Don’t get me wrong. Advising people to live below their means isn’t bad financial advice. Spending less than you earn is a good way to manage your expenses.

But giving that advice in 2023 Nigeria may very well be a privileged take. What do I mean?

First, let’s understand what this advice means 

To live below your means implies that if you earn ₦18k/month, you shouldn’t be spending all that ₦18k every month — you need to keep some aside for emergencies, savings, or investments by cutting out unnecessary expenses. But that’s where the problem starts.

How many people have this “means” to start with?

According to the World Poverty Clock in 2023, 71 million Nigerians live in extreme poverty. 828 million people wake up every day having no idea when or where their next meal will come from. By definition, these people don’t have any excesses or expenses to cut off. Food is essential, but most can’t even afford it. You might argue that these aren’t the target audience for the “live below your means” advice, so let’s move forward.

A minimum wage earner has no means to live below

The minimum wage in Nigeria is ₦30k/month. Now, with the constantly rising cost of food and literally everything else, the minimum wage earner is already forced to cut out additional expenses. Some even have to resort to loans to pay rent and medical emergencies — all essential expenses, by the way.

The advice only works from a place of privilege

If you can afford your basic needs and still have a little to flex, you’re the one we’re referring to. Technically, you can live below your means because you can already afford your basic necessities. The others are just jara.

If most people live lower than they already do, they’d be in the gutter

If your means are barely meeting your basic needs in the first place, how you wan do am? Except, of course, you choose to follow this genius advice. After all, is it every month you want to be eating?

The most effective way to live below your means is to earn more

Because how will you have money to spare when the money you currently make isn’t sparing you from inflation? You can’t even do delayed gratification again because what you planned to buy for ₦5k today can increase to ₦30k tomorrow.

In conclusion, do the one you can do

Don’t say you want to live below your means and start eating once a week. Hunger will finish you. 

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