Tricks Kenyans Adopted to Deal With High Cost of Living in the Year

2023 was a tough year for many Kenyans who had to contend with the reality of harsh economic times. 

Across the board, Kenyans in both the formal and informal sectors were also on the receiving end of harsh taxation policies such as the housing levy and the 16 per cent VAT on fuel which made the cost of living shoot up.  

Consequently, with the new realities of the economy, Kenyans were forced to adopt tricks to enable them to survive.

A file image of Matatus parked at a bus stop in Nairobi CBD in April 2020.



Dumping Cars for Matatu

The enforcement of the 16 per cent on fuel in July 2023, saw fuel prices skyrocket above the Ksh200 mark. 

With the increase in fuel costs, many motorists opted to use matatus instead of driving their vehicles to work.

For instance, a motorist driving from Kinoo to the CDB would roughly use Ksh250 – Ksh300 on fuel. A matatu ride for one way on the same route costs Ksh80.

In the new trend, Kenyans have opted to use personal cars on weekends and put them up for taxi services during the weekdays.

Cut on Luxuries 

The Budget Review and Outlook Paper report released by the Treasury on November 15 revealed that Kenyans had dropped a number of luxuries owing to the high taxation.

It was explained that the taxation had made the prices of the items shoot up, forcing Kenyans to look for alternatives.

Among the trends witnessed was the decline in the consumption of beer, spirits and cosmetic products.

There was also a decline in the importation of vehicles.

“Domestic Value Added Tax (VAT) collection was mainly affected by subdued growth in the construction, transport and manufacturing sectors owing to the high cost of inputs and increasing inflationary pressures. 

“The decline in VAT imports is explained by non-oil imports where the volumes of containerized cargo dropped by 8.4 per cent mainly influenced by changes in buying patterns given the import price pressures,” read the report in part.

Alcoholic drinks displayed in a club.


Wine Liquor Beer

Alternative Products 

On the other hand, Kenyans were also forced to seek alternative products for some of the basic household commodities.

For instance, with a 2kg packet of maize flour retailing at Ksh200, many Kenyans opted for unga siagi also known as kisiagi.

During the rainy season when tomato prices increased, some Kenyans also opted to purchase tomato paste instead. 

For toiletries that shot up, Kenyans opted for air freshener bubbles, which go for Ksh100 instead of the air freshener spray which costs between Ksh230 – Ksh250.

Other alternatives were using cotton hand towels instead of serviettes and using refilled colognes as a cheap alternative for perfumes. 



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