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February 23, 2019

G-Spot: When hidden savings come to your rescue

Hidden reserves
Hidden reserves

Watching the Olympics, one cannot help but be amazed at the feats of the winning athletes, especially when they look like they are beginning to flag, and then suddenly they draw on hidden reserves to put them over the top.

I’m not the world’s greatest sports fan, and this isn’t really about the Olympics, but I do have a story about hidden reserves.

Many years ago, when I was just a boy, my father had a friend called Gino, an old but fairly successful businessman who ran a garage. Like many old people, Gino often felt moved to share his pearls of wisdom with the young.

One day as he was telling us one of his stories, the subject of money came up and, as storytellers do, he had a tale to tell about how to save cash without necessarily having a bank account.

Gino’s strategy was to always stash any extra or unexpected windfalls of money in his pockets, forget about them and only remember when he needed cash but had an empty wallet. This was, of course, in the days before M-Pesa, debit cards and ATMs.

At the end of his story, he gave me Sh100 in 20s (an absolute fortune in those days) and then told me to put each Sh20 in a different shirt pocket and only to use it when I absolutely had to.

In those days, I carried a packed lunch to school but had a few coins to spend on break at the tuck shop. What my friends and I would often do was to save our coins throughout the week for the games arcades on Saturday.

Most of my friends and I were not generally allowed to go to these arcades, where we would spend every last shilling on games such as Space Invaders, Pole Position and others that anyone born since the 1980s has probably never heard of.

With this Sh100, I was going to be very popular at the arcades, but I had to ensure I didn’t spend it all, just in case my dad asked me what I had done with all the cash. So I came up with a plan to only spend Sh10 of the cash every time I visited the arcades. However, it was school holidays and visits to the arcades were an almost daily occurrence. Also, the cash was in 20s and there was no way of getting change at the arcades without everyone knowing.

In the end, there was nothing else to do but spend, spend, spend and soon, I was all out of cash, wishing I had kept some in reserve.

I remembered this incident and Gino’s advice recently when I was going through my laptop bag and getting rid of bits of paper that were taking up space. Just as I was about to throw away an old tattered envelope, something made me open it and voila! There was some cash I had put aside for some reason. It couldn’t have showed up at a better time, as I was broke and pay day seemed so far away.

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