The adage, “Living within your means” is always thrown around to urge people to spend less than what they earn. For many, putting that in practice worked so well enabling them to keep children in good schools, have decent meals, a home of their own for some, and a family car. However, normalcy was disrupted when fuel prices escalated in an unprecedented way, crossing the Shs6,000 mark. Now, the statement no longer holds water. It is actually very annoying to hear because many have been hit below the belt.
Livingstone Mukasa, financial adviser with Enwealth financial Services, says ‘living within our means’ was something he realised is troublesome.
“The ideal thing is to live below your means,” he says. If you doubted it, the economy is further proving the folly of the statement because once you live within your means, you are one punch away from disaster.
When there is a rapid rise in the cost of living as it has happened in the last couple of months, people’s standard of living goes down. One who ably afforded a three bedroom house will go for two and the story continues. As such, you have to ‘cut your coat according to your cloth.’
As you find your footing, it is important to match up to the rising product costs which calls for figuring out how to raise income. Mukasa says this could be by charging more for what you sell.
“When the fuel prices increased, the one who sells matooke increased their prices, and so did those selling bread and every other form of merchandise. So, what are you doing to match up? For instance, if you have a rental, you should also increase your rent in order to match up. That is the only way to stay afloat in this volatile economy,” he says
However, the employee wonders how they can push their employer to increase the pay for their skills. It is almost impossible because a lot goes into salary negotiations. However, Mukasa says with this upward trend in prices, even the employers have to match up otherwise their employees will fail to live in the city.
“Nonetheless, before they do, every employee must cope by first maintaining the job. Sooner or later, if you are productive, once the company has increased its cost of goods and increased its prices, your pay will increase,” he advises.
Employees are the last in this queue but when the time comes for your cheque to get bigger, you should not be in debt. That boils down to downsizing your expenditure as you wait for the situation to change. One way is to look for how else to use your skills. For instance, as a teacher, you could start offering extra classes for an extra income.
Seeing that you also have a family to feed and educate, Julian Mwesigwa, a parent, says you could think of carpooling. Carpooling is an arrangement where a group of people commute together by car. In this case, the carpooling will work for picking and dropping children and it is an arrangement that parents living in close proximity can get into to lower fuel expenditure.
“Rather than one car taking one child, it would take, say six. The arrangement could be that each parent in the group shoulders the transportation for a week before another one takes over. That lowers costs,” he says.
For some, the issue is how to juggle their essential needs because the salary is barely covering them. However, the secret lies in economising how you use your condiments (spices) and other household items. For example, if you were the kind that favoured eating source with lots of tomatoes to achieve that orange colour, it is time to half that number if you want them to last longer.
Dorothy Nyakana, a lecturer, adds that it is time to cut back on the cups of tea you have been taking as well as the amount of sugar you put in each cup.
“If you were the kind that puts four teaspoons of sugar in your ½ litre cup, you may want to cut it back to three. You may also swap bar washing soap for liquid soap because currently, it goes for Shs8,000 yet you may not want to use it to wash your utensils owing to the smell it labels them with. On the other hand, liquid soap is multipurpose. Therefore, it serves several purposes yet you can even make it in the comfort of your home,” she shares.
Essentially, it is time to have that candid conversation with your household about the state of affairs. You need to tell the children that cornflakes cannot be accessed as often as before. That meat might be for only Sunday.
Unfortunately, Mukasa says while women may easily have that conversation, men find it hard because of their ego. He cites a scenario where defaulting children were being sent home and some parents were trying to clear the bill of Shs900,000 by paying instalments of Shs170,000. That is putting pride on the backseat.
The effect of fuel prices is also evident on roads where the expected bumper-to-bumper snail moving traffic jam owing to the school term, is replaced by fewer cars. People have parked their cars for commuter taxis and boda-bodas.
Although the times are biting, you must steadily hold on, not panicking to sell your assets. It is easier to downgrade your standard of living and maintain your assets as getting them back will be an uphill task. That is because assets (cars, land) are increasing in value and now is not the time to start selling them off just to finance your standard of living that is still escalating.