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Dear Younger Me; You Were Not Broke; You Just Were Not Smart

By – Jennifer Ifeoma Ugboh

Young woman with horrified expression, posing in studio, portrait

It was my birthday last week, (Huge thank you for all the heartfelt wishes, by the way, I know I’m getting old) and I am beyond grateful for the gift of another year. With each year comes the inevitable reality of aging and all the responsibility that comes with it, and while I plan to make the most of this New Year, it’s a known fact that you cannot go forward without taking stock and thinking of the next course of action.

I am particularly looking back on my time in the university and how I was almost always broke most of the time. Turns out that it wasn’t half as bad as I thought it was, I had it better than most I just wasn’t smart with my finances. I wish I could go back in time to give younger me a smart talk but I can’t. What I can do though is this piece for all ye that are still in school.

Oh yea, being a student is tough, and it’s so hard to live on the measly student allowance, but there are smart ways to optimize your chicken change. Trust me, I have been there and now I am on the other side so I can confidently tell you what I know.

First, you have to establish your money goals; do you just want to get by? Or are you making plans for the future as well? Establish what you want with your financial life and align your priorities to these goals. After that is done, the first thing you need to work on is A STRICT BUDGET.

Yep as simple as it sounds, good ol budgeting is where you have to start if you want to be smart about your finances. Not only does it help you track your expenses, it also helps with accountability and priorities thereby helping you curb excessive spending. Make room for everything in your budget; dedicate funds to even the most mundane things like snacks and eating out has to be accounted for.

One monster that takes up all your cash without you realizing it is phone bills. You will be surprised at how much the #100 recharge cards amount to in the long run. Ditch the recharge cards for data bills and you will be saving a whole lot more. Subscribing to a data bundle to keep up with friends and family might cost more up front but it saves you a whole lot in the end.

You can also save more if you cut down the use of your debit card and USSD codes. GT bank’s 737 (and the rest of em) have undeniably made life easier for us all but the extra charges (never mind how little) is a big enemy. Make a resolve to only pay with cash, your wallet feels the emptiness when you pay and you are tempted to spend less. Say no to more swiping and yes to more saving.

I know you are wondering where “fun” fit in this list, I’m getting there. Everyone needs a little downtime and unwinding every now and then, but you don’t have to go broke to have fun. Chase the adventure, find fun for free, be creative. Rather than TGIF partying at the clubs where drinks are ridiculously expensive, party in your hostels instead. Invite your turn up buddies for a sit in. Pool your resources together, buy the drinks from stores at a cheaper rate, create a playlist and have a hella house party. Trade the movie dates for movie nights in, be creative and smart in your spending. Socializing doesn’t have to equate to foolish spending. Fun is what you make of it, always remember that.

Finally, consider making extra cash. Sign up for freelance jobs, no matter how little the pay is, it is another stream of income and there is no such thing as too much money. Also, take advantage of the constant freebies and giveaways on social media. Stuff like clothes, accessories, coupons, movie tickets, etcetera are constantly being dished out on the regular. All you have to do is shine your eye.

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