By Rachel Brooks, KF9, Faulu Kenya
The bed is the most common location, according to the Kenyans I asked. But the specific location varies. You can simply keep it between the mattress and the metal box springs or under your pillow or sheet, or you can be more creative. For instance, wrap the bills in paper and place them under one of the legs of the frame to appear as though you are leveling an uneven bed.
The second most likely hiding place is in a hole. You can put your money in a can and bury it in the garden or if you have a dirt floor in your home, you can bury it inside. In some houses up-country, the walls are also constructed from mud so you can create a sort of wall safe. The downside to these hiding places is the real threat of flood, fire, and insects.
Women have an added money-saving apparatus: their bra. Several Kenyan friends described their mothers and grandmothers storing bills in a special pouch they keep tucked into their bras at all times. Bills can also simply be slipped under the strap or inside the cup. Unfortunately, if you are robbed in one of Nairobi’s renowned car-jackings you may be asked to strip until your secret stash is found.
Most Kenyans (about 90%) don’t have a savings account. The main reason is just that there’s so little left after the bills are paid. The minimum balance and fees required by a traditional bank can also be big deterrents. Yet even a small amount saved each month can provide some financial stability and focus spending habits.
Loans at Faulu Kenya and many MFIs require borrowers to have a percentage set aside in trust until the loan is repaid. But much more significant is a savings account from which you can regularly deposit and withdraw. In its required business training, Faulu talks about adopting a “culture of savings” and borrowers often begin to save for the first time as they get their first loans. There’s a great sense of control that a small nest-egg can provide, and it definitely beats a termite eating your shillings from inside a buried can.
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Rachel Brooks is a Kiva Fellow working for Faulu Kenya in Nairobi. Join her on the Friends of Faulu Kenya Lending Team./>