What was your first house like? That very first living space that you moved into as a young adult full of optimism and an unquenchable thirst to conquer the world.
Mine was a tiny bedsitter located in the very heart of Ruaka. This was a while back and Two Rivers was just a patch of bush and trees with River Kibi meandering lazily across it.
It was during this period that quick-witted real estate marketers decided to refer to bedsitters as studio apartments.
This had a nicer ring to it. Despite being a boujee way to refer to a tiny living space, it still created a nice allure. A buzz that had me smiling giddily as I googled 'studio apartments in Ruaka'.
I had learned from a good friend that this particular neighborhood was ideal for anyone looking to kickstart their adulting journey.
There were countless options but I settled for a room that was located on the rooftop of an apartment.
Climbing up 6 floors every day just to get to my house was not ideal but I convinced myself that this would be good exercise.
The house itself opened up to a huge verandah that stretched across the entire complex on either side. This played a key role in my decision to pick that particular house, as it meant I had a balcony as big as a tennis court.
Yes, this was also where everyone came to hang their laundry, but in my head, the entire space was mine, it made my tiny bedsitter seem bigger.
Priced at Ksh9,000 a month and located just a stone's throw away from the highway, it was perfect for a guy who was starting out in life.
Water was free (for some unknown reason) and always flowing. I still had to budget for my electricity cost, but the only electrical appliance I had back then was an old Philips iron box. I also had an old HP laptop that was well past its 'sell-by date',
During the house-hunting stage, I had come across several cheaper options but there was always a deal-breaker in all the other options.
For example, there was a Ksh6,000 per month option, but it was located in the middle of what looked like the Amazon forest. It was also a couple of kilometers from the main road, a factor that raised security issues.
Another one (priced at Ksh7,500) was as close to Limuru as you can get without saying that you're living in Limuru.
Quick math showed that transport to and from work would break my shoestring budget.
This was my first experience with comparison pricing, something that has now become part and parcel of my life. I have since learned that there's always a chance to save a considerable amount of money if you are willing to be patient.
If you ask anyone who knows me what my tastes are, they'll probably tell you that I fall in the soft life category. I like the good stuff, I mean, who doesn't?
However, operating on a budget that was as tight as tight can get, coupled with my limited living space meant I needed to get creative when it came to furnishing.
This was how I first came across countless marketplaces on social media platforms such as Facebook where second-hand household items were selling at unbelievable prices.
It was how I secured a fancy metallic king-sized bed complete with a high-density super foam mattress at Ksh8,000.
An expat was preparing to move back home and I was lucky enough to land on his page the moment he posted his belongings.
I knew that the bed was going to take up at least 50% of my living space, but I also knew that my long-term goal would involve moving into a bigger house, and securing this bed meant I'd never have to buy another. It's still what I use to date.
I then got a small carpet in Gikomba plus a pretty schick throw pillow that gave the room character, as my girlfriend aptly put it at the time.
What you really need to know is that I didn't furnish my studio apartment in a day.
My budget meant I could only afford to make one major purchase per month, any adventures beyond that particular budget would literally mean skipping a meal somewhere during that particular month.
This was how I inadvertently learned to spread my expenses. Making one major purchase per month also meant I had ample time to shop around for the best price.
It was how I cultivated the discipline needed to live a frugal lifestyle with an eye on my long-term financial goals in mind.
This meant that by the time my monthly income grew, I was so used to living beneath my means that it was almost second nature.
After about 2 years, I was making enough to move into a one-bedroom apartment comfortably but opted not to.
I simply couldn't find a reason to justify the added expense. I wasn't married, I had no kids, plus I had an entire tennis court-sized rooftop as my balcony.
Yes, I do know that there are people out there who are ashamed of living in a bedsitter, but I just don't get it. I loved my cozy studio apartment to bits.
I have come across social media posts where bedsitter dwellers have tried explaining how fearful they are of being judged for living in a house where moving from the kitchen to the bathroom is done in two or three steps.
But I still don't get it.
The mere act of moving into your own place should be something that generates a lot of pride.
It is a major win.
Having a place where you get to call your own is akin to a little slice of heaven in my books. It means that you are well on your way toward becoming what you want to be.
Living in fear of judgment is also dangerous coz it means that you are more likely to spend beyond your means just to impress your 'judges' or friends if you like. This is as definite a recipe for financial disaster as you can get.
Plus over the years I have come to learn that the people you think are looking to judge you don't really care, and if they are really out there, then you shouldn't really care either.
As cliche as it may sound, they don't pay your rent now, do they?
The beauty of going through your financial journey while focusing on only impressing yourself is that you are guaranteed to live a happier life.
It also means that you are able to nurture and boost your level of self-awareness to the levels needed to realize your financial goals.
Did I make money mistakes during the bedsitter phase of my life? Yes. Several actually.
I once splurged on a Casio Edifice timepiece that had me eating ndengu and ugali ya kusiaga for an entire month.
However, the lessons picked from the fumbles meant I was less likely to repeat them. I accepted that mistakes are part and parcel of the journey.
Handling bills for the first time also came during this studio apartment phase. It wasn't fun, and it still isn't, but learning it earlier on means you get better at managing your monthly expenses.
For anyone currently going through the bedsitter phase, whether in your early 20s or 30s, I have only one thing to say to you, you are winning and you should celebrate it.
I have learned that small wins, if celebrated and acknowledged for what they are, lead to greater things.
I may no longer live in that penthouse studio apartment of mine, but the money lessons I picked from there have stuck with me to date.