Every Little Helps
What could a bus conductor possibly have to teach you about money? I mean, and with no disrespect to them, given their general level of education, future prospects and lack of a financial safety net, they are possibly one of the most financially disenfranchised groups out there. I’m talking about “agberos” after all; those guys who shout themselves hoarse on the streets all day and pass their nights in dimly lit corners of Lagos, spending whatever they’ve earned to satisfy their most basic urges.
In answering the question, let’s consider their common traits for a second. We’ve already covered their raspy and rather unique tone of voice, what else… we know that their abhorrence for police men goes back to their mothers’ wombs and… ah yes, they don’t mess with their change! As in, never! It’s not even a matter that’s up for discussion. You cannot come between an agbero and his change. They will and have lost teeth, limbs and some, even their lives for as little as N50.
So are you as passionate about your change as an agbero? I know you wouldn’t get physical if someone owed you N50 (at least I’d hope not) but in a scenario where you were at a supermarket checkout and the attendant told you she didn’t have change, would you just walk away and forget about it? On a scale of 1 – 10, how much of a scene would you cause over N90 change? One or two of you reading right now would be an 11; this post is not for you then, move on to the next one. Thanks!
Perhaps the change would matter to you but out of the fear of embarrassment, you would walk away. In that case, how long would you gnash your teeth in annoyance? 10 minutes? Till the next morning?
As you’ve heard a thousand times, “every little helps”. A major supermarket chain has made this their payoff line by selling their own branded products that are slightly cheaper than others. Like the agberos, I don’t mess with my change either. I can’t send someone on an errand with money and not ask for the change back. I will not leave change at the checkout counter; one of the reasons why I pay with my debit card 99% of the time everywhere.
What do I do with that change you ask? Well, I’ll tell you. Whenever I get home from work and change from my work clothes, I open my wallet, take out all the change from that day and put them in a jar next to my wardrobe. I’ve been doing this stuff for decades! I started when I was in university, only then, it was pennies. If I ever find a picture I took of my penny jar, I’ll share it on twitter. It was something to behold; less of a penny jar and more of a … well, think CWAY water bottle. As we don’t spend coins in Nigeria anymore, I use notes now. Every now and then, I chuck in the odd N100 or even N1,000.
The money adds up over time, believe me. When I took my pennies to the bank in my final year, it was then that I discovered that a 1p coin weighs 3.56 grams and rather than count all the coins, the lady behind the glass simply weighed them and when she got 1.78kg exactly, that was £5! Over almost 3 years, I had collected a little over £17 in several denominations of coins and at the conversion rate of £1 to a cold pint, that was equal to a jolly good night back at the S.U bar.
The few times I’ve raided my Naira jar, I’ve pulled out as much as N8,000 without even touching the N20s and below. It add up and the notes come in handy when paying for those incidentals that you would otherwise break a N500 note for like buying plantain or bread.
Enough Talk, Act Now
In these harsh times, forgoing your change is like filling up the petrol tank of your car and letting the petrol slowly drip from underneath as you drive alone. You might as well not have bought it. Get into the habit of paying with card and not cash. When you shop for groceries, pick up the brands that are N20 cheaper. Every little helps. Get a jar for your change, join forces with your partner, it’s more fun.