What’s It Like Living on 20k/month? Ask This Artisan


July 1, 2019

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.

This week’s story pulled off in collaboration with ARM PENSIONS. Tomorrow is looking good. How’s it looking for you? Start making tomorrow look good by making the right calls today, by clicking here.

What’s the first thing you ever did for money?

I worked for a caterer when I was in Junior secondary school as a Waiter. I was 15 at the time, in JSS2 and this was 2010. We were seven kids – I’m the fifth of seven – so you couldn’t just sit around and wait for anyone to give you money. My mum sells roasted plantain and yam, with fish. My dad sells curtains and other materials you’ll normally need for curtains.  

Back then, I used to work at events of all kinds, and got paid ₦2k per day. There were the long weekends of Friday, Saturday and Sunday work.

There were days when we’d travel on Wednesdays and come back on Sunday. 

My best month doing catering work ever, paid me ₦38k. I was working at Davido’s show. That show was mad. The crowd was mad, and people were rushing our cocktails and shawarmas. I went to regular, VIP, everywhere. 

The moment that burst my brain was what Davido did. What happened was, he was throwing money in the air, and people were rushing to catch money. Then they started stampeding and some girls were getting trampled on. One guy started protecting the girls. Davido just called him out and said, “I’ve been watching you since, helping people. For that, take ₦1 million.” 

This was December 2018. 

Mad oh! Let’s go back a little. 

Back then, the salary used to be like ₦5-₦15k every month, but that’s not where the real money was. The real money was made at the venue. You know all those big-big people at the venue? That’s where the real money is. Some people will just say, “you’ve been serving us well, take this money,” and you’ll see that they gave you ₦3k or ₦2k or ₦1k. The best money someone has given me at once is ₦5k. It’s that money that actually used to sustain me, not just the salary. 

Then 2015 – the year I wrote WAEC – there was a period after elections that catering jobs were not coming again. So I started looking for another job to do, something that will give me money monthly. My cousin just came one day and said, “guy, come and escort me somewhere.” When we got there, I saw people there making blinds. I saw one guy weaving it and I looked and looked. 

I just dey look. 

I just told my cousin, “I think I’ve reached my bus stop. I go like learn this work.” He asked me if I liked it, I said yes. I told my dad, and he asked me if I was sure I wanted to do it. I said yes. Then he took me to someone’s place. And the man told me to write an application letter. I wrote it, and the next day, I resumed. 

And that’s how I started working as an apprentice, learning how to make window blinds. 

What were your options?

I wanted to learn tailoring. I also considered joining my dad, to sell curtains. Another one I considered was working Aluminium, but my friend that started the work, that one na so-so messenger work, that’s what he was doing at that time. ‘Go and buy this, go and buy that.’ 

Did school cross your mind at any time?

Yes now, but no money at the time, so I no just stress myself. I didn’t even bother writing JAMB – my senior ones didn’t even bother asking me to – because there was no sign that I’ll have money for university sef. 

Our firstborn is a driver, guy. The second-born, third, and fourth born, all women, all tailors. The one after me just finished, she’s learning catering. Then the last born, a girl. She wrote WAEC this year.

How much do you think your school fees is? 

I wanted to be an accountant because I was a Commercial student. My best subject at that time was even Accounting – I had a C4 in WAEC. My dream schools were Abia State University and UNILAG. Abia State University was about ₦200-and-something-k when I asked. I dunno how much UNILAG was, but someone said it was expensive too, so I no just bother. 

So, back to the blinds work. 

Back to the blinds work.

When I started at that time, I was getting paid ₦10k per month, and another ₦500 every day, as feeding and transport money. 

By 2017, I was already thinking of setting up my own business, when one day my Oga just came to tell us something. He said that he was thinking of laying off some staff, because sales were not great. He said when more sales come, people can come back. I just used that opportunity to volunteer to leave. 

I had ₦50-something-k in my savings. 

How did you pull it off?

I moved in with a friend that was getting jobs. So we’d do the work together, and I’d get a percentage. Sometimes ₦2k (40%), sometimes ₦1,500 (30%). We’re still together now. 

What was the difference between your Oga and your guy? 

My Oga is rich. He goes to China and brings goods. He has warehouses, and he started as an apprentice too o. It was one man from the North that used to give him rides from the house to the office, when he didn’t have money. Sometimes, the North guy will not even collect money. Two of them are still together sef. The man is the one managing all the vehicles. 

Me and my guy, na hustle. We get small jobs and we do. But I prefer working with my guy, because we share all the wahala together. Some days we make money, some days we don’t. 

How much do you think you make in a month?

It’s not stable. Sometimes 25k enters my pocket, sometimes 10k. It depends on the season. The best season for blinds work is October to December. Those are the times that people move the most and are trying to finish their house in the village. This past month, I made up to 25k. But most of the time, it’s like 20k.

Let’s break down your expenses.

The things I spent money on always change according to the month. But let me tell you how I spent money last month sha.

Every other month: ₦4k per month for rent. We use a shared kitchen and a shared toilet. Sometimes, I just go to one of my friend’s place to stay for some time. 

Sometimes, I buy stuff for my babe. I bought her a phone one time. An Inifnix Note. It cost ₦40-something-k at the time. 

Betting – how’s that going?

I’ve been betting as a junior student, betting lotto – betting with as low as ₦20 sef. I won ₦12k. I told my mother to go and help me collect the money that time – I was underage – so my mum collected the money and when I asked her, she said she’s given my brother to use to repair his Danfo. I was very angry ehn. Then another time, I won like 54k when I was in senior secondary

This last December, I won ₦62k. Then I’ve won ₦8k this year. But the highest amount I’ve won is ₦65k, two years ago – a combined game of teams from England, Spain, Italy and all that. There was a full year I was betting but I didn’t win anything – 2016. But I still continued betting. Altogether, I can say I’ve won 15 times sha. 

Do you save?

I like saving, but cash is harder to save. I always save when people transfer money. So generally, I prefer people transferring money to me, instead of cash. 

How much money would be great right now?

₦30-₦35k per month. It will cover many expenses that I have now very well. 

How much do you think you’ll be making in 5 years?

₦50k and above sha. Steady. I believe if I focus on the job, and work hard, and get more customers, and pray, the money will grow too. 

Okay, what about in 30 years?

₦150k. I say 150 because I believe I’ll be bigger then, and I believe that the profit from the sales will be up to that. 

How much do you think your Oga makes every month?

Ahhhh, plenty. Plenty money. His manager earning ₦150k per month. He has branches in Enugu, Owerri, Aba, Port Harcourt, Abuja, and Lagos. His money is plenty. He’s been in the business for 10-12 years. 

So, do you think you can make that amount in 10 years?

Okay. Okay. In 30 years, I’ll be making more than ₦150k. I believe it’s possible. I’m very sure I’ll be making more than ₦150k every month.

Okay, let’s talk about pension?

I really dunno much about it, but I heard it’s just like savings that you keep aside for future use. 

Ah, I’m going to do it. 

If you want to start with pension now per month, how much do you think you’ll pay? 

Maybe like ₦2k per month. But it actually makes sense. My dad’s plan was to build a house in the village and go back when he stops work, but he hasn’t even started sef. He’s 75, and still working. I know we’re the ones that will take care of him. If he had this one, maybe we won’t have to be the ones to take care of him. 

When do you want to retire? 

I dunno, maybe 75? I think that’s the age I can just say I want to rest, and stop struggling. 

What’s the last thing you bought that required serious planning?

My phone, an Infinix Hot 5 Pro. I bought it for ₦35k from my friend. They stole that phone last-last at another friend’s shop.

What’s your backup plan for when you fall sick?

My savings. I have like ₦20k there now. The only reason I save is just so I can have money if anything happens. 

How would you rate life, on a scale of 1-10?

6 over 10. The 6 is because I can go out in the morning and come back, I’m feeding myself, I’m not complaining. Some days, I make money. Sometimes, I can go to the bank and deposit money. 

Last question, what’s next for your sister?

She was telling me she wants to study accounting too. She hasn’t said what school she wants to go yet, because she’s still going to write JAMB next year. In the meantime, she’s helping my mum out with selling food. But she’s definitely going to continue school.

Everyone has plans to make it happen for her. Big time plans.


This week’s story was made possible by ARM PENSIONS. Have you ever wondered what your finances would look like in 30 years? Find out what it’ll look like here.

Check back every Monday at 9 am (WAT) for a peek into the Naira Life of everyday people.
But, if you want to get the next story before everyone else, with extra sauce and ‘deleted scenes’, subscribe below. It only takes a minute.

Upon request from some of your readers, we’ve added a payment link to this story. For those willing to send monetary love and light to the Subject, click here. All updates on disbursement will be in the Naira Life weekly newsletter. So subscribe.

Find Zikoko
wherever you are

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