This is a guest post by Derick Okech. You can read more of his work here.
In my undergraduate course, I had a classmate who rode to campus each day for lessons. I admired his courage: facing chilly mornings and evenings, heavy traffic, and possible encounters with striking government employees who barricaded roads.
I couldn’t imagine ever riding to town for anything. Let alone my classes. I have a stocky build, hence I figured I wouldn’t look nice on a bike. Plus, if it was a matter of keeping healthy, I would stick to my home-made tricks or visit a gym. I had no reason to cycle.
The Turning Point
In 2017, after six months of interning in a retail store, I had to reconsider my position regarding cycling. The meagre wage, fewer benefits, and long working hours that come with stacking shelves guaranteed I had nothing extra to save nor the time to shade any extra pounds gained. Also, I wanted to give back to our planet and the best way was to be among thousands of people who cycled to work.
The Lessons I learned From Cycling To Work
Much to my suprise, the lessons cycling would teach me came almost immediately after I had bought the bike. And it was not about cutting commuting costs nor extra weight! It was all about managing money.
You are fine with the basics
Owning a bicycle comes with its own share of compliments and recommendations, especially on biking gear. I remember a workmate recommended I should install headlights and turn lights or I’d risk being arrested by the traffic police.
Another advised me to add a front mudguard and another, a better saddle to limit saddle sores. Even my mama shared her suggestions: that I should add a luggage carrier and criticizing my lack of common sense for purchasing a bike with no rack!
I googled for all these recommendations on various e-commerce sites and realized that the cost of all these additions would be north of $100.
- Luggage carrier: $35
- Saddle: $15-$30
- Front mudguard: $9-$16
- Headlights: $25
Working a job that paid so little, the last thing I wanted was to deal with financial anxiety and stress coming from additional expenses. Taking care of these additions meant going into my savings and an increase in my expenses. So I didn’t buy any of these items and my life didn’t stop either.
Cycling ensured I understood my income and expenses
And it made me appreciate the little things that life provides.
Downsizing my life and not worrying about things that are not important made me realize I don’t have to buy every product so I can live. The basics are enough for me. And that’s still my motto.
Forget buying new: go for second-hand offers if you want the best value!
Used products have better value than new ones. According to data from Oxfam, nine out of ten consumers were satisfied with their second-hand purchases in 2019. I bought my bike from a co-worker at $80, though he had initially demanded $100 – $120.
From then, there are items I have bought second-hand. Like my laptop, at $320 rather than $580. And my phone at $90 rather than $160. Surprisingly, they still function efficiently.
What do I do with the change? Add to my investments! Buying used products is not just about the good bargain. It gives me extra room in my budget to invest and save. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to know the environment benefits from me limiting filling up our landfills.
Negotiate like a pro
Right from the start, I had considered my purchase a good deal. Negotiating the price from around $100 to $80. I can proudly say that the purchase doubled my love for second-hand products and also the knowledge that anything, no matter the number of zeros is negotiable.
Here are the approaches I use to get a good bargain:
- Avoid making the seller look bad by demanding them to yield to your demands.
- Don’t blame the current scenario.
- Quickly determine the cost of the item. You can use these tools.
- Ensure the person I am negotiating with is the owner.
- Learn to walk away.
Sweat the small stuff
When I bought my bike, I knew very little about riding and bikes, so I skipped simple things like maintenance and other minor servicing because I deemed them non-essential.
The end results were frequent visits to the repair shop until the previous owner pulled me aside and advised me to consider carrying out maintenance quarterly instead.
Later, to track expenses, I had to add maintenance costs in my budget to make it complete. Even though these costs were so little, I came to acknowledge that the trick to effective money management is to never neglect the little details. They are most likely the ones that blow up on you!
The process doesn’t have to be linear
During my prior days of cycling to work, I preferred one route. Though it was the nearest, there were three other directions I could use with one involving climbing a hill.
So a few months later when I wanted an adrenaline rush or to burn more calories, I would go for the route with a hill. I also realized that I couldn’t ride to work each day. There were days that, especially when it rained so heavily in the morning, I had to find another way to work.
How did this help? I don’t assume a direct approach to managing my money. For example, when it comes to investing, I no longer wait to earn money first to save. Nor do I wait to pay off debt so I can create an emergency fund.
The process of managing money doesn’t have to look like some straight line
I start with what I have, like selling that old stuff or using a commission I’ve earned from work, and go from there!
Don’t live in fear
I feared traffic, chilly mornings and evenings, barricaded roads, and even the thoughts of a stocky body on a bike. No, scrap that. I feared for my own money. With the low retail pay, every time I looked at my financial position, I saw any purchase made as damage.
With the disillusionment that comes from societal pressure and fear-driven messages about money, getting rich, or discovering wealth, I didn’t have the peace of mind I needed to manage my money.
Facing my fears of cycling has helped me a lot when it comes to money
Limiting my life choices to not be driven by financial panic. I can now have conversations about money with my parents and openly tell them how little I still have in my savings and the thousands of light-years I am away from owning a home.
My success has resulted from killing that selfish, insecure voice that breeds self-doubt so I can be more responsible for how I manage my money.
There were more lessons learned than what I have here. There were also mistakes I made. But the way I manage and view my money is much better than before. I am no longer into betting, nor MLM, and I would consider looking for my old things and make them useful before spending a dime on a new one.