As much as you might think you manage your money badly there is one group of people that manage it even worse: household helpers!
As far as they are concerned, you have an unlimited cash supply. They probably think you have a special tap in your bedroom that you just turn on and money comes splashing out. I am willing to bet that you spend at least 1.5 to 2 times what you should due to workers wasting and mismanaging your resources. If you have kids this will be even more.
I don't know how often my mother's cook has been told that she cooks too much but the feedback goes into one ear and out the other. There's a simple solution to this problem, weigh food out before cooking it.
Weighing food is not a sign of stinginess. I cook most of my own meals. To ensure I'm not over-eating, I weigh everything. If I'm cooking grains e.g. rice, pasta, quinoa etc, I weigh out 100g for my husband and 50g for myself; for legumes e.g. beans 40-50g each is enough.
Consider weighing out what needs to be cooked in this way. It's a sure fire way to eliminate wastage. If you receive unexpected guests you can always cook a little more.
Persistent Overuse of Everything
It's easy to observe say too much rice being cooked, but you might be surprised to find unnecessary overuse of everything else.
In producing sauces, for instance, I noticed that my mother uses fewer onions and tomatoes than the worker does. She can make a great sauce with just one tomato but the cook uses two to three at a time.
Just the other day I found her pouring oil into rice that had already been cooked and I reprimanded her for it. She claimed adding oil adds flavour to already cooked rice. What? This is completely not true.
Two weeks ago I bought 1.5 kg of washing powder. On the same day my mother bought 1 kg and my cousin 500g. That would last me a month to six weeks but within just a couple of weeks it's been completely finished. The solution here is to ask what needs to be washed, weigh out the amount of washing powder you think is appropriate and keep the box under lock and key in your pantry.
It's annoying to have to regulate everything so closely because your domestic support unit is so wasteful. However, if you want to build a decent wealth base you have to. Take care of the tambalas and the kwachas will take care of themselves.
I asked my friends how they think their workers waste money and was surprised by the strength of their responses. They all mentioned the above issues and some even added that their workers waste water and electricity by leaving lights and plugs on all the time.
Ultimately with our hectic lives we can't do everything ourselves and that's why we hire cooks, cleaners and gardeners. Whilst these people boost efficiency, they are also a huge financial liability and a major source of cash leakage. Rein them in. Train your workers properly, tell them what you expect and monitor how well they are taking care of your hard-earned resources.
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.