Stretching Your Kwacha- Saving Strategies for Zambians in a Rising Cost of Living

Times are tough everywhere these days, and Zambia is no exception. Living in Lusaka, especially, entails engaging in a continual financial balancing act. The rising cost of living, with the Basic Needs Basket (BNB) for a family of five in February 2024 at K10,307, puts a huge strain on the average monthly salary of about K5,800. Saving money can feel nearly impossible, but there are still steps you can take to stretch your Kwacha further. Here are some strategies you can consider:

Boost your Income Streams

Another creative approach is to embrace the barter system. Assess whether you can exchange skills or services with friends or neighbours. Ask yourself this: can you offer professional services like graphic design, tutoring, or basic car maintenance to friends or family in exchange for things you need? This keeps money in your pocket while utilising your expertise. By diversifying your sources of income, you create opportunities to not only meet your immediate financial obligations but also to set aside funds for savings.

Analyse Your Spending
Analysing your spending patterns is a critical step in effective financial management. Adopt a meticulous approach to tracking your expenditures; leave no ngwee unaccounted for. While this may sound a tad too serious, if you’re really serious about saving money, you need to track your spending ruthlessly, scrutinising even the smallest expenses like a packet of matches. 

You can use tools such as free budgeting apps or a simple notebook to keep an accurate record. Conduct a thorough “Needs vs. Wants” audit to distinguish essential expenses like rent and utilities from non-essential ones like entertainment or new clothes. Challenge yourself to cut back on the latter, even with seemingly trivial expenses such as daily airtime top-ups. 

One practical strategy you can use is the “Envelope System”. In this method, withdraw cash for specific categories like groceries or transport and allocate the funds into envelopes. Once the envelope is empty, you know you can’t spend more in that category. This method provides a tangible and visual way to manage your budget and curb unnecessary expenses.

Slash Expenses with Smart Shopping

Maximising your budget through savvy shopping practices can make a substantial difference in your financial well-being. Buying in bulk, if done carefully and within your storage capacity, offers cost-sharing benefits, especially for items like groceries. However, it’s crucial to purchase only what you can use before expiration. 

Go for Local Markets Instead of Supermarkets

Although supermarkets are convenient, local markets are your secret weapon for affordability. From fresh veggies to household essentials like eggs and other farm produce, you’ll find low prices that will be kinder to your finances.

Plan your meals; Conquer your Cravings
Impulse purchases at the grocery store are like little holes draining your wallet before you even realise it. Fight back with a meticulously planned meal strategy. Sit down once a week, map out your meals, and create a battle-ready grocery list. This way, you’ll only buy what you need, leaving no room for those budget-busting cravings.

Cook-Up Your Savings in the Kitchen

Eating out is a delicious but expensive enemy. Eating out at decent spots for a family of five will set you back hundreds of Kwachas. Transform your kitchen into your financial fortress by cooking more meals at home. It’s healthier, fosters family bonding, and is cheaper, making your Kwacha stretch further. Imagine the savings – it’s like getting paid to eat delicious, home-cooked food!

Going Shopping? Forget Brand Names!

Brand loyalty is great… for phones and electrical devices, not groceries! Compare prices across different markets and shops. Don’t let brand names blind you to cheaper prices. By switching things up, you’ll prevent unnecessary spending and keep your financial future looking bright.

Manage Your Debt 

When times are hard, the temptation to borrow is high. 
Avoid unnecessary debtOnly borrow for emergencies and only if you can absolutely afford the repayments. High-interest loans like from loan sharks or village banks can be a dangerous trap. While village banking offers potential financing, it should be approached cautiously, considering both its benefits and potential risks.

Negotiate with creditorsIf you’re struggling with existing debt, talk to your creditors about restructuring your loans or reducing interest rates. The country is looking to restructure all its debt with its sovereign creditors, why shouldn’t you?

Build a Safety Net

Have An Emergency Fund (even a small one)Every Kwacha saved towards emergencies helps. Aim to save even a little each month for unexpected car repairs, medical bills, funeral contributions, etc. These unexpected events can crack your financial foundation. This is where your emergency fund comes in. It’s your financial fortress, a shield against life’s little (and sometimes big) surprises.  Every Kwacha you save, no matter how small, strengthens this shield.

Think of it like building a brick wall, one Kwacha at a time.  Even a small wall can provide some protection from financial storms. Aim to save consistently, even if it’s just K100 or K1,000 each month. This consistent effort will gradually build a solid safety net that can absorb unexpected expenses without derailing your entire budget.

It’s important to remember that saving money is a marathon, not a sprint.  Saving even a small amount consistently is better than saving nothing at all. Celebrate your milestones, no matter how small.  By being resourceful and making smart choices, you can take control of your finances and build a more secure future for yourself and your family.

Alexander Zulu


  1. Thanks, been learning about this since last year. These are things we know but take for granted. I once sold talktime at small level on the first floor of the building where l worked. Each time a strap of talktime finished, l would immediately separate the profit from the purchase price. It’s these small things that we overlook yet they are very vital pointers to financial discipline.

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