Tips to consider when shopping for groceries

We all go grocery shopping to pick food stuffs or items that we need. Some of us follow money saving tips while others just wing it. Below, I have outlined a few tips to stream line your shopping experience plus also save you a few shillings.

Buy fruits and vegetables that are in-season

This can be pretty straight forward but you may be surprised how many people actually follow this. Not only is it cheaper to purchase fruits and vegetables when they are in season, they also taste so much better.

Use a shopping list

If you are not already doing this, then you should. This neat trick will help you to avoid purchasing unnecessary items that you quite honestly don’t need or can do without. This will in turn help you save money. You can go a step further and include price estimates to your list, this will help you sum up or guesstimate how much you will spend before you even get to the shop/market.

Shop alone

Avoid taking your kids or friends with you while shopping. We are not trying to be antisocial here but there is a reason for this. Let us start with the kids. Kids will tend to make you buy things that they see and not necessarily need: candy, toys. I’m sure you have seen kids creating a scene or bugging their parent’s to submission to buy them something. If you can, leave them with a guardian. Friends on the other hand may influence your decision by having you try out other items that you wouldn’t buy if you were alone.

Beware of offers

Offers, how we love offers. There is nothing wrong with buying items on offer; we all love a good deal, right? Wrong!!! Sorry to burst your bubble but this is one big marketing strategy. There are some genuinely great offers every once in a while but I would advise you to only buy  something if you really need it. It might be an offer to buy three cans of shoe polish and get one free. Do you really need four cans of shoe polish? Learning how to save money in Kenya really needs you alert when doing your grocery shopping. Do not completely write off offers. I only say that you be cautious and not get offers that only offer you less money in your pocket.

Plan your meals ahead

Planning ahead for what you are going to cook over the week gives you a clear picture of how much flour, managu, tomatoes or beef you need to buy. Going shopping and buying food items on whims isn’t a good way to stay within your budget, nor is it an effective approach for eating a healthy, well-balanced diet. Planning your meals is also a sure way to clearly estimate how much you would need for the month for your household.

 Don’t go grocery shopping when hungry

Other than making it hard to concentrate, going grocery shopping on an empty stomach will cloud your judgment until you satisfy your visual hunger pangs. Simply put, you will buy lots of food you won’t need. This will most likely be processed or precooked foods that are most probably over priced and also not entirely great for your health (smokey). Please make sure you are not hungry and your kids are fed if they are accompanying you. You will save quite a lot at the end of the month.

Timing

Plan to shop early – Most grocery stores stock their shelves late at night or early in the morning before the store opens. Not only will you have better odds of all your items being in stock if you shop early, you’ll often have the best pick of produce.

Never shop on Sunday afternoons – From shoppers making their way to and from church to procrastinators hitting the shops before the weekend is over, Sundays are one of the most crowded times at most supermarkets. Doing major shopping at peak hours is a bad idea; it’s never fun to fight the crowds. More people in the supermarket means’ longer lines and longer lines mean more time you have standing in front of well displayed items that you need.

Always Help the Bagger

Few people actually do this and reason for not doing so is “Si analipwa”. Have you ever gotten home and found that the bread was packed at the bottom and your flour and  2 kg detergent stacked right on top? You now have bread that looks like a fist and flour that smells like lavender. Don’t let your food be squished and ruined at checkout. Help the bagger pack. This will help protect fragile items on the journey home and save time when it comes to unloading them.

There is so much more you can do to save money and get value for money while grocery shopping. These just happen to be a few things a personally follow.

6 Mobile Loan Apps

Mobile loan apps have transformed the lending landscape in Kenya. Banks have had a strangle hold on the industry for quite a while and have managed to lock out many Kenyans working in the informal sector. Mobile loan apps have managed to disrupt this status quo and provide alternatives to the masses. Some banks have had to join the band wagon as they try to salvage whatever is left of the large untapped informal sector. I have outlined a few of the industry players below that I have interacted with:

Branch

This app is the go to mobile loan app for most Kenyans. This can be in part to its aggressive  marketing campaign and also more to do with it being one of the early market entrants.  It was founded in 2015 and is currently the most downloaded loan mobile app in Kenya. They offer loans from  Ksh 250 up to Ksh 70,000. Some of its key features are quick approval of less than 24 hours and no rollover or late fee charges. Monthly interest is between 1% and 14%. Branch has a presence in three other countries: Tanzania, Nigeria and Mexico

Tala

Tala was the first instant mobile loan app in Kenya (as far as I can recall) way back in 2014. Back then it was known as Mkopo Rahisi before they renamed and rebranded. It has established itself as one of the most trusted loan mobile app in Kenya and claim to disburse loans in the shortest time possible, less than 10 minutes. They have a loan limit of Ksh 50,000 and is the second  most downloaded loan app google platy store in Kenya. Interest varies depending on your credit score but is on average 15%. Tala is currently present in three other countries: Tanzania, Philipines and Mexico.

KCB MPESA

KCB Mpesa is a “lucrative” partnership between the Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) and Safaricom. The loan platform started off as a savings account but quickly morphed into a loan app after seeing the potential of the then untapped mobile loan market. The minimum loan disbursement is Ksh 50 and the highest is Ksh 1,000,000. Interest is between 2% and 6% depending on the repayment duration.

Mshwari

Mshawari is another bank and telecom partnership. In this case, it is between Commercial bank of Africa (CBA) and Safaricom. It was founded in 2012 and has been an active player in the mobile loan app business ever since. The minimum loan amount that can be borrowed is Ksh 100 and the maximum loan limit depends on your account standing. Mshwari loans usually have a repayment duration of 30 days and attract an interest rate of up to 7.5% per anum. It is important to note that Mshwari is one of the best mobile loan solutions that is easy to get with minimum requirements since it is incorporated in the Safaricom Mpesa menu.

Okolea

Okolea is one of the smaller mobile loan apps in the market and also one of the late entrants. According to their website, it has over 150,000 registered users with 650 new daily registrations. They offer loans from as little as Ksh 100 to Ksh 100,000and they charge an interest of between 5% and 15%.

Haraka

Haraka is a division of South African lender Getbucks. It has one  of the smallest loan limits in this list, between Ksh 500 and Ksh 5000. I find it unique in that you are required to register via your Facebook account upon downloading the app. Haraka also has one of the highest interest rates in this list, they charge up to 23% as interest. This means that a loan of 1000/= will attract an interest of 230/= in one month and the repayment amount will be 1230/= The mobile loan app has a presence in five other countries: Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and South Africa.

Buying a Laptop?

What do you look for in a laptop computer? Is it the color? The weight? Or is it size. Below, I have outlined a few important factors to consider before you make your purchase.

Platform

There are basically 3 common platforms that come standard in most computers: Windows, MacOS and Chrome OS. Picking any comes down to preference. They each have their pros and cons that I will not get into here but they all have a financial impact on your choice of computer with MacOS being the most expensive.

CPU

This is the brain of the computer and one of the most vital components. If you want a fast computer that boots up programs in a flash, completes tasks as soon as you start them, and doesn’t keep you waiting, then you want the strongest processor available. When talking about processors, we look at the number of cores and speed (measured in GHz or Gigahertz) “The speed of the chip will tell you how much data it can process in how much time, so the bigger the number, the better. The number of cores functions as a multiplier, as the processor is actually a stack of cores that each run at the listed speed (e.g. a single-core 2GHz processor is a lot slower than a four-core 2GHz processor).”

 

RAM

RAM basically allows you to work with more information at the same time. It allows for more applications to be run at the same time, and for more data to be quickly accessible by the system at any one time. The more RAM you have, the faster the computer is able to multitask. The one trade-off is that the more RAM processes going on, the more the battery is drained over time. So if you’re more concerned about long battery life than multitasking, you should probably opt for less RAM.

Storage

Hard disks (HDD) are the primary storage components for computers. While HDD’s are inexpensive and better at processing large files, they’re bulky, use up a lot of power and and produce noticeable heat and noise. These days, solid state drives(SSD) are the standard. They’re faster and use less power. They’re pricier, but deliver better performance and are more reliable than HDD’s .

Keyboard Quality

The keyboard is one of the most overlooked features in a computer yet one of the most used. For long typing sessions, you must get a laptop that has a comfortable keyboard. You want a keyboard that has a comfortable layout with full-sized keys and some space around the arrow keys. Make sure the keyboard is also backlit, so that you can type with an easier view on the keys in dimly lit environments.

 

Connectivity

These are also specific to your needs. You may want 5 USB ports and not care about having a DVD drive.  You should get a laptop that has a good selection of connectivity options.

USB is standard on most computers.  USB 3.0, is the most recent version and is faster than its predecessors. There is an even newer version of USB called USB Type-C which offers higher bandwidth and the ability to handle enough current to power a laptop. Going by trends, USB Type-C will eventually become the industry standard and single technology that you’ll use to connect all your devices. Other connectivity options are HDMI ports, SD card slots, WiFi and Bluetooth.

Battery life

This is very important if you are considering on purchasing a laptop.  The ideal battery life should be 7+ hours. Battery life is affected by screen brightness, the screen resolution, and the tasks that you run. Programs that need lots of processing, stream lots of online video, or if you transfer lots of files over your wireless network will also drain your battery fast. Manufacturer-quoted battery life is often not accurate and you may find your battery draining sooner than is indicated.

Build Quality

This mostly affects laptops. They come in all shapes and sizes and different materials are used to build them. No matter how careful we are, laptops can get dropped or drinks accidentally spilt on them. Some are rugged to withstand rain and dust and some even come with military-grade protection. The hardier the laptop the costlier it is. A good example is the IBM  ThinkPad line of laptops by Lenovo. They are made rugged and hardy and can withstand a few drops with no effect on the structural integrity the laptop.

 

Hopefully these pointers can help you focus on the most important specifications required for a fully functional computer.

Buying Your First Car?

Buying a car is big investment and an expensive one to most people. Most of us have probably taken a loan or saved up for quite some time in order to acquire your first car. So where do you start? I will give a quick guide on what to look for when making your car purchase.

  1. Safety

Safety first, so goes the saying. The reason this is top on my list is that regardless of engine size and all other add-ons , if the vehicle does not have sufficient safety features, then it is not worth the wheels it is standing on. It is an accident waiting to happen especially with the kind of road carnage we have on our highways. Safety includes airbags, knee protection, anti-lock brakes, safety alerts and electronic stability control (prevent the car from spinning out of control and sliding sideways).

  1. The Engine

Now that you know that your car is safe you need to check the two other important things that Kenyans are interested in, how fast can this vehicle go and what is the fuel efficiency? Both these aspects are determined by the engine. There are two basic things to check here – the overall displacement of the motor in liters and the number of cylinders in the engine. For instance, a small car would usually have a 1.6 liter four-cylinder engine, which is great for fuel efficiency but might not give you rapid acceleration, especially on an incline. On the other hand, if you have a powerful engine, like a 6.2 liter, eight-cylinder one, you can whizz past everyone else but end up having to cough up much more for fuel, because efficiency here would suffer. Ideally, pick something that is suited for the type of driving you do – if you will be stuck in city traffic, the rapid acceleration won’t be any use.

  1. Transmission

This is basically a choice between automatic and manual transmission. There is also another option which is a hybrid of the two, semi-automatic transmission where the clutch is automated and your only worry is to move the gear stick. Choice of transmission is neither here nor there in terms of performance and with advancements in technology, both options are relatively efficient.  If you want an easy, hustle free drive go with automatic transmission. If you are a thrill seeker and want to be one with your car, go with manual transmission.

  1. Comfort & convenience

It goes without saying that your overall driving experience should be comfortable. Take the car for test drive to get a feel for it. Enter and exit the vehicle. Can you do so easily and without hitting your head or banging your shin? Once behind the wheel, can you find a position that allows you to reach the pedals and steering wheel comfortably? Is there enough headroom? Are all of the controls within easy reach? Check visibility from the driver’s seat. Can you see clearly now? Do you have a clear view of the traffic around you? Are there blind spots? Start the engine and take a drive. Concentrate on the smoothness of the ride. Does the suspension absorb bumps without a spectacle? If the transmission is automatic, concentrate on the smoothness of up-shifts and downshifts. If it’s a manual transmission, does the gearshift move through its pattern fluidly? Do you feel comfortable with the operation of the clutch and the amount of effort it takes to depress it? Is the steering responsive? Does the vehicle track straight when the steering wheel is held in its center position or does the vehicle wander? Does the vehicle feel stable when cornering? Do the brakes stop the vehicle smoothly? Is it a controlled, straight-line stop? This seems like a lot but they are important factors that will make your driving experience smooth.

  1. Availability of spare parts

Should I even mention this? This is usually on the top of every Kenyans list. It is important that you pick a car that has plenty of spares in the market. It will beat logic to have a nice car and then have to park it for extended periods when it breaks down as you try to import parts. Not only is this expensive, it is also time consuming and will quickly sap your energy and enthusiasm for your new car.

  1. Infotainment features

Entertainment is a pretty basic feature in most cars. There is a myriad of options to choose from depending on your tastes and preferences: USB, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, touch screen, iPhone compatible, surround sound, CD player, voice controls and in-built navigation systems. Bluetooth and a USB port are now standard in most cars. If the car has a touch screen please make sure to test its sensitivity. Does it quickly respond to inputs?  A big but laggy infotainment system is not something you would want in a new car.

  1. Warranties

Warranties are usually offered by most car manufacturers and dealers and the standard has mostly been a 5 year or 100,000 km warranty. This is changing though with some adopting what they call a ‘one year no cost maintenance’ which means that if a new car breaks down in the first year the dealer will repair it at no cost to the owner. Check what type of warranties you are getting and if it depends on the number of years or kilometers driven. There also might be a few initial servicing deals thrown in by the dealer. So, don’t hesitate to ask about them.

You can choose to consider the resale value of the car and recurring costs like insurance, fuel and maintenance when you make your pick. Another thing to note is the time of the year you intend to make the purchase. Take advantage of end year deals or time you purchase to before the launch of new models. Dealers tend to clear previous models then by having discount sales.

There are many things you can look at when buying a car but you should be safe with the above.