Thursday, April 28, 2016

Munch N' Madurai: Restaurant Review

It's been a while since I've had South Indian (yes, that is a bit of a broad generalisation) food and I'm not very familiar with it either, so I decided to try Munch N' Madurai out last week. Located in Ngara, at Mellow Heights, I first came across it when I signed on a new client in the same building.

I passed by to pick up a menu, and was pleasantly surprised to find out that Munch N' Madurai served non-vegetarian food (and Punjabi food too). I know it sounds weird, but I've never been to a South Indian restaurant that serves non-veg before. Since I knew I'd be frequenting the building two to three times a week, I planned to go on a specific day last week, and my cousin (of News Cafe review fame) came with me. We went to the restaurant at 2:30, and being a weekday, it was relatively empty.

The ambiance of Munch N' Madurai is very low key- think booths and a cafeish vibe.

Now, I'm really not a lassi person (which is weird, I know, being Punjabi and all), but that really doesn't extend to mango lassi, which I love. So yes, before embarking on a Madurai adventure, I had some good old Punjabi mango lassi- and it was really good!

(No picture, sorry! Forgot my DSLR and also somehow didn't take as many as I usually do on my phone.)

I don't always tell a restaurant when I'm doing a review there- it depends on what sort of experience I'm expecting. However, this time, the owner was in, and seeing as how I'm completely new to non-vegetarian food of this cuisine, I needed some recommendations. In hindsight (20/20 right?), I should've also asked her to explain the background of the dishes and a little more about the cuisine. Oh well, next time!

For starters, she recommended the Poricha Meen Fillet. I'm not sure what type of fish the fillet was- perhaps tilapia? I liked the flavour of the fish, but it was a little dry, having been overcooked. It had a nice amount of spice, and I would try this again. Extra tasty with some lemon on top!

Poricha Meen Fillet
For the main meal, I ordered the Chettinadu Pepper Chicken with punjabi phulkas, and my cousin ordered the Koli Chukka Varuval (chicken) with tandoori rotis. Both the chickens were gravy style and boneless.

Another first for me- I love the flavour of pepper and have had pepper flavoured dishes many times, but never an Indian curry. I was very pleased with my pepper chicken- it was well flavoured and soft, with a strong pepper flavour that managed not to overpower the rest. Some restaurants are very happy to add lots of oil/ghee, which this dish didn't have, thank goodness! The phulkas were soft and a nice accompaniment to the dish. I forget what the leaves used are called (limri maybe), but I've experienced dished that have them, and they can't be eaten but need to be filtered out. The ones in this chicken were cooked to just the right amount, so they could be eaten. Warning: If you can't tolerate spice, don't order this! 

Chettinadu Pepper Chicken
My cousin's dish, the koli chukka varuval, was nice too. A little milder than the pepper chicken, the predominant flavour for this one was tomato- but in a nice, spicy way, rather than an overpowering the dish, acidic way. While the tandoori roti's taste was good, it was a little odd and non-tandoori roti-ish.

Koli Chukka Varuval


The only thing I had a slight complaint about was the service. While the owner did give us recommendations and then ask how everything was after we were done, our waiter neglected to check on us during the meal. Also, I don't know how great a job he did of cleaning our table after its previous occupants left, as there were flies buzzing around, and I finally had to call him over to ask for a candle. 

However, the food was more than worth it, and I'm looking forward to try what else they have on their menu. 

What did you think of this review? Reach out to me on Facebook or Twitter and let me know! 






Saturday, April 23, 2016

Keeping Memories Alive

7,836. A seemingly random number, but it's not. It's actually the exact number of images I have in my camera roll right this second- and it's bound to go up by the end of the day. Between sharing pictures among family members spread out across countries and continents, cute forwards, and pictures for my blog, my camera roll somehow spun out of control, and now, if I want to find a particular picture from a special occasion, I have a pretty hard time with it! I've also experienced, on occasion, the surprise of going through my camera roll to find a particular picture, and stumbling across others which I had completely forgotten I'd taken!


I know from chatting with friends and family that I'm not the only one who has this problem. We may be the generation who's taking the most pictures- but we're also the generation who's enjoying them the least. Perhaps with ease of access has come lack of appreciation- no more carefully planning a shot, as we can just take lots from different angles, and then pick our favourite ones later. I'm definitely guilty of this, although having used film for photography (recently) and having had to actually develop this film myself has given me a greater appreciation for the nuances of photography, and its importance in preserving memories.

Technology may have advanced, but I think we still need to see AND feel something to enjoy it to the fullest. This is why I'll always prefer real books over reading them on a laptop or tablet, and why it's so enjoyable to look at pictures in an album as opposed to on a screen. Traditional albums, as they were, are almost obsolete. In the time it takes to print pictures (or get them printed), buy an album, and then manually put in the pictures, we could do so much else. However, the fact remains that most people don't know that they have other options! And so they continue either taking hundreds of pictures without fully enjoying them, or selecting some and going through the painstaking process of putting them into a traditional album.

I found this quote from an interesting article I stumbled across online, that talked about the relationship of human memories to photographs:

It’s pretty clear that there is a connection between human memory and the photographs we take. Simply put, a photo is information about past light that we can perceive in present time. Similarly, memories are the affects of our past experiences on our present self. Photographs can serve as memory storage and, when viewed, can activate memory recall.
When I was in the U.S., it was easy enough to find services that did photobooks and canvases, and they were affordable enough that they could be done as often as one liked them. One advantage of services like these is that these photobooks, canvases and other products can be duplicated and recreated- meaning that they can simultaneously be enjoyed by family and friends across the world.



Moving back to Kenya, I automatically assumed that we had no such service, and because of this, didn't even bother to look! So you can imagine my surprise when I discovered that we do. PerfectPics has been in the market for a few years now, and are the first and (at time of writing) only service in the country that does online photobooks. What I like about PerfectPics is not just that they identified a niche market and capitalised on it, but that they identified a problem- they had a very clear 'why'- much like I have done above, and set about to help people preserve and enjoy their memories.

So if you're in Kenya, and you're writing to relatives abroad to get you photobooks when they next come to Kenya, you don't need to anymore. Rest assured that there exists such a service in Kenya that truly cares about the memories you make!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The River Cafe: Restaurant Review

I'd been to the River Cafe at Karura before with friends, but in my excitement at all the food (no surprises here), absolutely forgot to take usable pictures or make any notes.

Fortunately, we decided to have our April YWSE board meeting there, and so I warned all my fellow women in advance- be prepared to eat, so that I can do a review (and boy, did we eat)!

You'll also be pleased to know that this time, I remembered to take Bob along (my DSLR who's been in the closet far too long- literally).

First of all, for those of you who're not in Nairobi, Karura Forest is an absolutely beautiful location, and is very popular for hiking and events. The River Cafe is a recent addition, and the forest lends to the enchanting ambiance in a way that words can't really fully do justice to. The day we were there for lunch, it started off as being really sunny, but toward the end it became cloudy and rainy- and I LOVED it.






The River Cafe is usually pretty busy- reservations need to be made in advance, and if you're running more than 10 minutes late, you need to call and let them know, otherwise they can give your reservations away. Some people might find this a little harsh, but being a lover of timeliness, I find a strange delight in it. Another thing to remember- this is a cafe style restaurant, which I think people often forget about.

I was looking at the drinks menu, and completely missed the fact that they had Stella until after I'd already ordered some wine. Never mind- I know what I'm ordering next time. I decided to try the Leleshwa Sauvignon Blanc. Leleshwa is one of the (if not the) only wines made in Kenya, and I'd never had it before.



It was a pleasant change from my usual- I'm not usually a Sauvignon Blanc drinker, preferring Chardonnay or something sparkling when it comes to white wines, but I liked this one. It was smooth and sweet, with a pale strawish gold colour, and flavours of pineapple, guava and litchi.

Another board member ordered the Stawberry Caipirioska (pictures of River Cafe's menu can be found on my page here). It was fun and sweet, and something I may be inclined to try at some point.

Strawberry Caipirioska

By this time, the rest of the board had arrived, and we decided to get starters. We chose the spinach and artichoke dip with tortilla chips. To be honest, the tortilla chips weren't the greatest themselves- but the dip was amazing! I'd have happily had another bowl by myself. The salt was a little bit on the lower side, which is a good thing I feel, because people can add more if they'd like. However, dishes heavy in salt can't be rectified all too easily.




When it came to choosing the main meal, I was absolutely conflicted. There were SO many things on the menu that looked appealing. After going back and forth between a few options, I finally picked the Pan Fried Fish Piccatta (description from the menu: seasonal fresh fish fillet, lightly dusted in herbed flour and pan-fried and served with parsley potatoes and butter, lemon and capers sauce).

What did I think of my choice? I liked the fish, but I also think I'd have preferred a little more batter. Personal choice though, so don't let that turn you away from ordering this. The capers were a little strong, but then again- they're capers. I feel like the potatoes could've been more flavourful; some garlic maybe? They'd have complemented the fish even more perfectly. While I enjoyed the fish and the potatoes, I didn't like the salad as much. Some of the leaves were bitter, and this was echoed by other board members who had salad.

Pan Fried Fish Piccatta
Other board members ordered the following:

Fish & Chips (Battered white fish served with chips, salad and a side of tartar sauce and malted vinegar)

The Chicken Burger (Deep fried battered buttermilk chicken on a bun, with Russian mayonnaise, tomato, red cabbage coleslaw and chips)

Blue Cheese Burger (Brown's Stone Blue cheese inside 200g of aged, grain-fed aged beef patty served on a homemade sesame bun with balsamic-roasted onions, Coomete beef tomato slices and a side of chips)

The Veggie Burger (Sweet corn and chickpea burger with fresh coriander, cumin and paprika on a wholemeal bun, dressed with a yoghurt & cucumber sauce & served with choice of French fries or side salad)

Mint & Chilli Grilled Thai Beef Salad (Sauteed beef fillet in a mixed salad served with a chilli-kaffir lime dressing)

Some general feedback from them on these, although I'll let them add more in the comments if they feel like. Blue cheese burger- the beef was good, but the bread wasn't very fresh. Veggie burger- this was yummy, and had some elements of sweet corn. Mint & chilli grilled thai beef salad- the salad was good, the beef was REALLY good, but some of the leaves were bitter. 



I think on the whole, everyone had positive experiences with their food, and we all agreed that we'd go back. 

Fish & Chips

Blue Cheese Burger

The Chicken Burger

Mint & Chilli Grilled Thai Beef Salad

The Veggie Burger
Now, it came time for an important part of the meal- dessert. Yes, after eating all that, we did still have room (although I'm not going to pretend we weren't all groaning afterwards). Being six women, we did the natural thing, and ordered six different desserts (there are 8 on the menu, so we had quite the sample).

We got the: 

Bread & Butter Pudding (Me)
Chocolate Brioche Pudding (Alia)
Chef's Semi-Freddo of the week (Rosie)
Creme Brulee (Nats)
Chocolate Brownie with Vanilla Ice-cream (Ranjeeta)
Mixed Berry & Mint Sorbet (Rachel)

While all the desserts were really good, I think the sorbet and the brioche pudding emerged the favourites- I actually liked all the other desserts much more than mine. I was pleasantly surprised by the sorbet. Mint and mixed berried were not a combination I'd have thought would work for a sorbet, but they did. It was SO good. I have my dessert for next time's visit all planned out! 




Note to readers: By this time in the review, the inevitable hunger pangs are upon me. It's only just 7:15pm, so dinner's a good 45 minutes away at least. I WAS supposed to work out, but somehow I don't think that Shaun T and hunger pangs get along very well, so I've compromised and grabbed myself a glass of Jameson- maybe it'll help? 

Bread & Butter Pudding: No worries Chin, this wasn't Supa loaf drenched in custard ;)
The service at River Cafe was a little slow, but polite. Understandable because from what I've seen, they're never NOT busy! 

I absolutely enjoyed my experience, and can't wait to go back. The ambiance itself would have made even a mediocre culinary experience worth it. Have you had a look at the menu yet? What should I order next? On that note, which restaurant shall I review next?

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Friday, April 15, 2016

The Kenyan Nomad: Reader Feedback

From time to time, I like to reach out to my readers, old and new, and find out what they think of the blog, and what they'd like to hear about in the future.



I'd very much appreciate it if you took the time to fill out this form- I promise it shouldn't take longer than 3-5 minutes. Have a wonderful Saturday, everyone!

http://goo.gl/forms/P5a6s6i58R

Thursday, April 14, 2016

360 Degrees Pizza: Restaurant Review

On the 25th of March, I had the opportunity to catch up with an old friend, and there's no way this can ever happen without food! So we chose to meet at 360 Degrees Pizza, at ABC Place on Waiyaki Way, and I thought this'd be a fun way to get in a restaurant review too.

I'd been to 360 once before, but didn't get a chance to do the review then.


The ambience of 360 is really fresh and lively; the day we went for lunch was unbearably hot (thank goodness the rains are finally upon us), and so sitting in a shaded area that was open and allowed us to enjoy the breeze was VERY nice! I can easily see 360 being a place I could go for a casual coffee and dessert with friends, or a more formal dinner if need be. 

As it was a holiday (Easter Monday), they were still serving their brunch menu at lunch time. While I didn't go for brunch food, there was no way I was going to turn down a mimosa (prosecco with passion juice in this case). 

Mimosa with my New Orleans keychain inconspicuously hanging out

When my friend showed up, we realised we had so much to catch up on, and decided that starters were definitely in order. We settled upon the truffle + parmesan shoestring fries and I kid you not- I could probably survive on these, they were so good! Crispy and flavourful, these made me very, very happy.


Truffle + Parmesan Shoestring Fries


Soon enough, it was time to order our mains. The conversation was flowing and we'd gotten off to a good start with the fries. I chose the Diavola pizza, while my friend got the lemon chicken tagliatelle (apologies for the weird angle on the pictures- for some reason, they wouldn't rotate).



Diavola Pizza
Lemon Chicken Tagliatelle
If I thought the starters were good, then holy crap- the pizza was absolutely out of this world! It was spicy, but not overpoweringly so, and the flavours blended together perfectly. The pizza base was great too- the crusts were tasty on their own. Normally I'm not a fan of dishes that have onions that are anything less than all the way cooked, but these worked so well on this pizza that I really didn't mind at all! Would I order this again? In a heartbeat! 

Since we did starters and main meals, we weren't going to miss out on dessert. Now, I absolutely forgot what I ordered since I forgot to take a picture of the dessert menu and couldn't find it online either- it was some sort of strawberry something something, and my friend ordered the beignets. I was a little skeptical about her choice; having had beignets in Louisiana, I was unsure as to how these would compare, but they were really good! I actually ended up taking her leftover beignets home. 

My dessert was really good too- the only thing I'd have hoped for would've been more of a strawberry flavour throughout the dish. 


Beignets

You're welcome to help me figure out what this was!

All in all, I definitely loved my experience at 360, and had no complaints! The service was fast and very friendly- genuinely so, not doing it because they'd get in trouble if they didn't. The ambience was perfect for the day, but adaptable as I'd mentioned above. I loved the food, and had to go nap when I got home to get over my food coma! Sure, the total was a little bit pricey, but if you count the fact that we got drinks, starters, main meals AND dessert, and that these were all worth it, I think the price makes sense. 



To keep up to date on 360, check out their Facebook page and their website (where you can take a look at their menus too). 

Have you been to 360 yet? What did you think? I'd love to hear more in the comments below! And if you haven't yet been there; what're you waiting for?










Monday, April 11, 2016

Bold and Badass: Vava Angwenyi

I first met Vava at the Sankalp Forum in Nairobi, a little over a month ago. We were at one of the sessions, a 'service provider speed dating session', designed to put entrepreneurs together with service providers. I was there as a service provider, and she as an entrepreneur. While we spoke for no more than 5 minutes, I was impressed by her, and wanted to know more. I heard great things about her from others too.

Naturally, I spoke to her about the YWSE (Nairobi) network, and thought that it'd be great to have her as a speaker. Little did I know how soon this was to happen! This past Monday (the 4th of April), was our monthly "How She Does It" YWSE dinner. Despite the rain and awful Nairobi traffic, Vava showed up, and managed to captivate her audience very easily!

Vava Angwenyi, Founder of Vava Coffee

Vava aims to make bold and badass (her own words) decisions in all that she does- a phrase that quickly caught on and proved to be quite inspirational to the rest of us! Vava has been working in the traditionally male-dominated coffee industry for 10 years now, and founded Vava Coffee in 2009, with the aim of providing sustainable livelihoods for coffee farmers. "As Africa, we have become too dependent on aid," she explained. "We don't challenge ourselves."

Kenyan children are expected to follow a certain path- go to school, get a good job, get married, have some kids, and then die. However, Vava knew that this wasn't for her. As someone who's very good at seeing a long term vision, she's never been short sighted, and she's trying to challenge the view that once you go to school and leave, the first job you get will be your dream job.

"Whatever you do, you HAVE to be passionate about it! When you truly believe in something, you have to see it through, and the rest of the pieces will fall into place."
-Vava

After she finished her first degree, she knew that she couldn't go back with just one degree- she was a Kenyan daughter, after all. So, she proceeded to get her masters in International Finance from the Netherlands. Once she finished her thesis, she went home- and was treated like an outcast for a while, due to the high expectations her family had of her. When Vava, who has a background in actuarial science and finance, told her mother that she was going to quit and join the coffee industry, her mother presented her with all the invoices for her school fees, and told her to pay them back, "once she was successful".

It wasn't any easier finding a support system within her friend circle; most of them didn't understand what she was doing, or even why she was doing it. She shared a crucial lesson she learnt along the way: "If you're trying to create change and you're sure of yourself, you've done enough soul searching- it has to be more than the money that drives you." In her own words, what has happened in her life so far has been phenomenal.

In a journey like Vava's, there are bound to be moments where one would want to quit, and it is crucial to find a good support system, be this physical, virtual or both. Her lovely daughter, Timanoi (who attended the dinner too), is a great support system, who from time to time reminds her mother "Mama, you can't give up!"

When you want to quit and don't have support, the right people will stick around. Vava does advise, however, never to share all your problems with others. She also stressed the importance of having a virtual support system, great people whose quotes and stories resonate and help you push forward. For her, two of these people are Steve Jobs and Nat Robinson (author of Creating a Cash Cow in Kenya).

Sometimes, it's hard to realise how something that is happening at the time can actually be for our benefit. While Vava was staying with her mother, she was given 7 days notice to move out and find a place of her own. This pushed her to work harder and do better, and she credits this as being one of the factor that brought her to where she is today. Parents in Kenya have a tendency to shelter their children- Vava mentioned the fact that it's not uncommon to find children of 35 or 40 living with their parents, and unconsciously expecting to be spoonfed. The education system doesn't help with this, as more often than not, children tend to just cram and regurgitate, and expect to be handheld. According to Vava, children from educational systems abroad are all rounders, capable of thinking outside the box, and are more adaptable. The moment you start having real responsibilities in life, you start learning and growing, and for Vava, this experience definitely helped her do both.

Some questions members of the audience had for Vava:

What have been some of the biggest moments you've had that've made you feel like everything has been worth it? 

Honestly, the best moments have been when my farmers are happy. Recognition is good, but money is also important; I have previously said no to awards that have no money. A funny moment that happened recently was when I toasted with my six year old daughter. Me: "Here's to making change and increasing impact." Her: "Here's to making money!" I've created a monster!

(Vava also works with women from Kibera, an informal settlement in Nairobi, who work to make the gift bags for the coffee produced.) 

There have been times when the women in Kibera have prayed for me, have been there for me, have given me encouragement. Most of them are HIV+ and they don't have a lot to give; they really helps me to put my problems in perspective. They're joyful. There's a lot we can learn from these women!

Other moments that count are when my clients are happy, and when emails come in telling me that I inspire people. Funnily enough, theses emails always come in when I need them most. They make me cry and inspire me to get up and get going.

What are some of the challenges women entrepreneurs face? 

Many in this country- especially if you're outspoken! When going to a bank for money, it's not uncommon to be asked questions like "Does your husband know what you're doing?", "Can't he give you money?" or even "Does he approve?".

My advice? Let people think you're crazy. Our society hasn't yet absorbed the strength of a woman!

I entered a traditionally male-dominated industry, and everyone thought I was crazy at first. However, now, the people who used to laugh at me stand up and listen when I have something to say.


Not only is Vava an inspirational entrepreneur, but she's also won many awards for what she's done including the top 12 social enterprises worldwide from the BBC world challenge program! Interested in learning more about Vava? Check out her website and Facebook page! Let's all strive to be bold and badass like Vava, shall we?




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Thursday, April 7, 2016

News Cafe: Restaurant Review

First of all, if my recent restaurant experiences have taught me anything, it's that I need to start carrying my DSLR around more. In other words, apologies for the pictures- they really could've been better!

News Cafe is a South African chain that recently opened franchises in Nairobi- the Sarit Centre branch opened in December, 2015. I've passed it a few times- once even went and grabbed a table, but wasn't really feeling the menu that day.

Last Thursday was dismally hot. Picture the kind of day where the heat is actually physically exhausting. Plus, since a four day weekend was coming up, I think the air of impatience around us didn't do much to help! I was planning to run a few errands after I left my client's office, so thought that grabbing lunch on the way was a good idea; I knew there was no way I'd want to leave the (relative) coolness of my house if I went there first.

My cousin was headed in the same direction, so he suggested that we go to News Cafe. Perfect! I'd been wanting to do a restaurant review (any restaurant would've done, really), and I'd also been meaning to visit for a bit. Two birds, one stone and all that.




The ambiance inside News Cafe is pretty cool- I could definitely see myself coming here to write or for drinks. They have outside seating too- this one's a little packed, and not as picturesque, but that may just be because of the view in Westlands. Thankfully, it's covered.

It was 1:40 on a Thursday afternoon when we walked in, and being the day before a long weekend, it was naturally quite busy. Luckily, we got a table quickly enough- and this time I was definitely thankful for a corner table. The heat makes me much less inclined to want to be surrounded by other people's mindless chatter. 

As I perused the menu after ordering drinks (a mango juice for me, please- see complaints about heat above), I was confused between ordering the creamy prego (chicken), or the fish and chips. I FINALLY came to a decision, and asked for the chicken, and my cousin asked for one of the chicken wraps. Imagine our surprise when we were told that the restaurant had run out of chicken! How exactly does such a busy place not prepare for something like that? 

Anyway, my decision was effectively made for me. I got the beer battered fish and chips, while my cousin opted for the chilli beef and bacon wrap. 

The picture could've been better, I know
Because of my poor menu picture, I'm adding two screenshots I took of their menu from their South African website- the menu is more or less the same. 



The food came quickly enough, although our waitress did make a little bit of a rookie mistake- she gave us the hot towels to wipe our hands AFTER she served us the food.


Chilli beef and bacon wrap

Beer battered fish and chips

The food was well presented, although I was a little confused by the random greens thrown on top. Presentation, I guess? I personally thought the food looked great without them.

The fish was really good. Crispy, and the batter was delicious. Fish and chips can be a hit or miss, so I'm glad that my expectations were exceeded. The flavour wasn't overly fishy, which some of you might agree can be quite a turnoff. The chips were great too- a little on the smaller side, but crispier that way, and the tartar sauce was the perfect accompaniment. Would I go back for this? Yes, definitely. My cousin liked his wrap too. The only complaint he had was when he asked for ice for his sparkling water, and the waitress completely forgot about it.

The portions were generous, the service friendly, and the pricing well worth it. I'll probably do a repeat visit one of these days, and maybe try out the drinks this time!


Saturday, April 2, 2016

How to Adult: Personal Financial Management Tips

What exactly is personal financial management? A quick definition: "The efficient and effective management of money to accomplish objectives." Definitely a skill I wish I had picked up 6 years ago!

A few months ago, I attended a training on the topic hosted by the Young Women Social Entrepreneurs (Nairobi) network (of which I'm now a board member). The trainer was my eldest sister, and I really wish I'd thought to ask her about this before! Since attending the training, I've become much better at saving, which is especially helpful now that I'm working as an independent consultant.

Who knew it could be as easy as this?

What do I want you to take away from this post? Learning how to manage your finances is an achievable goal- not in the distant future, but soon. Financial independence is not something you need to worry about.

What are some of the mistakes we make when it comes to managing our money?

  • Not prioritising savings
  • Having a very vague idea of where your money goes
  • Forgetting non-monthly expenses in monthly budgets
  • Spending more than we need to
  • Living paycheque to paycheque
  • Getting into unnecessary debt
What are some ways we can get around this? 

1) Prioritise savings: A major change I made in the last few months is to treat savings as an expense- and to make this expense as soon as I have any money coming in. A lot of the time, we may transfer money to savings, but in our minds, we still 'have that money', and so tend to overspend, thinking that savings will cover our expenditures. Savings should be something that are put away and not touched, unless they're being used for a specific goal, like retirement, education or travel. If you think of savings as an expense, and teach yourself to put money away as soon as you get paid, you'll be able to save quite a lot in no time. 

How much should we save? This really depends on your personal situation, but ideally, when you're younger and (presumably) don't have as many expenses, you should be putting away as much as 20% of your income. You may think you're too young to start saving for retirement, but trust me on this one- no one is too young to start saving for retirement. Every little bit counts; I've heard of many families and individuals who started gathering loose change in containers, and would open them after a few years. 

How should we save? While having a savings account is a good idea, often enough, in some countries especially, the interest rates just aren't worth it. If you are serious about putting money away, think of doing a fixed deposit or something similar, or doing some research into various investment options. 

2) Know where your money is going: You may think that you have a rough idea about how much money is going in and going out, but keeping track of this in an exact manner can help you identify your spending patterns, and learn where you can cut down or even spend more. Luckily for us, there are various desktop and mobile apps available to help with this, and if you're so inclined, you can use a good old spreadsheet of your own. 

Personally, I use Toshl- it's very user friendly, and allows you to see exactly where your money is going. Since I started using this app, I've been much better at staying within my budget. 

3) Create a budget: By allocating certain proportions of your monthly income to certain expenditures, you can ensure that you won't overspend. An example of this would be allocating 10% to retirement, 10% to general savings, 10% to irregular expenses, 10% to fun/entertainment and 60% to needs. When creating a monthly budget, don't forget to include non-monthly expenses- divide annual expenses by 12, and track them as monthly expenses. 

4) Cut out unnecessary expenses: Do you have a magazine subscription that you barely use? Or maybe you spend at your local coffee shop every day when it'd actually be cheaper to buy and make your own in the long run? Are you paying for a storage space you don't really need, since you could just move what you have into a space you already own? 

Sometimes, we end up spending on things that are absolutely unnecessary. Once you start tracking your expenses, you'll realise how much you can save by cutting out these expenses. It may seem like cutting down on just two coffees a week won't save you much, but look at it this way- say for example, each coffee is $2.50. You'd save $5 a week, so $20 a month- $240 in a year! 

5) Do not live paycheque to paycheque: This is a mistake so many of us make, and don't realise how dangerous it can be. If it means that when you start working you need to cut down on expenses to prioritise savings, then that's what you should do. Ask yourself- if you were out of a job today, could you survive at least three months on what you've saved so far? It's important to have a bit of a cushion to fall back on, and if you live paycheque to paycheque, you won't be able to build this up. However, if you budget wisely, save early and start tracking your expenses, you'll have a safety net in no time at all. 

6) Avoid unnecessary debt: We live in a debt culture, where people tend to borrow and then overspend, with the goal of paying back 'someday'. As much as possible, debt should be avoided, and only taken on for necessary things. What are these, you may ask? A good rule of thumb is to only take on loans for essentials like education and housing that will add value to you, or increase in value over time. Do not take loans for things like cars- they depreciate as soon as you drive them out of the showroom. 

Credit cards can be amazing if used right, and can actually result in you saving money and earning rewards. When using credit cards, it's important to remember to pay them off monthly- use them as you would a debit card in a way. Avoid using debt as a crutch for expenses you don't really need to make. 


Hopefully, these tips will take you a little closer to the financial independence you've always desired! Have any others? Feel free to share in the comments below!

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