Last week’s article focused on energy, this week we focus on water. There are so many things you can do here too. Some people will think some of these tips go too far or imply stinginess but you have to do what you’ve got to do. It’s better to be seen as tight rather than that friend everyone avoids mid-month because you beg too much!
If you have a big household with lots of people, consider getting a water meter.
I don’t have one, but many begin to use water more conscientiously when they know how much it is costing them.
Simple things you can do when you’re using water:
When you brush your teeth or shave, don’t let the water run continuously. Turn on the tap only when you need the water. This is such a pet peeve of mine. When someone is brushing their teeth, I expect them to turn the water off between mouth rinses. I cannot stand seeing running water! It’s a waste of money and a scarce environmental resource. I once had a house mate who just let the water run from the start to the end of brushing her teeth and I had to give her a little lecture about it. I was the one paying the water bill!
Don’t stand in the shower for ages. Turn the water on to wet yourself. Then turn it off as you soap up; then back on to rinse. Job done. There is no need to soap yourself up twice.
Don’t fill the bathtub to the brim every time. A little water is enough.
If you have two kitchen sinks, don’t let the water run whilst you rinse — wash dishes in one sink, rinse in the other.
Water your garden in the evening when it’s cooler so the water doesn’t simply evaporate into the air. Speak to your garden boy about doing this. He doesn’t care how much you spend on water.
Consider using a watering can to water the garden rather than a hose. You’ll lose less water.
My husband and I got a gadget that you put onto the showerhead to reduce the rate at which water comes out. We couldn’t even feel that there was less water coming out of the showerhead.
When you need to replace your toilet, get a water-efficient model.
Get indoor and outdoor leaks checked promptly; take a walk around your house now. Any leaks?
I personally wouldn’t do this, but I know people who fill up the tub once and everyone bathes in the same water. Eww! If it’s just kids that’s okay, I suppose. In this family the mother bathed first then everyone else.
I also don’t do this, but some people only flush the toilet after someone has done a “number 2.”
To reduce the washing up, don’t keep using different glasses for your drinks during the day. I am so guilty of this — my husband tells me off about it all the time.
Don’t use running water to defrost food. I usually take dinner meat out in the morning so it defrosts during the day. Alternatively, if it’s a very hot day, I move meat out of the freezer and into the fridge so it defrosts more slowly.
I hope you learnt a trick or two here and that you can add even more tips! The more you save on water, the more you have for fun stuff.
“Today’s wastage is tomorrow’s shortage.” Anon.
Every bill has been rising in price sharply: water, electricity, you name it. If you want to reach the month in surplus cutting back on energy and water costs may be the way to go. The below tips will help ensure you don’t have to borrow money from friends before the month is over.
Don’t leave your gadgets on standby.
People that don’t switch their TVs off properly waste a lot of energy. This also applies to all other gadgets that are left on or on standby when not in use: games consoles, microwaves, radios, DVDs and computers.
When my TV is not on, it is actually “off,” not on standby. This means that to switch it on, you have to actually get up; you can’t just use the on button on the remote control. Too much like hard work for the lazy but great for your waistline!
When you bring in the “no standby” rule, you’ll have to enforce it very rigorously to begin with. Leaving items on standby is a hard habit to kick. I make sure guests follow this rule too!
The only item that doesn’t go on standby is our satellite box. It takes ages to come back on, so we don’t think it’s worth it.
Know the gadgets that consume a lot of energy
At the top of this list you’ll find power showers, vacuum cleaners and kettles and for the fortunate few, washing machines and tumble dryers.
We stopped using our power shower the moment we saw how much energy it was chewing up! The power shower alone was costing about Mwk17,000 per month or Mwk200,000 a year to run.
Fortunately, we had two showers in the house and we could enact this immediately. The savings were huge. We allowed guests to use the power shower if they wanted, but we didn’t use it ourselves and ultimately uninstalled it.
Other energy saving tips:
Each light bulb in your house uses very little energy, but cumulatively, bulbs can account for up to 20% of energy used. Get into the habit of switching lights off when the room is not in use. Get your kids into switching lights off at a young age. You can make it into a little game.
After dinner, play “turn the lights off”; the kid who switches the most lights off wins.
I don’t recommend giving prizes for it, though — winning should be enough! You could also get low-energy light bulbs. They cost more but last much, much longer — up to 15 years!
Switch your water geyser on when it needs to be and off when it doesn’t. My parents got an automatic timer for the geyser to save on wastage and also because that means no one has to wake up early to switch it on.
When you’re cooking, use the lid on the pot to cook food faster. This way more energy goes into cooking the food and less escapes into the air.
Don’t defrost meat in the microwave. It’s a massive waste of energy. My tips on defrosting are in the money saving article on water (next week).
Turn off the heater and throw on an extra blanket. June is gone now but if you switched heaters on during our “winter” you were burning lots of cash. It’s cheaper for you to just use a blanket or to just put a sweater on. Come on, girls, it’s not that cold. Even in June I usually wear short sleeved tops.
These are just a few suggestions for you; there are many more things you can think of yourself. For every gadget you plug in, think about how you can save money.
“Keep the future bright; turn off the light.” Anon.
Last week we talked about cutting back on life’s luxuries. Today we carry on the same theme with a focus on children.
It’s so easy to spend on kids. Even when you’re dealing with your last few pennies if they ask for something you almost always want to say yes. The unfortunate consequence of this is that they become spoilt, unruly and difficult to control both at home and at school. For kids that love their food they become obese all too quickly.
Children are very perceptive; even before the age of three they can have you completely wrapped around their little finger without you realising it.
The beauty with children, however, is that it doesn’t cost much to keep them happy. There are so many things you can cut out without compromising at all on their well being.
This is a special bug bear for me. In the long run nappies are far more expensive than terry nappies (matewela) but so many people insist on using nappies even when they can ill-afford them. If you have a maid to wash the nappies that makes it even easier to commit to terry.
Nowadays you can even get terry nappies designed to look like a disposable nappy so that they are easy to put on. Don’t write off terry nappies before at least trying them.
Children grow extremely quickly. Don’t buy clothes if you don’t have to. Ask family and close friends to share their old clothes with you and when your child outgrows them, pass them on to someone else. Your child won’t mind and won’t even know the difference – well, not in the early days at least.
One day I was at a friend of a friend’s house and she spent all day on the phone bugging her baby daddy to come and drop some money off for formula! I don’t know if this was a strategy for just hustling him but in the end he did drop off the money and she went off to get the formula when she was perfectly capable of breastfeeding.
Breast is best. It’s what God designed so it baffles me when people choose, instead, to spend lots of money on dried cow’s milk for their offspring.
Another big luxury. Phala is, in fact, more healthy and several times cheaper. For the fortunate few, their children reject Cerelac and prefer likuni phala or even just phala made from mgaiwa from the market.
If you can’t really afford Cerelac don’t even start buying it. Get your child used to the cheaper, healthier stuff.
Purity Baby Food
I’ve never seen anything more ghastly in my life. I don’t know how the marketers convinced us that foods that have been packed into glass bottles and sat on a shelf for weeks or even months are a premium product compared to their fresh alternatives but they have. It is far healthier to buy fresh vegetables and fruits from the market, boil them up and mash them for your kids. It’s also a lot cheaper.
This is one area where you can save lots of money immediately. Purity and other pre-packaged foods are inferior goods compared to fresh food. The only plus in my opinion is the convenience. If you plan in advance, you should be able to feed healthier, fresh food to your precious babies.
“I highly recommend getting your career established first and then having children.” Arizona Muse
Last week we talked about shopping around to save money on the things that you buy. I suggested three things – buying in bulk abroad, getting products where they are cheapest instead of just going to your favourite shop and taking advantage of discount days at Game and other stores.
This week we’re going to think about things you can live without completely. You get so used to buying what you buy that you never actually stop to think whether it’s that necessary. To help you think through your own shopping list I’ll go through some things me and my friends have cut back on:
You could live in a cheaper area and save thousands immediately. Of course, many of us are unwilling to compromise here so we have to look at the small stuff.
For what you get, it’s not cheap at all. I was having a chat with one of my best friends about cutting back and she said, “Can you believe it, we’ve even had to stop buying juice!”
I was like, “You were still buying juice? I stopped buying juice ages ago and I live in England where it’s much cheaper!” It is cheaper but I still find it to be poor value for money and completely unnecessary for the weight conscious. Juice packs in a lot more calories than one might suspect.
I spend A LOT of money on eating out every month. I find it very hard to cut back because I think of it as a “treat” after a week of hard work. However, right now my husband and I have just spent a small fortune extending our house to create a new room and shower room so we decided to stop eating out completely for a couple of months.
To stick to our resolve we’ve added treat foods to our shopping list to encourage us to eat at home. For example, buying a frozen pizza that you just stick in the oven when you feel lazy is a lot cheaper than going out for pizza. We wouldn’t normally buy this type of food because it’s not healthy but it does the job of keeping us at home when we want to eat out.
News flash: you don’t have to eat meat every day! Some people in town would think this is unthinkable and perhaps an utterly ridiculous suggestion but it’s true. Husbands will especially be against such a suggestion, however, desperate times call for desperate measures.
You can also cut back by eating less meat. For instance, unless it’s a very small chicken I only ever eat one chicken part, I find two to be excessive. If everyone in your home has two pieces your chicken will immediately last twice as long by enforcing the one-piece rule. The same goes for sausages and other meats. I normally cook minced meat with beans to bulk it up. Less meat means a heavier wallet and a more attractive waist line!
You could go for offal as well. We have started to eat liver and tongue. This has the same taste as meat, is cheaper, and also the best source of iron out there.
This is one thing I would never buy in shoprite or game. It’s usually too pricey unless it’s on offer. The small Indian shops, e.g. Rajani’s in Blantyre can usually give you a better price.
You don’t really need it. Soap is a lot cheaper and it still does the job. Personally, I still use body wash but I generally buy what is cheapest on the shelf. I don’t ever stick to one brand when it comes to body wash.
Next week, we’ll have a long chat about cutting back on that most expensive asset, children!
“Cut back on your rent or cut back on what you spend on food but never worry about investing money in a good book.” Robin S. Sharma
There are only two ways about it: if you want to have more money in your pocket you need to:
Saving money is the most readily available option for most people: even today you can save yourself money but to make more money you likely need more time.
Yesterday I had plans for going into town to buy a few things that I thought I desperately needed but I was also very tired so in the end weariness won and I stayed at home all day and spent no money at all.
Of course, we all have to spend some money to keep our homes running but by going to the right places to do your shopping you can save several thousand kwacha monthly.
Once a month one of my friends goes to three shops to check the prices of the things she needs to buy and she buys every item where it’s cheapest. She goes to Game, Shoprite and Chipiku, however, I recommend you also try the market because fresh fruit and vegetables are much cheaper there.
It seems like a lot of work for a monthly exercise but at the rate that prices are rising it’s so necessary. For most of us salaries are staying stable but prices continue to rise almost daily which means we’re getting poorer and poorer by the day. This shopping-around-routine is much easier than it sounds; you just need to get into the habit.
Write a list of everything that you need.
Plan your shopping-around day, let’s say you choose the third Saturday of every month. First thing in the morning go to the market and buy all your fruit and vegetables, potatoes and legumes (peas, beans, nandolo).
The butchers in the market are also more willing to give you a competitive price for good cuts of meat and fresh fish. Many butchers have a mincing machine so you can save money and control the quality of meat that goes into your minced meat by having it minced in front of you.
After you’re done with the market, go to Game and Shoprite. Note the price of the remaining items that you need. For the record, note down how much you saved by buying your fruits and vegetables at the market.
After Game and Shoprite make for Chipiku stores or Metro. Most things will be cheaper here so it’s best to leave these store last as you’ll buy your items knowing what they cost at Game and Shoprite.
Make The Most of Discount Day
Once a week Game have great product discounts. If you find something that you regularly buy on offer buy it in bulk. Around Christmas time Handy Andy was cut so low that several of my friends stocked up for the whole of 2013!
Remember though, when you see the word “sale” in shops, what that really means is “spend” because they are trying to lure you in to buy things on sale which you may never have intended to purchase to boost their bottom line. Once there it is difficult to resist many other “bargains” and before you know it your budget is blown. So unless you were waiting for that specific product to come on sale (and you knew the pre-sale price) don’t spend just because of the word “sale”.
Make The Most of Business trips
Toiletries are atrociously expensive in Malawi. If you have the opportunity to travel then buy them abroad. You will find face washes, body washes, cleansers and toners for up to one-tenth of the price that they are sold for in Malawi.
With a little planning and foresight you can and you will save thousands of kwacha. At times it takes a lot of patience but it’s the price you have to pay to make ends meet.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
For 2 years until early 2014 I wrote a weekly personal finance and business column for Malawi's leading media house, The Times Group. The target is middle-class, working African women.
This is a reproduction of the articles that appeared in the weekend edition of Malawi News.