Friday, December 05, 2014

Let's talk personal finance- Part 1

When i read my blog these days, I feel disconnected from it as much of my experiences then were those of a carefree young 20 year old something with a lot of insecurities. For this reason, i was unable to keep updating the blog but then my blog has to take some new turn that of my 25- now years. I have changed a lot, made a lot of mistakes, lost friendships, made new friends, loved and lost. I hope to catch up on lost time of not blogging on my life as i should have.

Something interesting happens once you leave school and start working; independence. Independence means freedom and freedom has responsibilities. When I was in school, my parents catered for all my expenses, monitored my friends, monitored my activities and were generally responsible for your living.

After school, those responsibilities shifted to me. I was very happy with the freedom but freedom comes at a cost; always. Be prepared.

Anyway, let's go to the topic of the day, finances

I got my first permanent job when i was about 25 years old. My starting salary was not enviable, but still decent for the kind of pay, i hear people getting these days.

I am now self employed and I would like to share a few tips for how i got to where I am and survived the first year of not being permanently employed. I am not rich, but again, i depend on myself for a living.

What i should have done/not done:

Joining A SACCO
I did not join a SACCO when i first started working. A SACCO works to pull resources together and gives you ability to borrow at least 3 times of your savings. While most SACCO members are joined together by something common, these days there are SACCOs that accept general membership. Members guarantee each other loans.

Joining a SACCO immediately one gets a job can have many advantages. If i was only contributing Kshs. 10,000 each year for the 7 years that i was working, I  would have been able to save at least Kshs. 840,000 and i would have been able to borrow Kshs. 2.52 Million (3 times of my savings). That amount is sans the interest that SACCOs typically give of between 5-12%..

The other advantage is that you cannot withdraw this money whimsically, the process of withdrawing your money may take even 3 months! The person who mentored me into joining a SACCO advised me to put part of my bonuses in the SACCO to make for lost time. I would refer you to this blog article if you are interested in learning more about SACCOs

Word of advice; If you are newly employed, join a SACCO.

Not taking advantage of business opportunities

A lot of business opportunities have come up during the time that i have been employed. The most important of them I think I would have benefited is the MPESA agency business. MPESA is about 6 years old now, i was working when the agencies were rolling out and Safaricom was looking for agencies. I should have done my research about the agency business, i could have accessed funds through my payslip and I didn't. Those, who did are now reaping great benefits as MPESA continues to rely on its agencies for deposits/withdrawal. I am sure, Safaricom will continue to us its agencies and distribution network for rolling out new products in the market.

Buying a car

I bought my first car in 2009 (2 years after employment) and it has been a great lesson for me. First, the car i bought was an 1800cc. The car would turnout to be costly, for a city that has serious traffic. Any car that is more than 1500 cc tends to be a fuel guzzler especially in Nairobi where there is a traffic problem. On a normal week, I was spending about Kshs. 4,000 from Monday to Friday, add weekend and i easily spent Kshs. 20,000 a month on fuel.

With the salary I was earning at that time, I should not have bought a car at that point or  I should have bought a car that was 1300 cc.

I also did not learn about car maintenance and therefore ended up paying for it dearly. At one instance, my car radiator burst and i had to replace it. All this because i did not know about car maintenance.

What i should have done was seek guidance from people who had owned cars before on the right car to buy and also on maintenance. Unfortunately, most of the mechanics we have in Kenya are quacks and will take every opportunity to give you wrong advice or sell you the wrong kind of spare parts. There are genuine shops especially in Industrial Area, buy your stuff there.

Also, I was very liberal with who drove my car. As long as you knew how to drive, had a driving license, you could drive my car. Big mistake. Not everyone who knows how to drive a car, should touch it. Infact, my personal rule now, is that I am the only person that drives my car. Reason being, most people will not take care of your car as you do and you can never know when went wrong. When things go wrong, you are on your own.

I will write about the things I have done well with my finances and other lessons i have learnt in Part 11.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Taken from by Leo Babauta

I once had a boss who had a favorite strategy for dealing with donations-seekers, demanding colleagues, and basically anyone who wanted anything from him he was reluctant to give.


For example, lots of people would come to our office seeking handouts, and he didn't believe handouts were helpful. So he would tell me, "Just delay." And I would have to do it for him, asking people to come back tomorrow, or try next week, and so on. While my preference was just to tell them a straightforward "No", I have to admit that the delay worked. Most people would just go away and not come back.

I've found this strategy works really well with habits you're try to break. Delay.

An example: I tend to go back for seconds when I'm really hungry and especially if the food is really tasty. I found years ago that this didn't do well for my waistline, so I wanted to find a way to break the seconds habit. The delay strategy worked brilliantly: I would just sit at the table and read for a few more minutes, instead of going back for the seconds I really wanted, and eventually the hunger would subside and I'd be perfectly sated. Delay.

Another example: I often have the urge to go check email or one of my favorite online sites. Now that I notice this urge, I can tell myself, "Sure, you can go check them … in a minute." So I'd get back to writing my book, and delay. The urge went away. It came back later, but you can guess what I tried then. Delay.

And another: Sometimes I see something cool online that I really want to buy. My old habit is to quickly go to the site and place the order, and get it the next day. Instant gratification! Now I tell myself, "You can have it … tomorrow." And then tomorrow comes and I might not want it so bad anymore. If I do, I just tell myself, "Sure thing, Leo, but just wait one more day." Delay.

Yet another example: I would have the urge to go snack on something sweet or salty, and I used to rush to find the snack and shove it in my face, with no small amount of guilt sitting in my heart. Then I learned the power of delay, and instead I just keep myself busy for awhile. I do a workout, or go help one of my kids with something, or answer some emails that have been waiting for a reply. The snack urge goes away, because I delayed.

You can delay playing a video game or watching YouTube, by telling yourself that you can do it in an hour from now.

You can delay smoking by keeping yourself busy.

You can delay criticizing someone by delaying speaking, and instead focusing on your breath, and on listening.

What you don't want to delay is the stuff that really matters: creating, helping people, making a difference, building something, being supportive, appreciating the little things in life.

For the things that matter, act as if your hair is on fire, and brook no delay.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Kenyan Apps that I actually use

1. MPESA Cost Calculator

One of Kenyan's peculiar habits include sending transaction fees when transferring money to them, Never mind it is for their convenience. As the sender you bear the burden for sending withdrawal fees to the recipient.

This app calculates transaction fees for MPESA. You can download it here.


I use it to track traffic before i leave the house. It can be used to track many things like where the speed cops are, gives information on heavy traffic expected and generally what is happening on Kenyan roads. Very useful app

Download it here


Although not compatible with my phone. I used this app once but through a longer route of contacting the developers of the app.

I think if you are running a small business, this is a very useful app that you can use to run your errands cost effectively.

There are many other apps i use which are not Kenyan. I look forward to seeing more Kenyans developing apps that you can actually use for your day to day life.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

How KQ can improve Customer Experience

Today my flight was late. I am not writing this post to complain about the late flight as I believe this is a common phenomenon all over the world. Rather, the missed experience for KQ to improve on its customer experience.

To be fair, the captain did finally explain the reason for the delay (about 3 hours later)

But at the boarding gate, the two ladies seemed clueless as to what time the flight would depart. Infact, they did not seem to enjoy the questioning.

Most of the time I have interacted with the KQ ground staff; they almost always seemed unbothered to explain. Infact, they almost always look bothered by your questioning.

I think this posits an opportunity for KQ to improve its customer experience while traveling with them.

KQ is always going to have delay issues, PLAN for them. That may seem like a no-brainer but to KQ it is not.

I met someone whose flight had been delayed for more than 6 hours. What did KQ expect the traveler to do? With an almost non-existent free duty area and space, KQ needs to plan an area for travellers whose flights have been delayed. It is not that traveler's fault that his/her flight had been delayed so why make it his/her problem how they would keep entertained.

It would be nice if that area had FREE wi-fi, charging areas, water, a television, FREE coffee and most importantly seating areas. A few desks would be provided for those who wished to work during the delayed period.

Maybe buying new Boeings is more important for KQ but I am sure to a passenger, good treatment from an airline when it does not keep its promise would be a better experience. 

Do you have a tip on how KQ can improve its customer experience? Please share.


Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Essence of Fatherhood: 6 Simple Lessons

By Leo Babauta

I've been a father for more than 21 years, and have 6 kids altogether, and have loved every messy minute of it.

And now I have a young brother who's becoming a father this month, and is deeply scared by the prospect of fatherhood. He's not sure if he'll do a good job, worried he'll fail.

I can tell him this: being a father is the scariest thing I've known in my life. All of a sudden, I was 19 and in charge of a fragile human life, so precious and dear but so flickering and easily put out. And I was completely unprepared — no class in school taught me what to do, and I had very few life lessons by that time.

It was the most terrifying experience ever. And it's been the most rewarding thing I've ever done.

More rewarding than getting married, than running an ultramarathon, than starting a successful business, than helping thousands of people change their lives through my example.

But to be honest, I sucked at it at first.

My biggest problem, apart from a dreadful lack of knowing what the hell I was doing, was a sense of entitlement. My child should do what I say, behave a certain way, grow into the person I want her to be. That's ridiculous, I now know, but it caused me all kinds of conflict in the beginning.

I now see a father not as a shaper of clay, but a herder of cats. A father isn't molding a child into the perfect ideal of a human being he'd like her to be … he's trying to keep her alive, and feel loved, as she grows into whatever she already is.

So for young men who are becoming fathers, and young women becoming mothers as well (because there's not much difference other than anatomy) … here are my thoughts on herding cats. Just know that I've violated all of these ideas repeatedly, and learned these lessons the hard way.

Your first job is to love them. And to be there for them. This is above all other duties. Of course, we need to keep them safe and fed and clothed and change their diapers — keep them alive — and that's important. But let's consider that the baseline — it's not hard to keep a child alive into adulthood. Anyone can do it with a smidgen of effort.

What's important is whether the child grows into an adult who is loved. This is trickier, because in our entitlement to having the child behave the way we want her to behave, become who we want her to become, we tend to push, to judge, to expect, to scold, to drive wedges between our heart and hers. But in the end, all of those things just get in the way of the main duty: to have her be loved.

If at the end of your life you can say that you were there for your child, and she or he felt loved, then you've succeeded.

Your example is more important than your words. We often tell the child to be considerate as we yell at him, and so he doesn't learn to be considerate but to yell (only if he's the more powerful in the relationship). When we punish, they learn how to punish and not whatever other lesson we think we're teaching. When we put them on restriction, they aren't learning to share like we think they are.

If you want the kid to grow up healthy, you should exercise and eat healthy foods. If you want the kid to find work that he's passionate about, do that yourself. If you want the kid to read, then turn off the TV and read. If you don't want the kid to play video games all day, shut off your computer.

A hug is more powerful than punishment. A hug accomplishes your main duty (to love), while punishment is the example we're setting for the kid (to punish when someone makes a mistake). When a child behaves badly, this is a mistake. Are we adults free from mistakes? Have we never been upset, never behaved badly, never given into temptation, never told a lie? If we have done any of these things, why are we judging our child for doing them, and punishing her for them?

What's more important than judging and punishing, when a child makes a mistake and behaves badly, is understanding. Empathy. Put yourself in her shoes. What would help you in that situation? Have compassion. Give a hug. Show how a good person behaves, though the example of a hug. And yes, talk about the problem, get them to understand why the behavior wasn't so great, get them to empathize with the person they've hurt, but learning to empathize must start with your example.

Trust them. Let them take risks and fail, and show them that it's OK to fail, it's OK to take risks. Don't give them the neuroses of being afraid of every little risk, of worrying constantly about safety, of making a mistake and getting punished for it. They will fail, and your reaction to that failure is more important than the failure itself. You must show them that the failure is just a successful experiment, where you learned something valuable.

If you trust them, they will learn to trust themselves. They will grow up knowing that things can go badly but trust that all will turn out OK in the end. That's a trust in life that's incredibly valuable.

Let them be who they're going to be. You aren't in control of that. You might care deeply about something but she doesn't. You might think what she cares about is trivial, but that's who you are, not who she is. Let her express herself in her way. Let her figure out things for herself. Let her make choices, mistakes, take care of her own emotional needs, become self-sufficient as early as she can.

Read with them. Play ball with them. Take walks and have talks with them. Gaze up at the stars with them and wonder about the universe. Make cookies with them. Listen to their music and dance with them. Greet them in the morning with a huge smile and a warm, tight embrace. Do puzzles together, build a robot together, get into their blanket forts, pretend to be a prince or a Jedi with them, tell them stories you made up, run around outside, draw together, make music videos together, make a family newspaper, help them start a business, sing badly together, go swimming and running and biking and play in the monkeybars and sand and jungle.

Each moment you have with your child is a miracle, and then they grow up and move away and become their own person and figure out who they are and get hurt and need your shoulder to cry on but then don't need you anymore.

And so in the end, fatherhood is being there until they don't need you to be there, until they do again. And it's not a thankless task, because they will thank you every day with their love, their presence, their smiles. What a joyful thing, to be a dad.

Seriously..Send Harambee Stars to World Cup

There are a million things wrong with Uhuru Kenyatta's Jubilee Government. But this one takes the cup.

Please help me understand, if you wanted to clean your city, would you start by buying brooms, garbage cans etc or you would go to see the cleanest city in the world?

How a populist decision can that be. I used to think Raila was a populist but this kijana *ahem* takes the cup.

Running a country i presume requires some strategic thinking not populist decisions unless it is election time.

Here are some thing Uhuru may require to do;

1. Find out why the team is not performing as he expects.

2. Marshall resources to fix the problem; human and capital.

3. Prune anyone who is not helpful for the game.

4. Train the team.

Stop wasting your money Mr. President and just use a little of the brain resources around you.

Saturday, June 07, 2014


I recently quit my job.  I have always wanted to feel in full control of my time; as to whether that was a good decision or not we will see.

It has now been 3 solid months of no paycheck and I have been asked by several people who want to quit their jobs, what do you do? With school fees, medical expenses, rent and so forth, why would anyone quit their job? Some people thought I was being outright ungrateful for a good job

What has been interesting is that i have met a lot of people who are in business, some who do not have a college diploma but are doing great things.  

So this is how you quit your job.

1.    Have a plan! Planning for exit from employment should be like planning for any big event in your life. I started by having an exit plan like what I will do when I exit. I set up my company in 2011 and started operations then, getting a few clients here and there. By the time, I quit my job; I had a few clients who could sustain my business.  If you are going to quit in a year's time, incorporate your company now. See how to here. This helps especially when you are bidding for jobs, to show that your company has been in existence for a longer period. You will realize that it is very hard to break down the structures created by an 8-5 job, my system craved for it. I thought maybe I should go back. I even made one job applicationJ.  

2.    Set a financial target. Set aside six months of expenses that will enable you to live comfortably for the next six months assuming your grand plan does not work. Plan for everything food, fuel, rent, medical etc. that may come up. As an employee, I prided myself in the safety and security a job offered. This means medical cover, a consistent salary etc.

You need to feel secure when you are quitting your job. My system would go into turmoil if I realized that I had to downgrade my life. So I needed to feel secure despite the fact that I was losing my monthly salary.

3.    Save, save, save! I started by living like I had no income for a year (literally). I set about 4 standing orders to take care of any situation that could arise when I was jobless. So this mean unnecessary expenditure like the coffee I am taking right now in a coffee house, shoes, clothes needed to be cut out mercilessly. Otherwise, I would have remained a slave to employment and to a lifestyle that I could never maintain without a job. I am lucky to have read the book "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" early in life (straight out of college) as it has defined the path that I have taken with my financial resources. Although I have done silly things like buying a car when I should have been investing in land (yawa), I have not adopted a lifestyle that could only be funded with a salary and that would ensure I was enslaved to my job forever.

4.    Side hustle. "The hustle is real". Start your side hustle now! During your spare time (8 hours extra) start testing your side hustle. Preferably do something that you know. Do not allow your employer to take all your time. One day, the employer will carry out a restructuring that might leave you in the cold. So "mind your own business".

5.  Worst case scenario- if you have been contributing to a pension fund, chances are that it is pretty decent if you have been in employment for seven years like I have. You can fall back on this cash (not advised though) but it is good to know that you can access this money if anything ever happens.

Entrepreneurship/self employment/business creates job opportunities in a country and it never hurts to try. In any case, if you have strong skills you can re-enter the job market but for me I am will to risk it and see what happens!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Letter to an 18-year-old on the Career Path Less Traveled

By Leo Babauta

ecently an 18-year-old who is finishing school wrote to me, asking for advice on choosing a career without enough life and work experience to make an intelligent decision.

He said, "Should I take the road less traveled, which may be risky and fearful, or choose a college course that interests me to some degree and see where that leads to. I suppose I don't want to end up as the typical everyday-joe at the office from 9-5. I want to be different from the masses, to make an impact on this world, to be fulfilled. How do I get the best start into adulthood?"

It's such a great question. And what I love is that he's asking the question in the first place — most 18-year-olds just take the safe route.

Here's what I'd say: take the career path less traveled.

If you don't want to be the typical Everyday Joe, in a 9-to-5 office job, don't go the route that everybody else takes.

If you want to be different than the masses, you have to take a different path.

I took the safe path when I was 18, and got a job and went to college, and it didn't screw me up … but it also took me nearly 20 years before I finally found what I loved to do. It was a struggle, being on the road that's well traveled, because I was consigned to a career I didn't really like.

Yes, the career path less traveled is scarier. There are no guarantees. You are sticking your neck out, taking risks, being different, probably to the scorn of others. This is lonely.

But the loneliness is temporary. Soon you'll find others who are doing things different, and you'll connect with them in a way you'd never have connected with the people taking the safe path. You'll be inspired by them, and inspire them in turn.

And the scariness is a lesson worth learning — if you can overcome a bit of fear, you can do anything. You're not limited to the world of comfort and safety.

So what do you do on this scary, lonely, exciting path?

That's totally up to you — you are empowered to figure things out on your own.

But here are some ideas:

  • Learn about who you are. Meditate, and blog. Those are the best two tools for learning about yourself.
  • Teach yourself stuff. The Internet has anything you want to learn, from writing to 3D animation to programming to carpentry to guitar. Never stop learning.
  • Find out how to motivate yourself. There will be times when you don't feel like doing anything. This is a good problem to have, because you'll have to figure out how to solve it or else go get a boring job where someone motivates you. Solve it. You'll be much better prepared for the road.
  • Figure out what you're passionate about. This isn't easy, because it takes a lot of trial and error. Try a lot of things. When you get good at something, by the way, you'll like it much more. You'll suck at everything at first.
  • Help others. When someone doesn't know how to do something, teach them. When they need a hand, lend it. When they're stuck, offer yourself up. Seek ways to help. It will teach you a lot, including who you are and what you're passionate about. It's also good motivation.
  • Connect with others. Find people who love what you love, who are doing weird things, who travel, who make their own path. They are awesome and fun to hang out with.
  • Learn to need little. If you need very little, you don't need to make much. This frees you up to learn and explore more.
  • Explore the world. You can travel very cheaply if you need little. Meet new people. Learn languages. Work odd jobs.
  • Get really good at something. Practice, read more, watch others who are good, steal ideas and make them your own, work on projects that excite you and learn as you work on them, practice more.
  • Teach something valuable. If you learn to program, teach a beginner. If you learn poker or guitar or martial arts, teach that. People will thank you.
  • Get paid as a freelancer. When you've learned a skill, hire yourself out online. You don't have to be awesome yet, just don't charge a lot. Try to really deliver. On time. Be trustworthy and your reputation will grow.
  • Sell something. Make a small product, whether digital or real world, and sell it. You learn a lot by selling.
  • Learn to be a good person. Show up on time. Try your best to meet deadlines. Be honest. Learn compassion. Keep your word. Especially to yourself.

If you do half these things, you'll love the path. If you do almost all of them, your impact on the world will be palpable.

And when you've been traveling this path for 6 months or more, write me back and tell me how it's going.

with love,