A few years ago, Pie Ntwari, a Kigali-based public relations practitioner, wanted to pursue further studies in International Relations and Diplomacy. With no scholarship from government or organization that fund post-graduate studies, the dream almost came to naught. But he couldn’t let go just yet, so he ‘took the matter into his own hands’ and started saving up part of his salary to fund his master’s degree education.
He had earlier inquired from Mount Kenya University and knew he needed Rwf2.2 million for the whole programme.
“So, I made it a point to save Rwf130,000 a month. That was my simple savings plan for my master’s,” he says. The strategy worked well and he was able to save for the course and studies within 18 months.
“I first saved up enough for the first semester and, thereafter, I continued saving for the subsequent semesters when I was already studying. I was also lucky that the university allows students to pay in installments,” Ntwari says. Of course I faced some challenges along the way but persisted no matter what, he adds, noting that one should not be discouraged by say, pressing needs or emergencies to abandon their savings plan.
One coin at a time
Peter Mugisha, a senior manager in the education finance department at Rwanda Development Bank, says that saving should be made a culture that is to say; it should be something that should be done more often regardless of any circumstances.
“As former SA president Nelson Mandela said, ‘education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world’. So, saving is the surest way for one to finance their master’s given fact that there is minimal government funding for post-graduate studies.”
Mugisha explains that one need not start with huge amounts to realise this goal.
“Savings will enable you to accumulate enough money to kick-start your post-graduate studies. The effort is worth it as one stands chances of getting better jobs with a post-graduate degree,” he adds.
According to Dr Agnes Munene, a financial expert and lecturer at University of Kigali’s School of Business in Economics, it is possible for one to save for their master’s degree if they are determined and focused whatever salary one earns.
Munene says that you can save as little as Rwf10,000 or Rwf50,000 as you prepare to start your post-graduate education. “It does not matter how slow it is, just keep saving and focused on your goal.”
To make the process easier, she advises people to have savings plans to guide them. One can save with SACCOs or banks in their locality or invest in something like cattle that they can sell off when they are to start studies, she adds.
“If you want to start a programme of one or two years, design a savings plan that will enable you to pay the tuition fees with ease. Financial discipline and commitment to the cause are essential for the plan to work.” Avoid saving on mobile money accounts because you can easily be tempted to use the cash.
Avoid unnecessary expenses
“Review your budget and avoid non-essential items and impulse buying. The process also requires determination, self-discipline and sacrifices. You can opt for a cheaper house, stay with a friend to share costs (for single people) or shift to an area near your workplace to cut on transport costs,” Munene says.
There is no need to spend Rwf3,000 on lunch where you can get that Rwf1,000 or even Rwf500 and save that balance, the expert adds. You can also eat from home or pack lunch.
Have a vision
For those who do not work, she says they should look for casual jobs. Even if they pay peanuts and are not one’s dream job, it is better than nothing. One should be determined and have a vision of where you want to be, Munene says.
If you do not have money discipline, it important to give your employer or bankers a standing order to deduct a certain amount of salary at source. She says what matters is not how much you earn, but the amount of money you can save at any given time.
Start your master’s degree when you have already saved up some money that will allow you to study for at least the first semester, or even a whole year. “This way, you will have saved more money to cater for the next semester,” she says.
Mary Lambasha, the managing director Development Vision SACCO Nyarugenge-Kimisagara, says it is important to know how long the master’s programme will last and plan accordingly.
Lambasha says one should always put their savings aside before catering for any other needs like clothes, shelter, or food. “Saving is a habit that you have to develop and commit to through money discipline,” she explains.
Valens Safari, an economist and lecturer of accounting and microfinance at Christian University of Rwanda , says that to accumulate enough savings quickly one needs to work hard and even take up multiple jobs so that their lifestyle is not affected.
Taking on extra jobs will help supplement and diversify your income streams and safeguards against disruptions in your living standards. A teacher, for instance, can start coaching students as a side hustle to earn extra money, he says.
This, however, means that you cannot be too choosy or minimise jobs that comes your way. “Do not compare yourself with your peers or try to keep up appearances by living a flashy life. Live a simple lifestyle as you spare that coin you need for your post-graduate studies,” Safari counsels.