Higher spending follows the stay-home directive

Wednesday, April 1st, 2020 00:00 |
President Uhuru Kenyatta during a past event

Evelyn Makena @evemake_g

For many families, social distancing means spending more time indoors with restricted movement. 

With schools closed and many workplaces adopting remote working, many families are spending long hours in the house. And this has come with a cost implication.

For one week Rose Muthoni, a journalist, has been working from home following the government advice to minimise interactions.

Her children aged six and eight are also at home as they are off school due to the pandemic.  She says cash spending in the house for the period she and her children have been home has gone up. 

“My daughters’ schedules have not changed and they are not eating more than usual. But for the adults in the house, we are eating more,” she says.

Muthoni adds that by staying indoors, she has found herself eating more unhealthy foods at odd hours of the day.

 “I think the psychological effects of this disease are translating into excessive and unhealthy eating,” she says. 

She says supplies on necessities such as food, tissue, soap and disinfectants are getting depleted at unprecedented rates. 

Save expenses

Staying at home has especially meant loss of revenue for business owners. Simon Kabu, Bonfire Adventures chief executive, has been working from home alongside his wife Sarah, the managing director of the company, and their two children. 

Kabu devotes his days to holding online meetings with his staff, home schooling his children and passing time by exercising, playing scrabble and monopoly with his family.

Unlike the same time last year, when the company would be busy making Easter bookings, clients who had made bookings for Easter holiday have been cancelling while others have postponed travel plans. 

Kabu says that for people in the tourism sector, business nosedived starting from January this year when China was dealing with the outbreak. 

With the restriction of flights and the clarion call to social distance, international tourism has been greatly affected. Locally, many hotels have closed down due to low tourist numbers. 

Kabu says that by staying at home his family has been able to save on some costs while others have increased.

“With the kids at home, we are spending more on food as a family. You know occasionally kids want to eat different things even outside the budget.

But on the other hand, with the restricted movement, we are saving a lot on fuel,” he says. 

To save on costs during the outbreak,  Waithaka Gatumia, Centonomy chief executive, advises people to adopt what he refers to as the ABC approach.

This involves dividing expenses into three categories; A, B and C. A should include expenses on essentials such as food, shelter and healthcare.

Category B expenses are important but not essential such as the cost of grooming while C includes all other costs that are not A or B.

He adds that apart from monitoring spending on big expenses such as rent and school fees it is important to know where every coin is going to and cut down on the unnecessary costs. 

“Spending on food can be reduced by looking for alternatives where possible. You can decide for instance how many times you can eat meat as a family to save expenses,” he says.

Due to the fear and uncertainty that has come with the outbreak of the disease, many families have been stocking up on necessities ending up spending more money. 

Lydia Muriithi, a teacher, says the outbreak has forced her to buy household necessities such as food and toiletries in bulk for fear that the situation may escalate. 

“This means that as a family, we have spent a lot within a short period. But if this cost is spread over a long period of time it would be similar to what we spend on ordinary days,” she says. 

Self-isolation has also helped her save on other costs such as transport, attending chamas, weddings, dowry payment ceremonies, fundraisings and burials as was the case before. 

For Muthoni and Lydia, though this period has minimised interactions with outside world, it has given them more time to interact with their children. 

Dr Geoffrey Wango, a senior lecturer in Counselling Psychology at the University of Nairobi, says that people can ease the stress of being indoors for extended periods by engaging in therapeutic activities such as meditation, playing with a pet, reading a book, taking an online class or watching a movie. 

Wango advises people to practise gratitude and keep in touch with loved ones despite the physical distance.

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