Living in Nairobi can be quite expensive. It can also be affordable enough. All you have to do is have a clear picture of all the expenses that come with it. This is everything besides rent, food and commuting costs. Some of these costs are absolutely necessary without which life will be impossible. Others are simply fees to ensure life remains smooth. It is possible to find a place where you are able to cut down on some of the skim costs. Below are some of he common costs you might encounter.

1. Security

This is a key feature in every rental unit. The security of the place covers both you and your property. In some cases, the landlord may require that the tenants chip in to pay for the security measures in place. This usually means the watchman and maybe alarms and CCTV maintenance costs.  The amount you fork out every month will be dependent on the location. The number of tenants will also be considered.

For example, if you live in a servant’s quarter in South B you might pay about 500 shillings to cover the guards at the main gates. If you live in an apartment someplace else like Roysambu, you could pay around 200 shillings or even less. In other select cases, you might pay nothing at all if the landlord takes on the responsibility.

2. Water

Water is an essential part of human living. However, it is not free. Some landlords will take on the cost of providing water for the tenants. Others will share the costs. Others put the cost entirely on the tenant. This is determined by the source of water to begin with. It also depends on availability of water in the building. As it is with every other cost, the amount you pay will depend on where you live.

A point to note, do not pick a place where they do not have running water. It can be difficult to haul water up however many flights of stairs. It will also be very expensive to buy water every week. Another tip is to buy water containers to store water. Nairobi is notorious for water rationing, you should prepare for that.

3. Electricity

This is yet another thing that cannot be free. There are a number of alternatives. If the landlord has installed prepaid meters then the tenant will be required to buy their own power units. The units go for about 12 shillings each. Good thing is that unless you are running a manufacturing operation in your rental, 10 units should last you quite a while. There are few instances where the landlord takes over buying units for every unit. This is usually in cases where there are only a few tenants.

The other option is the old postpaid system where you get a bill. Some will have installed a meter for every unit. This way the tenant gets their own bill every month. The third option is where the landlord has one meter for the entire building. They may take responsibility for the entire bill. They may also work out an average that every tenant would need to pay every month. This amount would remain fixed.

4. Garbage

All that trash from cooking and tissue wrappers has to go somewhere. Nairobi is a congested city and all trash has to be organized and congregated in a common place. Landlords therefore charge a small fee to provide bags in which the trash is put. A large portion of the money goes to the City Council for the service of collecting trash and disposing of it responsibly.

5. Emergency Fund

If this is your first time renting in Nairobi then you should always remember to put your safety first. A veteran would know. There are times when you might attend an even t late into the night. If you love along Thika road then you might be in luck because public service vehicles run through the night. However, to be on the safe side, keep some money aside to take a cab on such days. The emergency fund also applies to things like medical emergencies or if the gas gives out while a meal is still underway.

Soft Expenses

There are a few other costs that will help make life easier as you rent in Nairobi. For example, the watchman’s ‘chai’ (tea)/soda. Some one made a joke a while ago that if you say hi to the watchman twice you owe him a soda. Which, come to think of it, is true. Remaining on the watchman’s good side has some benefits that you only ever realize when you are down on your luck. This same ‘chai’ can also apply to the caretaker of the building. The ‘chai’ is just a little something so that you can have on your side when Nairobi decides to play dice with your wellbeing. To grease his palms so to speak.

Another one of these soft expenses is the ‘mama fua’. This is a woman who will be the best person you have ever known if you find a good one. She will show up every weekend or every other weekend to do your laundry and maybe mop up the house for a small fee. This is usually 500 shillings but it really depends on the size of the load. Nairobi is a fast paced city. If you are only starting out your career, you cannot afford to lose opportunities for networking because you are home doing laundry. Before engaging a ‘mama fua’ ask around. Do your due diligence. Make sure she is someone you can trust to be in your circle.

They say money cannot buy happiness but it is pretty obvious that it can buy comfort in a hectic city life. Comfortable people are happy. The extra costs that come with renting in Nairobi really vary from place to place and even between classes of hoods. Ensure to ask all about the extras as you house-hunt as some costs may drive up the cost of living higher than you can tolerate.