze. Additionally, it comes with the flexibility to fund my account directly from my mobile money.
  • Automation: One of the most valuable features of the Absa digital savings account is its automation capability. By setting up a standing order, I ensured that Ksh 28,800 would be automatically deposited from my salary account into my savings account.
  • Modest interest rate: In addition to the ease of use and automation, I carefully considered Absa's modest annual interest rate, which was 7% at the time (now increased to 9%).  This meant that my savings would grow more robustly. 
  • Flexibility in times of need: I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the Absa Digital Savings Account provided a much-needed safety net during emergencies. In times of crisis, customers can withdraw their savings without fines or waiting days, offering relief and easing the burden of unexpected challenges. I couldn't help but imagine how this feature could have supported me during my father's illness, assuring me that my financial foundation was well-protected.

Fostering Financial Literacy in My Son

With the arrival of the new year, I also realized that my journey towards financial security wasn't just about my own savings and investments; it was also about shaping a brighter future for my family. 

I firmly believe in teaching valuable lessons early, and with my son at the tender age of 10, I seized the opportunity to instill in him the importance of setting and tracking goals and saving money. 

At the age of 10, one may argue that my son may not grasp all the intricacies of money management, but I involved him in my savings journey nonetheless. 

I gifted him a savings jar and provided him with Ksh50 every Sunday, encouraging him to save diligently. 

His goal was simple but meaningful- to purchase a military car toy valued at Ksh1,500 from Naivas. Additionally, I taught him the importance of setting aside a portion of any gift money he received from relatives, friends, or his school pocket during special events. 

The joyous sight of my son’s contagious smile as he placed the money into his jar was simply priceless. He believed he was on the road to becoming “rich” and would soon have his cherished military car.

Including my son in my savings journey has been an absolute blessing. He serves as a constant reminder of the true reason behind my efforts- to secure a better future for him and to be a role model in wise money management. 

Check Out the Absa Digital Savings Account Interest Calculator Here

Finally Achieving my Saving Goal

In January, I kept the full Ksh272,000 I had saved to the Absa Digital Savings Account. I set up a standing order to have Ksh28,800 (my usual savings from my salary) automatically deducted from salary account on the 4th of every month and deposited to the Absa Digital Savings Account. 

At the end of March (first quarter), I had earned nearly Ksh5,000 in interest, with Ksh360,000 in the Absa Digital Savings Account. My side hustle, unfortunately, had been struggling after the December high season so I was making inconsistent and negligible profits which I also channeled to the savings account. 

The next payout was to be at the end of June. However, in May we got some great news as the Absa Digital Savings Account was revamped as follows:

  • Annual Interest rate was increased to 9% (the highest among commercials banks in Kenya as of today)
  • The interest would be paid out and compounded to your principal every month

By this time, I had accumulated close to Ksh400,000 in the account - having made some extra deposits as the side hustle made some great returns over the Easter season. I also spent Ksh540 to top up my son as he bought his military car which cost Ksh1,500. His total savings then amounted to Ksh960. The joy on his face as he proudly paid the cashier for the toy was truly heartwarming. 

July 31st will mark the end of 15 months since I started this savings journey. It will also be the second month when I will be earning interest under the revamped Absa Digital Savings account. After the monthly interest is paid out, I will have about Ksh500,000 in my account - about Ksh7,000 will be the interest earned in June and July only! 

As I sit in my living room and write, I feel a great sense of accomplishment. I am thinking that if I keep the money for another year and maintain my monthly standing order I will be able to buy a second-hand van that will help me distribute my stock around the country. 

As I approach my 28th birthday in September, my eyes are set on the next milestone. I’m determined that I must buy a plot in Kitengela and build a house by the time I turn 30. I know this is ambitious with only two years to go, so I’m going to need all the luck I can get. Wish me luck on this journey!

Interested in the Absa Digital Savings Account? you can open one here:

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Tony Mukere is the branded content lead at Money254. He is a trained journalist with a passion for impactful storytelling. Before joining, he worked as an editor at, and as a reporter at Connect with Mukere on Twitter.

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