How we survive rough financial times
12 months ago, 12 Jan 21:30
It’s ‘Njaanuary’, the month when money is as tight as the days are long. How do cash-strapped Kenyans get by? Joan Thatiah explores. “I nearly lost my job after pawning my phone” - Rebecca Wawira, 29, media professional Rebecca’s first job as a marketing executive at a motor vehicle garage paid her a measly Sh8,000. Often, it was paid in bits, meaning that she was broke before mid-month every month. “My father had bought me a good phone so I couldn’t sell it. So one month when I was particularly strapped for cash, I sought a pawn shop in down town Nairobi and traded it in for some cash.” After seeing how easy it was to get money, the pawn shops became her go-to places when she was broke. They would give her anything from Sh2,000 to Sh7,000 for her phone at an interest of 30 per cent, which she admits was high. She had to pay back the money in seven days. “The rate was high but I always got the money instantly. I would leave the house with Sh100 but as long as I had my phone with me, I was sure I would have money for lunch and fare back home,” she says. And then, on one such day when she had pawned her phone, her boss couldn’t reach her for an important work assignment and he was upset. “He hated it when he couldn’t reach his employees on the phone. He demanded to know where my phone and I had to come clean. He had to give me money to get my phone back. It was really embarrassing.” “My old clothes help me out of tight money spots” - Leah Oloo, 28, insurance saleswoman Shopping for second hand clothes and shoes is Leah’s guilty pleasure. She finds it therapeutic. She even spends money she shouldn’t on clothes and shoes on the streets. When she is broke, she cleans out her closet. “I love shopping – not that I have a lot to spend on clothes and shoes. Sometimes when I buy something I know I shouldn’t, I tell myself that I could always sell it after wearing it.” Leah stumbled into this re-selling habit. It was one of those months when there is so much of the month left but not nearly enough money to spend. She had two polythene bags full of clothes in her house that she had bought but worn only once or twice. “I have a friend who has a second hand clothes stall where I live so sometimes, when I am too broke or when I have too many clothes I am not wearing, I hang them in his shop and we split the proceeds,” she says. Other time she takes photos of the clothes and sells them online. “I used to hide from people I owed money” - Valentine Mwendia, 30, artist Two years ago, Valentine was living through her roughest patch yet. “I had just landed ...
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