The joke of saving amid many dependants

Last week, something strange happened. I had gone for a ride with my cousin and two children. After criss-crossing town, including hitting the magnificent double lane along Parliament building in the capital city, we stopped at a filling-station to top-up petrol. While at the filling-station, this young boy came running to my car asking for a handout.

I dipped into my pockets but found that I only had large denominators and was hesitant to release them. I then simply told him I had no money. The boy just disappeared silently. But when it was time for us to leave, the car could not start. I called a couple of friends and they came flying to help me out. I really felt very good to have friends. For a moment, I wished to show the whole world what friends can do.

The incident then reminded me that I had not seen some of my close friends for ages. ‘Mwawonatu anzanu abwera kukuthandizani, koma inu mumawayendera?’ a voice came from my best friend, my wife, who also drove to the filling-station to help.

So this incident and my wife’s remarks made me plan to see a friend the following day which was a Sunday. Somehow, due to my busy schedules, I had been putting off the visit but this time I made up my mind to see him.

This is a friend I really envy for his brains and pay-check. We happen to have similar qualifications but he gets far much more than I do. What I couldn’t understand though, was why he has been driving a miserable car and putting on the same pair of trousers almost every day. This is a pair which must have been red originally but looks white now due to fading.

So on the Sunday morning, my son and I made the trip to see the friend. Reaching the gate, we hooted and it did not take long before a young man opened the gate. As our vehicle went through the driveway into the compound, we saw three young ladies sitting just outside the kitchen. They warmly welcomed us and ushered us into the lounge where we found some three boys watching movies along with the friend’s two children.

‘Welcome home alamu’ said the friend’s wife lifting my son onto her lap. Then I heard my friend yelling somewhere within the house ‘kodi sopo watha?’ then the housemaid immediately replied ‘uwii! Anatha ndi lero! Ndinatowawudzatu amayi dzana lomwe [the soap run out ages ago. I told the madam about it].’ A moment later, the friend emerged from the bedroom smelling Vaseline.

He cheerfully greeted me and I did not just feel at home but was made to be home. He made introductions on all the people I was seeing. These were brothers, nieces, cousins and his two children. ‘The three girls are on holiday while the two boys are doing courses as day scholars here in Lilongwe.’ He explained. Meanwhile, his two children are in relatively cheaper private schools because he can’t afford to send them to more expensive schools since he also has to support the other relations.

This is a typical Malawian family. Huge number of dependants is a norm which heavily cuts into a family’s income. How does one make savings under such circumstances? If most families were just nucleus (the man, wife and children) as is the case in Europe and America, then most Malawian families would be better off economically.

But here are some important tips to always bear in mind. First, never compromise the quality of education you give to your children because time is lapsing and before you know it, your children will be old. Laying the foundation towards intellectual and material prosperity for your children starts when they are still young. If they don’t get the proper education today, they could live miserable lives later.

Additionally, if your children cannot be given a good quality life while you are alive, how will they live if you are dead? Let them enjoy while you are still alive; they will cherish your parenthood when they grow up.

Secondly, always remember to save and allow yourself an income you can dispose. Once the minimum disposable income limit is reached, kindly make relations appreciate that you cannot commit yourself further. You don’t have to support others at the expense of your own family’s welfare – charity begins at home.

Having said that, remember to always put aside some money for charity (could be a small percentage of your income say 2%). There are unprecedented blessings in giving. After all, you do not want your children to suffer when you are dead. Relations can be an important social capital.

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