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.

What’s the oldest memory of money you remember?

A bunch of things. For example, when I was five, I’d find stacks of mint notes when taking my father’s socks out of his shoes.  Let’s talk a bit about him. 

Sure thing

My father was a businessman who owned a warehouse selling chair and couch materials, so he handled a lot of cash. He was barely home, too — his business was in a different city. So, every time he came home, and I found the mint notes in his shoes, I felt a sense of comfort; it was like we were more comfortable than we were. 

It wasn’t just about the notes; the quantity of food items and snacks increased when he was home. I sensed that nothing could go wrong whenever he was around. When I asked for money, he gave me on the spot. 

He passed away when I was seven years old. Naturally, all of these things stopped. 

I’m sorry to hear that. Can you describe what life was like after his death?

He married multiple wives and had many children, so everyone went on their way. I’m the last child from my mum’s side, and all my older siblings were already working. It was after his death that I found out that my siblings probably had the lowest income in the family. It even took a while to know that because I lived with my mum, and they all lived in different cities. My mum and I lived in one of those towns where the lines between the rich and poor were blurred as long as  everyone had food to eat. 

When I was 14, I moved to Lagos to live with one of my sisters. She had a business but only  little money, and sometimes, it was clear that she didn’t have enough to give me. Whenever I noticed this, the first thing that crept up in my head was, “This wouldn’t be happening if my dad was alive.” 

From that time, I developed an aversion to asking for stuff. When I got into university, I didn’t expect a monthly allowance, and I only called my siblings for  ₦2k—3₦k when my account was red. Sometimes, I’d go to a restroom first to cry. It was easier for me to cry than ask for money.

It’d be easier if I were making some money in university, but I didn’t know how to. The only path I knew was to go to school and get a degree, and that’s what I did. That said, I wrote for people in university, but I got paid in “You’re good at this.” Nothing more. 

Thankfully, I finished uni in 2017.

What happened after?

I returned to Lagos. But something happened on my way back: I passed the gate of a prominent newspaper company and told myself I would return the following week to look for a job.  It was a slightly long process, but they accepted me as an intern. 


They said they wouldn’t pay me, but I didn’t mind. That’s how I found myself in the newsroom. While I didn’t have an official salary, I occasionally got handouts from the editors. Some also lived close to me and dropped me at my bus stop. Then, I started writing and getting my bylines; things changed slightly.


Brown envelopes. If you work in print media, you can’t escape them. It’s pretty simple; you cover an event or write about an organisation, and they pay you. The average I got was about ₦5k.

What was the highest amount you made?

I once made about ₦70k in a week. I don’t remember the number of stories I wrote to hit that number though. But I remember that once I started that internship, it was the last time I asked for money from home. You’d think I’d be happier for it.

But you weren’t?

Nope. My mum fell sick. Stroke. 

Nothing has remained the same since. I still think it wouldn’t have happened if we had money, and I was angry about that for a long time. It also meant that I couldn’t stop thinking about how to help my siblings take care of our mum, so there was pressure to make money. 

But you know, I had to focus on the things I could control: work. 

I feel you. How was it going?

For six months, I lived primarily on those brown envelopes. On a random Sunday, one of the senior editors came into the newsroom and said something about how he’d been seeing me for a while but wasn’t sure what I did. I told him I was an intern. He asked if I was getting paid, and when he learned I wasn’t, he instructed them to pay me ₦10k for the six months I had worked there and then ₦10k for every subsequent month I worked. 

That’s so wholesome

I didn’t get the arrears payment — something about documentation — but I started getting paid ₦10k/month. Fast-forward a few months, and I went for NYSC. The newspaper transferred me to a branch in the city where I was posted. There, I had about four income sources: NYSC paid ₦19800, the newspaper paid ₦10k, and the brown envelopes.

And the fourth?

Advertising. The newspaper gave anyone who brought an advertising lead 30% of the total amount paid as commission. I got that a couple of times, but it was far and in between. By the time I finished NYSC, I had saved up to ₦200k. 

I don’t know. But that feels impressive.

I saved money like hell. The ginger was my mum. She was now living with my sister, and we wanted to move then from the apartment they lived in. Everyone had to chip in.

I saved ₦10k monthly and lived on the NYSC ₦19800. Also, I didn’t touch the money I made from advertising commissions — about ₦100k. 

I had some big help, too. When I was leaving for service, an older friend helped me find accommodation in the city I was posted to, so I didn’t pay rent — such a huge help.

When service ended, I chipped in for rent, bought my first laptop and a phone. I had about ₦10k left. I can’t say I was very bothered — I was used to not having money, but I now had a decent phone and laptop. 

And a plan, I imagine 

Kind of. I knew my time at the newspaper was over. I didn’t think I belonged there anymore; I’d had my fill working with older adults. I wanted someplace that had more people around my age. 

A friend introduced me to a HOD at a music company to write for their website. I took their tests, and I was in. 

How much?

₦50k/month. They promised to review the salary for six months, and I was naive enough to believe them. 

One year passed, and I didn’t hear a word. The place had also become really toxic, and the person I reported to was moving weirdly. It wasn’t the best time of my life. 

But see, ₦10k still went into my savings every month. I shared what remained between commuting and contributing at home. However, that meant I couldn’t afford to buy lunch at work or do anything much, really. 

Not having money sucks, man. Do you want to hear a story?

Yes please

On my way to work one morning, I stopped  at a train tracks to buy some snacks. As I was taking money out of my bag, some guy charged at me and took my phone out of my bag. But for some reason, he returned and gave it back. I should have been relieved, but I burst into tears. 

I was like, “I’m out here at this spot at 6:30 a.m. because I had to jump buses. I’m buying snacks because that’s what I could afford.”

I almost lost my phone at a job that didn’t rate me enough to keep their promises. It was then that I decided to leave. 

What did that look like?

I started by volunteering. I did a bunch of work for conference organisers. There, I met someone who had a business newsletter. One thing led to another, and I started contributing to the newsletter — no pay. 

But it led to something

It did. A company that published a business blog hired him. Luckily, they needed one more person on the team, and I backed myself and asked him to throw my name in. About a month later, the publication editor invited me to write tests. In the end, they asked how much I wanted. Without missing a beat, I said ₦150k. The editor said okay, and I was like, “Wait a minute.”

You should have asked for more, right?

I didn’t think about that at the time. It was more about feeling like I was leaving the trenches. Some context: When I was in uni, my ultimate goal was to land a job that’d pay me ₦100k. Now, I got ₦150k. 

I started the job in December 2020 as a writer and social media strategist. I threw myself into the role, and my salary jumped to ₦200k after my first performance review six months later. In December 2021, I got another 50k raise.

Sweet. Now you were at ₦250k

The raises made saving 20% of my salary every month easy—no compromises. Also, for the first time since I started working, I could afford to buy lunch at work occasionally.

Interestingly, ₦250k/month was also beginning to look small. 

What changed?

The people I now had in my network. It’s essential to open your eyes to what’s around you. When I was in school, the only people I knew were my family members, and they didn’t have much. But the place I worked opened me up to another world. I was working with people from private schools and some who went to school abroad. 

Growing up without money sometimes makes you feel like you’re not enough. But this company hired me and these people, so I knew I was on to something. It helped that I was also good at my job.

What came after this realisation?

I knew I could ask for more. During the next  performance review, I asked for ₦500k.  However, I got ₦320k plus another ₦50k monthly allowance. I had a feeling it could have been more, but it did something for me — I could now afford taxis to work. I was also saving 40% of my salary. By the middle of 2023, I saved up a little over ₦1m, which was enough to get me an apartment. But again, I was now broke.

But my discontent at work was only getting worse. Besides, I was tired of social media management, and it felt like I’d reached a ceiling. The best thing was to focus on what I could control — putting my CV out there. 

How did that go?

I had a couple of leads, but nothing panned out until October 2023, when I got a ₦170k/month side gig. The following month, I got another offer to lead marketing at a tech company. I asked for ₦1.4m, but we landed at ₦750k. 

How did you feel about that?

It was about 2x my salary then, so it was a good deal for me. I held all three jobs for a month, making my first million.

Haha. I was 27 before ₦1m entered my account at the same time. The following month, December,  I resigned from my previous job and the side gig and focused on this job. I’m still there. 

How has 2024 been for you?

I’ve been primarily focused on a savings goal. In December last year, my mum mentioned how she’d like a piece of land in our hometown. She wanted it, and I told her I would make it happen. I gave myself a six-month timeline to raise the money, and I’ve been saving ₦200k/month. I have ₦1m in that savings account now. The piece of land I want costs between ₦1m and ₦1.5m. 

Well done

I was also saving ₦50k in another account for my rent and ₦50k for emergencies. The only problem is that I almost always touch that one. I will say that although I’m earning more than I’ve done in my life, I’m working a lot of hours for it. However, it feels like I’m hustling backwards. 

Why do you think so?

The easiest suspect is inflation. It’s eaten into all my gains in the past few years.  I can’t even afford to move out of my apartment, which costs ₦580k/year, because the rent prices have increased. And I don’t want to use more than a month’s salary to pay my rent. I feel like I’m standing on solid ground now, but it’s still nothing compared to what it would have been like a few years ago. 

As it stands, I’m down to my last ₦2k and looking forward to my salary at the end of each month. I work long hours every day of the week, so it feels unfair sometimes. 

Can you believe I can’t even take a taxi to work every day because the prices have shot up, too? So, I still jump buses. 

Is there even any way to work around this?

There is. I have to “outearn” inflation. That’s where my head is at now, and how I can insulate myself. For example, my life will be soft if I’m on $4k/month now. The only work  I’ll have to do is manage lifestyle creep. I won’t move to a duplex in Lekki just because I want to change apartments. 

Fair enough. This inflation talk makes me curious about your monthly expenses. 

These are the recurring expenses. I still send more money home because I’m now the biggest earner and sometimes have to help out my siblings. 

And your savings?

I have about ₦3m in savings right now, plus the ₦1m I have for my mum’s land. I’ve been saving for so long that I’ve become comfortable with it. The next ground I want to conquer now is investing. 

Tell me more?

I started putting money in stock in 2021 out of curiosity. I invested ₦50k and bought some Apple stocks when they were $80 and MTN stocks at ₦170/share. It’s grown to ₦250/share now. The Apple stocks are doing pretty well, too. I topped up my investment portfolio with some Berkshire stocks at some point. Overall, my portfolio is worth about $500 now. 

I’m giving that more thought and learning more about the stock market. I’ve also bought a couple of courses. I’ll even take it if I can work in a financial institution. 

You’re going all in, aren’t you?

I have to. There’s so much I have to do. The plot of land I’m buying for my mum is the beginning — I need to purchase properties in her name. She deserves a lot more than she’s getting, and it’s my responsibility to provide these for her. 

Curious. Have you questioned why you feel this way?

It’s simple: the happier she is, the happier I am. I’ve realised that money is a tool to show love, and I won’t have it any other way. 

But have you thought about how much you need to be making now, realistically?  

$2k/month is an excellent place to be right now. It’s a short-term goal for me, and I know I’ll have to put in a lot of hours to make it happen — as it should be. 

Oh, wait. I almost forgot —

I’m listening 

I just got a side gig paying me ₦300k/month. By the end of this month, I’ll start earning ₦1.05m. Exciting times. 

You’ve come a long way, haven’t you?

It feels like that sometimes. I’m not going to lie; there’s been a lot of growth, and  it’s shaped by the environment and the people around me since 2019. I’ve seen what’s possible, and that’s where my sights are now.

LFG! Is there anything you want but can’t afford?

A car. I go out almost every day, and taxis are expensive. I save money from jumping on buses, but it’s not convenient. Sometimes, there are hidden costs, too. Imagine ruining a ₦26k dress because I wanted to save ₦6k on transport. 

But where do I find ₦6m – ₦8m for a car right now? It’s so interesting that I’m earning ₦1m/month and can’t close my eyes to buy a car. It will take some time and probably mean clearing all my savings. God abeg. 

The “God Abeg is so real. How would you rate your financial happiness? 

2/10 for a bunch of reasons. I earn more, but I feel poorer. Even though I’m intentional about it, I don’t have much savings. I’ll have to dip my savings if I don’t work for a month. I’m grateful for my growth, but I’m still in survival mode. Yet I have to work every day even to make this much. There’s still a lot of work to do to create the life I want for myself. But  It’s also how I know there are many beautiful things to look forward to.

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

Yes, I want to do a Naira Life!

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.