A life hack is a little tip that makes your life easier. Renting in Nairobi, renting anywhere really, requires that you arm yourself with all sorts of life hacks. You need to learn all the unwritten rules of surviving in the wilderness. That is really the best description of renting in Nairobi, it is a wilderness. Unless you can outrun or outfight the hunter then you become dinner. You do not have to develop your own life hacks right off the bat. You can learn off the internet or you can steal them if you see something that works. Do not be ashamed, it is a dog eat dog world out here in the wilderness.
You know that joke that if you greet the watchman twice you start to owe him a soda? Well, every once in a while buy the soda. This is the proverbial making friends in high places. You need to be friendly with the watchman. You need to be cordial with the caretaker. If there is a shop attached to your building then be on a first name basis with one of the shopkeepers or all. You need to have people on your side if ever there is need to. Nothing is free in Nairobi, this is the price. There are many situations out of which these people can get you. Surviving in Nairobi is all about who you know.
Know your neighbor
This is Kenya and conversations often have an expiration date. However, a while back there was an initiative that required that people know who lived next door to them. This was because often it would be realized that a dangerous person was living in a community undetected because everyone was minding their own business. So the hack here is to know one or two of your neighbors. Let them know you too. If for nothing else, then for if you ever need character witnesses to vouch for you. Also who knows, you might make life long friends this way.
Have a small box in the house where you put all your loose change. Try to put something in there everyday regardless of how small. You do not know what tomorrow holds. Remember a few years ago when some Kenyans woke up to find that they could not access their money in the bank? If that happened to you how would you pay your rent? How would you pay your living expenses? One important tip though is not to leave it out in the open. Do not tell people about it either especially people you have only just met.
The water authority may institute a water rationing protocol anytime. It usually comes with a warning but in some cases not enough for you to save up. In other cases, the caretaker might fail to regulate water usage and leave the tenants without water for some time. In these instances, you do not want to be without water. First, water is expensive. Second, when times are dire people will sell you very dirty water without thinking twice about the repercussions to your health. So always have some water saved. Enough so that you do not panic and desperately buy liquid death.
There are times when it will be too warm. This is especially common in bedsitters. The house gets unbearably hot when you are cooking and the window just does not let enough cold air in. So, you are forced to cook with the door open. You might think that anyone passing right outside your door is simply minding their business. However, that same person could be scoping out your house. You will step out to hang your clothes and they will do away with your hard earned second hand laptop. Get a curtain for the door. Keep the curtain drawn when the door is open. Make them work for a glimpse into your aboard.
Speaking of stepping out to hang your clothes, leave the door firmly locked every time you do this. Unless you are hanging your clothes right outside your door you should leave it locked. In fact every time you go far enough to lose sight of your door, lock it. There is nothing like being too vigilant. No one cares that you worked through many nights online to earn that off-brand music system, they will take it. It will be hawked back to you at a throw away price.
Always save money
If you can get a nice house within the same area with the same terms but at a cheaper price, do that. If you can move closer to town or wherever you commute to, do it. You will save a little on transport. If you can get 12 tomatoes at 50 shillings instead of 1 at 5 shillings then do the bulk-buy instead. Always pick the option that saves you the most money. It does not matter if you are saving yourself ten shillings. Imagine if you saved ten shillings everyday of the year, you would have 3,650 by the end of the year. This is only from tomatoes. Always find the best deal even if it means buying in bulk. You could always get someone to split the bulk with then go ‘halfsies’.
Do not be afraid of roommates. This could actually be another way of saving money. Imagine living in a one bedroom in South B which goes for 18,000 shillings a month. Instead you could get three roommates. You would rent a four bedroom house for 50,000 shillings. Those houses in South B always have an SQ. You would rent out the SQ for 8,000 shillings. The four of you would split the remaining 42,000 which would come to about 11,000 shillings each. If you can find good roommates, then go ahead.
There are so many more life hacks out there. You should also make note of things that work for you as you go. You can never have too many life hacks. Do not be dinner (unless you intend to be devoured).