We Asked 5 Nigerian Graduates What They Did With Their First Salary

August 5, 2020

Life after university is usually characterised by a lot of firsts for many people. Two of the most memorable moments are the first job and the first salary. Recently, we asked some Nigerian graduates to talk about their first job hunting experience. This time, we asked 5 people how they spent their first salary.

Salary in Nigeria

Romoke 

Towards the end of my service year, someone I used to work for put out a call for a project manager. I reached out to her and asked if I could work remotely. After some back and forth, I got the job.

She was trying to build an online business school, and she made me the business manager. I was responsible for the team and ensuring that we worked with timelines. 

The job paid me ₦50000, which I had no problem with. I knew how competitive the job ecosystem in Nigeria is. At that moment, I was more interested in all the things I could learn on the job. It paid off in the long run.

The salary was more than what I earned as a corps member too, and that was good. But also, I knew that there were about to be more expenses. In fact, the bulk of what I had left after savings was spent on moving back to Lagos. Then, my sister had to write an exam and I paid for it. I didn’t have a choice there, anyway.

A lot has changed since that time. Now, I’m better at managing family expectations. There will always be something they need me to take care of, but it doesn’t hurt if I take care of myself too. Black tax can rob anyone of financial independence, and I’m not about to let that happen to me.

Tosin

I worked in a communications role for an NGO in my first job. I created and developed a content calendar for social media, wrote and curated content for the newsletter. The NGO worked with a lot of volunteers, and I was also put on the task of managing these volunteers and organizing training for them. 

There were a couple of additional responsibilities but my salary wasn’t even up to ₦50000. This was ironic because I’d hoped for a 6-figure salary. Nevertheless, I took the job. It was an intern role and I held out hope of becoming a full staff as soon as possible.

However, my expenses at the time were way more than my salary. I don’t know how it would have played out if I didn’t have a means of making extra money on the side. 

When I got my first salary, I knew adulting was in full effect for me, and that was exciting. I invited a few of my friends out to celebrate. About 50% of the money went to lau-lau spending and enjoyment. I couldn’t kill myself. 

What remained was only enough to sort out my commute for the month. It helped that I’m the last child of my parents, so there was nothing I wanted to take care of at home that wasn’t already being handled. The only person I had to worry about was myself.

Esther

My first job was at a media company. I was hired to handle their social media. At some point,  I had to do a bit of graphic design, even though that bit wasn’t in my offer letter. 

My total package was  ₦40000, but they paid an extra 10000 for data. I worked remotely for most of the week, only going once a week for the general meeting, or on days when I had to be behind the scenes for a shoot.

The salary wasn’t a lot but I was sort of excited about it. I thought it was a fair deal, considering that it was my first job post-university. I had no prior experience and felt that they took a risk hiring me. 

When I finally got the money, I was so at peace with myself. I knew I earned it, and that felt good.

I split the money into two parts — ₦20000 went into my savings. It was important that I didn’t run out of data, so that was probably the first thing I spent the money on. Another portion went to paying tithe. The rest went into making sure I survived the month and black tax — it wasn’t a lot, but it was something. 

Looking back now, I’m not so sure how I managed to do so much with the salary.

Mariam

After I finished NYSC, my dad got me a job as a part-time lecturer at a polytechnic. It was the first time I knew the difference between gross and net salary. My offer letter came with a ₦120000 salary, but after tax and some other deductions I didn’t understand, there was ₦114000 left for me to take home.

The fact that I was getting such a relatively large sum of money was overwhelming. I knew how impulsive I get when I’m excited, so, I left the money in my account for two weeks.

To be honest, I had plans about how to spend the money. But did I stick to them? I’m not sure. There was a couple of lunch dates. I did a bit of movies. A lot of Bolt rides. And yes, skincare products. 

In the end, I realised that the money wasn’t even as much as I’d thought it was. It was fun, but nobody taught me before I became more responsible with spending.

Dara

I worked as a graphic designer in the marketing department of a technology company. They offered me a ₦50000 per month salary for a start. They were going to reopen negotiations after I spent six months with them. 

I didn’t feel particularly ecstatic about the money. I understood that there was a lot more I could be making. All I wanted to do was to make sure I earned more as soon as possible. 

I’ve always been big on saving, and I’m very military about how I do it. When I got my first salary, my primary preoccupation was saving as much as I could. I put 20% into my savings. The bulk of the others went into feeding and transportation. The most important thing was that I stuck with this routine for my entire stay there. 

I didn’t wait for the raise before I left the company. I got a better offer in the third month and decided that it was time to move on. 

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