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The Covidian Education of a Girl’s Shillings

COVID-19 felt like the morning sun in the beginning of March; far enough not to blight my business but all it took was two weeks and the virus placed its bags on Ugandan soil ready to set up shop – and not the pop-up version.

The optimism in the country originally predicted slight changes in business weather but with the slow rate of infections and rapid recoveries, the climate seemed to still be quite sunny. I scoffed at any impending doom. Even with the onset of lockdown, this looked temporary and with minimal negative impact.

COVID-19 found me with a non-structured saving plan and expenses soaring through the roof. Currently, as far as this pandemic and my finances are concerned, my investment in financial literacy, maintenance of strict saving plan (twenty percent of my wages) and trying to monetize my hobbies has led to a complete 180-degree change.

I’d always thought I didn’t make enough to get so serious about finances and always treated my salary as a gift, spending half and giving away the rest, generally blinding myself to a false sense of self-care and charity. However, as an intern at a new job just three months past, I’d just received an income increase and had decided it was time to put on adult pants in the finance division. The past year involved a series of money conversations with pennywise friends to actualize this endeavour.

Late March 2020 would begin the journey to financial independence. I embarked on a knowledge hunt by having money conversations with peers and mentors through WhatsApp, meet-ups and even just phone calls. One mentor shared that they’d started saving and budgeting at the age of sixteen; even with a first job that paid less than about 200,000 shillings a month. This was news to me, magical even; I thought only millionaires saved and budgeted, they had no option with all that money.

I was also ushered to YouTube lessons on the topic. One particular channel – Millennial Money – showcased different young people’s relationship with money and I was hooked. Binging 50 episodes in one night was probably not healthy but I picked up a thing or two. However, I could not relate quite well with American millennials or their dollars. Even when I converted their numbers to percentages, I consequently steered to Ugandan or at least African content.

Google was a sore with this, throwing at me materials from three years ago of maybe a Forbes Africa entrepreneur under 40. No, I needed something more relatable and small-scale so I stalked Uganda social media and found Teesa Advisory Services, which led me to other related pages such as Femme Money Moves and with the surge of live virtual mini conferences I latched onto anything educative to do with money.

These were a much better fit to the financial education of Qwemy. My wrong mindsets were disintegrated. For example, I’d always thought money was just something you landed on; not in the sense of a hefty inheritance but rather landing a fancy job really young which paid hundreds of dollars and had plenty of perks. The idea of saving little by little never occurred to me to be a tangible plan. Who knew what the future held? What if the economy crushed? How would my plan of saving 20,000/- a month in the hope of having one million in 4 years and four months benefit me if disaster struck in month two? There had to be a ‘quicker’ and ‘smarter’ way.

The better alternative to me comprised having 3 jobs where I could save 200,000/- and be a millionaire in month two, and that’s just savings! Catching the right cheque as opposed to marinating and steadily growing one was addressed in one particular Instagram live with Flavia Tumusiime and Barbara Katende dubbed ‘7     streams of income’. This was the final nail in the coffin. I must have been thinking small. I needed to add four.more.jobs! This is laughable even with just the downside of obvious burnout. Thankfully, I listened all the way to the end and that mindset underwent serious renovation. My seven jobs idea was refined into seven incomes streams, i.e. probably working one job and having passive income from other avenues.

I then came across the notion of putting aside money with a goal in mind. One YouTuber explained the goal didn’t necessarily have to be monetary. As a person who has not left home and with zero responsibilities, this was worthy to note so I jotted down mine: professional certifications, membership to associations, start-up capital, charity and real estate.

My other twisted ideas of money were that talking about it was vain and that maybe one shouldn’t have money past a certain amount. The phrase obscenely rich comes to mind. But podcasts like Dave Ramsey, TED talks and seminars on investment at my job have helped clear the air on that too. In addition, I’ve decided to use my talents/hobbies to make money for example in writing contests such as this one because whichever way it goes, I either earn a buck or hone my skill so win-win.

The thing I am grateful for during quarantine is time to explore all this material and grow financially. I have also decided to start up a business I’ve dreamt about for a long time. It’s a partner venture and although scary, with enough time to research, plan, and look for resources, it is something that has kept me constructively busy and pushes my boundaries.

Lastly, I have continued to support businesses dear to me during this time especially those that have always given me top-notch value by say get a mother’s day cake or a birthday lunch delivered for a friend. I try to keep it within budget. As a person who still has a job during the corona virus pandemic, the buck to me is for my growth and that of others.

The Covidian Education of a Girl’s Shillings

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Olympia Kwemala
Olympia Kwemala is an amateur writer in love with scribbles and scribbling. In the real world she dabbles in the fine art of people management and looks forward to time with children, cooking shows and psychology.

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