Financial Management

The SELF Approach to Budgeting

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“But after all the torture those exams put me through, I surely deserve a few days at the coast mom!!”

“Brandon, as much as I would love to, I just don’t see where I could cough up that kind of money at this time of the year.”

And the once smiley-faced Brandon walks away utterly disappointed in Mum, probably even losing faith in his hard work.

Sounds like you can relate to it?

Many a Kenyan work hard at what they do – be it the 8-5 office job, owning your very own business or even running an empire industry.  But that is only part of the race. The real struggle begins when the money flows in. Do you save or do you go and blow it all out? Do you budget or can you spoil yourself? All that hard work for nothing once the month ends? Whatever the case, the bottom line is sustainable businesses that provide secure futures, a decent meal and a little extra comfort from the daily hustle.

After the rent is paid and the bills are covered, after school fees and grocery bills, after fueling the car and paying the house help – that bank account seems quite poor to me! And we haven’t even thought about Happy hours and Dinner dates yet!

Every single thing seems to be more expensive today than it was last month. The price of everything just keeps going up – except well, your salary! So then you ask – Just how do we manage this?

Families and couples in particular tend to shy away from this tabooed topic – yet it seems to be the source of many a dispute. So just what will sort us out here?


You do not want to be that mother who kills her child’s morale simply because of poor planning. You do not for crying out loud, want to be the broke fellow whose money never sees the face of midmonth.

Start by emulating a plan. Look at your income and work backwards.  Work out how much your monthly commitments are. Re-check what eats into your monthly coin. Can you car pool with your employee who lives down the lane? Save your fuel guzzler the effort (And yes, your effort just helped ease the traffic problem!).

Now turn and look for areas that give you some flexibility. Impulse random shopping is so yesterday! Plan, Plan, Plan! Write down shopping lists. And then pick a convenient, pocket-friendly store. Bulk shopping is definitely cheaper, and those discounts actually do make a difference.

With the little you do have left, divide this into 4.  Let’s call it the SELF approach.

S- Savings : Every individual needs to apportion a few thousand shillings for a brighter future. Savings might be a big word, but a simple Ksh.1000 a month, becomes Ksh.12,000 at the end of the year. By year 3, that is Ksh.36,000. It goes on and on, until a point where you can say – Hello Retirement!

E- Emergency : God forbid you ever need to use this area of your finance, but in money matters, Precaution is the name! Life can be quite unpredictable, and it hits you at your most vulnerable point. Plan for this, and in the event you do need to use these funds – you won’t be caught unaware. And no – those new Weinbrenners and Gucci handbag DO NOT qualify as an emergency!

L- Luxury: After that hard month at work, every now and again you do deserve to treat yourself. And what about your anniversary? Remind your wife just why you married her. As for the kids? Go on, cut them some slack after the long week full of assignments and brain drain. They will only love you more for it. Promise!

F-Fun : I see you looking into your account already. But this one is an absolute must. No excuses! Start with Ksh.3000 set aside monthly.  Year end balance = Ksh.36,000. Put this aside for family time. The year can get very heavy, and family time is a must. Look for off peak months to visit a pocket friendly destination. Look for picnic spots to spend lazy Sundays. Do it as a family. Brandon will be happier. His mum will be even happier.

Once you get into the routine of working backwards, you allow yourself to see where your spending is going wrong. Work smart, but save smarter.



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