Aluta And Chill: This Is How We Became Broke At School

August 27, 2020

Students in Nigerian universities have stories to tell, but hardly anyone to tell them to. For our new weekly series, Aluta and Chill, we are putting the spotlight on these students and their various campus experiences.

The subjects of this week’s Aluta and Chill are 5 students from different Nigerian universities. They talk about managing their finances at school, a memorable time a careless financial decision made them broke, and the lessons they learned from the experience.

Ekubiatobong, Female, University of Uyo

My allowance every month was ₦25000, and it was usually enough for me. However, I didn’t think to save at all because I didn’t see a need to. This would come back to bite me.

There was a month when I spent more than usual on my school and living expenses and finished my allowance. When I realised how dire the situation was, I tried to ration what was left, but it was too late. Things took an unfavourable turn when I was down to ₦100, and my next allowance was a week away. 

I couldn’t call my dad, so I did the next best thing and called my sister. She told me that she would get back to me, but I knew what that meant. She wasn’t going to bail me out. 

I managed to go to class the next morning, skipping breakfast because I couldn’t afford it. During the hours I spent in class, I was in low spirits, and everything I saw irritated me. I hadn’t had a meal when I left the campus in the evening. When I got home, an unusual thing happened. A friend came to visit me and brought food. It couldn’t have come at a better time. 

The night was sorted, but I knew I had no plans for the following day. I was flat-out broke. It turned out that luck was on my side because my sister came through and sent ₦5000 to me. 

A lot of things have changed since that time. I’m more independent now and more responsible with my finances. Also, I have a partner, and I always feel the need to have something saved up because either of us could need it at any time. 

Beatrice*, Female, Afe Babalola University

I started a clothing line business when I got into school and poured everything I could save from the monthly allowance I got from my parents into it, and it picked up nicely. It was something I always fell back on because I hated asking my parents for money all the time. 

Sometime last year, I ran out of my allowance earlier than usual, but I was convinced that I wasn’t in trouble. I thought the business would hold me until my next allowance came. Unfortunately, I ran into a problem with delivery. Most of the orders I got were from people outside the school. However, it was impossible to get the product to them because of my school security system. 

I thought I would make some sales at school, but that didn’t happen. All my plans were tied to making money from the business, and when things didn’t go to plan, I became short on money. I remember having ₦2000 left and trying to make it last for a week. That was when it hit me that I was broke. 

It killed me to do it, but I knew I had to let my parents know what was going on. Even though they weren’t in the country at the time, they sent something to me. But It took three days before I got the money. Those three days were hell for me. It was so bad that I couldn’t afford to buy food anymore — I lived on cereals. 

By the time I eventually got the money, I had learned an important lesson — I realised that it didn’t make sense to plan around money I hadn’t gotten. Now, I’m at a good point with my finances. I’m saving more and the business is doing better. So, maybe I needed to have that experience.

Mtchy, Male, University of Calabar

My dad typically sends me money every week. But one week, he made a mistake and transferred the week’s allowance twice. When he realised what had happened, he instructed me to keep the extra money and use it to sort myself out the following week. The smart thing to do was to save and work with my weekly budget, but the money seemed like a huge amount to me. I couldn’t help myself, and I squandered the bulk of it on food. 

I sobered up quickly when I came to terms with what I had done, and what it meant for me. However, it was too late. I resorted to walking to school every day for an entire week. In the middle of this, I got a cut on one of my feet. The pain was unbearable, but it was either I sucked it up or skipped classes since I couldn’t afford to take a cab to my lectures.

Sometimes, a friend helped with food, but that was it. All through the period, I was thinking about the decision making that got me there. Man, I lost a lot of weight before the ordeal was over. I survived it, though. After that, I took my budgets more seriously. I cannot go through that again.


Yemisi, Female, University of Lagos

At the end of every session, every hostel at my school organises pageants as part of the Hall Week celebrations. I was in my first year, and I had no plans to participate until my roommate brought it up. She gassed me up so much that I was pretty convinced that I would win. 

I told mum about it, but she was against the idea. She didn’t think the money I was going to spend was worth it. It should have ended there, but I decided to go ahead, even though I knew that I would have to finance it myself.

I decided to use my weekly allowance to sponsor my participation. Every week they sent money to me from home, I used most of it to prepare for the pageant. The plan was that I would win the grand prize and recover everything I’d spent. 

Finally, the pageant’s grand finale took place, but did I win? Nope! All my money went down the drain. I needed to figure out a way to survive the week. There was no way I could call home because my mum told me not to go ahead. I couldn’t ask my friends for help either. For the entire period, I lived off my bunkmate. It wasn’t an ideal situation, but I understood that a couple of bad decisions got me there. I think I needed to learn that lesson.

Chelsea, Female, University of Nigeria

In my second year, I bought a couple of things I didn’t need from my pocket money and didn’t leave enough for emergencies. Unluckily for me, I had to spend some more money on faculty and department dues. I knew I was broke when I had only ₦2000 left in my account. To make things worse, my bank debited me for some charge before I could make a withdrawal.

I didn’t have up to the amount I wanted to withdraw anymore. I didn’t have a lot of options, so I toss my ego aside and asked one of my friends to transfer some money into my account. But that wasn’t the end. 

I returned to my room and dropped the cash on my bed before I went out for a bit. When I got back, I saw only one ₦1000 note on my bed. I looked everywhere for the other note, but I couldn’t find it. My frustration gave in to resignation, and I had a big “If I perish, I perish” moment.

I went out to blow the ₦1000 on food. I went to a restaurant and ordered a nice plate of food. But something extraordinary happened before I finished eating, I got an alert of ₦5000. It was a dividend from an investment put some money into. It was enough to keep me together for some time. I realised that the situation happened because I got my priorities wrong. From that moment, I became deliberate about spending money on my needs rather than my wants.

Can’t get enough Aluta and Chill? Check back every Thursday at 9 AM for a new episode. Find other stories in the series here.

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