I've lately been pitifully broke. January has humbled me, for all of her seemingly 1000 days. I've been just fine. I have reason to believe that overall, I'm a better person when I'm broke.
As February comes, I emerge with valuable lessons that could prove useful for a lifetime.
One major lesson is that my usual lifestyle over the 'soft months' is definitely above my means. It does not suit me. My January lifestyle has had me save a lot of money I did not have. If I keep with this January version of me, I'll go places. Literally and figuratively.
I'm embracing the January lifestyle. I'll adopt it. Let's see....
This January, I've walked more. I've walked to and from work. It's only on a few occasions that I spent money on bus fare. Then, I'd spend the entire day regretting hitting the snooze button, for it meant skipping my lunch.
I have walked home every evening, listening to music and urban gossip on evening radio. I've realised that I do not need transport money.
Oh, I feel lighter, and healthier. I have walked with random people with interesting opinions on trending national topics and made a few friends. I'll rack up a few more miles this year. I'll invest in a good pair of walking sports shoes.
Turns out that I do not need expensive food every day. My expense on food is not on liver, or steak - no, it's the snacking habit. Once I check out of the office building, my first stop is the sausage, eggs or roast-maize stand on the pavement. Like clockwork.
A beef samosa is not expensive, except, the figure adds up over the month. Sometimes, I buy three or four - to treat a colleague or ostensibly 'pay a debt' from the previous day.
This January, I have not had any snacks. I feel just fine. I'll have to delete that guy's number. I will not be taking any Smokie-pasua debts again.
Oh, green vegetable stews with rice or Ugali is just fine - with the occasional beef or chicken. Occasional.
This January has evoked fond memories of my first mobile phone, just after high school. The phone was a gift from the school committee for my KCSE grade. Airtime and data was an expensive affair - I rarely called anyone. I would only receive calls.
Presently, while call and data tariffs have been revised downwards - I've not made a lot of calls in January. I've majorly made online calls via WhatsApp on the office Wifi.
I did not have money to spend on airtime. Yet, I did reach and was reachable by crucial contacts like parents and colleagues. No more budget on that.
I remember how depressed I'd be if I missed the game with the boys. My gang all had their signature team jerseys, I love(d) Arsenal. Well, the Derby at the club is overrated. Arsenal wins, Manchester United loses just as well if we all watch the games from home! With a zero budget!
Suddenly, it is not cool to lose my voice arguing with the boys above the din in the club about some EPL team. This January, I've saved a lot of money I didn't have - by not buying rounds of keg beer with my gang.
Oh, ain't it nice to wake up without a head-splitting headache? Last few weekends, I've immensely enjoyed waking up to an invigorating cup of black tea.
I've lived in a bedsitter for two years. My brother has visited me once, made an off-remark that my cave is 'too cluttered' with unnecessary hawker stuff. Well, he was right. Hawkers with that smooth sales pitch have had me buying a lot of unnecessary stuff.
Why, for instance - did I buy a solar-powered lamp? I've not once used it in six months. A fancy set of spanners and screwdrivers. A desk lampshade, but I didn't have or need a desk. Did I need five odd-coloured cushions for my one sofa?
This January, I've not bumped into a hawker at any club. Hawkers always swing an Arsenal keyholder under your nose, when the team is winning!
I've never been more careful on the pavement, absolutely no eye contact with anyone with a smooth tongue selling a torch!
Every Saturday, the laundry lady would set me back Ksh500. I was popular with Mama Fua - for I tip well, and often throw in a free lunch. I've realised my office clothes rarely need much work to get clean - plus, did she carry off my detergents? A single 1kg packet and a bar of soap has lasted me a whole month!
This January, I bought fresh milk at half-price and cheaper vegetables from the farm next door. Each evening on the way from work, I pass by the farm.
That sure beats supermarket prices. I have fetched water from the same farm when taps ran dry - previously, I'd pay Ksh20 per every 20ltr jerry can. Poor thievery!
What if I lived the rest of the year like it's January?
It sure would make a lot of financial sense. All I need is a little self-discipline, and I would make a lot of savings. If only I can weather off the peer pressure at the office - to watch this game, or check out some new pub - I will be fine.
After all, this entire January office colleagues have just been that - colleagues. Money has always been the foundation of our friendship!
February marks the beginning of my savings challenge based on a January mindset that's gifts me eleven months on the savings journey.
This year, I deserve a self-treat. A sort of vacation towards the end of the year. I'm creating a vacation account - exclusively to save for a 10-day travel vacation.
A new separate account at the Sacco credited at source.
I've always wanted to learn coding. It's time. Basic packages are free online, and a manageable fee to advance.
All the free evenings I've created by missing the boys' sessions at the local - I'll dig into this.
The idea is learn the skill, and monetize it later in the year - build a personal website, and cash the clamour from friends and colleagues.
What if, I joined the sidewalk business community? I've spent a considerable portion of my income shopping on the sidewalks.
I have a valuable network of friends and colleagues I can supply with low-priced but good-quality sneakers and hoodies at a profitable price…..
What lessons from your January lifestyle could shape your choices in the rest of the year?