OPINION: “You don’t have to look rich when you know you aren’t” Why Nigerians should save.

My colleague Wale sees me return to the office from the site late one afternoon and then says to everyone, “Hey, Paul is back; let’s ask him what he thinks on our discussions this morning”.

Wale is quite witty, funny and knowledgeable about things; so immediately, my attention is spiked.

 “If you were paid N1.5 million per month, would you be able to save up to N1 million every month?” he asks.

The response that comes out of my mouth is: “Why not N1.2 million”?

The entire room goes silent as everyone seems to expect me to answer differently

“Why do you have to spend as much as N500,000 every month on yourself? In my mind, I wondered, “One needs a plan to scale-up their financial flexibility,” I add.

I could never  fathom why mostly young, unmarried guys and a few newly-weds, saw the need to spend N500,000 a month on living expenses, if they earned up to N1.5 million (roughly $3,947) monthly (which, by the way, is above the average income).

Well, long story short, a lot of my colleagues disagreed me, saying higher earnings mean more expenses. This sounds logical. However, do we really spend more on our needs, or on our wants? And do we find that we tend to spend more only when we have disposable cash, but spend less and still get by just fine when we’re seemingly out of disposable cash?

One fundamental factor that keeps the middleclass in the middle class is the continuous lack of self-discipline to live within their means, work with a budget, and consistently invest in well-designed schemes to scale up their financial flexibility.

I concur that saving substantially with a salary within the range of N100,000 – N200,000 ,which is the average income of Nigeria’s younger middleclass, might be tough, but not impossible. I believe that whether you earn N100,000 or N1 million monthly, with the desire to save, you will. Married or single, it all comes down to having a plan and sticking to it.

If you make irresponsible financial decisions, you will pay sooner than later. If you keep being overly generous,(when you really can’t afford it, one day, you’ll become broke, and those same people you were “helping” will accuse you of spending foolishly. Some of them might even abandon or mock you.

In personal finance, don’t cut your coat according to your size but according to your cloth. Societal pressures shouldn’t determine your spending habit. Understand that there’s nothing wrong if you’re the only one among your friends who uses an Android phone. You could also be the only one among them who can afford to make a N1 million in emergency spending. Appearances can be deceiving, and mostly are. You don’t have to look rich when you know you aren’t. There’s no wisdom in that. Create a realistic plan and work your way to real financial flexibility. And even if you make mistakes, don’t be too discouraged to try again. Put in the hard work to get it right; and you will.

Chukwubuikem Paul Anunaso, is a civil/structural engineer and writer in Lagos, Nigeria.

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