As you already know or now know, I am from Zimbabwe. Zim is an amazingly beautiful place, and the people are wonderful. However, we are mostly known now for our bad economy. The day I came to college, inflation was just hitting over 1000% -it was crazy. People lost all savings; retirement plans were voided, and most investments were wiped out. I was in high school then – things have not gotten much better as we have become adults, parents and in some cases, primary breadwinners.
It is hard to imagine that any good stories are coming out of Zim on finances. I am inspired by several people who have managed to survive during the last two decades. They are stressed a LOT, but I think we can all draw some inspiration from their stores.
Two teachers, two (then three) babies, chickens, and a home
I do not tell this particular woman often how much she inspires me. This is a story of a couple – they are both teachers in relatively low-income areas (Chi-Town). Neither comes from money. When I met them five years ago, they were paying $140 US rent for a couple of rooms in a shared home. The wife said to me that she had bought a stand and wanted to build. At the time their combined “formal” income was $800 US – today it is ZW$800 which is just under $200 US – inflation! Think compound interest in REVERSE!!!
Between 2013 and today here is what they have achieved and how (everything paid for in cash)
- Built a 3-bed home in a new development
- Taken the two oldest kids aged 8 and 13 to a better government school
- Had a 3rdbaby – C-section that became very costly due to complications missed during a regular scan
- Bought their first car and sold it for a more efficient used SUV
Their money strategies
- Moved out of rental after building the first two rooms on their stand to eliminate $140 in rent. That $140 added to their building fund
- Extra lessons and a second job – both teachers began offering private tutoring on weekends, and the husband took up a second job at a night school for adult learners. This move doubled their income
- The wife sold candy (she also sold shoes for my store on a small commission 10%)
- Organized a school carpool with other parents – this saved them 50% on transport costs
- A few years later moved one kid to a cheaper local school (they are heartbroken about this – any tips for them?)
- Ran a chicken business from their new home for a while (this required investing in a gas freezer and solar)
- The wife cut her hair (this made me super sad) she said she had been spending $70 monthly or so on her hair, so this has freed up some money
- Reduced maid service (this was a little rough with a little one at home, but she is doing nanny sharing with another family) which means she has to do all the house cleaning and laundry herself. Hand washing clothes is not fun for anyone
- Cut down on car use and relying on the new government buses which are only 0.50 but require that the husband leave home at 4:30 am EVERY WORKDAY!!!!!!
- Keeping it simple – but they have told me that the hardest thing is explaining to the babies why they can’t have small nice things. I am happy to report that as an experienced aunt (also available for hire) I am always happy to spoil the babies 🙂
- oh – they also said they avoid debt like a plague – they did get a loan through work in 2013 to start the house building but the interest was killing them
If you are surviving in a tough economy and have some tips to share please send them to me so that I can feature you on the blog. I would love love to hear from people taking nice vacations – how are you doing it? Ladies – get in formation