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.
Tell me about your earliest memory of money
I always got random ₦50s and ₦100s from neighbours and strangers because they thought I was a cute child. My “pretty privilege” has been a thing since I was seven. One neighbour even used to call me his “small wife” and gave me money whenever he saw me. In Primary 4, my class teacher gave me ₦20 every other day for sweets.
Were your parents aware of this?
I’m an only child raised by a struggling single mum. If anything, the gifts helped. She always collected the money from me to “save it”, but I knew she used it for us, so I didn’t mind.
Do you remember the first time you worked for money?
After finishing secondary school in 2014, my mum paid for me to learn how to braid hair at a unisex salon. The alternative was staying at home for one year because I didn’t pass my O-Levels. She thought it was better for me to keep busy.
I wasn’t allowed to touch clients for seven months. Even after that, I only assisted the hairdressers. The way the salon worked was that the people doing the hair were required to pay a cut of their earnings to the salon owner every week. Since I was just an assistant, any hairdresser I worked with gave me a small part of whatever they made. On average, I made around ₦500 daily from regular work.
You say “regular” like there was another income source
You caught me. I had plenty of toasters — mostly uni students who came to cut their hair — and they regularly gave me money. One of them even bought me a Nokia phone I didn’t ask for. I had told him I couldn’t give him my number because I didn’t have a phone. I collected the phone sha, but I hid it from my mum so she wouldn’t worry. On average, I made an extra ₦2k weekly in money gifts.
What were you spending the money on?
I was 15 years old, and there was a limit to how much I could spend without alerting my mum. I definitely couldn’t get clothes, so I mostly spent a small percentage on food at work. The rest, I sneaked into my mum’s kolo from time to time. She still thinks she had a guardian angel who was somehow multiplying her money.
That’s so cute
I stopped working at the salon the following year. I got into uni in 2016 and started making hair for my colleagues. Most of them didn’t pay me, but I made about ₦5k/month. My mum also sent me a monthly allowance of ₦10k.
I made people’s hair for only one year, though.
It was too stressful, and I wasn’t making much from it. A friend suggested signing up for ushering jobs because of my looks, so I joined an ushering agency in 2017. I worked during the weekends and got paid per event, making an average of ₦20k/month. But I always got tips from men at the events, which almost doubled my salary at the end of the month. It was good money, but I stopped after six months.
At an event I ushered at, I met a guy who had a modelling agency. He convinced me I was just wasting my looks and figure, so I decided to join his agency and focus on taking modelling gigs. It was mostly photoshoots, and I got paid between ₦20k – ₦30k per shoot. Sometimes, I’d have as many as four shoots in a month.
I was active on Instagram because of my modelling. And, of course, the men came. The funniest DM I ever got came from someone I’d never spoken to.
Him: “How much to hear your voice?”
Him: Send me your account number.
I thought it was a joke, but he sent the money o. I gave him my number after that, and we talked a couple of times, but we never met.
Did this happen regularly?
Oh yes. There were the creeps who wanted sex, but I got a number of admirers who sent me money to ask for dates or on my birthday. I welcomed the attention because it was free money, and it also helped me limit how much I had to call home for money.
In 2019, I started dating the first person to put me on a monthly allowance: ₦200k. I still had my modelling gigs too.
What was your relationship with money like at this time?
I spent like someone was pursuing the money from my account. Aside from my girlfriend allowance, the person I was dating also paid for my off-campus accommodation and sometimes bought me food, so I spent on whims. My biggest expenses were clothes, make-up, hair and shoes.
But I usually sent money home to my mum. When she asked where I got it from, I’d say it was from the modelling gigs.
I stopped modelling in my final year. The 2020 pandemic affected the agency I was working with. After that, I didn’t work for a while until NYSC in 2021. Even then, I just collected the ₦33k allowance and didn’t show up to my PPA.
My PPA was a school, and I wasn’t up for that. They were supposed to pay ₦10k/month, so I arranged with someone there to collect the money if it meant I wouldn’t have to show up. I also settled the people at my CDS with ₦8k – ₦10k monthly.
What were you doing with your free time?
I got a social media management job through my boyfriend. My employer had a clothing line and paid me ₦70k/month. I took up the job because my boyfriend claimed things were hard and reduced my girlfriend allowance to ₦100k. That’s why he helped me get the job. But I only did the job for two months.
Why did you leave?
It turned out my boss was my boyfriend’s wife. I knew he was married, but we didn’t talk about it because I didn’t want to know. So tell me why this man took me to his actual wife? It took me a long time to realise because they used different surnames, and she was hardly around at the boutique.
How did you find out?
She shared their anniversary post on her WhatsApp status. I resigned immediately after I saw it and stopped taking his calls. It feels extreme now, but I didn’t want to risk the woman finding out and harassing me.
I guess that meant no more girlfriend allowance
I also had no savings, and my allawee was my only source of income for about a month. I knew I could easily get someone else to fund my lifestyle, but I decided to try doing it on my own first. I was in my independent babe phase.
I made a post on my Instagram story about looking for a social media management gig, and one of my followers got me a job at an advertising agency. I should mention that I also made about ₦120k from that post. Some guys DM’ed me and sent me money because, apparently, the post was giving “damsel in distress”. Again, how could I say no to free money?
God abeg. How much did the job pay?
₦85k/month. I did that for the rest of my NYSC year, plus an extra five months. I really loved the work, but I had to leave because a team lead refused to stop asking me out. I liked him, but I didn’t want a work relationship. Plus, he was friends with the person who got me the job. I didn’t want to be a topic between them.
What did you do next?
I found another boyfriend who put me on an allowance.
What happened to independent babe?
Capitalism showed her shege. Job hunting was difficult, and I don’t do well broke. So, I got serious with someone I’d been chatting with on and off with on Instagram and went on a couple of dates with him. He worked in tech and had sent me money before while we were still just talking, so I knew he wasn’t stingy. Also, he wasn’t married.
How much was the allowance?
It wasn’t fixed, but he sent me between ₦100k- ₦300k per month. We weren’t exclusive, so I still talked to other guys who sent me money when I needed it. These people were basically my sources of income for the last few months of 2022. One of them even got me the laptop I use for work now.
You got another job?
I got my current job — a ₦200k/month social media management role at a tech company in March 2023. The tech bro and I mutually ended our arrangement at the beginning of the year, and I thought it was time I became serious about my career. He’s even the one who referred me to my employer.
What are your finances like these days?
Besides my salary, I get a lot of random gifts I can’t account for. For example, I made double my salary last month from meeting someone who wants me to be his side chick. But I’m terrible with money. I almost always need money by the middle of the month.
Why do you think that is?
I live a very “baby girl” life, and a lot of money goes into maintaining my lifestyle — money my salary can’t fully cover. I’ve dated on and off this year, but I wasn’t in most of them long enough to have a monthly allowance.
On one hand, I’d say that’s limited my financial planning in a way because there’s no specific amount of money I’m looking forward to. But if I’m being honest, my spending habits could be better.
Can you break down your typical expenses in a month?
I live with three friends, and my contribution to the annual rent is ₦500k. However, I’ve never paid my rent with my own money since we started living together two years ago. It’s always on the neck of whoever is funding my lifestyle at that moment.
I’m curious. What’s the most expensive gift you’ve received?
The tech bro sponsored a trip to Dubai in 2022. I’m still surprised he did that because, like I said, we weren’t exclusive.
Do you have any financial regrets?
Plenty. I’ve gotten so much money from men in my life, and I wish I’d managed it better. I tend to feel there’ll always be someone who’ll want to take care of me because of my looks, but it’s not sustainable.
People think I have money because I have a great wardrobe, but I’m very broke. It’s one reason I’m trying to take my career seriously. If I can keep this job, I’ll try to save most of my salary and look at how to fit in my recurring expenses around what I get from people.
How would you rate your financial happiness?
2. I feel like I’m just sailing through life without a solid safety net. Pretty privilege has been both a blessing and a curse. It means I get a lot of money, but it also means I’m too dependent on the money I receive to actually live within my means.
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.