'The Smart Money Woman' is the modern Africanwoman's book and Zuri's captivating story will keepyou turning the page. The real kicker comes in theSmart Money Lessons included in every chapter; easilydigestible but vital lessons on how to get started up thefinancial success ladder. You get double the value withthis book—an entertaining read and a valuableeducation. Well done, Arese.Uche PedroFounder, BellaNaija
Troubador Publishing Ltd
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A practical, no-holds-barred guide to building wealth
for the 21st century African woman. Written in an
engaging style and full of actionable strategies, this
money book is a must-have for every bookshelf.
Aisha Ahmad
Chairperson, WIMBIZ & Head, Consumer Banking
& Wealth, Diamond Bank
A journey through personal finance written from a truly
African context by a gifted young woman who seeks to
reposition and redefine the way we think about the
Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, CON,
President, The Nigerian Stock Exchange
There can't be any question whether the concept of
finance is important for every woman, and this book
brings it to life. Arese provides insights, real-world
examples and practical advice about the importance of
getting it right. She has again showed us money is a

partner in a relationship that must thrive for us to enjoy!
Completely educative, easy to read, and most enjoyable.
Osayi Alile
Head, ACT Foundation
Unprecedented. A Nigerian woman's answer to 'Rich
Dad, Poor Dad'. Using prose and a mirror, Arese
demystifies the art of money making by analysing and
conquering the African woman's fear of investments.
She tackles the financial taboos and shackling mindsets
using our everyday realities to connect. A must read!
Bolanle Austen-Peters
Producer, Director, & Founder, Terra Kulture & BAP
An entertaining way to learn about money… ushering
in a new narrative of Africa, specifically of the African
woman in the 21st century—her perspective, her
ambitions, her journey, flaws and all, but wholly hers.
Alhaji Aliko Dangote, GCON,
Chairman & CEO, Dangote Group
Great storytelling with a strong message and focus on
changing or improving your view on money matters.
You have a good laugh, set in a familiar place, and most
of all you close the book determined to change your
money habits.
Tara Fela-Durotoye
Founder, House of Tara


A must-read for anyone looking to have a better
understanding of financial literacy. Arese provides a
str; aight-talking, practical, step-by-step approach to a
better financial future. A great self-help guide for the
young, driven, entrepreneurial African woman.
Peace Hyde
Correspondent, Forbes Africa
Arese puts an interesting and picturesque spin on how
women can better manage her money in the book 'The
Smart Money Woman'. She addresses the issue of
money management in a way every woman can relate
to. The style is mellifluous yet profound in its message.
Betty Irabor
Publisher, Genevieve Magazine
Arese wraps fundamental truths in humour and real life
relatable experiences, impacting knowledge and a guide
to making better choices financially. Such a breath of
fresh air for the 21st century woman on her way to
financial freedom.
Toke Makinwa
Celebrity & Media Entrepreneur
Money is a hard topic to think and talk about, but Arese
breaks it down and removes the fear and discomfort for
young African women.
Afua Osei
Co-Founder, She Leads Africa


'The Smart Money Woman' is the modern African
woman's book and Zuri's captivating story will keep
you turning the page. The real kicker comes in the
Smart Money Lessons included in every chapter; easily
digestible but vital lessons on how to get started up the
financial success ladder. You get double the value with
this book—an entertaining read and a valuable
education. Well done, Arese.
Uche Pedro
Founder, BellaNaija


An African Girl's
Journey to Financial


Copyright © 2016 Arese Ugwu
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of research or private
study, or criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright,
Designs and Patents Act 1988, this publication may only be
reproduced, stored or transmitted, in any form or by any means,
with the prior permission in writing of the publishers, or in the
case of reprographic reproduction in accordance with the terms of
licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency. Enquiries
concerning reproduction outside those terms should be sent to the
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places,
events and incidents are either the products of the author’s
imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to
actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely
9 Priory Business Park,
Wistow Road, Kibworth Beauchamp,
Leicestershire. LE8 0RX
Tel: 0116 279 2299
Twitter: @matadorbooks
ISBN 9781785897603
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data.
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British


Matador® is an imprint of Troubador Publishing Ltd


Meet The Author
Arese is the Founder of a
personal finance platform for the African millennial. As
a contributor to the Guardian newspaper, the host on
Guardian TV’s new personal finance show “Your Life
Your Money”, and a co-host for “Analyse This” on
Ndani TV, she has helped shape the new narrative on
personal finance in the media.
She serves on several boards including House of Tara
and the Nigeria Higher Education Foundation as a nonexecutive director, and is also an associate member of
WIMBIZ, serving on its planning committee since
2015. She was most recently a 2015 finalist for the
Access Bank W Award for young professional of the
After eight years working in wealth management, Arese
is now engaging young Africans on the importance of
financial literacy and the impact it has on helping them
get money, keep money and grow money as they drive
the continent forward.
She holds an MSc in Economic Development from
University College London (UCL) and a BSc in
Business and Management from Aston Business
School, Birmingham. She is also an alumna of the of

the Lagos Business School, INSEAD Abu Dhabi and
The London Business School executive education


For my daughter Zikora.
I hope this inspires you to live life fearlessly.


I'm officially an author guys! This journey has been unreal
and there are a number of people I would like to thank
because I couldn't have done it without them.
My parents, who taught me early on to be fearless in the
pursuit of my dreams. My dad, who started talking to me
about the capital markets from the age of seven. My mum
who taught me the value of money and made me track my
expenses every term and threatened not to give me pocket
money if I didn't. Thank you!
My siblings Isoken, Kolapo and Ivie who are absolute rock
stars! You took the time to read all the different versions of
this book and were my first set of critics and encouragers. I
love you.
My BFFs Nadine Domingo, Nnenna Okoye, Mariah
Lucciano-Gabriel, Toke Makinwa and Eniola Taiwo. You all
listened to me go on and about the characters in the book like
they were our friends in real life and allowed me to test out
dialogue. I love you guys. Thank you for your patience and
To my mentors, Bolanle Austen-Peters, Tara Fela Durotoye
and Osayi Alile, who have all taught me that no goal is too
big, continuously challenge me to set new goals and smash
them. Your investment in me can never be repaid. I am
extremely grateful.


To my boy besties: Cyril Akpofure who has been on this
Smart Money journey with me since day zero and has been
the technological backbone of this entire operation. I couldn't
have done this without you. To Tobi Osoba who, when I
thought I couldn't do this, supported me through my many
meltdowns. You are awesome.
To Fela Durotoye who despite his extremely busy schedule
would talk to me for two hours at a time on the phone when I
got stuck. I am blessed to have you in my life. To Steve
Harris, Mr Ruthless Execution; we both know this book
would have never happened if you didn't keep me
accountable, so thank you for sticking with me even when I
was running away. I'm extremely grateful.
To Nimi Akinkugbe, who graciously agreed to write the
foreword for this book, took the time to read every chapter
and give me her notes even when she was on holiday in St.
Lucia and I was stalking her. Thank you so much.
To My editor Tolu Orekoya, who came on board at the tail
end but has had a huge impact and made this book so much
stronger. It was a gruelling process, the discourse, the early
mornings, the late nights, the disagreements over character
development, the way you fell in love with the characters
combined with your commitment to the work inspires me
greatly. Just know you'll never be able to get rid of me. You
have a friend for life. I will always be grateful to Chude for
introducing us.
To my lawyer and friend Mikki a.k.a. Nneoma Okoli who had
to deal with all my ridiculous timelines. God bless you.


To my assistant Temi, who has worked with me for only six
months but has been there through all the behind the scenes
struggles. I appreciate you.
To My WIMBIZ family! WIMBIZ raised me! Thank you for
creating a sustainable platform that empowers and facilitates
opportunities for young women like me.
To all the people who lent me their platforms even before I
even knew what Smart Money was going to be and helped me
find my voice. BellaNaija, Genevieve magazine, the
Guardian, Ndani TV and YNaija. Thank you.
To members of the Smart Money movement, your quest to
learn more about personal finance, your questions, your
emails, your comments on social media, Instagram especially
informed a lot of the solutions in this book. I am humbled by
your constant support
To my daughter Zikora, who had to contend with the fact that
this Smart Money movement is my second child and her baby
sister. Instead of getting jealous, she would tease me by
calling me “Smart Money” then tell me she wants to be like
me when she grows up. I love you baby. I do this for you.
To God almighty for giving me this gift and helping me
complete this book despite all the obstacles that were thrown
my way. Baba God I thank You.


When Arese invited me to write the foreword for her
first book, ‘The Smart Money Woman’, I did not
hesitate for one minute. Having observed her money
ministry through her Smart Money blog, news articles,
and television shows, I applaud the huge impact that she
is having on the African woman and beyond. It is
therefore a real delight to welcome this unique addition
to the world of personal finance.
'The Smart Money Woman' is a charming piece of work
that will educate those that care to take concrete steps to
change their financial lives. This book offers the unique
combination of a light-hearted fictional novel in Arese's
compelling and engaging style, filled with familiar,
vivid characters, accompanied by serious underlying
Smart Money Lessons—a beginner's guide to managing
her personal finance.
For many people the subject of personal financial
management can be somewhat daunting. The book
presents the basic concepts of earning, budgeting,
spending, borrowing, saving, investing as well as the
behavioural and emotional aspects of money in a
practical way that makes it easy to personalise.

In the narrative, Arese perfectly captures the picture of
a young Nigerian woman, Zuri, whose intellect,
educational background, and looks have presented her
with great prospects; yet she comes close to losing it all
before the realisation that her lifestyle could destroy
those same prospects. Whilst the main focus is on Zuri
and her journey to financial awakening, the rich
characterisation of other primary actors woven through
the tale makes it a must read.
Arese's strong background in wealth management more
than qualifies her to present this treasure trove of Smart
Money Lessons. She is a role model who demonstrates
her teachings; if you imbibe sound financial habits in
your youth, with consistent hard work, and a dedicated
savings and investment plan, you can build a life of
long-term financial security and enjoy a lifestyle of
comfort and dignity.
The underlying message in 'The Smart Money Woman'
is a positive one; with determination, commitment and
time, you can transform your financial life. “Building
wealth is more about how much you keep, not about
how much you spend,” she writes in the book; it is the
habit, the discipline of setting something aside regularly
to meet your financial goals.
Having observed the money personality of people of
substantial means over close to three decades, I have
come to the conclusion that there is a discipline

associated with creating, building, retaining and
transmitting wealth. Those who really seek to
accumulate wealth and pass it on in a structured way,
do so by setting clear goals and then by consistent
saving and long term investing in a diversified asset
portfolio towards achieving them. They also maintain a
frugal mind set and a cautious approach to spending.
They do look for bargains, they do buy assets on sale
and look for discounts, they do vet the restaurant bill,
and they do plan ahead for major spending; and most of
all, they do not waste money. Acquiring and
maintaining long-term wealth is a process. There
usually are no short cuts, but the rewards over time, are
well beyond the thrills of instant gratification.
If you are looking for a book that succeeds in
unravelling the often perplexing and complex world of
money management in the form of a novel, then Arese
Ugwu's 'The Smart Money Woman' is for you. An
engaging read, it brings the subject of personal finance
to life. This book is for every woman; married, single,
divorced, widowed; and for every man with women in
their lives.
Nimi Akinkugbe
CEO Bestman Games,
Money Matters with Nimi
Lagos, Nigeria
June 2016


Money Fears
Where Is Your Money Going?
Dealing With Debt
Surviving Emergencies
Money Goals
The Spending Plan
The Power Of Networking
Life Happens
The Long Game
Earning More
Becoming A Smart Money Woman


BROKE . . .
I can't believe this is happening to me! Zuri panicked as
she shook her head and stared at her account balance. It
was the middle of the month and she had a little over
eighty thousand left in her bank. To be fair, this would
seem like a lot to some, but her expenses told a different
story. This balance would barely make a dent in the
bills she had piled up, and she wasn't expecting any new
funds till the end of the month. Even then, she wouldn't
be able to cover the bills that had just arrived.
She stared hopelessly at the papers in front of her. A bill
from her mechanic for what she thought were minor
repairs had ballooned to two hundred thousand. Her car
was now stuck at his workshop until she was able to
make payment. There was a letter from her landlord
pointing out her service charge bills for the last three
months—four hundred and thirty thousand naira in total
—were unpaid, and he was threatening to cut her off if
payment wasn't made by the end of the month. She had
just visited her gynaecologist for a routine check-up,
only to discover that she had fibroids. The procedure Dr
Emeka had told her she might need would cost nine
hundred and fifty thousand, and her HMO had just

written to inform her that her plan did not cover it. Dr
Emeka was the best, and sometimes the best cost a lot.
She did the math and it didn't add up. She earned six
hundred thousand a month after taxes from her job as a
senior manager at Richmond Developments, a real
estate firm. Until this moment, she had considered
herself very lucky. She had a great job that paid well.
She lived in an upmarket part of Lagos in Lekki Phase
I, in a two-bedroom serviced apartment that overlooked
the water. She drove a second-hand Mercedes ML 500,
and it was awesome—until the engine started acting up.
She could take one or two trips abroad a year to
destinations like Dubai, New York or London. To her,
that was the ideal life of a single, über-successful
twenty-eight-year-old African woman.
So how could she explain to anyone that she was flat
She still couldn't understand it herself. She wasn't
overly extravagant. Yes, she liked the good life, but she
wouldn't consider herself one of those people living
beyond their means. In fact, she hated that term. She
could just hear Aunty Iyabo's voice in her head saying,
'You young people of nowadays, your eyes are too big!'
She always rolled her eyes when she heard that. The
fact is, old people didn't understand. If you worked
hard, you deserved to play hard. YOLO! You only live
once, abi? As long as you were smart enough to earn a

living and keep making more money, being poor was
not your portion, IJN.
Except now, Zuri could see that some savings would
have come in handy to take care of the financial black
hole laid out in front of her. She worked hard so she
could one day enjoy the lifestyle she had always desired
—living comfortably in the best part of town, never
having to worry about bills, a designer wardrobe that
would rival fashion icon Toke Makinwa, shopping trips
to Paris and month-long summers in the South of
France. To her, that was the ideal life.
It wasn't like she expected to own a home or anything at
this point in her life; that, was the responsibility of her
future husband. Still, she had no land, no stock
portfolio, or anything else that had real value to speak
of. There were no assets she could sell to keep her head
above water.
What about my bags? Zuri thought. She knew there
were some excellent pieces in there, which she had
collected over time… Chanel, Alexander McQueen,
Céline, and Louis Vuitton bags she didn't even carry
anymore. Chai! How exactly will I sell them? She
wasn't sure there was even a market for used designer
bags in Lagos. Everyone was too proud, and if she
started asking friends and acquaintances to buy them
from her, it would certainly be an indication that
something was seriously wrong—then the rumours and

gossip would start. There had to be another way.
Her doorbell rang. Tami! She was supposed to have
lunch with her at Casper & Gambini's. She had
seriously been craving one of their famous burgers all
week but her new circumstances were cramping her
style. She had to re-evaluate her spending. But before
she tackled that problem, first she had to figure out how
she was going to explain this to Tami.
She went to open the door. Tami stood there, arms
folded across her chest. Zuri forced a smile. “Hey!
Babe, sorry oh, I completely forgot about our lunch
Tami rolled her eyes. “Forgot, ke?”
“Trust me! The gbese I'm trying to sort out right now is
doing my head in.”
She could say this to Tami; they had been best friends
for years and spoke freely with each other. Anyone else
in Lagos, it was best to keep your mouth shut and
pretend everything was great… before dem carry your
“Well, I'm coming in because I'm starving,” Tami said.
Zuri stepped back and let her friend head straight to the
They'd met just before they started secondary school in

Benin City. They had seen each other through common
entrance exams, boy drama, dramatic weight gains and
the battle to lose it all, but they were the complete
opposite of each other so it was a wonder their
friendship had lasted so long.
She was one of those friends you shouldn't attend a
party with if your intention was to spend time together,
especially if you were the quiet type—she would leave
you hanging! It would start with a string of 'hello
darlings!', quickly followed by a series of air kisses
with eighty percent of the guests at the party, leading to
her being dragged from one meaningless conversation
to the next, and ending with leaving her partner
stranded. It was never intentional, but it was always
annoying. Zuri shook her head ruefully.
Tami was an extrovert, the charismatic social butterfly
in their group of friends. People were drawn to her; she
had flawless caramel-coloured skin, a petite frame, and
a smile that could stop most men in their tracks. It
wasn't her beauty that drew most people to her, though.
She had such a genuine spirit, such a giving aura about
her, that people liked her instantly. She was also
fiercely loyal, which was probably why their friendship
had lasted so long.
Zuri actually felt slightly better about her situation
knowing she had someone to confide in and distract her
from her money woes. Plus, Tami always had gist, so it

was a welcome distraction.
The sound of Tami slamming the refrigerator door
interrupted Zuri's thoughts.
“So you don't even have food in this house?” Tami said
with mock disdain in her voice.
“You no hear say I no get money?” Zuri laughed.
Tami rolled her eyes. “When I say find a rich boyfriend,
you won't hear!”
“Leave me alone, jo,” Zuri said.
“Girrrl, if you had a man, all this would be story.” Tami
smiled. “How much is the bill?”
“Not bill—bills,” Zuri said. “And they add up to just
over a million naira.”
Tami's eyes widened.
“Seriously, Tami, I don't know how I'm going to get out
of this mess. Even if my salary hits my account today, I
still won't be able to pay them all.”
Tami shook her head. “Honestly, you need to get a man.
You need someone to support you. All this independent
woman nonsense you are doing is what will get you in
trouble. I've always told you, your parents let you stay

in obodo oyinbo too long. Living abroad for so long is
what has got you thinking like an oyinbo woman. This
is Nigeria, so you better start behaving like an African
Zuri laughed. Tami had a policy never to date married
men, but the men she did go out with definitely had to
be rich and in a position to help her—gifting her with
upper class tickets to whatever destination tickled her
fancy, rent for her studio, and closets full of labels from
time to time. She was a successful fashion designer and
worked from a tiny studio in Lekki, but Zuri was pretty
sure Tami's lifestyle was supplemented by her very
wealthy father and the string of rich boyfriends she had
dated since university.
“Let me give you gist,” Tami said. “Do you remember
Amanda from high school? She was a few years ahead
of us. Tall, light-skinned?”
“You are so annoying! You never remember anything.
She was friends with Adesuwa and that lot!”
Zuri nodded. “Yeah. Okay, yeah, I remember her. I
didn't know her well, but what did she do?”
“She has hit!” Tami clapped her hands together
gleefully. “She is dating Seni Foster, the CEO of Foster
Inc. and a big boy in the oil sector. He bought her a

BMW, a flat in Parkview, and, apparently, a flat in St.
John's Wood in London. All in the space of eighteen
Zuri stared at her for a second. “But… isn't he married?
I could have sworn I saw pictures of him and his wife
on BellaNaija, attending that Balogun wedding in Dubai
a few weeks ago.”
''Married… fire! So?” Tami hissed. “Why are you
acting as if it's news! None of these Lagos big boys are
faithful to their wives. Don't be so naïve!”
Zuri rolled her eyes. “He is hardly a boy, Tami. Isn't he
in his fifties?”
“It doesn't matter! He has money, so he is a Lagos big
boy! Finish! Anyway, that was not the point of my
story. Amanda is now in the big leagues! I hear he is so
in love with her, he is even ready to marry her as a
second wife. Word on the street is, he is begging her to
have a baby with him.”
“Haba, Tami! A married man? Stop it! He can't want
her to have his babies. I'm pretty sure that part is a lie.”
Zuri couldn't imagine ever settling to be a man's second
“Listen! You are here, complaining about a bill of one
million naira. If you had a boyfriend like that, do you
think you would be sitting here trying to figure out how

to get out of debt? Not that I subscribe to dating married
men, but rich men sha…” Tami laughed. “Anyway, I
have to get going—I need to eat! And it doesn't look
like I'm going to find anything here.”
“Pele, dear! I got carried away with this money
wahala!” Zuri laughed.
“Okay,” Tami accepted with a wink. “Maybe by next
week you'll have met a rich boyfriend,” she teased as
she waved good-bye.
After Tami left, Zuri began to wonder if she was truly
naïve or overly conservative. Was it wrong to think that
there was something fundamentally wrong about
trading sex for money? The problem with those sorts of
relationships though was the power dynamics. In
relationships where one was always on the receiving
end of the cash, money often became a weapon. She did
not want to be controlled. Then she realised that maybe
the joke was on her. She was sitting in her living room
judging someone who had all their bills paid while she
had no clue how she was going to pay her own.
She thought of Folabi, a mistake she had made in her
early twenties. A mutual friend introduced them and she
was mesmerised by his swag and attitude to life. He
wasn't handsome in a conventional way, but he carried
himself with a confidence that drew people in. Back
then, all the girls wanted to date him and all the guys

wanted to be friends with him. Some of it probably had
to do with the fact that he was the son of a billionaire
and he certainly thought the world revolved around
him. Folabi Tajudeen thought he was entitled to behave
badly because he had a lot of money to throw around.
They dated for almost a year and she definitely got free
trips to New York and London out of it, as well as some
really expensive bags, but his arrogance and lack of
direction put her off. He was spoiled, with no future
ambition of his own. As far as Folabi was concerned,
his parents' money meant he didn't actually have to
work for a living. Eventually, Zuri realised, despite all
the luxuries his money could afford her, she couldn't
respect a man who had no ambition of his own and
expected to sponge off his parents for his entire life.
His behaviour was appalling and in the end it was an
incident that occurred outside Club 57 that became the
straw that broke the camel's back. Zuri found it
extremely irritating that he had to shout 'do you know
who my father is' to make a point to the bouncer, who
had told them they had to wait outside because the club
was at capacity. She realised that she couldn't respect a
man like that, no matter how much money he had
access to. She wanted to be with a man that had
ambition—at the very least, ambition that exceeded her
own—and was willing to work hard to make his dreams
come true.


After Folabi, she dated Paul, who was extremely
ambitious but that didn't work out either. Zuri sighed as
she remembered how excited she had been when they
first met at a Euro Money workshop in Paris. Paul got
her attention on the first day of the workshop; she was
caught off guard by his extreme good looks and easy
charm. They were the only Nigerians on the program,
so they naturally gravitated toward each other. She was
intrigued by how engaging their conversations were. He
was smart, funny and devastatingly handsome and it
was 'love wan tin tin' until their relationship began to
unravel a few months later.
Paul was a hustler and she loved that about him. He was
a true example of the Nigerian dream. He lost his dad at
a very young age and things were very tough for him
and his six siblings growing up in Ebonyi, but he
clawed his way out of poverty by studying hard and
leveraging on every opportunity that came his way. He
studied engineering at University of Awka in Anambra
state, and then landed a scholarship to pursue a master's
degree at the University of Texas. He had risen to be
vice president at CIS, a reputable private equity firm in
Lagos and was doing quite well for himself but he
seemed to have a chip on his shoulder. It wasn't obvious
at first because he seemed so comfortable in who he
was. However, months later it became obvious that in
his bid to adopt a certain 'Lagos big boy' persona, he
lied about everything—big things, small things, it didn't
seem to matter. It didn't take Zuri long to realise that

you couldn't build a solid relationship with someone
you couldn't trust at all.
They could be having drinks with a group of friends and
she would overhear him telling someone he was going
to South Africa at the weekend because he had a big
meeting with some tech guys, when she knew for a fact
he was going to Ebonyi to visit his family. At first she
found it hilarious but as the incidents increased, she got
irritated by the fact that he wasn't comfortable in who
he was, he was ashamed of his background and found
the need to pretend and lie for no apparent reason.
Eventually, they broke up when she realised that she
had developed the habit of second guessing his every
sentence. It got to a point that if Paul told her the sky
was blue she would have to check, in case it was
actually red. It was difficult to build a relationship with
someone you couldn't trust.
Zuri shook her head, trying to clear her thoughts. She
didn't want to be thinking about old boyfriends right
now. But it was funny, wasn't it? How a conversation
about money almost always turned into a conversation
about men? All join in the wahala!
It seemed like something that was culturally engrained
in African women, the idea that money was not
fundamentally a woman's issue—it was a man's role to
worry about finances. If a woman “tabled” the matter of
money troubles with her friends, the solution was

almost always find a man to look after you. It occurred
to her that if a man had confided in his friends or family
the similar situation she was in, their advice wasn't
likely to be “go and find a sugar mummy”.
Zuri was certain that a man was not the answer to her
problem. She wasn't ready to date married men like
Seni for money or rely on self-obsessed “boy-men” like
Folabi, or men with a chip on their shoulder like Paul.
None of those scenarios fit the fairy tale ending she had
always dreamed of. She would figure a way out of this
situation herself. The man she was meant to be with
would show up when God said it was time. She was
smart, educated and her future was bright.
“I gat this,” she said, trying to psych herself up.
She just needed to figure a way out of being broke.
Simple math: Either make more money or cut back on
spending. She needed to raise money to get out of this
financial mess—the question was, how?


In Sub-Saharan Africa, less than one percent
are born into wealth and under ten percent
are born into the middle class. In general, we
are not taught in any formal framework how
to keep money or grow it—basic personal
finance skills are difficult to learn. As a
result, even when a young adult starts
earning more than they need to survive, they
end up living from paycheque to paycheque
because they think about their incomes
largely in terms of spending and haven't
learned how to save or build assets in
proportion to what they earn.
Broke means, if you lost your primary
source of income today, you wouldn't be
able to maintain the lifestyle you have
become accustomed to because you have no
assets to rely on. Like Zuri, many people
have built expensive lives they can't sustain
because they continuously spend everything
they earn and as such, have a revolving door
for their money.

We must dismiss this idea that we will
always make more money. We have a finite
amount of productive years to work; many
people will never be as agile both mentally
and physically as they are now. What
happens in thirty years when you can no
longer work as hard and have no cushion to
fall back on? Poverty and dependence on
others is inevitable. In order to build wealth,
this mentality has to change. Developing a
wealthy mind-set requires the understanding
of the concept that the way you spend,
invest, and manage ten naira is the way
you'll spend, invest, and manage ten million.
What it Really Means to Be Wealthy
As a society, we tend to measure financial
success based on spending patterns, but our
metrics are faulty. For example, Zuri lives in
one of the best parts of Lagos, has a decent
job and lives a lifestyle that many dream of.
Zuri is one of the hundreds of thousands
moving up the income-earning scale, able to
afford material things that were once out of
their parents' reach. To a bystander, she has
an enviable life and there's an automatic
assumption that she is wealthy. However,
building wealth is more about how much you

Broke people and rich people approach the
same amount of money differently and here's
why: broke people think it is about how
much you earn but rich people know it's
about how much of your income you are
able to keep and convert into assets that can
provide you with an income in the future.
The fundamental difference is that wealthy
people understand the relationship between
how we earn and how we spend and they
know where the balance is.
Active income is the income you get from
services rendered, it is usually your income
from your job or business. For example, if
you work at a bank and you make three
hundred thousand a month as your salary,
that's your active income. Or, if you run a
catering business and you make three
hundred thousand in profits every month
that's your active income.
Passive income in simple terms is money
that you make while you are sleeping. It is
the income you get regularly from
investments you've already made. Good
examples are dividends from a stock
portfolio, or rental income from a property
you own.


What Is Financial Freedom?
When passive




Ideally, the goal is to get to a point where the
assets you've accumulated can pay you
enough of an income to pay for your
lifestyle. For example, rental income from a
property you own can buy you a car or a
holiday to the South of France. Or, the
dividend cheques from your stock portfolio
can buy you a Chanel bag.



Calculate your net worth. Your net worth is
your assets minus your liabilities and it gives
you a snapshot of where you stand

Make a list of everything you own of
value (stocks, property, land, fixed
deposits, cash, gold).


Make a list of everything you owe
(mortgage, car loan, general gbese).


Subtract your total assets from your
total liabilities.


Don't be ashamed or afraid of the
number. Calculating your net worth now
will let you know your starting point.


The figure is not as important as the
trends in net worth. As long as you make
a commitment to keep growing it, you'll
be fine.


It was 3:00 a.m. in the morning and Zuri was staring at
the ceiling as the latest episode of 'Scandal' flickered on
her television screen. She couldn't sleep; her mind kept
bouncing from one random thought to another. This
was the third week in a row that she'd had to reach for
her sleeping pills at this ungodly hour after several
futile attempts at sleep. The last couple of weeks she
had been worried sick about her money situation. Even
though she thought about nothing else these days, a
solution wasn't forthcoming and the problems certainly
weren't going away.
Mr Okeke, her landlord, had been calling for weeks. He
had left message upon message with the security guards
saying they had to meet soon. He even rang her bell
twice that week but she pretended not to be home. Zuri
cringed. It was mortifying. Even her mechanic Ola had
been calling her nonstop and had resorted to sending
her so many WhatsApp messages, she'd had to block
him. But she couldn't hide forever. That WhatsApp is
too intrusive sef, she thought.
Zuri wasn't ready to deal with any of them yet until she
found a solution. She had even started having

nightmares about meeting Mr Right and discovering she
had infertility issues. She didn't need a shrink to tell her
what the dreams meant. They were obviously a
symptom of her refusal to confront her fibroids. She had
cancelled four appointments with her doctor because,
let's face it, she wouldn't be able to pay.
She drifted into a fitful sleep then jolted awake when
her alarm went off at 6:00. As she struggled to get
dressed for work, she stared at her face in the mirror.
Her skin had never looked worse because she hadn't had
her regular facial with Dr Bruce at Oasis Med Spa in
months. She turned to her favourite pick-me-up; a
glycolic skin care treatment that was only available
from Not that she would be able
to afford any of that anytime soon.
At 7:40, her Uber driver called to say he was at the gate.
As Ola still had her car in his shop, she now had to take
taxis to work—yet another expense she could ill afford.
She stared out the window as the Toyota Camry drove
past the Lekki-Ikoyi tollgate, and she soon tuned out the
driver's chatter about his family and the stress of driving
in Lagos.
She mentally ran through a list of potential loan
sources. What about Folabi? Her ex had been reaching
out a lot lately to hang out, but that sort of “hanging
out” probably meant between the sheets. To make
matters worse, if she asked him for the money, he

would most certainly expect sex as collateral for the
loan. And really, was she that desperate yet?
Then again, Folabi had quite the big mouth. Within a
week the whole of Lagos would know he had given her
money, and what she had given him in return. His ex,
Sheila, had learned the hard way when he boasted about
“changing her parade” and buying her first
ticket abroad. Why am I even considering it? Turning
aṣewo for a loan? Ye!
When she got to work, Thelma the receptionist beamed
at her as she breezed past. “Good morning, Zuri. I love
your dress.”
“Thank you, love,” Zuri replied with a faint smile.
Thelma was a very sweet girl but all na wash. She was
a newbie, so she wanted to stay in everyone's good
graces. Zuri knew her face looked like crap because she
had been too exhausted to bother with full makeup this
morning but her dress was lovely—It was a red Carina
dress from one of her favourite Nigerian designers,
Lady Biba. It hid her insecurities—like the slight bulge
in her lower stomach—and accentuated her best assets.
Frankly she felt like a boss lady every time she wore a
Lady Biba dress. The dress gave her the confidence
boost she needed to participate in this project meeting
with her boss that she was now twenty minutes late to.
He was going to have a fit! Lateness was something he

abhorred and she didn't even have the energy to defend
“We were wondering when you would join us,” Mr
Tunde said when she arrived. “This meeting started at
8:00 a.m. and it is now 8:25!”
“I'm sorry sir, there was traffic,” she said as she
hurriedly plugged in her flash drive to begin her
“Madam, this is Lagos; there is always traffic. Please,
let's start with your presentation on the Georgia Heights
As Zuri ran through her presentation, it dawned on her
that the empty-looking presentation was unimpressive.
Still, she stumbled through the best she could, but she
knew she was in for it when Mr Tunde told her that he
wanted to speak to her.
Did I make a mistake hiring this returnee? Was all that
was running through Mr Tunde's head as he watched
her fumble through her half-baked presentation. Zuri
Guobadia had worked for the firm for three years and
she was clearly a smart girl, but she'd never quite
reached the superstar status he'd expected of her. What
worried him the most was her complacency.


That is the problem with these returnees; they think they
are too smart. As far as he was concerned, they all
thought that their fancy degrees were all they needed.
They expected fat salaries, no real experience just 'fone'
and their degrees. Frankly he was sick of it. He had
fired a few of them last year; those ones had had no
work ethic. Zuri was one of the last; to be honest she
didn't act as entitled as the others but he expected more
from her. When she first joined the firm she was eager
to please and she closed more sales than he expected
from a new comer.
She'd been impressive from the first, sharp with
personal allure that had made her a hit with the clients.
She'd also been a hit with some of the senior partners
too, but she'd made it quite clear that her rise to the top
would be completely by merit, not favouritism.
Mr Tunde chuckled as he recalled the first hundredmillion-naira sale Zuri had closed right in front of him.
It had been Mr Obako, one of those clients who had
millions of dollars in the bank, showed avid interest
whenever Richmond Developments completed a new
development, requested countless meetings but never
managed to actually buy anything.
The company only entertained his requests because
there was always a possibility of a sale, since he
actually had money and he was good friends with
several influential members of the board. He had put

Zuri on this particular account because none of the
other senior partners would touch it and she seemed
personable enough to manage Obako's quirks. He had
joined the meeting with the intention of observing her
sales pitch and to give her some follow up tips. Instead
he'd been shocked by the finesse of her delivery and the
way she skilfully dealt with Obako's inane questions.
That day, Mr Tunde knew she had the makings of a
For the past eighteen months however, he'd felt as
though Zuri's star was more than just a bit tarnished.
Her performance was average and it looked like she had
plateaued and was content to keep coasting. She wasn't
present and definitely wasn't engaged. The ambition
and hunger to learn that had seemed to possess her
when she first started at the firm had obviously left her.
Mr Tunde felt invested in her development, because in
some ways he thought of himself as Zuri's unofficial
mentor, but every attempt to get her to get back in the
game had been met with excuses. For the past two years
he had nominated her as one of the delegates to attend a
conference the company sponsored. Women in
Management, Business and Public service or more
simply, WIMBIZ, was the largest and most substantial
women's organisation in Nigeria that played a
significant role in empowering working Nigerian
women. He thought it would be great for her
development but each year, she came up with weak

excuses why she couldn't attend. This year he wouldn't
give her the option.
Zuri tapped nervously as she waited. She knew she'd
been late, but it hadn't been that late! And yes, her
presentation had been a bit shoddy, but it wasn't like she
was generally incompetent. He should give me a break
jo! Zuri thought, exasperated. The last thing she needed
today was a lecture from the self-righteous Mr Tunde.
He was a great boss for the most part, but he could be a
real pain in the ass some times.
“I was very disappointed in your presentation today—
you mixed up a lot of the details,” said Mr Tunde. “In
fact, if I'm honest, you haven't done any good work in
months.” He frowned. “I don't know what's going on
with you, but you need to get your act together!”
Zuri had the grace to look shamefaced. “I'm sorry sir,
I'll admit I was ill prepared but it won't happen again.”
Mr Tunde shook his head. “That's what you said the last
few times you've come to my meetings with
substandard work. You are on the end of a very short
rope and I'm tempted to sack you. In these harsh
economic times, we have no room for slackers and I
don't carry passengers on my team.
“Everyone has to perform! I had high hopes for you,

Zuri, but recently, you just seem to be completely okay
with mediocrity.”
He shook his head again. “That's the problem with you
returnees—you expect fat salaries for mediocre work.
You want to furnish these lavish lifestyles but not put in
the effort that's required. I put you on this account
because Obako is a difficult client and I knew that if
you applied yourself, you'd be able to handle it but you
haven't applied yourself—you're just coasting along.
You're doing what you need to do to survive and
nothing more.”
He looked at her closely. “Zuri you have become
complacent and it's rather worrying, but then again
maybe real estate isn't what you want to do anymore.”
Zuri's heart skipped a beat. No. She couldn't be fired
right now. “It is sir, it is.”
She looked at him, doing her best not to say too much
for fear of bursting into tears. Her body was hot from
embarrassment and she was choking up with unshed
tears. Mr Tunde might be a nag and a bit grumpy, but
was one of the greatest proponents of her success since
she joined the firm, showing her the ropes and honing
her skills. She hated to admit it but his opinion mattered
to her. His respect mattered to her.
“I think you need something to… how do the kids say it
these days? Ginger you! You need a fresh perspective

so I have nominated you as one of the delegates for this
year's WIMBIZ conference,” Mr Tunde said. “The
theme is leadership—stepping up and standing out.”
Zuri raised her eyebrows. This was an unpleasant
surprise; she couldn't bear the thought of going to one
of “those” women conferences. This was not the first
time that he had tried to get her to go to WIMBIZ, but
she wasn't a fan of organisations like it because they
seemed very political and cliquey, and she felt like the
women who were interested in going to such events had
to be ready to suck up to powerful women. Although
she had never attended WIMBIZ before, she had
attended a few similar conferences in the early days of
her move back to Nigeria and they were boring, to say
the least.
As she opened her mouth to protest, she saw the
disapproving look on Mr Tunde's face and decided
against it. Now was not the time to test him.
“Attend the conference this year and write a report
about everything you learned and give us feedback
about business trends and the workshops you participate
in. Is that clear?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Good. Then you may go.” He scowled as he waved her
out of his office.

As she stood at her front door that evening and riffled
through her Céline tote to find her keys, she heard
footsteps approaching. At first she thought it was one of
her neighbours but then she heard Mr Okeke's thick
Igbo accent apparently talking to someone on his
phone. “Nne, let me call you back, I don see who I dey
She was caught! She wouldn't be able to find the house
keys fast enough to get into the house and pretend she
hadn't noticed him. Besides, he had this look in his eyes
like he meant business and had no problem disgracing
her in front of all the neighbours.
“Good evening, Mr Okeke.” Zuri tried to sound
confident despite the deep embarrassment she felt.
"Good evening, abi? Madam. What is good about the
evening when you've been running away from paying
ya service charge? Tell me what is good about the
evening?” His voice grew louder and by the time he'd
finished speaking he was bellowing.
Zuri felt her face flush but she struggled to stay calm
and push her guilt out of the way. “Uhm, Mr Okeke,
how am I running away?”
“Madam, I have come here over ten times this month
looking for you,” Mr Okeke sneered. “You have clearly

been dodging me, but let me tell you something: if you
don't pay me this week, I will cut off your power and
water supply. Then how good will your evenings be?
You are trying the wrong person! You think this place
is free?! Do you know how much it costs me to
maintain this building? I can't afford for small girls like
you to be owing me, and, to make matters worse, you've
been avoiding my phone calls!”
“Mr Okeke, please lower your voice.” Zuri saw her
nosey neighbour, Mrs B, looking out of her kitchen
window and began to panic. If this situation escalated
any further, she would be the sole topic of conversation
in the compound for the next couple of weeks. Who
knew where the gist would spread to. She felt like
sinking into the ground.
“I should lower my voice, abi? Look at this stupid girl
oh, instead of you to tell me how you are going to pay
me my money you are saying I should lower my voice.”
“Please calm down oga, I will pay you,” Zuri pleaded.
“I should calm down? You are very stupid. I don't
blame you—I blame the aristo that paid your rent.”
Zuri recoiled in shock. “Which aristo? I have a job!
How dare you! I don't sleep with men for money, I'm
just having some financial challenges but I will pay
you. You don't have to insult me!”

“All you small girls that will be sleeping with big men
for money, then come to Lekki Phase I to pay rent you
cannot sustain.” Mr Okeke shook his head in disgust.
“I'm sure you have quarrelled with the baba you were
sleeping with that's why you can't come up with the
money. Look your rent will be due in less than three
months. If you can't pay service charge, how can I
expect my rent money?”
She stared at him in utter disbelief as he continued his
rant. He had the gall to say that to her face! “Mr Okeke,
it is enough!” she shouted. For the first time that
evening, he was silent.
“I did not kill anybody. I owe you, and I am telling you,
I will pay! When my salary comes at the end of the
month, I will pay half of what I owe and find another
means of paying the rest in the next couple of weeks. I
am very sorry to have put you in this position but please
don't ever speak to me in this manner again. That I owe
you is not license for you to disrespect me!”
Mr Okeke appeared too dumbfounded to say anything.
Zuri took a deep breath as her hand closed on her keys
at the bottom of her bag.
“Have a good evening,” she said as she unlocked her
door, entered her flat and closed the door in his face.
What a mess. What a huge mess.

Later that night, as she sank into her five hundredthread count Egyptian cotton sheets to try and fall
asleep, she knew she had just taken the first steps
toward solving her money problems. She had
confronted the biggest and most threatening debt, taken
control of the situation, come up with a plan—and the
sky had not fallen! Although she hadn't yet paid the
debt, she fell asleep with a strong conviction in her
mind that she would.
“Hello, Mummy! How are you?” Zuri said into the
phone as she attempted to sound cheerful. She didn't
want her mother to worry about her.
“I'm wonderful. We Thank God! How is Lagos? How is
work? I hope you are going to church, oh?”
“Yes, Mummy, I am. Work is fine and Lagos is fine.
How are things in Benin?”
As she listened to her mother rant about PHCN not
providing electricity for over a week, her lower back
pain and weekly doctor's visits, Zuri felt horrible about
what she was about to ask her mum.
It had been a week since she realised her bills had piled
up and the pressure from her landlord, as well as not
having a functioning car to go to work, was starting to
get to her. She had attempted to “tax” her older brothers

Osahon and Nehikhare, who both lived abroad with
their families, but they had both been posting her all
Osahon lived in Russia, had a Russian wife (who
seemed lovely) and two beautiful girls. Zuri had never
met them in person because they had never visited
Nigeria, so her relationship with them was mostly via
Skype and email. When she'd called Osahon to ask for
money, he'd told her things were tight and he had just
sent money to Benin for Mummy, so he didn't have any
spare cash but he would see what he could do. That was
a week ago.
Nehikhare lived in Texas. When she spoke to him last
week, he'd complained bitterly about his crippling
student loans from pursuing both a first degree and a
masters, and how he'd had to rely on his credit card just
to be able to make ends meet this month. So, no money
from that end either.
I hate what I'm about to do. Her mother was a widow,
their father having died many years ago. Mama Osahon
(as Zuri's mother was often called) survived on her
husband's meagre civil service pension and proceeds
selling fabric in New Benin market. Her income was
supplemented by money her sons sent every couple of
months. The woman wasn't hungry but she certainly
wasn't in a position to be funding a grown daughter's
bad decisions.

“Are you listening?” Zuri's mother asked. “I said,
Aunty Uwa is coming to Lagos next week on her way
to New York, should I send you fruits? Or yam?”
“No Mummy, I'm good. Thank you!” She was brought
back to the present. She took a deep breath. “Mummy,
please can you loan me some money?”
“How much?” her mum asked.
“About five hundred thousand naira. I'm really broke,”
Zuri replied. “Mummy, you know I wouldn't ask if it
wasn't important.”
She couldn't bring herself to ask for the full amount
because for starters, she knew her mother didn't have
that kind of disposable income and she also didn't want
her to get too worried about her.
“Ha. Broke ke? How can you be broke? Aren't you
working? Abi did you lose your job? What do you need
five hundred thousand for anyway?”
Zuri's explanation was met with a series of sighs on the
other end of the line.
“My dear, I'm not in any position to help you right now.
As I told you earlier, we've been spending so much
money on diesel in this house because of the electricity
situation and my hospital bill is still pending, but let me
see if I can borrow from Aunty Uwa.”

“No mummy, don't ask her. I will figure it out.”
“How?! You just said you have no money.”
“It doesn't matter,” Zuri said, trying to reassure her.
“I'm expecting some money in a few weeks I just
wanted something to tide me over in the meantime.” A
lie, of course. She had no idea how she was going to
find the money.
It took Zuri another hour to get her mother off the
phone and reassure her that things weren't that bad. But
they were and the question that kept replaying in her
mind was, how did things end up like this?
Zuri was loath to admit to herself, but she couldn't
escape the truth: she had been careless about her
money. She always assumed that as long as she had a
great job she would never be hungry. At the back of her
mind, her back up plan was the Bank of the Family
Bailout. Unfortunately, they were closed for business
She'd even thought about going to her friends, cap in
hand, but she had enough pride not to go down that
road. Even Tami who was closest to her, had heard her
story but didn't offer to help and Zuri recognised that it
was probably because Tami didn't have that kind of
disposable income to lend.
As Zuri stared at her bank balance for the hundredth
time, she finally understood being completely and
utterly broke. Her version of broke didn't come from

not having a job or being a low-income earner, it came
from being bad with money. She had been working for
eight years and had no assets to show for her hard work
—a measly amount of cash in the bank, no land, no
stocks. Nothing of value to fall back on when thing got
bad, and things were disastrous.


There's a lot of fear surrounding the way
African women feel about money and the
subsequent consequences of our relationship
with money. When it comes to money in
relation to our families, our businesses, our
friendships, and society, many African
women worry about not having enough to
survive, not having enough to measure up to
the lifestyle of our friends and family, the
fear of failing in business, the fear of not
being able to afford the lifestyle one has
become accustomed to, then losing it all and
becoming dependent on others.
Ultimately how we behave with money is
deeply rooted in how we think about money
and fear can be a very crippling thing; it can
stifle you and stop you from taking action to
achieve your goals but we must realise that
fear is just an emotion. It is worrying about
something that has the possibility to occur in
the future. Unfortunately, this fear can be
paralysing. So sometimes instead of
confronting and facing those money fears,
we hide from them and avoid them.

However, confronting our fears is always the
right step toward conquering them.
What you deny or ignore, you delay; what
you accept and face, you conquer. At the end
of the day we are all afraid of something but
the difference between successful people and
average people is that they acknowledge
their fears but don't let fear overcome them
or stop them from achieving their goals.





Make a list of all your money fears.
Think about why you have this money
fear in the first place. It might be rooted
in money habits that you already know
are bad for your finances. For example,
having expenses that are so high they
consistently exceed your income each
month, so you know it's not sustainable
and there's a voice in the back of your
head that tells you you're living beyond
your means, hence the fear of not being
able to maintain your lifestyle.
Make a plan to counter each fear. The
reason we usually allow fear to take
over is because we don't have a plan and
are uncertain of what will happen in the
future. There is nothing that gives you
confidence like having a detailed plan to
conquer that uncertainty.


It was a Saturday morning, the day Zuri had set aside to
begin the process of tackling her financial situation. A
track from MI's new album was blasting from her iPod
'Ilekun a ṣi,
Iṣe owo mi fi alubarika si,
Everything we dey face right now go turn story,
We will all be rich,
We will all be rich.
From cooking with kerosene, to the back of limousine,
Going where we never been to seeing things we never
From buying food inside newspaper to the front page of
…when they see you tomorrow they won't recognise
that they've seen you before,
…I'm wishing you money; I'm wishing you wealth.


She danced around her apartment and sang along to the
words. My ginger is on ten!
It was odd, but the words from the song gave her hope.
Hope that even though she didn't have a clear plan to
pay off her debts and find financial stability, she would
figure it out eventually because she was motivated.
She had decided to deal with this financial situation the
same way she would tackle a task at work—logically!
As she sorted through the paper bag that acted as a
filing cabinet for all her bank statements and service
charge bills, she puzzled over where exactly all her
money had gone. She earned about six hundred
thousand naira a month, which frankly was a lot of
money and way above the average Nigerian salary. So,
where was it all going? What was she spending it on?
As she rifled through the bag she noticed that most of
her bank statements were unopened. It dawned on Zuri:
she'd been supremely careless with her money for an
incredibly long time. There had been months at a stretch
she hadn't even checked her bank account. The
statements she had looked at, she'd only paid cursory
attention to.
She sorted through the statements, arranged them
according to dates and used her highlight pens to
categorise her spending. Blue for meals, pink for
accessories, green for her car, and so on and so forth.

As she pored over her financial life, she came to an
even more depressing realisation: she had always been
afraid of her bank statements and she hadn't wanted to
admit to herself how precarious her life really was.
Subconsciously, she'd always known she was spending
mindlessly but never wanted to confront her spending
habits because it made her uncomfortable.
She told herself that she worked hard and earned good
money so she deserved to splurge once in a while, but
what was evident from this exercise was that she
indulged all the time. Damn! She couldn't believe how
much she spent alone on dinner and cocktails with the
girls at RSVP and Spice every month!
An exhausted Zuri sat back and stared at the now neat
stacks of paper on her dining table. She'd spent hours
analysing the statements, trying to make sense of the
numbers. It was painful but eye-opening. In fact, she
had a new philosophy: if you want to truly know a
person, look at their bank statements. Apparently, the
picture her bank statements painted was that she was an
obese alcoholic with an unhealthy bag addiction, who
owned enough aṣo-ebi to open her own mall. Who is
Ria and why did I pay so much for her aṣo-ebi for
goodness' sake?
But that wasn't who she was, was it? Why then, did the
money she had spent not reflect her values?


She had decided the best way to make sense of
everything was to put all the data she had collected
under her six biggest spending categories: rent, utilities,
food, transportation, wardrobe, and other, and began to
make sense of them in relation to her annual income of
about seven point two million.
The two point five million she paid annually for her
two-bedroom apartment was easily her biggest
expenditure. She had read an article once that described
Lagos as one of the most expensive cities in the world
and she couldn't agree more. The unspoken success and
wealth connotations of living on “The Island” had made
Phase I one of the more desirable parts of town. Even
though she loved living there she couldn't help but think
she was living in an upmarket ghetto. The bad roads,
inefficient power supply, and the sometimes filthy
water was not exactly high-class living. Luckily, she
was only paying a year's rent upfront; most Nigerians
had to pay two.
The utilities were fairly easy to track because she'd been
receiving monthly service charge notices from Mr
Okeke's facilities manager that detailed the cost of
diesel, PHCN, water, security, refuse collection and
other maintenance services—these all added up to her
quarterly service charge bill. If she added the cost of
cable from DStv, her internet subscription, and the
amount of money she spent on buying credit for her
mobile phone. she was spending roughly five hundred

thousand a quarter, which came to about two million a
When it came to transportation, it cost about eight
thousand a week (or about thirty-two thousand a month
to fill the tank of her car), which usually lasted about a
week. That translated to four hundred and sixteen
thousand a year. If she included the occasional Uber
ride—which were lifesavers when there was fuel
scarcity or her car was at the mechanic's—she would be
spending approximately seven hundred and eighty-four
thousand on transportation this year, excluding car
In her head, she took apart the true expense of her guilty
pleasure—her wardrobe.
Shoes. at an average of one hundred and eighty
thousand a pop I've bought at least ten pairs of designer
shoes in the last twelve months, which adds up to just
over one million. On shoes!
Aṣo-ebi. Attending weddings for people I don't even
know cost me about sixty thousand a month, seven
hundred and twenty thousand a year. Haba. And that's
without designer. With “tailor”, another four hundred
and eighty thousand for the year. For outfits I would
never re-rock.
The more Zuri looked at it, the more ludicrous it
seemed to her, the pomp and circumstance of being a

wedding guest. If you attended a wedding, you had to
wear the aṣo-ebi as a symbol of your support of the
bride and groom. In some cases, you may not even be
allowed to enter the venue for the wedding reception if
you were not wearing said aṣo-ebi!
As she caught a glimpse of one of her Virgos Lounge
dresses peeking out of her closet, she did a quick
calculation on everything in the last batch of wardrobe
expenses: Nigerian designers.
She had spent a pretty penny shopping at Zazaii, the
new department store on Balarabe Musa. She had spent
one point eight million on outfits in less than twelve
months! It wasn't that the pieces she bought were
particularly expensive; it was the frequency of her
purchases. You could say many things about the city of
Lagos, but it was never boring. There were events every
weekend. If it wasn't a wedding, there was some kind of
fashion event or new restaurant opening and every
event required a new outfit to kill on the red carpet and
make it on to the blogs like on BellaNaija or Linda
Ikeji. The comment sections of Naija blogs were always
Zuri stared at the Excel sheet on her MacBook Pro that
now had detailed information on how she had spent her
income in the past twelve months. She was an odd mix
of fear, annoyance, depression, and excitement. She had
no savings, no assets, and that worried her. She would

have to get serious about her finances and be
disciplined if she wanted to get herself out of this
situation and not repeat her mistakes. It frightened her if
she was being completely honest, but it made one thing
clear; she was going to have to go on a money diet and
first up was to clear her debt to Mr Okeke.
Even though a plan to tackle the imminent threat of her
debt had begun to form in her head, Zuri still felt at sea.
She knew she would have to make some changes to her
spending if she was going to be on track in the long run.
She had to forgive herself for her money mistakes; they
were in her past and what mattered was that she was
doing something about it now.
As she considered how brutal her spending diet was
going to be in the next few months, her thoughts were
interrupted by a loud banging on the door. PHCN had
decided they weren't going to provide electricity today
and so the doorbell wasn't working. She wondered who
it was. She wasn't expecting any guests but the banging
was a little too familiar.
“Abeg hold oh, abi na you get house?” Zuri shouted.
As she looked through the peephole she realised it was
her security guard.
“Suleiman what is it now? why are you banging my
door like that?”

“Sorry ma, I been tink say you no fit hear as light no
dey,” he said in a placating tone.
“Person come drop something for you,” he said as he
handed her a rather large but fancy gold gift box.
“Thank you.”
This looks suspiciously like aṣo-ebi. The packaging for
these things are becoming fancier with each passing
wedding. For the life of her, Zuri couldn't think of
whose wedding it could be. She didn't remember paying
for any recently.
As she read the card that came with the box, she felt
even more confused. Hashtag: #AbeTa, ke? “You are
invited to Abena and Tayo's wedding,” the card read.
As the realisation hit, she started dialling a number on
her phone.
“Hi darling, what's popping?”
“Tami! Why is Abena sending me aṣo-ebi? Are we
friends? I mean I've only met the girl a handful of
times. Wait. How did she even get my address?”
“Calm down, what's the big deal! She said she wanted
to invite you to the wedding and asked me for your
address,” Tami laughed. “I thought it was nice of her.”


“Nice?! I don't have money to be paying for aṣo-ebi
right now. Abi is it free? if it's free that's fine. Besides
when did people start sending aṣo-ebi before payment?”
“Zuri, you are over reacting. It's just thirty thousand.”
“Uhm, I've told you what my financial situation is like
right now, so there's no “just” with one kobo of my
money right now. I spent the last couple of hours going
through my bank statements and it turns out 'just thirty
thousand' translates to a lot of money over a period of
time. I've decided I'm only buying aṣo-ebi for close
friends' weddings. Otherwise it's such a waste.”
Tami was roaring with laughter. “I'd like to see how
you would pull that off, with weddings every other
weekend in this Lagos. I'm not even sure what you are
complaining about. I'm one of her bridesmaids and if
you see the list of demands, you'll cry. There's the cost
of the bridesmaids' dresses, she'd like us to wear
matching Sophia Webster shoes, there's the money we
have to contribute to her hen night and bridal shower.
Abeg, the list is long! Before it's over I will have spent
at least three hundred thousand and you are
complaining about thirty thousand.”
“That is just ridiculous. When you are not the one
getting married?”
“Darling, it's what you do for friends. Remember that
one day you will get engaged and expect other people to

pay for your own.”
“Trust me, with what I'm going through now, I doubt
I'll be subjecting other people to any unrealistic
demands when it's my turn.”
As she got off the phone, Zuri began to make a list of
all the things she had to quit spending on if she had any
real chance of paying Mr Okeke.
Goodbye ProFlex gym membership, she thought. Even
though she loved the way Jide's Longevity classes made
her feel, she knew she had to make some sacrifices in
the medium term. She could re-join later, but for now,
running on the Lekki-Ikoyi Bridge would have to do. At
least that one was free.
‘Other' was a huge category for her. It mostly included
money she had withdrawn from the ATM and she
couldn't account for properly because she had a hazy
recollection of how the cash was spent. Tips, petrol, a
quick stop at the grocery store when their point of sales
machines weren't working. Still, Zuri decided she
would limit herself to twenty thousand cash a week and
make it a point to make a note on her iPhone each time
she spent cash. She would also put herself on a budget
for her phone; she was definitely spending a lot on
credit and data, having meaningless telephone and
FaceTime conversations with her friends.
It went without saying that she was on a clothes

purchasing ban for at least six months. From now on,
she would either wear the clothes and shoes she had in
her wardrobe, or she would sit her behind at home.
Eating out also had to be cut down to only special
occasions for the next six months or till she figured
herself out.
Zuri decided that avoiding her bank statements and not
checking the balance of her accounts were no longer
options. She would set money dates with herself on
Sundays, to see how much she had spent each week and
stay on track with the goals she had set for herself with
regards to how she would cut her spending.
Cut spending by fifty percent! She spun in her chair and
grinned in relief.
Zuri was excited about her social life for the first time
in weeks. She was having the girls over for dinner
instead of going to eat at a restaurant, in a bid to
balance her new frugal life style with some much
needed fun. She had told them to each bring something
—a bottle of wine, a dessert, something—to contribute
to the dinner party. They were a rowdy bunch so she
knew the night would be full of laughter and fun. God
knew she needed a night like this so badly.
She had been on a spending diet for about six weeks
since her big aha! moment. She had intended to cut her

spending by fifty percent but had found it
unsustainable. She could only manage to set aside about
thirty-five percent from last month's salary, so she had
two hundred and ten thousand naira sitting in her
savings account. It wasn't nearly enough to cover her
debt but it was a good start.
She couldn't even front and pretend to be completely
happy, because It had meant cutting out a lot from her
life. The spending diet actually felt more like a juice
cleanse, but, either way, she was starving. She was
trying to make it a habit to keep track of everything she
spent in a notebook which she reviewed at the end of
every week. If she was honest, it was exhausting! Penny
pinching was not her thing. It was hard and she wasn't
sure this 'frugalista' life was for her long-term.
The struggle is real.
She missed her weekly trips to Zazaii to splurge on her
favourite Nigerian designers. She'd spotted a new Clan
dress on Instagram that she knew she would have
bought instantly, if she hadn't put herself on a clothes
ban. And, she definitely was experiencing severe bouts
of FOMO—the fear of missing out—when she saw
pictures of her friends at RSVP having cocktails. If she
was being completely honest, she felt deprived and it
was exhausting! It had been a tough sell getting the girls
to come to her house for dinner on a Friday night
instead of heading to the hot new bar that had just

Tami, Lara, Adesuwa, and Ladun had relented after I
bombarded them with text messages. They were always
so much fun.
It was almost 7:00 p.m. and her guests had started
“I've always loved this flat. it's so chic,” Tami said as
she sauntered in.
“I know, right? I'm always telling people how Zuri got
such a great deal on this flat,” Lara said. “It has so
much space and it's finished really well. I can't believe
you only pay two point five million, especially on this
particular street. I've always loved the left side of Lekki
Phase I; it's still fairly residential compared to the rest
of the estate, which is becoming too commercial.”
“Tell me about it,” said Ladun as she rolled her eyes. “I
don't know how you guys can live here. There's just too
much going on at once: Domino's, Ebeano, the filling
stations, the traffic! That's why I love living in Ikoyi.
None of this mess.”
Tami and Zuri shared a telling look. Ladun was an area
snob; she thought certain areas in Lagos were beneath
her because they were too “pedestrian”. She was one of
those girls that made annoying statements like 'I don't
do the mainland' or 'I only cross Third Mainland Bridge
when I have to get to the airport.' This was ironic to the

people who knew her before she married Bode (who
was from an old-money Lagos family and grew up in
Ikoyi) and became 'brand new'. Ladun actually grew up
in Ijesha, which was, in fact, on the mainland.
“Hmmm, I don't know, oh,” Adesuwa chimed in. “It's a
really nice flat for sure but don't you think living here is
a bad idea for Zuri? I mean, she's single and this is the
sort of show of wealth that drives guys away.”
Zuri stared at her blankly. She was used to this
annoying line of conversation from Adesuwa, because
she was one of those women who believed a woman
must downplay her achievements to seem more
attractive. She had shared with the girls on several
occasions how she lied to her husband about how much
she earned before they got married. Zuri still could not
figure out why a woman had to make herself seem that
much smaller to accommodate a man's ego.
Adesuwa was an associate at a top law firm in Lagos
and she was married to Soji, who did “business”,
although it was an open secret that they depended on
Adeswua's salary to survive. Still, Adesuwa kept up the
charade that Soji was the breadwinner, preserving his
“Should I live under the bridge because I'm single?”
said Zuri. “My mother doesn't live in Lagos, and
frankly, I like my space! The thought of sacrificing my

comfort and living with a distant relative until someone
decides to marry me is depressing!”
“I tire, oh,” Lara chimed in. “I've never understood that
logic! Please, I believe you attract what you want in this
life. If a guy is intimidated by the fact that she lives in a
two-bedroom flat, then he should keep it moving! That's
not the type we are looking for, abeg!” She hissed.
“Abi oh! Zuri please don't listen to Adesuwa, before
you come and attract the type that is hungry and looking
at you to feed him!” Ladun laughed.
“This reminds me of a client I had a fitting with today
in the studio,” Tami said. “She's a banker, she's single,
and she was lamenting about how she really wanted to
buy a Honda SUV but her mum won't let her—not
because she can't afford it but because her mum
believes it will make her seem too independent and
drive potential suitors away. Can you believe that? I
couldn't stop laughing. The girl was so upset!
“That's the society we live in,” Adesuwa replied. The
women all nodded. “Men generally feel threatened if
you seem just as successful as them, or, even worse, if
you are more successful than them. It's just wisdom
when you downplay it!”
“That's not true, oh, Adesuwa!' Zuri laughed. “I know
lots of Nigerian men who are married to women who
are equally as successful as them and they seem very

happy! These days no man wants a woman that's a
“I think it's all about finding a balance!” Lara said. “I
love earning my own money but I need a man that can
look after me! Forget all that fifty-fifty nonsense! My
money is my money—his money is our money!”
They all burst into laughter and high-fived each other.
“Plus, I have a Chanel addiction that I fully intend my
future husband to fund,” she added. “And it would be
nice for someone to share some of the financial burden I
carry sending my siblings to school. Even though I earn
good money, the financial responsibility of looking
after my family takes its toll sometimes. And the truth
is, I always feel like no matter how much I make I'm
spending it on others faster than I can spend it on
Lara was an oil and gas “big babe”—status granted by
the fact that she was an oil trader with great pay and a
job that took her on regular trips all over the world. She
had café-au-lait skin, a tiny waist and generous curves
—which went a long way to attract the array of rich
men, both single and married, who were constantly
sending her gifts. She was always very secretive about
her love life, so none of the other girls were ever sure if
she was actually dating any of these men, or if they
were just rumours based on the guys she'd been seen

with around town occasionally. Her father had died
when she was very young and, as the eldest child, she
had always felt responsible for looking after her mother
and three siblings. Even though she earned a lot of
money for her age, a good proportion went to paying
university fees, plus rent and living expenses for her
mum. They were all in awe of her sense of
responsibility because even though she complained
from time to time, they knew she couldn't see herself
doing otherwise.
Zuri was enjoying herself, and she was glad to see that
her friends didn't seem to be missing being out at a
trendy restaurant. But just as she started to crack open
the second bottle of wine, she decided it might be a
good idea to share some of her money concerns with the
“Guys, do you ever think about where all your money
goes?” Zuri said, suddenly.
Lara laughed. “How? What do you mean?”
“I mean, where does it all go? I work hard, I make
decent money but it never seems like it's enough
because the bills keep coming! As in, it never stops. I've
been struggling financially the last few weeks and I
can't help wondering where does all my money go. In
fact, since that incident with my landlord, I've been
paying a lot of attention to what I spend my money on
and it dawned on me the other day that a lot of the

money goes to things that are not necessarily at the top
of my priority list.”
“Girl, I can relate!” Lara said. “Even with my salary, I
feel silly complaining that it's never enough because I
have so many expenses every month. Between hospital
bills for my mum and school fees for my siblings, my
financial obligations are a nightmare. I can't even afford
to go on holiday or buy a new car but they are my
responsibility so what can I do?”
“I've never really thought about it,” Ladun said. “I don't
work oh, but Bode gives me a healthy allowance but I
can't really tell you where it goes specifically.”
“Shopping!” the rest of the girls laughed in unison.
Ladun smiled then hissed jokingly. “Don't be funny! Do
I shop more than the rest of you?”
“Yes! You do!” Tami replied. “Every conversation with
you is about how you absolutely have to get that Dior,
Chanel or Louis Vuitton bag you saw so and so girl
rocking on Instagram.”
“Ehn, I like designer bags. So shoot me,” Ladun said
cheekily. “Bode is not complaining.”
“Yes, but we are just pointing out that that's where your
money goes,” Lara said, still very amused by her
friends' antics. “Tami you, nko? Where does your

money go?”
“Mehn, I'll have to say weddings,” Tami said. “I don't
know if my name is on the internet with a sign that says
'professional bridesmaid'. Almost everyone I know that
gets engaged wants me to be on their train! I don tire!
Plus, it's getting expensive…. But weeeell, I can't lie,
sha, I'm also addicted to Good Hair. Kika and Chioma
sell the nicest hair.”
They all laughed and nodded in agreement except
Adesuwa, who had gone quiet.
“Adesuwa are you alright?” Zuri said. “You haven't
said much. Where does your own money go? Tell us,
“Soji.” Adesuwa said solemnly.
“What do you mean?” Ladun said, slightly confused.
“I mean, the bulk of my money goes to Soji! Soji and
his family members!” Adesuwa said right before she
burst into tears.
For a startled moment, no one said anything. They all
exchanged worried looks and then Tami rushed to her
side to console her. “What's wrong, love? Talk to us.
Maybe we can help.”






“Everything is just a bit much right now.”
“What do you mean?” Zuri asked.
Adesuwa took several ragged breaths, then everything
came out in a rush. “I mean it's not one particular thing!
I just feel overwhelmed sometimes. I work so hard to
earn money so my family is alright, but it always seems
like it's never enough. It's always one thing after the
other—if the generator doesn't break down this week,
there'll be something that needs fixing in one of the cars
or a hospital bill for Junior. It just feels never-ending
sometimes, like I'm working only to work for even
more money to spend on things that don't make me any
happier, but just stress the hell out of me. Then there's
the anxiety that comes with knowing that we have
barely any savings and zero assets to speak of. If I lose
my job tomorrow, my family is in serious trouble.”
“Have you talked to Soji about this?” Ladun asked.
“I can't!” Adesuwa exclaimed.
Lara, Zuri, Tami, and Ladun all exchanged knowing
“What do you mean you can't?” Ladun said. “He is your
husband and he's supposed to support you. You should
be able to share this sort of frustration with him, or,
better still, this should be his frustration not yours.”
Adesuwa sighed. “Listen! The last few months have

been really tough on Soji. His new business venture
hasn't exactly taken off yet. If I share my frustrations
with him, he might see it as me complaining and I don't
want that. Don't mind me, you guys, I was just having a
moment. It's probably all the wine I drank that's making
me emotional. It's just frustrating sometimes because
I'm constantly thinking 'What exactly am I working for?
Where does all the money go?' We've been trying to
take a vacation for the last three years but by the time
we spend the money on all these expenses, there's
nothing left over to go to Ilaṣe, not to talk of London.”
Tami tried to ease the tension. “Girl, I'm sure at one
point or the other we all wish that someone would tell
us everything would be all right, give us a hug, then
hand us a million dollars!”
“Preach!” Zuri giggled as she raised one hand in the air.
She poured another glass of wine and set it in front of
Ladun patted Adesuwa on the shoulder and glanced at
the other girls, silently seeking support for what she was
going to say next.
“Adesuwa, I think you baby Soji too much! I don't
mean to be rude but he's getting too complacent! It's
one thing if you are working to contribute fifty-fifty to
the household but when you are carrying the burden
alone that's not fair! You are the woman, not the man,

oh! This is why I don't work! Before Bode gets any
ideas. It's the man's responsibility to provide for the
family and once you upset that dynamic they start to
resent you for it. I've seen it happen many times.”
Zuri and Tami shifted in their seats uncomfortably.
Adesuwa sobbed. “You don't understand. He is under a
lot of stress! He took a loan from the bank for the startup he was trying to run before he had this new idea and
it's already a struggle paying that loan back. He started
building a house for his mum, so the pressure there is
also adding to his stress. He doesn't want to let her
down, so I'm chipping in a good chunk of my salary,
but it's stressful because before I cough my salary is
Lara broke her silence. “Ladun has a point, oh,
Adesuwa! What if you stopped working—then what
would Soji do? The things that some men do, sha, I
don't understand. You have a good woman that's willing
to hold you down who's supportive and wants to see
you succeed, shouldn't that be an incentive to work
harder and stop playing at business? Business is not for
everyone, abeg! If he's tried these many businesses and
they didn't work out, then he can just go and get a job. It
is irresponsible! He has children for God's sake.”
“Abi!” said Ladun. “Plus, Adesuwa, why should it be
your responsibility to help him build his mother's

house? You are taking things too far! This man
obviously thinks you are a mumu. Shouldn't his wife
and child be his number one priority?”
Adesuwa sighed. “Not every married person is into
wealth like you oh, Ladun. Soji is his mother's only son,
so he sees it as his responsibility to look after her and I
actually admire that about him. Do I resent the fact that
the financial burden of his responsibility rests on me?
Yes, but he is my husband and I love him. It's my duty
to support him.”
“Let me just tell you, Adesuwa, you are being foolish!
Love ko, love ni!” Ladun scoffed. “You are his wife—
not his mother or father. You have your roles mixed up.
If he starts giving the money you earn to all these small
small girls in Lagos, then you will know. Just don't
come here and complain, sha.”
Zuri could tell that her friends were growing
uncomfortable with where the conversation was headed.
What had happened to her fun, carefree dinner party?
Why did the talk always seem to circle back to marriage
and money? She glanced at Adesuwa. They had all
heard rumours of Soji's infidelity but never discussed it
with her, because it was just what a large number of
men did in Lagos. In fact, it was almost as though
Nigerian women didn't expect fidelity but they also
didn't expect it to be thrown in their faces.


Soji's overt infidelity irked because he was also a lousy
provider for Adesuwa and Soji Jr. It was as though he
spent his time looking for new ways to humiliate her
and waste her hard-earned money; there were several
occasions when one or all of them had bumped into him
at a Sip popping champagne bottles for a bevy of
women. He was lazy and disloyal, and everyone but his
wife could see it.
“Why don't we talk about something else?” Zuri said.
She held the wine bottle up. “Who needs more wine?”
Four glasses shot up. She laughed. “Okay,” she said,
getting up to make the rounds. “And now someone tell
me about some fabulous piece of clothing that they've
recently bought—at least that way I can live vicariously
through you!'”
There was laughter around the table and Ladun and
Lara both started talking at once, while Tami leaned in
to the conversation. Adesuwa gave Zuri a grateful look
when she topped her glass off. Zuri just smiled and
patted her shoulder.
Hours after the girls had left, Zuri washed the dishes
and contemplated the different directions the
conversation had veered to during the course of the
night. They all seemed to be about different things:
men, difficult marriages, apartments, and the burden of
bills, having a family, the responsibility of having
children or having elderly parents. The truth was one

thing was at the core of those conversations—Money!
She was confounded by how a close group of friends
could have such different ideals when it came to
handling money.
Even though Adesuwa had spent most of her twenties
downplaying her earnings so she didn't seem too
independent to potential suitors, she had managed to
attract a husband who had no qualms taking advantage
of her income and bending it to his will. So even though
she earned a decent income, she wasn't financially
independent because how she spent her money was
dictated by her husband's whims and desires—not hers.
Tami had fewer responsibilities than the others because
her parents were wealthy; she lived at home and her
business was more of a fun project rather than
something that provided an income to survive on. Her
lifestyle was dependent on her daddy and boyfriend du
jour. When Zuri thought about it, she realised that her
money conversations with Tami were never really about
saving, investing, or business. They were usually geared
toward the next spontaneous holiday or what designer
shoes to buy. It definitely seemed like Tami was still in
La La Land when it came to her finances.
Ladun was a housewife who firmly believed that bank
statements were not her business. Bode could worry
about that; her job was to show him how to spend it. To
her, she fell in line with the common attitude that it was

the sole responsibility of a husband or father to worry
about family finances. Zuri wondered whether in an
uncertain society whether it was prudent for Ladun not
to take an active interest in how her bank account got
filled every month. Still, Zuri could recall many women
had been unable to maintain the lifestyle to which they
had become accustomed to because their husband had
lost his job, left them for another woman, or worse—
had died suddenly with no will and his extended family
had kicked them out and taken over the assets because
in many African traditions, women weren't allowed to
inherit wealth. Bode's parents seemed very refined, but
Zuri still wondered if Ladun was right.
And then there was Lara, who earned more than all of
the girls for sure. Her bonuses as an oil trader made
even Ladun's jaw drop. However, no matter how much
money came in, it seemed like there was always one
more hurdle to leap that was not necessarily of her own
making. Over the years, Zuri had watched her
consistently upgrade her family's accommodations,
from an apartment in Iyana Ipaja to one in Gbagada
and then the house in Lekki Phase I. They were all
properties Lara paid rent on, and, coupled with the
university fees she paid for her siblings abroad, Zuri
wondered if Lara had any left over for savings or
investments. As it was, she wasn't sure even her friend's
salary could withstand the financial burden of her
family's expenses.


Zuri considered her friends—women who lived very
comfortable lives but didn't seem to have a handle on
their finances. Their money seemed like it was being
pulled in different directions, most of which were not
the direction they intended. What do we want our
money to do? Zuri mused.
She had never really articulated what exactly she
wanted the money she earned to do for her. Although
she had taken some decent steps towards figuring out
where her money was going, she realised now after
weeks of her spending diet that she needed a more
concrete plan for any of the changes she had made to be


Most people don't know where the money
they earn goes. What percentage of your
income goes to food? Transportation?
Clothes? Just like in any successful business
where you track the revenue and costs
periodically, it is also important to track the
expenses in our personal lives. Nigerian
women have to become the CFOs of their
financial lives and learn to take control of
the income they earn now, instead of waiting
for their incomes to increase in the future
before they learn to manage money.
Some women have no idea how much their
lifestyle costs. She may not spend recklessly,
but she subconsciously develops a habit of
spending—good or bad. If you don't treat the
money you earn with respect, it will leave
you with no respect. We have to learn to
spend with intention by allocating our
resources to reflect the lifestyle we want and
are able to sustainably afford. This all starts
with having a clear idea of where the money
is going in the first place. You have to give

up the excuses and learn to control money
instead of letting money control you.







Write down everything you spent your
income on in the last month. This will
give you good ideas of how you are
spending money and help you identify
areas to cut or increase.
Review your bank statements from the
last twelve months.
Separate your findings into wants and
needs. Limit your wants and prioritise
your needs.
Identify three to five things to cut each
month that would make a significant
impact. Review what you are spending
on things like your phone calls and food
because these are examples of things
that are important but we tend to spend
on mindlessly. Assess your spending in
these areas and set spending limits.
Spend on the things you love and cut
expenses ruthlessly in the things that
don't matter to you.


This sun is out in full force! Lara thought as she
squinted. This was bad, particularly on a weekend when
you had to attend an outdoor function in Lagos.
She got out of her BMW and started walking toward the
venue. She was slightly annoyed because it had taken
her twenty minutes to find parking and the security man
at the house she parked next to had demanded five
hundred naira. It wasn't that the money was a lot—she
certainly could have tipped him at least that much—it
was the sense of entitlement that bugged her.
“Madam, you can't park here unless you pay five
hundred,” he'd said with authority. She'd just rolled her
eyes, wound down the window, and paid up because
she hadn't had the patience to argue. This man had
turned the small patch of land in front of his oga's
house into a business, taking advantage of the fact that
there was a party happening up the road. The laws of
demand and supply, I guess, she laughed to herself.
This was Lagos—everybody had to hustle to make an
extra buck.
As she walked toward the party, tiny beads of sweat

started to form at her temples; her makeup had already
begun to feel like it was melting off her face and it
would probably get worse because Banke was having
her son's first birthday celebration in the garden of their
beautiful Ikoyi home.
As Lara approached the gate and winced at the damage
that the bad road was doing to the heel of her
Louboutin's, she realised how much she dreaded these
children's parties. It was weird because she loved kids
and hoped to have some of her own one day, but that
was precisely it. She was approaching her mid-thirties
and parties like this just reminded her of everything she
didn't have yet (a husband and children) and that her
proverbial biological clock was ticking.
Two days ago she had absolutely no intention of
making an appearance. She had planned to cite an
unavoidable work emergency, call Banke after the party
to apologise profusely, and send a gift for her son.
However, Zuri had called her last night to guilt trip her
into coming.
“You can't be serious, Lara! We've known Banke since
university and you know how long she's been trying for
a boy! It's good to celebrate with people when they are
celebrating and mourn with them when they are
mourning.” Zuri's tone had reminded Lara of her own
mother's. “Remember that one day, you'll get married
and have a baby too and won't you expect all your

friends to be there to celebrate with you?”
An exasperated Lara finally agreed. “Okay, oh! I have
heard! I'll be there tomorrow.”
Zuri wasn't wrong. It was good to celebrate with people
when they were celebrating. Lara believed that at her
core, plus there was a part of her that felt slightly sorry
for the pressure Banke had been under in the last few
years to have a boy. However, her sympathy remained
slight because as far as she was concerned, the pressure
was mostly self-induced. Of course, Banke's obsession
with producing a male child was fed by Nigerian
society's obsession with boys coupled with a fair
amount of pressure from her in-laws, but the fact was
the woman had already had three beautiful girls who
were happy and healthy before her son had arrived.
Some people hadn't even gotten married nor had the
opportunity to have a child, so it was a bit selfish for
Banke to expect her sympathy. Banke was also one of
those annoying women that started almost every
sentence with, 'My husband said' or 'You won't
understand because you don't have kids.' The more Lara
thought about previous conversations she had engaged
in with Banke, the more irritable her mood became.
She passed through security, checked her name off the
guest list, and navigated her way through to Banke's
garden. Their backyard had been transformed into some
sort of kiddie's wonderland. She recognised some

characters from a cartoon she was sure she grew up
watching but couldn't quite place the name. There was a
little boy and lots of animals and the place looked like
an actual forest. As she walked by a wooden sign that
said Wild Jungle Party Starts Here…Rumble in the
Jungle it hit her. It was The Jungle Book! How clever,
Lara thought. As she approached the kids' eating area,
which was surrounded by a mix of large palm trees and
coconut trees, she couldn't help but marvel at how
realistic the jungle looked—they must have spent a
fortune on décor.
“Hi Banke, where's the birthday boy?” Lara air-kissed
her friend on both cheeks and gave her a faux hug.
“He's having the time of his life in the playpen with the
other kids his age. It's such a pity he's not old enough to
play in the tree house with the older kids. You know, it
took the carpenters two whole days to erect that thing,”
Banke replied, with a smug, self-satisfied look.
As she walked toward the adult section to find Zuri,
Lara looked up at the beautifully constructed tree house,
which had actual vines and leaves hanging from them.
There was also a spectacular waterfall, flanked by rocks
on each side and complete with fun plastic flamingos
bobbling in the water. Lara took it all in, amused. She
wasn't sure why she even bothered being surprised
anymore. This was Lagos, where almost everything was
a large-scale production including a one-year-old's

birthday party. The extravaganzas were never about the
child though. They were really about the parents and
their “celebration of life”. A party like this would surely
have set them back a few million naira.
She spotted Zuri and tried to wave to catch her attention
but she was deep in conversation with another woman.
As she got closer to their table she realised the girl was
Chinasa, who Lara despised. It wasn't because she had
done anything to her directly—she just hated everything
the girl stood for. She was a fairly young fashionista
who had found a way to ingratiate herself into every
social stratum in Lagos, regardless of age; there were
forty-year-old guys she was besties with! Even Lara had
to admit that, she had the whole innocent, I'm-such-asweet-girl act down pat. The thing was, Lara had heard
some rather unsavoury things come out of the girl's
mouth about others, it was a wonder that more people
didn't see through her.
She had once mentioned to Lara at another party that a
famous actress she was working with was broke,
couldn't afford her services, was always begging for
freebies, was sleeping around Lagos for money and
how she couldn't stand her because she lacked morals.
The following week on Instagram Lara spotted an
emotional post the actress put up of Chinasa, saying
how she was such an amazing person who was so
selfless and loyal. It made Lara sick to her stomach. She
wondered what the rat was telling Zuri now.

“Yaaay! Lara you made it,” Zuri said as she stood up to
hug her.
“What's wrong with you, sef? I told you I was coming,
na,” Lara laughed.
“Hey sis,” said Chinasa, sounding rather excited.
“Hey,” Lara responded with a forced smile. She looked
at Zuri. “Can you come with me to find the bathroom?
The heat is destroying my makeup, I need to go and
touch up, so I'm not out here looking crazy.”
“Haaahaa, you look fine, jo!” Zuri replied. “I'll show
you where it is. Chinasa we'll be back soon, okay?”
They both stood in the guest bathroom in front of the
mirror, examining their faces. Lara reached for her
House of Tara compact and dabbed her T-zone to
remove any traces of oil while Zuri retouched her
House of Tara Arese Lipstick.
“What was that Chinasa girl saying to you?” Lara
asked. “You know she is quite the gossip, be careful
what you say to her. She's one of those people you don't
have to even tell actual gist to, they can twist even the
most mundane piece of information and then carry your
matter like a town crier.”
Zuri laughed. “It's funny! She was actually saying the
vilest things about Banke. I can't lie—I wanted to hear

the gist but at the same time it made me uncomfortable
because we are still in the woman's house for God's
“Vile? how so? Abeg, spill! What did she say?” Lara
laughed. “Even me, I want to hear.”
“Basically she was saying that Banke and Femi can
never afford the lavish parties they've become known
“They are loaded, now! Femi has been running a
lucrative oil and gas business for years. What is that
small rat on about?” Lara scoffed.
“Ha! The girl said it took Banke a year to finish paying
off all the vendors from her third child's birthday party
two years ago.”
“Zuri abeg, stop that joke! Which Lagos vendors will
let someone owe them for one year and not disgrace
them?” Lara said as she rolled her eyes.
“Girrrl, that's what I said too, oh, but Chinasa claims
that Banke had paid substantial deposits before the
party and just stopped picking up their calls after the
party was done. Apparently it didn't become a big
scandal because of their family name and the vendors
didn't want to spoil the prospect of future business with
Banke, seeing as she's known for throwing lavish

“That's so bizarre! I wonder if there's any truth to it.”
“That wasn't all, oh! She said Banke owed several
Nigerian designers around Lagos for clothes they had
made for her and she had yet to pay for. She said
combined the debt she had racked up was in the
millions.” Zuri clapped her hands dramatically.
“Anyway please don't repeat this—I'm tired of this
Lagos, only God knows if any of it is true and I'm pretty
sure we are not the only ones that have heard this gist.
Let's go back out to the party.”
Lara nodded. All this at a one-year-old's birthday party.
It was mind boggling.
As she and Lara approached their table, Zuri noticed
that a few guys had joined Chinasa and they were deep
in discussion.
“See you. It's all bank funded, their entire lifestyle,”
said Tunji, one of Femi's friends.
“Is it just that? Does he pay his staff? He doesn't!
Meanwhile they'll be throwing a party that cost
millions,” said a guy Zuri couldn't quite place.
Chinasa was smiling coquettishly. “Hmmm egbon, are
you sure? Banke just asked me to style her for
December because she has so many events to attend. Do