A couple of weeks ago, a man in Chilinde (Lilongwe) came foaming at me. He believed my advice in this column is meant for the rich. He told me in the face that I am totally not concerned with minimum wage earners. He challenged me on how one could save when they earn less than K15 000 (about $100) a month while having a family of seven to feed (not to mention the extended family members) and staying in a rented house. For a moment, he almost succeeded in making me feel guilty. This is the kind of guilt that covers you when you buy pizza for your child from a shop assistant who has always known the aroma of pizza but has never tasted it.
So, I went back home rocking my head really hard. I had to provide some advice for the minimum wage earner.
I grew up in a household with a far below average income myself and while we may have done all right for ourselves, I grew up around people who existed in true poverty. Thankfully, with GodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s help, I was able to take advantage of the great opportunities that life offered me Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and the great foundation that my parents gave me as a person Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and was later able to find a relatively better, financially healthy life where I could raise my children without a regular sense of necessity underlying day to day life.
But what can a person do if theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re in the minimum wageÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s situation? I will provide some nine steps in two parts. Part one will provide four steps and the rest, in the interest of space, will be provided next week under part two.
First, take every opportunity for making additional money. There are all sorts of little opportunities to make more money if you pay attention. Doing small things like off-work jobs depending on your skills. Free meals somewhere? Take them. Some K1 000 for helping the landlord clean out his garage? Do it. Ask around for odd jobs and other small-scale moneymaking opportunities.
Second, minimise your possessions. There are a lot of reasons for doing this. The biggest one is that the more stuff you have, the more money youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve wasted. Also, fewer possessions mean that you need less room to live. If you recall, when you were just starting work, you could leave in a guest wing because you didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have much but now with all your accumulated possessions you need a bigger ;hence, more expensive house.
Third, educate yourself. While youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re putting yourself in a better financial place, spend your spare time educating yourself. Take classes at the nearest college and work towards some kind of certificate or degree. The key is getting started Ã¢â‚¬â€œ go around and see what the colleges have to offer and make your choice.
Fourth, save automatically. So, what do you do when you are making more than youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re spending? Take that extra money and put it into a savings account. But just doing that every once in a while wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t cut it. Keep most of your money in a checking account, then go to your bank and set up an automatic savings plan there to withdraw say K5 000 every month from your main checking account Ã¢â‚¬â€œ or maybe even more. Then walk away and forget about it. What will happen? After a year, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll have K60 000 or so in the account. If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve put in more monthly, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll have even more.