The Lady Who’s Winging It On A ₦171k Salary

June 24, 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 Payday Investor. Before you start to make plans about your next salary, click here.

First money you earned ever?

I think it was in secondary school. We made earrings in school with beads, and then we sold it on Open Day, that felt nice.

Also, my mum owned a restaurant, and I’d help her with work. But my first proper earning was in 2012 when my mum hired me for a catering job – she got a gig and made me the Project Manager. It was less than two weeks, and she paid me ₦50k.

How old were you then?

19. Next was NYSC, I started serving in March 2013. The state I served, you were paid ₦20k per quarter, but you had to travel to the capital to get that money. I didn’t think it was worth it, so I never went to get it. By the way, I was also an apprentice at a tailor’s shop. In fact, I paid them to learn at the time. Add to that, I attended a fashion design school while I was in Uni.

So it’s something you care about a lot.

Yes. When I finished serving in 2014, my parents set up a tailoring business for me. My mum had the equipment, and we had space, so it was easy to carve out an office. While that was kicking off, I applied for a teaching job, because I wanted to do something else that I cared about.

I started in May 2014 part-time. It paid ₦14,500. I really wasn’t doing it for the money, I just wanted to do it. So I was teaching and doing the tailoring business at the time.

How much was tailoring giving you?

I really can’t remember, but I know it fetched enough money for me to buy two phones that year. I didn’t have to ask my parents for money, and I could even chip in with house stuff.

Anyway, I dropped my teaching in January 2015, after about nine months, so I focused on tailoring. Then in August that year, I had to quit tailoring too, because I was travelling away from home for my Masters. September that year, my mum got a catering job in another state, and I had to travel ahead to go sort everything and make sure everything was in place. In the end, she paid me ₦200k.

I didn’t get any income for the rest of the year.

What came next?

I got married in 2016 and had to move to a different city, North-Central. It was hard to be idle – I’d never been idle for as long as I could remember – so I taught myself how to make pastries. Then I started selling. I went to fairs, trying to get the product out. The first fair was a disaster. I paid ₦12k for the stall and made only ₦6k – this was November 2016.

In January 2017, I went for another fair, and I sold out completely –  I can’t remember, but I made about ₦50-something-k.

I was taking orders from home, and that felt steady. I went for another fair in March, and it was around that time I stopped because I suddenly couldn’t stand the smell of my kitchen.

Uhm, pregnancy?

Yep. I had my baby in November 2017. But at this time, I was already looking for a space to rent for my tailoring business. Eventually, I found one, and renovations and all that lasted into January.

But in February 2018, my marriage ended – I got a divorce and took my baby with me. He’d rented the house, I furnished it. So I packed all my stuff and returned to my family – my parents took full responsibility of and for me.


I already had orders from my tailoring, but because I couldn’t deliver on time – the whole divorce thing – I didn’t charge them. I tried my hands at tailoring again, in June 2018 – I rented space in someone’s shop. But, I’d just gone back to school, and I had a kid, so I had to stop again. Stress.

All this while, I’d been applying for jobs, and then in September, I got called for an interview. Barely two weeks later, I started at the job – a lecturing job – for ₦171k.

It was also around this time I got my own place. It took a lot of convincing my parents to let me get a place of my own. I needed my own space, for my baby, for my Maid. My parents paid for my rent, and it cost ₦1.3 million.

They’re the MVPs.

They’re basically taking care of me. Entirely.

In all this time, what’s your perspective about money?

It’s funny how people say money is not everything when it really is everything. My salary isn’t enough for me to do anything at all. It doesn’t cover my rent, or feeding, or child.

I’m a wanderer at heart, but my salary won’t let me travel anywhere.

So how do you cover your other expenses?

My father. Every month, he sends money for everything – my feeding, child’s feeding, bills, etc. I’ve only ever bought pieces of clothing for my child, my parents always buy clothes, especially when they travel.

My biggest fear is always when my child falls sick. It happened a few months ago, and if my parents weren’t there, how would I have been able to afford to pay the ₦40k that we spent that day?

What’s an average month like, caring for your little one?

Let’s look at your full expense breakdown

A lot of my savings is really so that I can afford to travel for conferences and the likes. Then my emergency fund is me saving up for horrible case scenarios when I can’t get money from my dad.

Looking at your career, how much do you think you should be earning?

Somehow, I feel like this is fair, by Nigerian standards. Every day, I ask myself how long I’d have to work to be able to earn ₦500k per month at a teaching job. How much do you think you’ll be earning in 5 years?

If I stay in academia, it’ll most likely be about ₦250k. But if it’s not in academia, good money, whatever that means then.

My good money is not stressing, not depending on my parents, while also having enough for one vacation a year. Being able to fully support my needs and my kid’s. Like, I stress about not being able to pay for her school fees.

Right now, my good money would be ₦700k.

What do you do when you’re sick?

I personally refuse to acknowledge I’m sick. So I eat and sleep my way through any signs or illness/discomfort. And I am sick a lot. All the time. Plus I hate medication. So I don’t even mention it or I keep saying oh I’m sick but never do anything about it. At most, I take panadol hahaha.

When was the last time you felt really broke?

So it’s either between one of these two times.

First was in 2016. I was still married and I wasn’t working. We got into a huge fight – continuing from where we left off a few days before. I was so pissed because I’d grudgingly agreed to let it go. And he brought it up. I was certain I was done. I packed a bag. And I realised I had less than ₦2k in my account. That wasn’t going to take me anywhere. I was so frustrated. That hurt me more than the problem that was making me leave to begin with.

I was so helpless and didn’t want to ask anyone. It was one of my lowest points in life. If I just had some vex money, I’d have left. No hassle. Nothing.

There was also that other time in 2018 – where all of a sudden – my kid got sick. Her eyes started watering. And it felt like her temperature started spiking. I don’t think I had up to ₦5k with me. There was no way that was going to cover consultation and medication. I was panicking. My heart hurt. I didn’t want to call anyone. So I took her to a 24hrs pharmacy. At 10 pm ish. Came back with less than ₦1k.

I never want to be in that position ever again. I never want to feel so helpless.

Is investment something you’ve ever really considered?

Nope. Well, kinda. I put ₦40k from my first salary into some investment scheme. Mostly because my mum insisted and I thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea. I was supposed to get credited monthly, but I haven’t received anything. I hear the thing collapsed or something.

The only thing I think about using my savings for is travel, which doesn’t make sense, because I can’t afford it. But then I think about it as an investment – investing in myself, hahaha.

Seriously though, I think about it, I want to invest, I just don’t know what to invest in, or how to go about it. Not sure who to talk to.

Happiness levels, 1-10?

4. No, 3. Because my salary isn’t enough to take care of me and my kid. In any way at all. If my parents weren’t taking care of me, I’d not be able to hold things up.

I believe in doing and investing in things you genuinely love doing. That way, you put in everything and are hopeful that it translates into results. So I have an opportunity to start a food business. Once I raise funds to start up, I’m good. So yes, getting funds will be a good starting point to raise that happiness level.

This week’s story was made possible by Payday Investor. They want you investing as quickly as possible, with as little as the price of bottled water. Give it a shot. Download the app now

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.

Fu'ad Lawal

Join The Conversation

Bring a friend.

You'll like this

July 29, 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. The lady in this story has worked in digital media (creative industry) for almost a decade. But she’s convinced that she’s just getting started. […]

March 30, 2020

What’s your biggest fear? Snakes? Death? His biggest fear is not a person or people, it’s a system, a culture. What’s your oldest memory of money? My mummy took me and my brother to this park, which was close to where we lived. After riding one of their motors, I wanted to go again and […]


Now on Zikoko

December 2, 2020

This week’s What She Said is Olusayo Ajet, an artist, academic, engineer, biochemist and researcher. She talks about how art was her tool of escape, her relationship with her family and how she experiences the world one day at a time. Tell me about how you started making art. I don’t necessarily have a moment […]

December 1, 2020

President Muhammadu Buhari rode to office on the major campaign promise that his administration will put a final end to the Boko Haram insurgency. However, on Sunday, November 9th 2020, many Nigerians woke up to the news that suspected Boko Haram insurgents had killed more than 43 rice farmers in Garin Kwashebe, a rice farming […]

December 1, 2020

4:38 a.m.  I’m fully awake, I’ve taken a bath and I’m dressed in my all white. My roommates are beginning to let their guards down because it’s the last day. Why are they not awake by this time. They will blow the bugle now and they will start rushing. Anyways, let me go back to […]

December 1, 2020

Despite the scrapping of testing fees in government health facilities and the large donor funds Nigeria receives annually, one in five young persons have never tested for HIV. This statistics looks insignificant until you do the maths and realise at least 18 million people have no idea of their status. We must recognise that these […]

December 1, 2020

December 1st is World AIDS Day. It is a day to raise awareness about AIDS. We spoke to Doctor Opeyemi, to tell us some facts about the disease, common misconceptions and how to care for people living with AIDS. 1) AIDS AIDS (Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome) is the late stage manifestation of the viral infection […]

Recommended Quizzes

November 14, 2019

The fourth season of Big Brother Naija came to an end over a month ago, but the conversation surrounding the housemates is far from over. So, in a bid to keep the fire burning, we decided to create a quiz that tells you which famous member of the ‘Pepper Dem’ gang is your soulmate. Take […]

November 19, 2019

Regardless of what society has tried to tell us, enjoying sex is not something to be ashamed of. So, in a bid to celebrate our generation’s sexual agency, we’ve created a quiz that will accurately (again, keep your complaints to yourself) infer how many people you’ve spelt with. Try it out: 11 Quizzes For The […]

More from Naira Life

November 30, 2020

This is #NairaLife, episode 96. What’s your oldest memory of money? I’d say not having a lot of it. My dad had money, but it did not seem that way. I felt we were poor. I remember back in secondary school, I had to wear worn-out shoes and bags, my uniforms were not anything to […]

November 23, 2020

What’s the first thing you ever did for money? I was writing my guy’s notes in secondary school. I didn’t even have complete notes for myself.  Haha. What were your going rates?  About ₦250 for the day’s notes, which was about six or so hours of classes.  Why did you do it?  I wanted more […]

November 9, 2020

What is the first thing you ever did for money?  Haha. Farming. The first thing I did was farming.  Do you remember the first money you made from farming? I farmed about three plots of land and harvested two bags of rice and sold it for no more than ₦4,000. This was around 2008, and […]

November 2, 2020

What’s your oldest memory of money? Haha, I know this question from Naira Life.  Hahaha, an OG.  I remember finding some money in my aunt’s purse. She had just relocated to London, and she left some naira in her bag. I think she forgot it. Anyway, my siblings and I took it and didn’t tell […]

October 19, 2020

Tell me about your oldest memory of money. Hmm, I didn’t acknowledge the existence of money till I was in secondary school. Prior to that, whatever I needed was always provided. I’m not saying that this changed in secondary school, but there was a stark difference between what my mates had and what I had. […]

September 28, 2020

Tell me about the day you knew something wasn’t right.  I woke up in the middle of the night feeling funny. I’d slept like two hours earlier, but something woke me up. I decided to check my blood pressure  – I’m hypertensive.  Wait, how old are you?  27 soon. Anyway, I checked my BP, and […]


Trending Videos

Zikoko Originals

November 2, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
October 26, 2020
A collection of videos documenting some of the events of the EndSARS protests.
June 22, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
June 22, 2020
Hacked is an interesting new series by Zikoko made up of fictional but hilarious chat conversations.
June 4, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
June 2, 2020
Quickie is a video series where everyone featured gets only one minute to rant, review or do absolutely anything.
May 14, 2020
Isolation Diary is a Zikoko series that showcases what isolation is like for one young Nigerian working from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
March 12, 2020
Life is already hard. Deciding where to eat and get the best lifestyle experiences, isn't something you should stress about. Let VRSUS do that for you.
February 6, 2020
Who doesn't want to find love? In our bid to help, we paired up a bunch of single Nigerians, sending them on an all-expense paid date, and interviewing them before and after they met.

Z! Stacks

Here's a rabbit hole of stories to lose yourself in:

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