Every week, Zikoko seeks to understand how people move the Naira in and out of their lives. Some stories will be struggle-ish, others will be bougie. All the time, it’ll be revealing.

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Nairalife #265 bio

What’s your earliest memory of money?

In Primary 1, I tore my ₦10 lunch money in front of a fellow student. I’m honestly not sure why I did that. Maybe I was trying to prove a point or was just being mischievous. The student was shocked and said I had cursed myself because tearing money equals a lifetime of poverty.


I remember thinking, “What nonsense is this one saying?” I wasn’t living in poverty, so I wouldn’t just suddenly become poor.

Tell me more about that “not living in poverty” bit

My dad worked as an engineer with the ports authority, and my mum worked at a TV station. We weren’t wealthy, but we weren’t poor either. We lived in our own house with a couple of other tenants. I don’t remember us lacking anything even though we were a large family.

How large?

My parents have nine children. I’m the last born. My second eldest sister was already in university when I was born.

What was living with eight siblings like?

All nine of us were hardly at home at the same time because of the considerable age gap between us, but I had a good relationship with my siblings. I regularly made money from them, too. 

By billing them?

Yup, and they were happy to give me money. My eldest sibling paid my secondary school fees and gave me pocket money. I decided I could rotate the billing among my siblings, so I’d collect ₦1k from one brother, then go and meet another sister for more money. Getting money that easily meant I also learnt to spend it quickly on whatever caught my fancy.

I continued that way when I entered uni in 2010. I didn’t have a monthly allowance, and my parents were retired, but I could always call my siblings for money whenever I needed it. I abused that privilege a lot sha. I remember being disgusted about going to the bank to withdraw anything less than ₦20k. I was always shocked to see people withdraw ₦5k.

Rich kid

My siblings caught on to my rotational billing one day. I was still in 100 level, and I think I had ₦16k in my account — which, in my mind, meant I was broke. I called one of my siblings, and she said, “What happened to the money our other sibling gave you?” I didn’t expect that. 

She asked me to give an account of how I spent the money, and when I couldn’t, she revealed that they’d noticed I had no value for money, was spending anyhow and asking them all for money at the same time. She refused to give me any money, and I felt betrayed. I called another sibling, and that one said the same thing. I was like, do these people hate me?

Screaming. Did they later give in?

No. But after a few days, I began to see their point. A friend in class told me he survives on ₦1k weekly, which made me really think about my money habits. I wasn’t spending money on clothes or girls; it was food. To be fair, I was squatting with someone for free and paid 100% of the food expenses to show my gratitude, but it didn’t mean my money management had to be that bad.

I moved into another hostel the following session, and my new roommates always managed very little money for weeks. They changed the trajectory of my relationship with money. I learnt to save and budget and even began to live on ₦2k – ₦3k weekly like they did. We also contributed money to buy foodstuff and handle other shared expenses on a monthly basis.

I also changed my billing strategy. Instead of calling all my siblings for money at once, I’d call one this month and another the next, so I never asked the same person for money twice in eight months. Till I finished university in 2014, my siblings believed I no longer billed them.

When was the first time you made your own money?

My NYSC service year in 2015. I was posted to a school that didn’t pay an extra allowance, so it was just the ₦19,800 stipend from the government. But I had free corpers’ accommodation at a fellowship house, so I didn’t have to worry about rent.

I ran into many issues at my PPA, though. It was my first work experience, and I didn’t have the “discipline” required for a workplace. I didn’t see the point of coming to school at 8 a.m. when I only had a 10 a.m. class or waiting till 2 p.m. when I wasn’t doing anything. I also never wrote lesson notes. 

Thankfully, I befriended someone in the school who always helped me beg the headteacher at month’s end when it was time to sign my voucher.

It was also during this time that I became interested in a tech career.

How did that happen?

There was this ghost corps member in the fellowship house — only came around to sign important stuff — but we connected over finishing from the same university. It was obvious he had money —  he regularly bought fuel and subscribed the cable TV at the fellowship house whenever he was around and regularly took us out to eat. I was always fascinated by him. One day, he told me he was a developer and earned ₦100k/month. I was blown away. I thought earning ₦100k/month was more than enough to solve any problem I’d ever have.

I immediately became interested in developing, but I studied linguistics in school and thought mathematics was necessary to learn how to code. He insisted I just needed logic. But I still thought it’d be too hard.

When did you eventually give it a try?

In 2016, I moved to another sister’s house after NYSC because the one I stayed with wanted me to apply for a Master’s Degree and pursue an academic career. I wasn’t feeling that. 

I was just sleeping and waking up at the other sister’s house. Her husband even tried to help me get a bank job, but I deliberately failed the test because I wasn’t under any pressure to make money.

But after three months of doing nothing, I remembered my corper friend who was probably somewhere balling on his ₦100k salary, and I decided to take my life seriously. My sister had a spare laptop, so I applied for Coursera financial aid and began learning HTML, JavaScript, Python and other programming languages online. I did that for about three months and designed a basic web app with Python, which I showed my corper friend. He didn’t believe I’d learned it just by taking courses.

Did you try to make money from your new skills?

The same friend reached out to me in 2017, complaining about his hectic workload. He asked if I’d like to join his team to assist him. I said yes, of course. 

The company he worked for used Angular2+, a web framework I wasn’t familiar with, so I spent two weeks learning it before I attended an interview with his boss in Lagos. I even made a demo application. But the interview was a formality; the man just wanted to see who my friend recommended. I was asked to resume immediately at ₦100k/month.

You finally got the ₦100k salary

It was about ₦91k after tax, but I was so excited. My sister said the money was too small and asked me to negotiate for more. In my head, I was like, “Does this one want to pour sand in my garri?” I was too scared to lose the opportunity.

She was right, though. I became a one-man software department. My friend worked remotely from another city, so I was the on-ground data analyst, web developer, desktop app developer and backend developer. But it was my first real job, and I enjoyed it. 

I also began to save at least ₦50k/month and made my first big boy purchase after five months — a laptop at ₦250k.

Neat. Were you spending on anything else?

Not really. I didn’t have much of a social life — most I did was join tech groups online to network and ask questions. I also didn’t really have responsibilities, so I just went to the office and saved the rest of my money. 

My salary was increased to ₦105k after a year, and around the same time, the company hired two new guys who changed my perspective on earning.

How so?

The new guys were also software engineers, and they once let it slip that they shared a ₦900k/year apartment. I was surprised, to say the least. How could they afford to live like that? I interacted with them and observed that they did a lot of side gigs and religiously hustled to upskill. 

One of them was also a mobile developer who shared how he charged ₦600k for a gig. My initial reaction was, “This guy is greedy. Why do you need so much?” Me, I was satisfied with earning ₦105k and saving ₦50k for the next 20 years.

But after observing them some more, I thought it wouldn’t be bad to have the same financial privileges they did, so I decided I’d also learn mobile development.

What did that involve?

I procrastinated learning the skill for an entire year, but in 2019, I eventually took courses and began practising. 

Interestingly, within a week of learning it, someone on a WhatsApp group I was part of mentioned they needed a mobile developer for a ₦200k gig. I reached out and got it. They paid ₦70k upfront. I should’ve asked for a 70% upfront payment because getting the balance became a problem after I delivered the job. It took a year of back and forth to get it.


I decided to still pursue a Master’s Degree in Linguistics in 2019. I was still working in Lagos, but they allowed me to go remote because my school was in Ibadan. Moving to Ibadan meant I somewhat became responsible for myself. I rented a ₦120k/year apartment and handled my fees too.

In Ibadan, I got an opportunity to take on a ₦600k job. The employer found me in one of the tech groups I belonged to and offered me the role. It was the biggest amount I’d ever been offered in my life. You’d expect that I’d jump at it, right?

You didn’t?

I didn’t. I felt I wasn’t good enough, so I recommended someone else — an undergraduate — and he got the job. And I was still earning ₦105k o.

The same employer offered me a one-time gig sometime later. I guess he felt I did an honourable thing recommending someone else for that job. The gig was to build a fintech app. I charged ₦300k; he said it was too small and he’d pay ₦700k instead. He also paid 70% upfront. 

I was still so doubtful of my skills that I didn’t touch that 70% until I completed the job, so he wouldn’t use police to arrest me if he didn’t like it. I completed the job in two weeks instead of the stipulated two months. I was that anxious. The guy thought it was because I was extremely fast.


He recommended me for a job at a telecommunications company. I did the interview, and they gave me a ₦5 million/year offer. But imposter syndrome struck again, and I lied that I couldn’t take the job because of my Master’s Degree.

Fortunately for me, they couldn’t find anyone else for the role, and they contracted it to the same guy who referred me. That one subcontracted it to me and put me on a ₦600k salary for a five-month contract. I know it doesn’t make sense, but I took the contract position in addition to my regular ₦105k 9-5.

After the contract ended in 2020, a former co-worker told me about an open mobile engineer position with a UK company. I applied and got employed for a one-year contract. It paid ₦400k/month.

Did you still juggle this with your 9-5?

I resigned after getting the UK job. But I didn’t even stay at the job for the complete year. It was so toxic; my boss desperately wanted to be the centre of attention. A 30-minute meeting could last for hours because he’d just keep talking. Plus, I noticed my foreign colleagues were earning as much as $8k/month, and I only got ₦400k. 

So, I started job hunting again after eight months and got a ₦500k/month mobile developer role at a Nigerian company in 2021. By this time, I’d abandoned my postgraduate studies. The lockdown in 2020 had paused school for too long, and I just got tired.

How long did you stay at the new job?

I stayed for about a year and a half. My salary was increased to ₦750k/month at a point. Then I got another opportunity with a US company via LinkedIn. That one paid $35/hour and approximately $3,500 per month, depending on my hours. So, I basically had two incomes from 2021 to 2022.

I felt financially comfortable enough to get married, so I did in 2022. Fun fact: I interviewed for another job the night before my wedding.

How did that happen?

I’d helped some of my friends get jobs at the US company I worked for, and one of them left to join another US company. So, I jokingly said I was open to opportunities at his new job. They were hiring, and I applied. 

I didn’t even think I’d get the job because I was in my wife’s village the night of the interview, and there was no light. But they gave me a couple of tasks and an offer of employment a month later. They offered $5k, but I negotiated, and we eventually settled for $5,500.

This is the first time you’ve mentioned negotiating

Right? I was deliberate about it, too. I’d always been scared to negotiate because I felt I wasn’t good enough and didn’t want to chase people willing to “give me a chance” away. But I had nothing to lose this time. I had two jobs, and I’d become comfortable acknowledging that I was good at what I did.  

I accepted the offer, quit the Nigerian job and focused on my two US jobs. I felt like the biggest boy in the world. There were some months I earned close to $12k.

What lifestyle changes came with your increased earnings?

I still wasn’t much of a social person, so it was just small home and personal changes. I bought my sister’s old car for ₦1m and started regularly sending my parents at least ₦40k/month. My wife and I moved to a new ₦2m/year house in 2022. I paid for two years upfront and made extensive renovations, bringing the total bill to around ₦10m.

The major change was in how much I saved. I started saving 80% of my monthly income and only lived on 20%. For instance, in the months I earned $12k, I’d leave $10k in my domiciliary account. I get a 6% APY dollar investment from my bank, so it’s my primary savings and investment option.

However, around September 2022, I got laid off from the company paying me by the hour.

Oh my. Why?

Business wasn’t doing great, and my role became obsolete. My income was reduced to $5,500/month, so I reduced my savings to $4k. 

Something else that helped during that period was my good relationship with the CTO at the company that laid me off. I didn’t tell him I had another job, so he thought I was jobless. I’d also mentioned that my wife was pregnant, so he felt he had to help me find another job.

And he did. Two months later, he landed me a €40/hour role with a European company. That’s about €4,000/month, depending on hours worked. I didn’t think much of the job because I had another one, but it turned out to be a lifesaver.

How so?

I got laid off from my second US job in April 2023 due to clashes with colleagues. I lowkey think a lot of it was racism because the Black staff members were always treated differently, but I sha lost the job.

Again, having a second job saved me from total unemployment. I’ve been job-hunting since, but it hasn’t been successful. My quality of life hasn’t exactly reduced because I’ve always saved more than I spent. In total, I have saved about $80k so far.

Do you have a saving goal?

I’m honestly just saving for saving sake. I might buy a house down the line, but I’m concerned about building a healthy safety net for my family in case anything happens to me. 

Does the high probability of layoffs in tech bother you?

Always. There’s huge insecurity in this industry, and it’s always on my mind. But I try to focus on making myself indispensable. Layoffs will always happen. That’s why I’m very interested in upskilling. 

How would you describe your relationship with money?

Growing up, I had this laissez-faire attitude to it; it was always there to spend as I liked. Then I got a reality check in university and suddenly became a conservative spender. It’s been like a full-circle journey, and I like that I’m intentional with spending and budgeting. I think I’ve become even more conservative since I became a husband and father. I just want to give my family a good life whether I’m here or not. 

Let’s break down your typical monthly expenses

Nairalife #265 monthly expenses

What was the last thing you bought that significantly improved your quality of life?

I like being in the kitchen, so a food processor and blender that cost about $500 and a new fridge that cost a little above ₦1m. These purchases have made cooking much faster, and I make smoothies all day. 

You said something about still looking for opportunities. What’s your ideal salary?

I’d be thrilled to get a job that pays $10k/month. I’m upskilling in preparation for that. In 2023, I spent about $550 on courses and scrum master certifications.

What’s something you want right now but can’t afford?

A house. A good one will cost around ₦60 million, and I wouldn’t want to spend all my savings on one thing, so that’s still a future want.

How would you rate your financial happiness on a scale of 1 – 10?

9. I’ve lost income, but it could’ve easily been worse. I’m in a better financial position than most, and I’m grateful for the fact that I can give back to my parents and even siblings, if necessary. I only need to keep upskilling to increase my earning potential.

If you’re interested in talking about your Naira Life story, this is a good place to start.

Find all the past Naira Life stories here.



Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.