Cement Twitter

January 21, 2019

I’m at that age where, whenever I meet my father, he asks when I plan to start building. I try to avoid answering the question every time, but he sneaks in such statements as “Start small, buy a lorry of stones. Just start.” Then he’ll go off, repeatedly, on how he wishes he started building early, how it took him a decade to get it done, and how I need to stop paying rent.

Sometimes I laugh. Most times I don’t. I don’t know how to tell him that building is not a priority for me and might never be. We are different generations with different priorities, but then I can’t say that because he’ll ask what my priorities are. I could say travel, but then I do a good part of that on the clients’ dime and barely ever pay for much. Books, my other priority, don’t even dent my budget.

Maybe to end the conversation I should show him the back end of my CBA Loop account. But then that would segue into an entirely different conversation of how I spend so much of my money on ‘entertainment’ and ‘household.’

“What household is this that takes more than half of what you make?” he’d probably ask, frowning to look at the graph because his eyes are not what they used to be.

“I thought you were still single, taking care of a dog can’t cost this much…” he’d add to fill the silence, as I quickly regret the idea that this would end the conversation.

I can see him sitting back and asking “What even is this entertainment?”

As I slowly pull the phone away from him, he’d probably go on and on about how I need to cut my spending and start building a home. I’d quietly sit there, as I always do, wondering what part of his genetics I miss that doesn’t make the idea of building as important to me as it seems to him. In my head, I’d make the same joke I always make: “Are you by any chance on Cement Twitter?”

I’m sure you’ve seen the Cement Twitter clan who quantify almost everything on how many bags of cement money can buy. Spend some money in a bar and post your receipts and see it happen, organically. There’s a point of course, that a permanent home is a good thing to have. Plus, you can bring down the walls if you want to and change where the door is if you wake up one morning and decide it’s in the wrong place. But these are not necessarily universal priorities.

I have a friend who spent three years setting up a home 300kms away from Nairobi. He was a new father, in a new marriage, and both he and his wife were based in Nairobi. Whenever we talked about how broke he was, I’d ask him why he was spending so much setting up a holiday home. There were bills to pay, a child’s future to prepare for, and a life to live. But we would always circle back to priorities, and to him, this project was important and sentimental.

I understood that part of sentiment more than anything else. Sometimes things just make sense because they make us feel some type of way. Maybe joy, maybe fulfillment, maybe euphoria. In this day and age, it’s likely they all cost money that we spend every day writing pithy but oddly polite emails to demand for. And oh, the euphoria that is that text that the mother load has landed in the account. Those few seconds as you login to CBA Loop to make sure it’s not all a dream. Right before the few minutes, it takes for it to fly out of your account as you contribute to the economy.

I think that’s a big part of why CBA Loop is a good friend to have. If you have priorities, even if they are only of sentimental value, then you work towards them. You can even track your spending better without having to use other tools other than your banking app. Instead, you can spend the time trying to figure out whether your contractor is pinching the cement budget, and when you can comfortably finish. Or whether the entire project makes any sense.

Or if you just want to take a road trip to Namibia in December, you can start saving now knowing you won’t suffer the temptation of that money appearing on your bank balance whenever you login. It’s still there alright, under a section called “Goals” which is helpfully still accessible in case you need to access the money earlier. I’m not saying the guilt will be any less if you cancel the goal to pay a bar bill but hey, priorities change.