This is the problem.
The problem is I am perpetually broke. I earn a small amount of money every month. Very small. It’s not enough to place me in the upper class or even the middle upper class. Actually, it isn’t enough for me to boast of being in middle middle upper class.
Still, I manage to make a small saving every 30 days and to invest small ventures here and there. However I am no wealthier than I was at the beginning of this year.
There is a big black hole into which all my earnings sink. I make a budget, which I try to stick to, ’m still wearing the same old worn out trainers, my jeans need to be put to rest and my car will stand up and dance when I treat it to its much needed overhaul. I splurge on a day out at the spa only once every year, I don’t have a TV and therefore no cable, I plan my holidays on a shoestring, I have no insurance to speak of and the last time I made a big item purchase was more than three years ago.
A friend of a friend is making a name for himself in Kampala by selling ‘Financial Rescue Packages’. He says he can asses your earnings, study your spending and predict where you will be in the next five years if you do not take urgent measures to mitigate the looming financial disaster in your life. Mr. FRP offers solutions and makes proposals regarding saving and investment to rescue you from yourself.
Me, I’m the worst combination of a pragmatist, a pessimist and a cynic. I don’t believe there are easy solutions and I find comfort in thinking that the world is worse than it really is, so that when it isn’t, I am pleasantly surprised. But I was convinced by friend of Mr. FRP to give him a try and off I went black hole, empty pocket, warts and all for an ‘analysis’.
The verdict was bad. If I didn’t make urgent changes immediately, Mr. FRP said, I would not afford to pay for my children’s education, I would not build my island resort, I would not have a dime for my pension and the black hole would become deeper and darker than ever before. He said my problem was spending on the non-essentials. It was my spending on entertainment.
Kakati, you have to understand that my life is fairly bland. I am a bland person with a bland job living in bland surroundings. My only escape is through entertainment. For entertainment, I enter head first with no holds barred. It’s the only way I can act and feel like a superstar.
It will be the death of you, Mr. FRP said. So this is what he recommended I do to plug the leak.
- Free concerts. Instead of coughing up Ushs 50,000 for a one hour concert, consider looking for free concerts in the city. Check the newspaper entertainment section, join a theatre listserv for announcements or make friends with musicians to know where the free concerts are taking place. Often, you will find that they are more exciting and original than the ‘once in a lifetime’ performance by a marginally good singer you have spent your entire entertainment budget on.
- Rent DVDs and pop popcorn at home. This is much cheaper than going to the movies and buying overpriced popcorn and soda. A night at home with a good DVD, free of restless teenagers, bored children and insufferable Ugandans answering their phones at the most interesting point in the movie can be quite perfect
- Play sports. (At this point I burst out laughing so loud and so long the meeting with Mr. FRP was temporarily suspended. Me? Sports? Play? Balls hate me. Rackets fly out of my hands at odd moments. There is no logical reason for me to be out in the sun unless there is a guarantee of a really muscled hot sweaty half dressed man in front of me. Yeah, I’m easy like that.)
- Buy old books. The cost of new literature of any kind is quite high and a substantial amount of money is sunk in the search for new and exciting books. Visit second hand book stores and garage sales for good bargains on books. You can also join a book lending circle to exchange and find new books. There are several publishers willing to send free books for review and you may consider downloading classics from online free book libraries to save money on actual purchases.
- Art gallery openings. These are often free, with free wine and hors d’oeuvres. And sometimes, there’s good art and good conversation.
- Book club. Find a local book club for great literary discussion and a motivation to read good books. If none exist in your area, organize a few friends to form your own book club.
- Home cooking. Cook at home whenever possible and invite friends over. In the comfort of your home you will eat a good meal, with a guarantee of good company and lively conversation. You can invite your friends to bring part of the meal or drinks to spruce up your own preparation.
So maybe Mr. Financial Packages isn’t a quack after all. I’ll give his five suggestions a try over the next 60 days, but if it doesn’t work out, he’ll be hearing from my lawyer … when I can afford to retain one.