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Money and Me: I Quit Smoking and Just Realised How Much Money I Was Spending
Money and Me

Money and Me: I Quit Smoking and Just Realised How Much Money I Was Spending

Last week I was shamba hunting in the depths of Ruai. Yes, I am one of those people who are still very sold to the kaploti, you can’t go wrong with a kaploti somewhere, anywhere gospel.

Tell me about a kaploti going for a ‘deal’ and I will be fueling to go. Yes, when you turn 30 you don’t just become a little more boring, you are also forced by the ticking clock to think seriously about your future. 

And what’s to a man’s name if not a big red-dotted title deed? You saw the CS nominees being vetted in Parliament the other day, all had some title deeds with their names on them! Haha, well, they called it real estate, sooo not really kaploti, but who’s counting? 

Or, as my very overzealous friend, who for some reason for the 11 years I have known him has always been too serious about making money, would say “utazikwa wapi, budaaaah?”  Actually, that was a boda boda guy who has more times than I can count squeezed a hundred or two in tips from me on my hitherto izzy tipsy days. 

Well, I’m not that serious to really worry about what happens when the lights eventually dim, but I am definitely serious enough to want a really good life - which in my wisdom, begins with owning a home. In the city. Or its environs. Or at least with fairly tolerable access time to the city. But definitely very, very, very far away from apartments. Preferably gated. This is what is on my mind right now.

Ruai, Title Deeds and the Illusion of “a Good Deal” 

Now, I hope you are with me on being very far away from apartments and generally any commercial development. 

If we cannot afford to buy into the existing leafy suburbs, we are definitely going to create our own much further away. And hope to God Ruai (or wherever) doesn’t urbanise as fast and Mister and Missus Moneybags start building dozens of bedsitters stacked on top of each other 100 feet high next to your fundraised maisonette that only came to life courtesy of a whole cocktail of lipa mdogo mdogo deals - I hear, like they have done to Kilimani. 

Now since the area I was interested in (or thought I was) isn’t exactly zoned for residential development or controlled development, or gated development as another overzealous fella would call it, you can’t be too sure what your neighbours will put up next to your Sacco loan-financed plot after a few years.

So, what can you do? The trick, as my 55-year-old family friend and serial plot investor, Juma, tells me, is to find a plot sandwiched between two already residentially-developed ones. Simple, right? 

We actually found a few that fit the bill, even one where the adjacent neighbours had already agreed to erect a common gate leading to their ‘court’. I could already imagine how my address would look once that startup trying to fix our messed up addressing system finally reaches Ruai. Or even simply telling the Uber (if chauffeur is too much) guy “drop me at Valleyview Court or some other serious sounding name of a “court”  - and not the one you will have to take your landlord to when they refuse to refund your deposit. 

Which would be the small claims court, by the way. Haha. 

The problem was - and of course what else would be the problem - Moneeeeeeeeeey! I know you came for the smoking, it’s coming, stay with me. 

The average cost of these nicely-located plots just about half a kilometre from the tarmac was just about Ksh5 million. And that, for your boy, even with all the Sacco loans, bank loans, title deeds, logbooks and well, kidneys, is just too much. And that’s how the thought of being dropped at that fancified court by an Uber Deluxe (or whatever they call their VIP fleet) quickly faded away. 

But our luck had not run out yet, or so it seemed. After a few conversations with some fairly well-dressed man well into his 50s and some affirmations from his fairly elegantly dressed female companion, it was clear we had been looking at the wrong place for our price point. 

There was an option of some similar-sized plots at a little over Ksh1 million, but the catch was they did not have ready title deeds. Our ‘saviours’ called them share certificates.

But ni legit. Hata cousin yangu amenunua tu juzi na ashaaanza kujenga,” our lady friend quipped helping me finally place that characteristic accent. Even in Swahili, it was unmistakable. 

We were very clear to touch untitled plotis, not even with a 40-foot pole. Juma has been around for quite a while and has seen some of his comrades fall into depression after being swindled of their life savings, some left to service loans that paid another man’s bottomless pocket etc. 

That out of the picture, we would drive around seeing plots going for up to and less than half the 5 million that had been quoted earlier. And as the prices came closer to being manageable, so did the standards fall in my head as the idea of “owning my own land” “a title deed in my name” “land in Nairobi” seemed very close to reality. 

I didn’t necessarily need to live close to the highway - this crossed my mind as the thought of how much money I would save on the purchase price took over.

That is until we had ditched the brokers and had a chance to review the findings and Juma had a very interesting take on the opportunity cost of buying about 7 kilometres away from the highway.

“How much extra fuel will you have spent in the lifetime you stay in this place? Even if it is a litre each way?” He asked. 

Wow, and I was like, “wait, what?” I would never, ever, ever have thought of such an expense - well, with the horrible consumption of my jalopy at 10Km/L, I could round this off to 2 litres, now going for Ksh400 (both rounded) which would be about Ksh120,000 if I drove 300 out of the 360 days in a year totalling at Ksh3.6 million if I live in that house for 30 years and the fuel prices remain constant!

Crazy, right? 

And that is without counting the uncertainties of whether my neighbours will end up building commercial properties, whether there will be any meaningful security arrangement if we fail to agree on our make-believe gated community and what if a Church buys the land next to me!

That’s a little dramatic, but you get the point. 

Now, on to the Smoking

This little math that Juma made me stumble on has made me realise the really big financial milestone I have deservedly achieved.

It is just about 200 days since I quit smoking - yes, I count each day, not week, not month. I bet any former smoker may be doing the same between bouts of, you guessed it, fresh air! 

One thing about smoking - or should we just say habit-forming substances as the science textbook would put it - is that well, it is habit-forming. 

In my case, cigarettes were like timestamps of my daily activities. I have one when I wake up, another when I start the car, another one when I am on my way to the office, another one after parking, another after catching up with the news before settling down to serious concentrations, several others to ‘boost concentration’ during working hours, one to accompany lunch, another on the way home, another after arriving home, a couple others and one to call it a day.

How many cigarettes are those? Damn, and that’s just a weekday. 

So let’s say I would consume give or take a pack of cigarettes. And FYI, I would rank as a moderate smoker with such an unimpressive record. 

A stick of cigarettes (the kind that I consumed) at the time of quitting went for Ksh15. I would always buy singles since a 50 bob here (they’d sometimes bundle) a 100 bob there would not seem as much money as compared to Ksh300 for a complete pack - and who’s checking their M-Pesa balances for a daily tally? Not me for sure. 

I had my first puff at about 17 - excluding experimentation with all kinds of inhalables earlier on - including, and this is true - maize silks (female flower heads). But I think I became a daily smoker at about 20 - give or take, one decade of daily smoking - the short-lived quitting bouts are negligible.

How Much Went up in Smoke? 

I could have said flames, but we all know cigarettes don’t have flames. It’s fire on one end, and as some very judgy people would say, a fool on the other. 

We can use the conservative figure of Ksh200 per cigarette pack consumed a day for 10 years to determine how much was consumed by cigarettes alone by a dude who was initially not even employed - all hail HELB - and then poorly remunerated for the larger part of this decade. 

So, 10 years is equal to 3,600 days and maybe some extras for the quarters? And 200 multiplied by 3,600 gives us a cool Ksh720,000 by the year 2022 when finally the contract with tobacco farmers - oh so diligent taxpayers - unceremoniously expired courtesy of a cold, veeeeery cold not-thanksgiving turkey. 

Do you have any idea what someone can do with Ksh720,000 in the year of the Lord 2022? Guys, you could even simply save it in a high-interest savings account that guarantees above-inflation returns and make at least 10% every 12 months or buy Sacco shares, government securities, unit trusts, trade stocks - remember your multimillionaire Cabinet Secretaries? Or start a side hustle and so much more.

Let me leave some links below to some of the routes intimated above;

  1. Where Do I Keep my savings? The 7 Main Places to Put Your Savings
  2. Is a Bank Savings Account Good Enough for You?
  3. Rising Inflation: Where Should You Keep, Invest Your Money?
  4. How to Build Wealth in Kenya Using Saccos
  5. SACCOs vs. MMFs: Which One Should I Choose?
  6. 7 Good Reasons to Join a Chama 
  7. Is Investing in Government Bonds a Good Idea? (Pros & Cons)
  8. How Do Unit Trust Investments Work in Kenya?
  9. Investing in Your 20s - A Beginners Guide
  10. The Scariest Ways to Invest When You Have High-risk Tolerance

But, what if I was not smoking for those 10 years and wanted to put this Ksh200 a day to use, grow it and then sit at the terrace of the cafe opposite the supreme court - the only court I have access to yet - in April 2022 and count my returns? 

Maybe I would have started with a Chama. Build up my savings discipline and then move to Sacco, buy some shares and after a while split this with a Money Market Fund, take a loan from the Sacco once I got employed from these savings, maybe buy some land to speculate - and guess where Ruaiiii! That place, a plot was going for about Ksh200k back in 2013!

Well, you get the picture. 

Read Also: 5 Ways Addiction Causes Financial Trouble - Money Psychology

How Much Have I saved? 

It’s about 200 days today and with a pack for the better part of this year going for Ksh350, I have - actually, saved what some rich kids would call 70 bob! Hahaha, money, moneeeeeeey! Yes, 70,000 Kenya shillings.  

Don’t ask me where that money is, because, you know what? I actually do value my privacy - so I am not taking any questions. Talk to my chauffeur, or you know, someone else. 

We could go on about where I can invest this money - maybe it could be my yearly contribution to my child’s education fund. My kids could literally be educated by cigarette money! 

Damn 30s, I can’t think of fun things to do with money anymore. 

But I guess, lady, gentleman, kid, yes you reading this, if I have not made the case for why you the little counts, I don’t know who else can.

Or is it that you should never use a broker with an oversize tie to find land - wait, do you even need a tie to sell land - in all that dust?

Or is it that Ruai is already out of reach and we are speeding past Kamulu to some place called Malaa? My goodness - the fuel, the fuel, the fuel.

But seriously, if you can stop a habit that takes your money - especially in little bits, do it.


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Eric Ndubi is the Managing Editor at Money254. He holds an MSc in Media and Communications from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Prior to leading Money254's editorial team, he worked as the Editor at, social media manager at Citizen TV and editorial manager at You can find him on twitter @Eric_Ndubi

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