In Part 1 of this series about how to save money during your NYSC programme, I told you about habits that drain your income during your NYSC programme. This became necessary because, according to an Igbo (Nigeria) adage, if you don’t know where the rain started beating you, you won’t know where it stopped. Without, first of all, identifying those things that deplete your income, you won’t know how to tackle them.
Although there are no fast and hard rules about making savings, I’ve a few tips to help you save for the rainy day and live happily ever after. These tips are based on my personal experiences and observations as a corps member. Take your time to go through them and you’ll see your savings increase by 100 percent.
Tip #1: Stop clubbing
It goes without saying that the service year can be very dull and dreary, especially in areas where there are a few corps members or none at all. Even if they are many of them, lifestyles differ and what interests you may not interest another. One man’s meat is another’s poison, they say. Engage in exercises and recreational activities. You can play football with a few local youths around or play ludo, joker or chess with them. You can as well use your phone, tablet or laptop to play games or watch movies and videos or even browse the internet to keep yourself busy and for escape.
During the first months of my service year, I normally watched my colleagues and some locals play joker. They had always invited me to play, but I had always declined. One day, I decided to join them and so I continued but I had enjoyed it even more than those who extended the invitation to me. And I had always won. We could play joker from morning till night, only taking a break to eat, have a bath or ease oneself.
Sometimes, we played football in the morning or at evenings or we could take a rest for a whole day. Thursdays were usually our days because we would attend Community Development Service, CDS meetings or activities and exchange pleasantries with colleagues from various places in the council area.
You could also use your time to engage in useful ventures. I seized the opportunity to write my first ebook, The ABC of Literature.
I had friends, my senior colleagues, who would always go clubbing at Igoli, the town and headquarters of Ogoja council area of the State, but before the middle of the month they were already broke.
Tip #2: Avoid women
If you are promiscuous and cannot spend a night without having sex, then you will hardly ever save money. If you attend night clubs regularly, there are chances that you cannot do without women there and you would always spend on them. My senior colleagues would always bring in some ladies in the night after going to clubs. Would they leave them empty handed?
Tip #3: Stop too much intake of alcohol
Drinking too much alcohol can take a toll on your finances. If you drink always, there is the likelihood that you would have little or no savings at the end of the month. Stories have been told of corps members who would head straight to bars immediately after receiving their monthly allowances and spend everything there.
I’m a wine connoisseur, but I know my limits. I hardly go to a beer parlour to take a drink. I took beer only on a few occasions when I was a corps member. Majority of the times, I resorted to drinking palm wine (better known there as ukem or ebeto). Not just that it was relatively cheap, it is natural. We would contribute some money from time to time and buy a gallon (about five litres) for some ₦300. Sometimes, we bought two.
Tip #4: Quit smoking
If you can’t quit smoking, then reduce your number of cigarette intake in a day. My senior colleagues smoked, but one of them was a chain smoker. A minute hardly passes by without him lighting a cigarette. I know that there are still others who take various substances that make them exhaust their financial resources, the attendant health implications aside. I don’t smoke, either.
Tip #5: Cook your food
One of your best bets for saving money is to prepare your own dish. I had always cooked my food. Rarely do I patronise food vendors, but I could buy snacks sometimes whenever I feel like.
If you can, cook in a group. That’s where living in the family house is beneficial because meals are normally prepared together. Although I hadn’t the opportunity to stay there, we actually tried it in our PPA. Whenever we were paid, we would contribute a specific amount of money and buy foodstuffs that could take us through that month. We had a female colleague who usually prepared the dishes.
Tip #6: Travel seldom
You can limit the number of times you embark on a journey in your service year. Apart from the hazards associated with travelling, you can actually save much. Embark on only essential trips. My friend and colleague of the same batch who came from Lagos did not travel throughout the period of his service. He moved straight from the NYSC orientation camp to his PPA, both in Obubra and Bekwarra council areas of the state respectively, although he had always raised concerns about his mother whom he had left back then in Lagos. He never went to Lagos because by the time he would have completed the journey he would have spent his one month allowance or more. What then is the need of going?
Personally, I rarely travelled when I was a corps member. I don’t think I visited home more than four occasions then. I had genuine reasons for journeying. I went home after our orientation course in March to get a few personal belongings, visited again during Christmas and went again in August when I lost my dad. During the period of mourning, I travelled from my hometown in Ebonyi State to my state of deployment to do my monthly clearance and came back the same day.
I even had to shelve my plans of going to Gboko in neighbouring Benue State to see my uncle and his family because of the financial implications of such a trip.
Tip #7: Get a cheap accommodation
I have seen people who have humble beginnings but they would want to live big. They rent pricey accommodations just to show off. My house rent was ₦1,000 (one thousand naira) paid annually back then in 2014/2015 when I did my NYSC programme. I only contributed ₦5,000 (five thousand naira) after a heated argument with my employer for not providing me an accommodation in line with the provisions of the Scheme. The room was good, spacious and located in a serene environment, away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Sometimes I got a free ride for my CDS meetings at Bekwarra council headquarters, Abuochiche or I boarded a commercial motorcycle (popularly known as Okada) for just ₦50 (fifty naira) to get there. I did this despite the factthat they were still better accommodations located in the heart of Abuochiche.
I also considered the cost of renting a room at Abuochiche and shuttling between there and my PPA on weekdays, having found myself in a similar situation as an undergraduate where I had spent a fortune on transport fare. So, I wanted to avoid a repeat.
However, I disliked my PPA initially because I had least expected that I would be posted to such a place. I was disappointed, to say the least, that I even requested a rejection but I had to man up after some time.
Tip #8: Use public transport
It is true that the urge to be part of the society would always be there, especially when your friends or colleagues flaunt what you even have, but that does not mean you should join the bandwagon to impress others. It is good if you own a car before your service year, but it is not a wise decision to use it at your PPA during your service year if you are serious about saving money. Otherwise, a greater percentage of your monthly allowance would go to fuel and maintenance that you would be left with little or nothing to feed or even take care of yourself.
Tip #9: Don’t patronise hotels
If you are in the habit of going to hotels to eat or relax, then you would always spend more than someone who doesn’t and who cooks their own food or relaxes over a bottle of beer at home or in a joint.
Tip #10: Charge your phone in the neighbourhood
While the power situation in the country and in some areas in particular is something of a serious concern, there are still better alternatives than acquiring a generator in your service year for personal use. Instead, you can pay a token (say ₦50) to charge your phone or other gadgets, or go to a place in the neighbourhood to charge them free.
I normally kept tabs on neighbours who had generators. I would always go there to charge my phones whenever they were using the generating sets. It’s not that I didn’t spend money on charging my mobile phones, but I did that only when there was no other option readily available.
Without mincing words, you don’t need a generator as a serving corps member unless you run a side business at your PPA that requires electricity.
Tip #11: Abstain from junk foods
If you plan to save money, then you should avoid junks or reduce their intake. They are quickly made, but of low nutritional value. Natural foods are better, because they are healthier and more nutritious. They are also relatively cheaper. Junk foods are costlier comparatively.
Tip #12: Don’t cohabit
If you are yet to be called up for your mandatory one-year NYSC programme and you are nursing the ambition to live with a female colleague, then drop that idea because you will lose more than you would gain. Gauge the opinion of former corps members who have tried it and see their response. Although I did not experience it personally, I witnessed it.
My friend and his roomie would always brawl about money. The guy would spend his allowee (as the monthly allowance is fondly called) on foodstuffs and general upkeep while the gal would save hers. This had always been their bone of contention, but they never parted ways, at least not until we left when they actually did (which is a different subject matter for another day). We completed our service year before the lady because we were first called up.
I don’t know how much the guy was able to save. Even if he did, he could have done more if he had lived alone.
Tip #13: Save first
The first thing you should do immediately you get your monthly allowance is to save a part of it. Personal finance experts recommend 20 percent, but I suggest 25 percent here because of the peculiarities of the situation.
Your target would be to save ₦50,000 (fifty thousand naira) before the end of your service year. It is even better if you save more, but don’t think that yet. The hard and bitter truth is that you may never get close to my recommended target. I speak from experience.
If you plan to set aside ₦50,000, then you would be saving ₦4,950 (four thousand nine hundred and fifty naira) monthly. That is 25 percent of your ₦19,800 (nineteen thousand eight hundred naira) federal allowance per month. You would be left with ₦14,850 (fourteen thousand eight hundred and fifty naira) which you would spend on food and other basic needs. Multiply the ₦4,950 savings per month by ten and you would get ₦49,500 (forty nine thousand five hundred naira) equivalent to ₦50,000).
Although you would be paid for a year, I purposely did not you take your allowances for the first two months into consideration. You would have finished your first monthly allowance in the camp or even before you do your documentation in your Local Government Area of posting. Then you would use the second one to secure an accommodation or put it in order and buy foodstuffs.
You should have a dedicated bank account where you should transfer your percentage savings immediately you receive your allowance for the month. I believe you already have a bank account and NYSC would require you to open a new one during your service year. So, your former account would come in handy.
You should only base the target on your monthly federal allowance, not on any other thing else. The reason is simple. You may be unlucky and get posted to where you would find life extremely difficult and you would struggle to survive on the federal allowance alone. State allowance or the one from your employer may not be forthcoming or they might come irregularly.
During my service year, I had a running battle with my employer because my stipends were not frequent. I can’t recall the number of times he paid me alongside other corps members. And there is nothing you could do about it. They say, the devil you know is better than the angel you do not know. If you request a reposting and you have your way, how sure are you things would be better?
Corps members posted to government establishments were luckier. They got ₦3,000 (three thousand naira) monthly, about ₦2,800 (two thousand eight hundred naira) after bank deductions. I think the Corps Liaison Officer, CLO also had his share from the remaining ₦2,800 to cover his transport fare to and from Calabar, the state capital whenever he went to collect all the state allowances for those serving in public institutions in the council area. At that material time, my course mates serving in Enugu State were receiving ₦10,000 (ten thousand naira) monthly state allowance. You can calculate the margin yourself.
If I had thought that I would serve in Enugu and based my calculations there, what could have become of me at the end of my NYSC programme?
Tip #14: Buy foodstuffs first
One of the basic and time tested things you should do as an income earner if you are struggling with finances is to buy foodstuffs first, before making other purchases. If you do this first, you would be left with little or nothing to waste on frivolities. It is even advisable you buy foodstuffs in bulk because they are relatively cheaper this way.
Tip #15: Live an austere life
Don’t followthe trends. Lead a simple life. Don’t buy shoes, clothes, handbags or any other articles of clothing on the impulse of the moment or because a friend did. Wash your old clothes and iron them. Take good care of your shoes and fix them immediately they get spoilt. I can’t remember buying new footwears or clothes during my service year.
Tip #16: Prioritise your needs
Get the first thing done first. That’s why economics teaches us about scale of preference. Buy your basic necessities only. Remember that wants are numerous but resources are scarce. You can’t get all your needs.
Tip #17: Limit your spending on recharge cards
Buy less recharge cards and make less phone calls. This way you would save more.
Tip #18: Don’t throw a party
You do not have to spend your hard earned money to stage a party to entertain friends and family after the successful completion of your service year. Even if you must, it should be a private ceremony and low key.
I initially did not want to mark the end of my service year, but I did it later for reasons I can’t even explain up till now. I came back on a Friday and the next day I bought about two cartons of beer and invited a few friends. They came, some from other ceremonies, and drank the beer. When they had left, I was surprised to see that some bottles of beer were just opened and the contents left to waste. Besides, some family members, friends and neighbours who were not invited made me their enemies. All my explanations that the party was impromptu fell on deaf ears.
I lost in two ways. I wasted my money and made enemies or even frenemies.
Tip #19: Do-it-yourself
You cannot underestimate the power of self-help in most situations. Whatever might be your need on this planet earth that you would pay someone to do for you, I tell you honestly that you can actually do half of those things on your own without help from outside.
I use myself as a case study. I formatted, designed the cover and published my first ebook, The ABC of Literature on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, KDP and on Smashwords in December 2016 without seeking or receiving assistance from anybody. I only resorted to the internet for answers to all my questions whenever the need arose. I have also done the same thing with this ebook you are reading now. I formatted it, designed the cover and published it myself.
With the knowledge I have gathered from doing it on my own, I can as well offer my services to other people and charge them for the job. At least, I have achieved two things with this do-it-yourself strategy: I can do it for myself; and I can do it for others and get paid. With this strategy, I have been able to save a lot, at least not less than ₦100,000 (one hundred thousand naira) in my first publication. Just google how much you can hire a freelancer to format your ebook for Kindle and EPUB, or design the cover so you will better understand what I am saying. I don’t even want to overstress the importance of do-it-yourself; otherwise, I would tell you that I set up and manage this blog without paying anyone a dime to create or admin it for me.
One thing I hate about hiring people is that they either disappoint you or you get dissatisfied with the output. So, I’ve got to do it myself.
Tip #20: Detach yourself from your family financially
I don’t know how to explain this, because my family has been at the centre of my financial difficulties (sorry to say this). The African society is structured in a way that the family has a lot of dependants who live on the charity of a single individual, especially the father or the first son. Because of this design, it is difficult, if not impossible, for the first son to be able to take care of himself or put food on his table, let alone being financially stable. So, if you continue to spend all your earnings on your family, I wonder if you would make any headway. One funny thing is that your family can actually survive without you.
Sometime ago, I was listening to a phone-in radio programme. A listener called and was complaining to the presenter about his problem. The host of the show had to ask him whether he normally spend so much for his family. The guy said yes. The presenter then told him pointblank that even if he died his family would still survive without him. And such is life. I am not saying that you should not support your family financially or otherwise where you can, but they should not see you as a money-spinner. There are little things they can do on their own.
Tip #21: Track your income and expenses
Yes, if you really want to know what is eating up your money, you must know when it comes in and goes out. Get a dairy or notepad and record all your income and expenses on a daily basis. Even any sachet water bought must be accounted for. That’s why on your Android phones and PCs there is data usage tracker. If you are worried about the high volume of data they consume, you simply click a button and it puts your data consumption on check. You may decide to do it manually by turning off apps that eat up a lot of data. The same thing applies to personal finance. You have to manage it if you are really hungry for progress.
Why some of the above recommendations may sound difficult to implement, they are really implementable, especially if you’ve the will and develop a positive attitude towards putting them to work. I was not privileged to have this kind of information, but I was able to save a substantial amount of money during my service year, though I had to spend everything on the funeral ceremony of my father who died at the tail end of my service year. How could I have buried my dad if I had blown all my earnings?
I decided to put this piece together for the benefit of intending corps members and those already serving. I’m speaking from personal experiences and observations. I can boldly say that I have seen it all as far as the NYSC programme is concerned and I wouldn’t want you to make some avoidable mistakes, considering the prevailing harsh economic situations and massive graduate unemployment in the country.
Are there other tips I’ve missed? Let me know in the Comment box below.