My Money Mistake is a weekly PiggyVest series that explores the worst money mistakes real Nigerians have made, and the lessons they learnt from it.
For this week’s My Money Mistake, we spoke to a 28-year-old entrepreneur who spent a chunk of her school fees on a shopping addiction. She talks about how this mistake led her down a path of lying and borrowing, and how she’s not recovered from it years later.
What’s your biggest money mistake?
A few years ago, when I was still a student in Covenant University, I used a chunk of my school fees to buy clothes and shoes. That mistake led me down a very dark path, filled with lying and borrowing.
Wait! What? Why?
Before I got into CU, I didn’t really care about fashion. To me, clothes were just a way to cover my nakedness. That’s why I was so glad that CU has a dress code; I figured I wouldn’t have to think too much about what I was wearing.
Omo. I was very wrong.
In my first semester, all of us in 100L looked awkward together, with our oversized shirts, ill-fitting trousers and unflattering skirts, so I didn’t feel too out of place. By second semester, though, everyone seemed to have left me behind.
My friends had all figured out their style; so much so that I felt out of place whenever we were out together. Then my best friend bought me some clothes for my birthday, and I was flooded with compliments the first time I wore them.
They were mostly backhanded — “So you can be fine like this?” — but I didn’t mind. I felt seen.
I went to CU, too. I get it.
See. Suddenly, all I cared about was buying more clothes. I was using out of my ₦30,000 monthly allowance to buy what I could, but it wasn’t enough. I even asked my mum for some money to buy them. She refused.
She didn’t understand what was wrong with all the skirts and shirts she’d bought for me.
So, what happened?
I was about to enter 200L, and the person I’d been buying clothes from was having a sale. I needed about ₦250k to shop to my satisfaction for the new semester, and my parents had given me, their usually well-behaved daughter, all of my school fees.
That’s how I took the money out of it.
Ah! Did you have a plan to replace the money?
Yeah, sort of. I planned to sell the old clothes I’d bought. I knew the plan didn’t actually make sense because the clothes weren’t that much, but I wasn’t thinking clearly. I just needed to buy those clothes; that’s all I could think about at that moment.
So, how much did you make when you sold your clothes?
It wasn’t even up to ₦100k. That’s how I started panicking. Resumption was approaching, and I didn’t have my complete school fees. I even considered returning the clothes, but the person didn’t do refunds.
Yikes. What did you do?
The only thing I could do: I borrowed from my friends. I was able to raise the money (five friends gave me ₦30k), but that only delayed the inevitable. When the friends began asking for their money back, I started ghosting them and lying.
Then, if anyone became too impatient, I’d borrow from someone else to pay them. And do you know the craziest thing? I was still using some of my allowance to buy more clothes, instead of focusing on repaying my debts. I honestly couldn’t recognise myself anymore.
Yup. It was like an addiction, which was even more embarrassing.
Did you tell your parents?
I had to, months later, when the pressure became too much. I was losing friends, doing poorly in school and was constantly on edge. I didn’t have anyone else to borrow from, so I told my parents. I still can’t forget the way my dad just stared at me.
My mum screamed and got the anger out of her system, but my dad has never looked at me the same way since. It hurts more because I was always a daddy’s girl; we used to chat like best friends. I think I actually broke his heart.
I’m sorry. Did they take care of the debts though?
Yeah. They did, but they never gave me my school fees to handle again.
What about the clothes?
My dad seized them. I had to go back to the old shirts and skirts my mum got me. I was embarrassed at first, but then I realised that it was better to dress like that than to be known around school as a liar and debtor.
Good point. So, what did you learn from this money mistake?
A bunch of things. Firstly, don’t try to live above your means. It never ends well. Secondly, don’t be dishonest about money. I’m still fighting to win back my dad’s trust years later, and it feels like a losing battle. Thirdly, don’t borrow. Just don’t do it.