Monday, January 23, 2017

3 Money Mistakes That Lead Women Into Debt

Happy Monday, folks :)

I mentioned in the 2016 Recap and 2017 Action Items post that one of the books I read last year was "The Smart Money Woman" by Arese Ugwu. It was an entertaining and educational read. I picked several financial wisdom nuggets from that book and added to the ones I had already learned over the years. Today's post is close to my heart because I know many women struggle when it comes to good money management practices (I myself was awful at it for a good period of my life). I am not a financial management expert however, I want to share 3 money mistakes I've made in the past that you'd do best to avoid. 

I was quite terrible at this. I had no account of the money I spent -- how much, to what product or service, when, why, etc. I operated under a pseudo safety net, assuming that since I considered myself a "modest" spender then I was probably always fine and anything I spent money on was fine; which wasn't always the case. Many months, I ended up spending more than I expected I would, on many items that were unnecessary, and couldn't account for several of the expenses. An expense tracker is essential (you can do this the ol' school way by paper and pen or by using an excel spreadsheet or any mobile app that can support this). Once you start tracking your expenses, you will be able to properly assess how much money leaves your account daily, what specific itemsbills/luxuries/etc you spend it on, and most importantly what your major cost drivers are (the things you end up spending the most money). If you keep up with this practice, it will be easy for you to review this information at the end of each month, notice poor spending habits / unnecessary purchases, and commit to better money choices in future. 

Now this is funny. This is for us "high time chicas" that have falsely deluded ourselves into thinking that budgets are too boring and restrictive, and we can do "bad all by ourselves" without them -- oh no, senoritas. Budgets are an essential part of good financial management. It is necessary to setup a monthly budget that clearly outlines how much of your income goes to bills and basic amenities, how much goes to your savings account (in the event that an emergency - health or otherwise occurs - and you need immediate cash support), how much goes to your investment account (if you have one for stocks, property, or business investment ventures), and how much you can afford to set aside for "luxury" spending (dinners at fancy restaurants, Malaysian hair, etc). Budgets help you create structure and organization when it comes to your money -- helping you to prioritize "needs" first and then "wants" second. Everyone benefits from keeping budgets. Whether your monthly income is N40,000 or N40,000,000 -- you need a budget (moreso if you are one of those of the "upper echelon" whose earnings make it much more tempting to spend frivolously). 

I remember a time when I was broke. My monthly income barely covered my bills and I was penny-pinching for dear life. Beforehand, I had been a "stunter" -- frequenting restaurants on a daily basis, clubs every weekend (with their overpriced entrance fees and drinks -- $10 for a Long Island Iced Tea!!), splurging on weaves because you know I had to have my hair "laid", and buying items at random for the heck of it. Of course, I kept all of this up with my bandwagon of "merry go lucky" friends. However, things change when a bit of broke-ness sets in. You begin to realize that many of those "friends" are only willing to stick around when the drinks and dancing nights are plentiful. Many of those "friends" are not willing to provide anchor and support when you are drowning in financial debt -- they might even assist you in plunging further. Good news is, I accepted this lesson swiftly. When I noticed my pockets were becoming abysmal, I quickly changed my spending behavior. I cut down restaurant trips to once a week (if that), removed club outings completely (you'll be surprised how much money you save if you're not buying new outfits each week or paying entrance fees or buying drinks), and controlled my itch to buy unnecessary items because I wanted them. The great news is that during this period I was able to filter out the quality friends from the "merry go lucky gals" and still found ways to have fun and enjoy myself while being money-cautious (indoor dinner and movie nights with friends, free event outings around town, etc). If you're currently stuck in "stunter" mode and feel there's no hope out of it, please know that it is in your best interest (peace of mind, no debt) to free yourself of this form of bondage; and if you're worried about losing those "richer" friends, the question you should ask yourself is: are they really my "friends" if I feel the only way to keep them is to lead myself into debt?

There you have it folks. 

Any additional financial management tips you know that have worked wonders for you? 

I'd love to know...and then also implement. 

As for the length of this post -- KAI. I know I said more "short and concise" posting in 2017 but clearly it will be a little harder than I anticipated. 

Pray for me.

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Friday, January 20, 2017

15 Questions with Adaeze Obiako

Happy Friday folks!

Starting a new "15 Questions with Adaeze Obiako" series on the blog. Will throw these in from time to time as a bonus post for the week -- questions in pink and answers in blue. Read, enjoy, and leave your answers to the questions down in the comments section below :)

Q1. What is the first thing you thought about this morning?
A. How much I take the grace of God in my life for granted -- I don't deserve it. 

Q3. What is your morning routine?
A. Hitting the snooze button on my phone alarm at least 3 times before getting out of bed, rushing to i. brush my teeth / shower ii. do my makeup / hair and iii. pick out / iron my clothes (which I should have done the night prior -- I clearly need a better morning routine.

Q3. What do you usually have for breakfast?
A. I normally skip breakfast since I'm rushing to get ready in the mornings (see answer above) and don't have any time. On a good day, it'll be a bowl of Cornflakes or Rice Krispies cereal. 

Q4. What was your first reaction moving back to Nigeria from the U.S.?
A. "Haba! What is this 'no air con in taxi's life' really all about?" -- might be a tad bit spoiled. 

Q5. What's the best way to spend a Saturday in Kano?
A. Probably taking a morning trip to Sabon Gari market, going for lunch at the Lebanon Club, and watching a move at the theater in Ado Bayero Mall -- none of which I regularly do. Kai. 

Q6. What's the best part about living in Kano?
A. When I find out, I'll let you know :)

Q7. What was your first pet?
A. Never had one. Not an animal lover -- a wee bit terrified of cats and dogs.

Q8.What's your favorite beverage?
A. A nice, chilled glass of Sprite -- in an effort to limit my sugar intake however, I stick mostly to good ol' H2O and only drink Sprite 3 or 4 times a year. 

Q9. Which historical figure would you share a glass of Sprite with?
A. King Henry VIII. I'm pretty much fascinated by his life story -- worth a Google search. 

Q10. What's the best way you decompress after a stressful day?
A. Overeating and watching a funny movie (e.g. Horrible Bosses with Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston, and Jason Sudeikis -- hilarious!)

Q11. What's your go-to song to listen to when you're feeling nervous about a public event or presentation or speaking engagement?
A. There's No Easy Way Out by Robert Tepper -- soundtrack to the Rocky IV movie, which I love.

Q12. If your life was a song, which one would it be?
A. Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve

Q13. What's one beauty secret you swear by?
A. Washing off my makeup at night before going to bed -- currently using Neutrogena Deep Clean Invigorating Facial Scrub.

Q14. What's your favorite fashion trend of all-time?
A. The Little Black Dress or "LBD". Classic. 

Q15. Who is your favorite fictional fashion icon?
A. Holly Golightly from the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's

Monday, January 16, 2017

STORY TIME: How I Almost Got Expelled From University

Once upon a time, I was an undergrad in the University; specific for this story, I am referring to my sophomore year in Uni. I had a dear friend at the time - let's call her "Jessica". When I was sick, Jessica would buy me medicine and make sure I had food to eat. When someone was inconsiderate or rude to me (a cashier at the local Walgreens pharmacy, a catty or mean girl or classmate, etc), Jessica would step in and put that person in "check". When we were walking on Bourbon Street (a local tourist attraction in New Orleans) one night and the strap on my sandal broke, Jessica gave me her sandals and decided to walk the rest of the way back with my broken one. She was that type of friend. 

One day, we were chatting in my dorm room and Jessica mentioned her struggles in math class and how terrified she was of failing the course. Her only chance of passing the class was dependent on her getting an "A" in the upcoming final exam. I remember the next moment perfectly; Jessica turned to me and asked if I would help by taking the exam as her on the day. The teacher wasn't scheduled to show up on exam day (he would be sending a random graduate assistant to stand in) and the G.A.'s job would be to simply sit and monitor the class during the exam and collect the exam papers at the end, as well as check each student ID to match the name on the ID with that on the exam paper. I was against this idea from the get-go. I told Jessica "no" several times. I had never done such before and didn't intend on starting then. But, she pleaded (to the point of tears) and eventually my concern for her as a friend outweighed my sense of reason. And since we were both dark-skinned girls that sometimes got confused for one another by strangers, we figured I could easily pass off myself as her, using her ID. 

Exam day came. I showed up to the class, noticed the random G.A. at the front of the room ("thank goodness...I don't know this person", I thought), sat at one of the desks and proceeded to take the exam as "Jessica". Things seemed okay at first. I had taken the class in the previous semester and had gotten an "A" in it so I knew i would breeze through the exam fairly easily -- and the exam questions proved I was right. I answered all the questions without hassle, felt confident I was about to secure my friend an "A", and just as I was about to round up the last question, the unthinkable happened -- another G.A. came into the class to replace the former one. Problem? This G.A. I knew. She was an international student and we had seen each other once or twice beforehand at the International Students Office. I knew this wasn't good; there was trouble. So, what did I do? Something quite silly -- I decided to test my luck anyways. As the designated exam time came to an end and she asked all the students to submit their papers, I walked up in line and submitted the copy I had. She smiled at me (because she recognized my face) and asked me for my ID, as expected. I gave her Jessica's ID, hoping she wouldn't give it much thought. Wrong. She scanned the ID, gave me an odd look, and asked me to step aside. I was shaking inside. 

I don die

After everyone else had turned in their exam papers and left the class, she called me back over and asked me what was going on. I said nothing. This is where the grace of God comes in. She looked at me and said something to the effect of "I know you are not Jessica. I don't know why you did this but it was the wrong choice. I am supposed to report you but I won't. I won't because I've seen you before, you are a nice girl, you always smile when we cross paths, and the consequences of reporting you could cost you everything at this school. Please, don't do this again." And then she proceeded to tear up the exam paper and marked Jessica as "absent" on the attendance list. All I remember after that is continuously saying "thank you, I'm sorry, thank you, I'm sorry" through a sea of tears and then I left the class. 

I made a stupid choice that day and did not walk down that path again. What I learned from the experience though are things that still serve as reminders in my life today that: 1. the grace of God is undeserved -- I deserved to be reported, possibly suspended/expelled but I wasn't 2. mercy begets mercy -- the G.A. that didn't report me performed a merciful act that day and she may never know it, but her action had a huge effect on my life and has led to many instances where I have shown mercy to others in return 3. always count the opportunity cost of decisions -- I loved my friend (and still do) but was my friend passing that math class worth me jeopardizing my position at that school, potentially getting expelled, disappointing my parents, wasting the money they worked hard for / invested to get me enrolled at that school, and more? 

The answer is no

Until the next post folks :)

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

How To: Manage a Blog If You Have A Career Outside Blogging

Previously, I prided myself on the spontaneous nature of my writing style. When I felt a wave of fiery creativity and inspiration, I'd quickly "jump" up and carve out some time to put my fingers to the keyboard and type up a post. The great thing about that was every write-up felt "fresh" and "hand delivered to me by the creative writing gods". The problem was that the "gods" went on vacation a lot. Truth: it is immature and unrealistic for a writer to only wait for waves of passion and inspiration to "hit" before writing. Writer's write, period. Whether feeling good or bad, write. Whether feeling inspiration on level 100 or on level 10, write. When strong bouts of passion hit, wonderful -- write. And when it feels like inspiration is purposely eluding, WRITE. The greatest writers understand this and focus more on the truth and honesty of their write-ups, as well as consistency. To achieve that, I need to properly manage the maintenance of Deserve Your Great Life and level of output (posts) generated. 

I'm committed to having a stronger blog presence this year than in 2016. To achieve that, I have to take into consideration my writing habits, full-time job, and blogging goals for the year. For anyone else trying to manage a blog and a part or full-time career outside of the blogosphere, here are 3 practices I have found to be helpful and intend to implement throughout the year:

To help me stick to an active and consistent blogging regimen, I am using a blogging calendar to plan and organize my blogging practice for the year. The blogging calendar will include by date:
  • the concept / theme of each post to be written
  • the number of posts to be uploaded each week 
  • the day(s) and time each post will be uploaded
Do you already use a blogging calendar? If so, do you have any additional information you use your blogging calendar to document?

Since I work full-time hours during the week, well beyond 6pm most days, I am sticking to weekends for writing of posts -- more specifically, 3 hours on Saturdays and 3 hours on Sundays (preferably in the mornings). This should be enough time for me to write my post(s) for the upcoming week, edit them (yes, this is a real and time-consuming factor to account for), and setup/schedule my mailchimp account to send a notification email to each of you lovely subscribers on the predefined day and time the post should go out.

Do you find mornings to work better for you when it comes to writing? Evenings? Are you more productive writing at a stretch for several hours on end or for short 30 minute bursts with breaks in-between?

I am a story-teller. I love sharing sentiments through words and sometimes, those words are many :-). Another reason I shied away from posting last year was the sheer dread of having to churn out lengthy posts amidst my professional and personal schedule. I'm learning that quality posts of great value don't always have to be long -- they can be short, concise and straightforward, which I can happily commit to much easier in 2017.

What posts do you prefer writing -- lengthy versus shorter? What posts do you prefer reading -- lengthy versus shorter?

There you have it folks. As you can see from the items above, the key lies in active decision-making; deciding on a schedule of posts, a time to write those posts, and the format/size of those posts. From prior experience, I can tell you that lack of decision-making leads to reduced productivity (in this case, fewer-than-hoped blog posts) and reduced satisfaction. 

To all my fellow bloggers out there, let's push back on indecisiveness in 2017 and end our "blogger 2017 year" on a high note.

Until next time :)

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Saturday, January 7, 2017

2016 Recap and 2017 Action Items

Happy New Year everyone!

Hopefully you're feeling refreshed from the holiday break and ready to take on 2017 with renewed gusto.

I've read several people's 2016 recap posts/videos across the blogosphere and YouTube (I especially enjoyed reading that of Berry Dakara and Kacheetee, and watching a 2016 recap video on the
JamieandNikki YouTube channel) and decided to do one similar. For the sake of organization, I will group mine into "themed buckets" with 2017 action items for each bucket following afterwards.

I ventured into a bit of travel this year, mostly work-related and within Nigeria -- see locations below.

  • Borno: wetin Boko Haram fit do me? 
  • Kaduna
  • Sokoto: their Kilishi is indeed the best I've had to date
  • Kebbi
  • Jos: FUN-related wedding matters with good friends and cool, breezy weather to match
  • Ghana: a very special birthday trip -- Labadi Beach, the Artists Alliance Gallery, and Republic Bar and Grill were definite fave spots of the trip :)
2017 Action Items: 
  • Travel to at least 3 additional states within Nigeria
  • Travel to at least 2 countries outside of Nigeria 

Financial management is an important skill to acquire and practice in one's personal life. While I can't brag to be the "best at this, I do pat myself on the back for taking steps towards improvement in this area in 2016. They include:

  • Documenting and reviewing my expenses on a monthly basis: this helped me monitor my spending habits, identify major cost drivers
  • Purchasing / studying "The Smart Money Woman" by Arese Ugwu. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and picked out some critical money management tips that I've already started implementing
2017 Action Items:
  • Create and stick to a strict monthly budget
  • Document my weekly expenses and review monthly
  • Get disciplined with tithing (*covers face with hands*)

To be straight with you, this was not strong in 2016. I dealt with doubt, disillusionment, and distance in my relationship with God and I was simply not disciplined enough to get back on track.

2017 Action Items: 

  • Reignite my awe and reverence for the beauty and magnificence of God and how He operates in my life (His grace, His mercy, and His blend of justice)
  • Keep a daily gratitude journal: write 5 things I'm grateful for each day at night before bed
  • Give more: empathy, forgiveness, and energy to name a few things

This was definitely not strong either. I only had eight posts published on the blog in 2016 -- that doesn't even average out to one per month! I can throw several excuses to "justify" this (e.g. too busy with work, frequent writer's block episodes, yada yada yada). Simple truth is I did not make the blog and writing for it a priority in 2016 and danced a little too much with procrastination.

2017 Action Items:
  • Upload a post at least once a week: that will average out to at least 48 posts in 2017 (this week there will be two posts uploaded)
  • Diversify the blog with posts on motivation, money, and career (themes especially relevant for young, working class women)...and of course a good ol' dose of self-deprecating personal story posts for your reading pleasure :) 
  • Revive the "Get Crazy" Interview Series (a popular favorite of mine and many of you, from feedback received...if you're not familiar with it, you can read previous interviews with Steve HarrisKola Olaosebikan, Moyo Mamora, and Kimberly Jones)
  • Transfer from Blogger to WordPress (loooong overdue)
  • *Special Event coming soon -- will provide more details in upcoming weeks

Read a couple of worthy books / poetry in 2016 that I highly recommend. They include:
  • "The Rosie Project" by Australian novelist Graeme Simsion (brilliant recommendation from one of my best friend's)
  • "Milk and Honey" by Indian poet Rupi Kaur (great recommendation from my work supervisor)
  • "The Smart Money Woman" by Nigerian author Arese Ugwu
  • Several poetry pieces by Nayyirah Waheed (US-based writer)
2017 Action Item:
  • Actively and intentionally read MORE 

There we have it folks, my 2016 at a retrospective glance. I'm definitely looking forward to what's in store ahead, starting with the next post I'll be uploading in a few days -- make sure to stay tuned.

Cheers to 2017 being a year filled with love, laughter, learning, and fulfilment for us all.

What were some of your highlights and misses of 2016? What's one major item on your action items list for 2017?

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Sunday, December 11, 2016

5 Strategies for Making Great Girlfriends

I've never been a classic girl's girl.

It's fair to say I have more male than female friends. I can count the number of girlfriends I have on less than two full hands. If I choose to analyze the situation objectively, this is partly due to me and partly to a reasonable number of the girls / ladies I've come across in my wee little life that weren't ready to be a "friend". From my side, I have been known to display selfish behavior, impatience, and a sense of self-sufficiency / lack of "need" for others that hasn't helped position me as a candidate for "best girlfriend of the year". But alas, this post isn't for personal dissection purposes or to run down my friendship history. It's more to share some strategies I've managed to learn along the way that have helped me acquire some top quality, values-driven, well-rounded girlfriends.

At work, at church, during social events, etc. As you learn more about what you're meant to do with your life and how to get there, it is only right that you gravitate towards people on a similar journey. It makes sense for a woman with a passion for empowering growing girls to make faith-led choices in their lives (about their education, career, marriage & children, etc) to seek out other women that are equally as interested and motivated about women's rights. On the other hand, it doesn't make much sense for a woman that has a goal of living a life of optimism and generosity towards others to surround herself with women that constantly insult and ridicule people, wish others ill, and refuse to offer compliments or positive affirmations to fellow women.

A significant number of my "girl" friends are older than me, some even 15-20 years older, and I appreciate that. It's beneficial to have variety amongst girlfriends, from race to age to job fields. When it comes to my friends that are reasonably older, I enjoy the opportunity to discuss experiences they've had in different areas of life (faith, work, relationships, etc)  that I might not yet have faced and receive sage advice from them based on lessons learned.

If she'll gossip with you, she'll gossip about you. It should be expected. A gossip on Monday will likely remain a gossip fromTuesday to Sunday also. Friends that gossip don't typically see boundaries or lines not to cross. It's not always malicious or's often times a developed habit that has gotten out of hand. If you are in the quest for girlfriends, it's probably wise to consider this and choose cautiously.

My mother has been 99.9% right about my friends and those I surrounded myself with in the past. When I had a good girl friend, she'd identify it from interactions with the person early on and advise me to "keep that friend, she's a good one". On the flip side, every "friend" that ever did something malicious to me or that had a hidden agenda for befriending me, she could also spot immediately from first interaction. But, who ever wants mom to be right? I definitely didn't when she'd warn me about specific girlfriends in the past that I could've sworn had nothing but the best intentions for me. I'd argue with her, ignore her advice and then ultimately get "burned" by such persons. I'm thankful for that -- for mom's advice and also for the burns that came from not listening. I needed that to learn. As with anything in life (choosing friends, a spouse, a career path), prayer for the gift of discernment from the Holy Spirit and seeking wise counsel is key. When I follow this 2-step process, the benefits are insurmountable. When I don't, so are the "burns".

You get mostly what you are. If you want to attract great girlfriends, you need to become a great girlfriend. If you want a girlfriend that is considerate of your choices / feelings, patient towards you, generous, able to share a great laugh, and protective of your insecurities and vulnerabilities -- then you have to embody those same characteristics. But, if you're self-absorbed or gossipy or stingy or sabotaging of others with no desire to change, then the quest for great girlfriends might simply remain just that...a "quest".

Or don't you think so?  :)
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Saturday, October 22, 2016

"...But I Have A Father"

I turned 30 recently and as usual I did a mini life review to assess the choices I have made in my life plus any significant aspects of my existence that I might have missed or overlooked. This time, I found myself pondering what effect having the presence of my dad in my life has had on my being, my spirit, and my choices. 

As far as I can remember, my dad has always been there. Growing up, normal for me was waking up each morning and seeing my dad before he went to work or I went to school and seeing my dad come home at night from work before I went to bed. On the weekends, we ate, talked, laughed, played, and watched television as a family. He was always there. A woman's first sense of value and empowerment typically comes from the relationship with her father or the paternal figure in her life. For me, it came from my dad. 

My dad was always physically present in our home and life - I felt I was worth his time. 

My dad put me through school and pushed me to take education seriously - I felt I was worth his money and had potential he was happy to invest in. 

My dad answers my phone calls and gives me sage advice when I have life questions or frustrations - I feel I am worth his listening ear, his energy, and his wisdom. 

And because of this attention, energy, focus, love, and faith in me that he has shown all my life, there is a significant level of value I equate with myself. I am not a perfect being. There are times when I struggled with purposelessness, finanacial droughts, lack of confidence, and contemplated questionable options. 

There are times when I was broke and scared I wouldn't meet my financial obligations. I could have gone the sugar daddy route. I could have decided to exchange sexual favors in return for financial ones - the opportunities were there and I am not better than anyone else who has or is doing this. However, only one thought stopped me: 

"...but I have a father". 

There have been times in college or at previous workplaces where I knew I could have gotten a higher grade, raise, or promotion simply by offering my body or opening up my legs to a teacher or supervisor. It happens everyday. However, only one thought stopped me: 

"...but I have a father". 

There have been times when peers have insulted, mocked, or tried to undervalue me (out of jealousy or malicious intent or sheer underestimation) and I could have believed myself to be worthless and insignificant. However, only one thought stopped me: 

"...but I have a father". 

The list goes on. I don't say all this to boast or to make anyone who didn't grow up with a father present feel less than. I say it all because in this day and age of feminism, with the "women rule the world" and "anything a man can do, a woman can do better" mantras, I find it would be unfair of me not to admit the importance of a father in a growing girl's life or make mention of the man in my life that has paved the way for me to be where I am today and to be who I am. He's not a magician and he can't make all my cares or concerns disappear, but he always gives me a sense of self-worth that reignites my faith within.

I don't always make the right choice but I can confidently say that most, if not all, choices I have made are because Adaeze wanted to make them and not because it would make Tom, Dick, Jane, or Susan accept, value, or love me more. It would have been the opposite,

"...but I have a father". 
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