The idea for this article was inspired by a conversation on Twitter about what living on a ₦400k salary looks like in Nigeria, and if it’s enough to fund a “soft life”.
We thought it might be interesting to talk to people who earn within that range, so I put a call out on Twitter.
The response was massive. Unfortunately, I couldn’t talk to everyone who reached out. I did manage to have a conversation with a couple of people, and this is what they said.
1. Ore, 26, Lawyer
I earn more than my siblings and parents, and I try to send money home every month. Last year, this was between ₦50k and ₦100k. My other expenses were at a minimum — I was sharing an apartment and didn’t always eat out, so I saved a lot. The major thing I spent money on last year was my IQAS application, which cost about ₦80k.
However, things have changed. My family’s needs are increasing, and I’ve moved out to get my own apartment. There are also some additional expenses like visa application fees and registration fees for school — I got a scholarship, but it doesn’t cover these fees.
At the moment, I spend 30% of my income on rent, 20%-25% on family needs, and save 30%. My personal expenses take whatever is left.
I love my job and I know I’m privileged to earn this much in this country, but I don’t think I’m living a soft life. Beyond what I earn, it’s the ability to retain it. Also about having good savings and investments. I’m only managing now and not living a life of convenience. To get there, I’d need at least $2k monthly.
2. Uche, 28, Consultant
I work in a Big 4. My first salary was ₦150k, and it’s grown over the years to ₦450k. I live way below my means. I haven’t changed my car in forever or moved out to a new neighbourhood. The thing is, while a month’s salary can cover my annual rent, I spend a lot on my car because it’s kinda old.
However, I’m able to outsource more and eat out more often. But I’m not living a soft life. If I was spending everything I earn and not worrying about savings, investments, or black tax, then I’d be enjoying life. A few years ago, my family needed money to work on a capital-intensive project, and I took a ₦2m loan from a bank. I still pay ₦100k every month to offset that debt.
At the moment, a soft life for me means being able to afford a serviced apartment, fibre-optic internet, regular Sunday brunches, and vacation outside the country at least twice a year. I will need to earn at least ₦1m to afford that life.
3. Bambi, 28, Sales
I get my basic salary every month, which is ₦220k, but they pay me housing allowance in bulk once a year — ₦1.7m. Also, I get bonuses every quarter, and those are between ₦400k and ₦600k.
My monthly running expenses are under ₦50k, and I spend less than 10% of my earnings on rent. My life is good. I eat when I want and take care of my parents. I’ve not been broke for a long time, and I always have at least ₦500k in emergency funds. But my income is just not enough for the life I want. The value of the naira keeps depreciating. To travel anywhere decent, you need at least ₦1m. Nothing I earn in this country will give me a soft life. There’s a constant fear that I’m one emergency away from poverty. I’m always praying that my parents don’t fall sick or I don’t get a terminal illness. Even if I earn ₦10m, I still won’t feel very secure.
4. Stephen, 27, Customer Experience Manager
The bills don’t stop. I believe living a soft life means that I can conveniently pay my bills and afford my needs and wants. I can’t do that with my salary. I went grocery shopping yesterday and spent ₦26k and everything I bought fit inside two plastic bags.
Don’t get me started on my running costs every month. I spend at least ₦1600 on my commute every day: this runs into ₦36k in a month. My laundry takes about ₦7k. Now, there are other expenses — feeding, utilities, subscriptions, and the stipend I send home to my parents. It’s really wild.
The point is, my salary is enough to cover most of my monthly expenses and some needs, but there’s hardly anything left after that, even though I’m not living above my means. I can’t afford to hang out with my friends as much as I’d like to or live in luxury. If I earn up to ₦800k and maintain my current lifestyle, I might be able to live that very secure, comfortable life.
5. Nike, 21, Investment Analyst
I’m in my second month at my first post-NYSC job, and my current salary is a significant upgrade from the ₦107k I was earning last year, which was my service year. Does it make me comfortable? Yes! Am I living my best life? Absolutely not! Here’s some context: My brother started working 10 years ago and his first job paid him ₦150k. The dollar rate at the time was between ₦160-₦180, now it’s ₦465-₦480. A tin of sardine was like ₦120, but it is now ₦400.
At the moment, most of my earnings go into my savings — ₦150k every month. The other major expenses spread across my rent for next year, feeding and utilities, data, tithe, and the random things that pop up.
I know that I’m earning above the industry average for my experience level, and I’m likely to get a raise up to ₦380k after I get confirmed at work, but I’ll still have to be extremely cautious of how I spend. It’s not enough for that soft life everyone is talking about. The ultimate goal is to leave the country, but if I earn ₦800k – ₦1m per month here, I can definitely live a soft life.
6. Shola, 26, Content writer
I earn ₦350k from my main job and an average of ₦150k from side gigs. Last year, I was earning less than half of my current salary, and I remember thinking about how I would live my best life on a ₦300k salary, but here we are. The quality of my life is better, though — about 40% of my earnings goes into my savings and investments, 50% goes into my monthly running expenses, and I leave 10% in my emergency fund. I don’t borrow money from my friends to get through each month anymore, and I help my folks out with stuff.
But I won’t say I’m living a soft life — I still worry about price tags when I go shopping and can’t afford a car or a vacation at the moment. I enjoy spending money and the feeling that comes with it. But right now, I have less than ₦10k in my account. Even my emergency fund is not enough to cover some of these costs sometimes. Random things happen and they come with bills. A sibling could need a laptop to write a school exam or my phone screen could break and I’d need ₦70k to repair it. When I factor in all of these things, my current income is definitely not enough.
I understand that some people have it harder. I’ve been there too. The next milestone for me is getting my place and a car and earning enough to take care of myself and my family, so they can be comfortable as well. If I have to peg that to an amount, ₦700k-₦1m won’t be bad for now.
7. Ope, 40, Communications Lead
Context matters, and I think it’s missing in many of these conversations. I have a family, and my two kids are in school. And here’s the thing: I earn enough to meet my responsibilities and still save 1/3 of my salary every month. I’ll admit that I live a spartan lifestyle, so it works for me. If I’m one to flex at posh restaurants and clubs, then it definitely wouldn’t be enough.
8. Martins, 27, Banker
My salary is only enough to make me comfortable, but I’m not quite there yet. As my earnings increases, so do my expenses, including my taste in things and black tax. It’s a cycle. However, I conveniently save ₦200k every month now, which wasn’t possible before I got this raise.