How I learned to tame the money beast…

Financial literacy has never seemed to me a very pertinent topic before I started working with the GIZ AGRUFIN Programme. Especially not among those that have received tertiary education. I mean, those qualified people that deal with excel sheets, numbers, tables and budgets on a daily basis in their professional lives, surely they must be able to deal with their personal finances as well? Paradoxically, however, professional skills do not always transfer to personal matters, especially when it comes to dealing with money. It seems like money is one of those creatures that is well managed from a distance. But once it comes close it transforms into a wild beast that people prefer to stay away from. The happy message I took away from the financial literacy training: Managing money is a skill like any other and can be learned just like riding a bike!

Can such a life-changing skill be learned in a classroom though? Certainly the human ability to improve behaviour simply on the grounds of people telling you to do something is limited. We all know that, just try to remember the last time you actually followed someone’s advice. All of us tend to stick to our habits. Breaking through that veil of routine is a real challenge. We feel that we know everything. We feel that improving behaviour is something reserved for the next generation. We feel that we have learned enough life skills. After all, we have made it this far without making a household budget. Why should we change now? Who are you to tell me to save more money? Go and play with your own piggy bank…

I believe reaching out to people and making them reconsider their financial behaviour is possible, however, with a magic combination of three things: examples that people can identify with, involvement of their emotions and interactive exercises. The key to any successful adult training! We all like to pretend that we are rational beings. But really? Let us be honest with ourselves. We need more than good reasons to change our behaviour, we want people to reach out to our hearts. You say financial literacy isn’t exactly the material Hollywood movies are made of? Just attend a training session for yourself and see the outbursts of creativity the topic incites: financial literacy songs, skits, radio shows, anything else, you name it!

Let us face the truth. People tend to be forgetful. They want to be reminded of the moment of their financial literacy awakening. Organising follow-up meetings with the participants is therefore crucial in order to magnify the enlightenment effect of the training session. Saying that you will start making a household budget and to track your expenses is one thing. Doing so is a completely different story. We all know what happened to those New Year’s resolutions we didn’t stick to. Those little promises that now haunt our conscience. Let us all try our best so that money matters will in future no longer be one of them…

Jana Cattien

Waswa - Love for a local delicacy turned into a financial lesson

Wasswa, from Mukono, tells how a simple love for a local delicacy turned into a financial lesson he'll never forget:

I was lucky to have a job by my first year in university and was earning some extra spending cash. I was saving nearly half my income every month because I had an objective of being able to move into my own place, paying rent for a year and buying all household equipment I would need to make it in the big world. I only touched my savings account in times of emergencies. You could say I was doing well.

In my second year, I had a family incident that required me to use up all of my available savings. One day, I found myself with no food in the house. There was a slightly expensive restaurant near my home that cooked a fantastic chicken luwombo at a price of 15,000/=. The owner had intimated to me that I could eat on credit and pay in the future but I had never taken advantage of this offer. This led me to a decision that would haunt me for months to come. I decided to eat the luwombo on credit. What followed was a subtle and slow degradation of my credit and my moral judgment regarding the glorious chicken luwombo.

Despite my earning money, I found it easier to eat bountiful meal a few times a week on credit, as the restaurant was small and usually lacked proper change. It wasn't until about two months later that I saw how much my bill had grown from my wild spending habits on life's little dinner munching. I owed the restaurant 360,000/=!!!

I could not pay off my bill in full even with a full month's salary, which was the first time I was not able to do this! I attempted to pay it off in installments, but other expenses kept popping up and I started to lack spending cash, with the restaurant hot on my heels to pay my outstanding bill.

This all came to a head when I needed to pay half of my tuition fees and my savings account had a wholesome amount of zero! I was going to have to borrow money from family! This realisation led me to reevaluate what I was doing financially. How had eating a fantastic meal a couple of times a week led to my financial world crumbling?

I started with an expenditure recap using the restaurant's bills to me and found that my enjoyment of this delicacy had increased exponentially over a month. Instead of eating a total of five times as I had been doing every month, I had more than doubled it! This was because I wasn't feeling the pinch directly out of my wallet, rather just signing off bills. I then made a budget of my expected income and how to best divide this income to get me into a financially safe place again. I was going to drastically cut down my love for the delicacy and probably work on Saturdays to pay off my bill and restart my savings campaign.

Yes, I still do love and enjoy my chicken luwombo, just not as often and I always pay cash.
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