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.
Buying a plot of land – whether for development or speculation purposes – is one of the most common investment goals in Kenya.
If you ask 10 Kenyans about their investment goals, at least 6 will mention owning land. This is according to a 2018 survey by Strathmore University that found 62.8% of Kenyans preferred investing in land and real estate.
One of the main reasons behind Kenyans’ appetite for land investments is the attractive appreciation rates. How many times have you heard about someone buying a plot for as little as Ksh50,000, only to sell it for millions within 10-15 years?
The high appreciation rate makes land a great way to grow your capital without doing much, and the earlier you get into it, the more your potential returns. Kenyans have even coined a phrase that sums this up – don’t wait to buy land; buy and wait.
Even if you are buying a plot for development rather than speculation, buying early makes sense. Waiting means you’ll pay more for the same plot, significantly hiking your total development costs. Therefore, it’s advisable to start thinking about buying land as soon as you start earning – even if you’re in your twenties.
While the attractive land appreciation rate has helped many Kenyans grow their wealth quickly, it also means that land in Kenya’s urban areas doesn’t come cheap. For example, a decent 50*100 plot in areas like Ruiru, Kikuyu, Ruai, Kiserian, Ngong, or Juja will set you back about Ksh1 million on average.
If you’re just starting your career, accumulating Ksh1 million isn’t that easy. It might take a few years, even for someone earning Ksh100,000. However, it’s doable if you are committed to the goal.
Below, we’ll explore how someone with a Ksh100,000 gross salary can save enough to buy a Ksh1 million plot in just 2 years, using a method we are going to refer to as the Frugal Minimalist Rule. For purposes of these calculations, we will work with the net salary (minus PAYE, NHIF and NSSF deductions), which comes to about Ksh75,400.
The Frugal Minimalist Rule is a simple rule that can be described in two words – save half. In other words, this rule requires that you save at least 50% of your monthly net income.
It is drawn from the frugal minimalist lifestyle which is all about embracing a “less is more” mentality. Frugal minimalists aim to spend less to save more without sacrificing essentials. They are intentional about their expenditure, where quality is always prioritised over quantity.
This might sound a bit drastic, but it may be one of the most practical ways to save Ksh1 million within 2 years with a Ksh100,000 gross salary.
Let me show you why.
For someone earning Ksh100,000 gross, 50% of your net income comes to Ksh37,700 (Ksh75,400/2).
Now, I must admit that living on half of your net income isn’t going to be easy, and you might be wondering if it’s really worth it. However, the aim of the Frugal Minimalist Rule isn’t to deprive you of the good things in life.
Instead, it banks on the concept of delayed gratification – you forego unnecessary luxuries for just 2 years, but in the end, you achieve your goal of becoming a landowner in Nairobi. Once you achieve your goal, you can adjust the rule and gradually upgrade your lifestyle.
Let’s look at how you can allocate your money to survive in Nairobi while saving 50% of your net income.
As noted earlier, you need to save half your net income to hit the Ksh1 million target to buy your plot. To boost your chances of hitting your goal on time, we recommend setting aside your savings before doing anything else. To quote Warren Buffet, “Do not save what is left after spending, but spend what is left after saving.”
Rent is the biggest expense for most people. It, therefore, makes sense that by minimising your rent, you free up a considerable chunk of your paycheck that can go to savings or other expenses. Under this rule, the maximum amount you should spend on rent is Ksh10,000.
Luckily, this shouldn’t be difficult for a young person just starting their adult life. You can easily get a nice bedsitter or one-bedroom apartment for around Ksh10,000 in places like Zimmerman, Umoja, Donholm, Imara Daima, Kahawa West, Kinoo, Uthiru, Mwiki, and so on.
Public transport to most estates around Nairobi costs around Ksh100 to or from the CBD at peak hours. To get to work and back home every day, you need just Ksh200, which translates to Ksh4,400 in a month with 22 working days. The extra Ksh600 allows you to cover unexpected fare hikes.
To further minimise your transport costs, consider living along the same route as your workplace. For instance, if you work in Westlands, rent a house along Waiyaki Way. Similarly, if you work in Upperhill, rent somewhere along Ngong Road. This way, you don’t need to use two or more matatus to get to work.
If you live alone, you can easily get by with Ksh12,000 for food, groceries, toiletries, and other home supplies. One way to achieve this is to spend Ksh7,000 on groceries and monthly shopping and Ksh5,000 on daily food (Ksh200 per day).
Here are some extra tips you can use to minimise your monthly food and shopping costs:
You can allocate the remaining Ksh10,000 for utility bills (such as electricity, water, airtime, etc.) and other non-recurring expenses like clothes, a visit to the nail parlour, a date, the occasional sherehe, and so on.
Following the Frugal Minimalist Rule can be challenging, and to be honest, it might not be for everyone. To successfully save Ksh1 million in two years using the Frugal Minimalist Rule, here are some basic requirements you need to meet:
The Frugal Minimalist Rule requires one to switch into an “aggressive mode” of saving. Because of this, it works best for people with minimal responsibilities. Therefore, this method is most recommended for people in their early careers (typically people who have only worked for about 1-3 years) - although the principles of frugal minimalism can still be applied by those with more responsibilities to come up with a tailored saving plan.
For someone in this life stage, living on less is a lot easier, which is necessary if you want to save 50% of your salary. For example, you can easily live in a bedsitter, survive on just Ksh200 per day for food, and you don’t need much monthly shopping. This won’t be as easy for someone with a family or other such responsibilities.
For most people, regularly saving any portion of their salary is already challenging. Consistently saving over 50% of your salary every month is an even bigger challenge. It requires a high level of financial discipline, careful planning, and making conscious choices about your spending habits.
Imagine your friends calling you out for a random sherehe on a Friday night. Do you have the discipline to say no because you are saving towards buying a plot? Do you have the discipline to avoid upgrading your TV or music system when your salary hits your account?
The best way to ensure financial discipline is to automate your savings. Set up automatic transfers to your savings account on a specific date each month (as soon as you get your salary). This way, you don’t have to worry about forgetting to save or spending the money before saving.
You’ll need to adopt a frugal mindset and embrace a lifestyle that aligns with your financial goals. Differentiate between needs and wants, and prioritise saving over non-essential expenses.
Look for cost-effective alternatives and avoid unnecessary luxury or impulse purchases. Instead, focus on living below your means and finding contentment that doesn’t rely on spending. Remember, you’re only doing this for a short period.
If you were to save Ksh37,700 every month, for two years, you would have Ksh904,800 in deposits (assuming you were to preserve them in cash or in a current account). On the other hand, if you were to keep in the right savings account, your savings would earn interest which would fasten the process of hitting the Ksh1 million goal.
Another reason you should use a savings account over a current account is that it allows you to clearly separate your savings from your day-to-day expenses. This prevents unnecessary spending and ensures that the money you allocate for saving remains untouched until you reach your target.
With the Absa Digital Savings Account, let’s look at how the journey to the Ksh1 million plot would be like.
The Absa Digital Savings Account offers a 9% interest rate per annum, which accrues daily and compounds monthly. So, with Ksh37,700 monthly savings, you would have deposited a total of Ksh904,800. However, the total amount in your account would be Ksh1,032,410 - courtesy of the interest earned and the compounding effect.
In other words, you’d have Ksh127,800 more than a person who saved the same amount for 24 months, but kept it in a current account.
The extra cash you earn with the Absa Digital Savings Account would be enough to cover expenses like land transfer costs, without doing any extra work for it.
Since it’s a digital account, the Absa Digital Savings Account is very convenient. You don’t need to visit a physical Absa branch to open the account. You can do it yourself on your phone or computer through this link. The account also lets you track your money through a mobile app, USSD, or the online banking portal.
The Absa Digital Savings Account doesn’t charge any maintenance, withdrawal, or statement fees, plus emergency withdrawals are allowed with no penalty. If you run into an emergency, you can withdraw some cash, sort out the emergency, and return the funds to your savings account later without losing interest.
To open an Absa Digital Savings Account, you’ll need to provide copies of your national ID, and a signature specimen (you can do all this on your phone).
Besides saving your salary, you can also afford a Ksh1 million plot within two years by taking a loan or negotiating for instalment payments. Note, however, that these two options will push up the total amount you’ll spend to acquire the plot.
For example, if you take a bank loan, you’ll have to pay it back with interest. Similarly, land sellers that allow you to pay in instalments add some additional cost to the initial price.
Depending on your needs, you may want to consider if saving diligently until you can afford to buy in cash is your best option.
Increasing your income streams too can get you to this target even faster. You may take a side gig, start a consultancy, an online shop or freelance during your free time and channel all the profits to your land purchase savings.
Still sticking to the Frugal Minimalist Rule, if you have multiple income sources, you can combine all the after-tax income and save 50%. If you can live on less than 50% of this combined income, the frugal minimalist lifestyle encourages saving more - at the very least, until you achieve your goal and then restrategise.
You don’t have to wait until you start earning big bucks to fulfill your dream of owning land. With a gross salary of Ksh100,000, you can own a Ksh1 million plot of land in just two years.
Admittedly, it will take some sacrifices, commitment, and discipline, but as you’ve seen, it’s totally doable.
One tool that can greatly help you in your journey toward owning your first plot is the Absa Digital Savings Account.
With a category-leading interest rate of 9% p.a., you can hit your savings goal even earlier. Plus, you can easily access your funds in case of an emergency without worrying about penalties or extended wait times.