Category Archives: Lifestyle

Millennials in Abuja and the Businesses They Create

It is often said that Buhariyya was a shot in the arm for many millennials in Nigeria to start making a living for themselves. The excitement and apprehension of finding a new job seems to be dwindling by the day as more news flashes and revelations on social media show the jobs go to the coveted few in Nigeria. In order to feign for themselves, they started running businesses by making products for the local market here.

Buhariyya is the period of time under President Muhammadu Buhari’s current regime when economic recession hit the country; Nigerian Naira exchanged for 360 naira against a 199 when he came to power in 2015; when parents and elderly ones stop dashing out money easily to people (as in we stopped getting money for free, LOL!); when people started patronizing made in Nigeria goods because they cannot afford the dollar; when parents withdraw their kids from schools in the UK and enrol them in schools in Nigeria or Uganda and when you can blow a whistle on a corruption case and get 5% of the total sum. The term is obviously coined from his name Buhari.

Many youths in Abuja and Nigeria as a whole are unemployed and the figure doesn’t seem to reduce. The frantic job search was replaced by an insatiable desire to make a product and sell it on the streets and homes of Abuja. If data on number of new businesses started by millennials had been tracked between June 2015 and December 2017, it would have settled the score here factually.

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I think there hasn’t been a surge in millennial entrepreneurs/business owners anytime than what we witnessed during the trying times of Buhariyya. Many joined the bandwagon in making one product or the other and the good thing is some of these people are employed. From medical doctors to school teachers to engineers, they created different products or services to drive their incomes higher. A typical kind of trait common amongst millennials globally, making extra income from a side gig.

Anyway, I looked around. The rise of these entrepreneurs had no cultural name. Youths, from different parts of Nigeria became entrepreneurs and most where competing against each other with the same product. It was simply a market demand needed to be filled.

The businesses range from photography, mostly events and human portraits or better described pre-wedding photos, to fashion designers, footwear makers, graphic design, farming, cologne, jewellery and other service based businesses like outdoor catering, tailoring, barbershop, spa, salon, restaurants, cakes, savouries, etc. They basically do everything.

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Businesses run by millennials

A best introduction to it is when a bazaar/open air sales is taking place. You will notice the people standing behind the products are all young. A few friends I met in Secondary School joined the bandwagon, Zareefs and Aniq. All these are footwear makers and sellers in Abuja but can deliver outside Abuja at a cost.

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Sales in a marquee at A-Class Park Abuja. Most businesses and customers here are millennials

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There a number of people into cupcakes and normal cakes. People say this market is saturated already. I am not sure. They say Nigerians don’t know how to do business. Once they see someone start something and it brings in some good profit, everybody becomes a dealer in that. We are a nation of a 180 million people, we have the numbers to consume many products.

The idea of many people in a single business line is good for consumers. The sellers compete against each other with product quality and pricing. Although some purchases are done based on compassion, there are many others who will make the decision based on what they see and like. They just make amazing products fit for our income and use.

Some of them are making profits whilst facing a number of challenges chiefly selling on credit. Ask most business owners around and the response is the same. It’s true many Nigerians have reduced foreign purchases, but it is also true that many buy the cheaper made in Nigeria products on credit. Many people decide to buy products and pay later (when they get their monthly salary).

While some debtors pay, owners lamented some can take more than 3 months to settle a bill of 5, 000 NGN and this is not good for fledgling businesses.

As a country, the nation is making profits out of these businesses. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, Nigeria earned 972.3 billion naira from VAT in 2017. We aren’t sure how much is coming from registered business names, the incorporation model chosen by most of the millennial business owners. However, not all of them are registered and so revenue is lost there, maybe (discussion for another day. Should small businesses run by millennials be taxed in their first year?)

In upcoming posts, I intend to cover more millennial business owners up close to find out how they are keeping afloat. To conclude, the products made by these amazing young people are fantastic and right for our local markets. There is no denial they make very good products and we should be supporting them.

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This is part of a new series on my blog ‘Millennials in Abuja #MIA’. Follow the hashtag for upcoming and previous posts.


2018 Aspirations

“To understand the heart and mind of of a person, look not at what he has already achieved, but at what he aspires to.” Khalil Gibran, The Madman

As I have earlier said, setting goals you want to achieve are best when you do them at a time that is more suitable to you. Although I set my 2018 goals about 10 days ago, I am only finding the time to share it now.

To be honest, I have set goals in previous years that didn’t scare me. That doesn’t mean they were easy to achieve (although 2016 were), but they didn’t scare the superman out of me 😉 Here are three anecdotes of people whose goals scare and motivate me to do more.

When my good friend Hafiz says he has an idea, I always get scared before he talks. His ideas always scare me. Last December, he mentioned we should build a city of affordable housing in Kebbi. That was crazy scary. Mass housing in Kebbi not even in Abuja. Ya salaam. Who has the money to buy the ‘affordable units?’. You get it. But I love it. He is that one person that can challenge your courage to pursue ideas.

I met Adiza recently and we talked about our 2018 aspirations. Her financial goals were doubled that of what I set for myself this year and quite frankly mine didn’t scare me but hers did. So I came back to my list to turn up the scary level meter up for some of the goals. One thing is certain, I am not sure if I can achieve all of them, but I am quite certain, bi-iznillah that I will give them a try to achieve them with backed-up actions.

Oh I read Kathleen’s blog too last 3 weeks on her 2018 aspirations. She resides in Nairobi. They sounded scary even from Nigeria. If she hits all of them, I would be amazed. I had to tell her it looked over ambitious. But that was the way to set goals I guess. That’s what I was missing. Shooting for the stars, if you miss, you might land on the moon.

So what goals am I looking at in 2018?

A few things I want to put under my belt this year are focused on side gigs, personal development, religious and career development.

My personal goals of reading more books have been upped from at least 12 last year to 40. It will take some serious prioritization to create time daily to read. Amongst the books I intend to read this year is Richard Branson’s book on Losing My Virginity. What a title? But is Branson, everyone knows he owns Virgin Inc. And Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow.

I have been an avid language lover. Having studied 5 languages only to basic literacy; Japanese, German, Swahili, Arabic and French (I have long forgotten the Yoruba Language I learned in Junior High, 2000 to 2003). I redownloaded the Duolingo app a week ago, not still sure which I should focus on; French and Japanese or Japanese and French or Japanese and German. Hmmm!

My writing goals have been up. Already written 4 articles this year (with one published) I intend to write to so many publishing houses on these topics; environmental sustainability, cities, millennials lifestyle (there are so many of them here, someone has to cover their stories right. I am not blowing my trumpet, but I cannot do without writing (possessing many unpublished works).

Oh so I am not sure how many of us out there are employed or more specifically employable. Some months ago, I was taken aback by some job applications we got at the organization I work for. The number of people who just didn’t follow the instructions outnumber the people who did. The half who did had their CVs written in 1990s styles (those CVs that have a section for educational institutions attended with dates and qualifications obtained at those institutions separated). Next time, just leave former out and focus on the latter.

Anyway I want to offer CV writing service and Linkedin Profile reviews for entry level professionals and whoever needs his CV beautifully written and designed. I am not sure when, but I need to take more classes from experts before I can start rendering this. I have always imagined having a great career and I wish many people get that too. We spend most of our lives working and how bearable could that be if you dislike your job you have to do for an entire lifetime.

Last one is giving a shot at entrepreneurship. Till last year ending, I had developed an MVP for a building management solution. Unsure of how to proceed, this year, I hope to speak to a manufacturer and prospective clients.

Are all these and the unmentioned scary enough? Definitely to me, considering my situation. I could easily focus on my 8-5 job and live the life like everybody else or better motivate myself to create the life I need in the near future.

Have you set yourself any goals or scary goals this year? I would love to hear.

My 2017 in Retrospection

Now I know some of you will think this is coming late (posting on 14th January). What is even late is I am just preparing my 2018 to be and to-dos. I am fine with working with a time that suits me and not relying on landmark dates/temporal time stamps like a new year, Mondays or birthdays before I set a new goal. In fact, researchers from UCLA have mentioned people are more motivated to achieve their goals if they set them at a time that is more meaningful to them and not a ceremonious time on the calendar. The end of 2017 and beginning of 2018 have been everything but free. But I enjoyed every bit of the activities that kept me super engaged, including wedding off our baby sister.

Could 2017 be better? Definitely yes. It could have. But how have I fared in it? It was easy to find this out. I flipped to my first page of 2017 journal to see what goals I have set for myself. You remember how I set my goals with two lists; a to-be and to-do list. The former just makes a lot of sense to me. What I do every day is important. But what I become from what I do is more important and that’s why the to-be list is a big picture to me that I like referring back to.

My first major accomplishment that I still wonder how I made is keeping my traditional 8-5 job. Although it wasn’t written in my 2017 goals. I still feel amazed that I managed to sit down (not the entire time though) in an open office culture to devote my time to the organization I work for. I have always enjoyed life as a freelancer. Securing an 8-5 job and living through the entire year, including getting my contract renewed was splendid. If there is anything like working for a good CV, this act was part of it. Now I am feeling a bit trapped about working longer to have a better impression on the next HR or heck, why should I think of working elsewhere again.

I managed to somehow become 2 out of 4 to-be goals I penned down. But I didn’t all do that by ticking off all the to-dos. I missed many of them. And it is fine I think. Looking at the big picture always is better for me. And it made me flexible towards achieving my to-be goals. I would say I have achieved a number of the unwritten to-dos, because I carried them out in other ways. There are 1000 ways to Rome they say.

Personally, I appreciate the impact of the non-profit Green Habitat I co-founded. We not only became relevant in the environmental sphere of Abuja, we established good rapport with reputable people and organizations. Thanks to the many people who supported us along the way with their kind words, presence and donations.

I picked up new habits, meditation with the help of an app. Reading more than one book at once and not having to finish the entire book (it’s not a story book Jeez, its self-help. I only take out the part I need).

In 2017, I realized a long time chronic disease I have; ecdemomania. It is a morbid impulse or obsession to travel or wander away from home. That’s why I think I feel amazed at staying at my 8-5 job. Always resisting the urge to travel somewhere.

But it was 2017 I knew how I healthy I was. When I did a medical check-up, my body age was 10 years younger than my biological age. That wasn’t the only reason I knew my health was on point, alhamdulillah. During a security awareness training at the office, I was made to understand my impulse rate per minute which was below the normal average was in the range of people like Usain Bolt (athletes in general). My occasional walks round my neighbourhood, early morning fast paced runnings, good diet maybe and hiking the hills in Abuja could have added to it.

2017 was the year I interviewed the now Deputy UN Sectary General (then designate and Minister of Environment of Nigeria) and received good mentoring. It wasn’t just her interviewed, I spoke with the inspiring and true Dr. Mairo Mandara (then Bill & Melinda Gates Country Director) and also sat next to her on a dinner table. My conversations with them are helping me grow personally. Oh, I got the opportunity to present a social innovation project on mentoring I am part of to the Executive Governor of Kaduna State. All those moments strengthen my belief in succeeding life, in sha Allah.

Selfie with Hajia Amina, Mamoon and Zubaida. Awesome team to work with.
Interview crew with Dr Mairo Mandara at Fifth Chuckers Kaduna

It was only 2 months into 2017 and 3 months after resigning from my job as a civil servant, that I was leading my previous bosses/supervisors in a high-level delegation to the United Nations office in Nairobi, Kenya. But this time, I was more of a colleague to them. I couldn’t be more satisfied with the decision I took to leave them. It afforded me more responsibility and challenge to use my skills in supporting urban development of Abuja.

What About Failures

Although I gave some goals a shot of trying to achieve them, but I didn’t achieve them; finance, religious and some personal goals.

I failed miserably in devoting more time as an entrepreneur. I have been engrossed a lot in non-profit innovations and environmental activism. The business models I developed haven’t seen the light of the day. Maybe I was shying away. Sometimes they say it’s not how good an idea is that is needed for its success, is the commitment and what you give up for pursuing it that will propel you to more action.

I did read and listen to a lot of books but I think I had time to read more which I didn’t. More of that in my blog post on 2018 goals.

If there is anything I want to develop more in 2018 is better prioritization and laser focus on the things that (should) really matter.

Have you reviewed your 2017? Could it have been better for you? Kindly leave a comment below.


How Youthful is Abuja?

I started engaging with youth demography some years ago when I volunteered to decode urban data related to youths in Nairobi. We were part of a global team decoding how some major cities across the world are seen by youths. The results are remarkable. See a summary here.

Before delving deeper though, what makes a city youthful? Is it about the infrastructure or the number of young people in it or how many youth clubs exist in it? While all these attributes may somehow add up, but they don’t answer the whole question.

Many millennials around the world believe that the attitude of the city and the youths in it tell how youthful a city is. So yeah, attitude is a big thing and we have lots of that in Abuja, tongue-in-cheek. Youths want to see how their city leaders are factoring them into planning and design decisions.

All urban attributes should be perceived suitable to make a city nice to live, work and play for young people. What constitutes work, play and living are several things, as pictured below. In general, for youths to call a place youthful, they have to city it as dynamic, curious, open, connected, inventive and playful (as stated by more than 15,000 youths in Youthful Cities Survey, 2016).

Urban attributes as defined by youths (culled from Youthfulcities survey 2016)

In retrospection, I realized that I made the conscious decision to move to Abuja, the city I did did my secondary school education for 6 years, 5 years after I left. I was working for my dad as a construction engineer in Kebbi State when I decided to discontinue it and start a life in Abuja as a youth service corp member (I always feel pity when I see corp members walking on the streets of Abuja now. Retrospection). On a number of times, I hear about the urban enthusiasm by those currently living outside Abuja to migrate here. There aren’t much well planned cities in the world like Abuja.

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Anyway so I moved here without pinning my decisions on issues like affordability, transportation and suitability for youths. All much I knew was construction was booming here and I wanted to reconnect with the city and my friends. So basically, it was a decision based on economic opportunities and better exposure to engineering work and the networking life.

Fast forwards, living in Nigeria’s capital city, I have often found myself in situations where I asked how youthful is the city. Not just in terms of urban youthful population (how many of us are here by the way, 1 million? When is the census taking place?), but on the most important things that matter; affordability, transportation, economic opportunities, civic engagement (J, most of us are millennials, we like organizing events). How city amenities like parks and other public spaces favour youth lifestyle, how the events and causes pursued here connect to youths and how much youth civic engagement there is.

I have chosen to discuss in brief, a few of the urban attributes over 15, 000 people answered to what makes their city youthful; affordability, transportation and start-up hotspots. The latter wasn’t discussed explicitly by the survey, but I sought of combined the employment and entrepreneurship aspect mentioned in the survey to discuss it in here.


According to Mercer Consulting ranking of most expensive cities to live in the world, Abuja is the 50th and second after Lagos in Nigeria. Even if those rankings are not accurate enough, Abuja is more expensive than many other cities; rent, food stuff, education, transit, bottle of water, cucumbers, car spare parts, etc. Typically, you might hear people say the city is not the best place to start life as a young (especially married) person, when you think about a decent place to live, medical costs and education and saving income for a rainy day.  The Youthful Cities Survey found at that all the cities surveyed globally performed poorly on affordability.

Any way how expensive is expensive? Or how affordable is affordable housing? According to The Economic Times, it refers to housing units that are affordable by that section of the economy whose income is below the median household income. In plain terms, majority of the population should be able to afford the houses at market prices, which I do not see happening in Abuja anytime soon. Thanks to inflated prices of lands and a very low disposable income by majority of the urban dwellers.

6 out of 10 youths in Abuja live with their parents/family, including me (culled from Youthfulcities survey 2016)

When you look at the large number of youths living here, you ask how many of them are earning an average actual gross income of more than a million naira. Majority of the jobs here I will conclude are jobs offered by the government. An average annual gross income of an entry level government job is less than a million naira. Takeaway the rent of one year and you have just little left to keep the wolf from the door.

How many of the youths have these jobs that pay peanuts and how many join the larger percentage of unemployed? Many people live with relatives/parents for free or resort to living on the satellite towns (suburban) which is understandable.  This fuels the major reason why the urbanization of our cities comes with slum conditions; more people will be crammed up in rooms suitable for a few people. 

There are less employed people in Abuja and other African cities compared with global average. (culled from Youthfulcities survey 2016)

In many cities of developed countries, they have initiatives of social housing. This is when the low earning marginal families get hugely subsidized house rents for a long period of time till they start earning more. Such initiatives for youths should be done.

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Getting Around the City/Transportation

Abuja is the one place where having a car is a necessity. With the beautiful planned road network and less condensed district developments, it is a long commute going from one neighbourhood to another. No dedicated bike lanes or presence of pedestrian footpaths everywhere and zebra crossings aren’t respected. There is an organized mysterious bus and taxi ‘along’ lines and not cheap drop (chauffeured) options. A greater percentage of one’s income after rent maybe spent on commute reasons such as work and business. Public transportation is not convenient with more people crammed into small spaces (if you have claustrophobia, am not sure how you will move).

What does getting around have to do with youths? Everything.

Starting out at that age, most of us do not have the luxury of owning a car. Inevitably leaving us with the inefficient public transportation option. Uber doesn’t come cheap and affordable, unfortunately. There are no Uberpool options for Abuja, yet. Other car sharing apps like Lyft and new Taxify aren’t affordable for youths.

The government only has buses for its staff that are mostly outside the city core. Getting into those buses can be competitive, especially when you have to leave work earlier and come to queue at the bus. There are no government owned buses traversing the city inner core. With the few coming from the satellite areas and far away towns like Gwagwalada, popularly called Elrufai Bus; they don’t come with a discounted monthly pass. As such, one is left to pay the same amount every day for the entire time he or she traverses that road.

Start-up Hotspots

Cities have been judged to be the next economic engines of a country. Owning to the better living conditions, cities globally are attractive clusters for entrepreneurs and innovative millennials. As such, youths should be seen launching start-ups every now and then. Abuja has 6 of those business accelerators/incubators I know of; Abuja Enterprise Agency (government owned), Enspire, Box Office, Andela, Ventures Platform and Civic Innovation Lab (yet to launch an incubation programme). However, other entrepreneurial programmes/seminars/workshops are held month in month out by different organizations. Hence, offering opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs.

1 in 4 persons in Abuja see themselves as entrepreneurial (culled from Youthfulcities survey 2016)

Many youths are going the traditional way of starting on their own and learning on the job. A lot have become makeup artists, bakers, footwear sellers and makers, fashion designers, food makers and food delivery, and a bunch of other basic commodities. At least in two months, one open air market is held in the city. How much they are surviving and struggling, is still not fully understandable.

These city attributes are just a few of what should be considered. More options for living, social life, work, play should be considered. I would love to see a youth-focused economic plan for cities in Nigeria. This translates to how serious and youth-minded the government is about leveraging on the energy, talent and number of youths they have. The numbers should help drive a youthification of economic plans for the city and country at large.

How youthful do you think your city is? Are you living in Abuja and have often wondered how you fit into the city and vice versa? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

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Minimalism or Packratism; It is Up to You

“The more the merrier”. Author, English Man

The popular saying, ‘the more the merrier’ is an utterly wrong statement to use as an objective in many facets of life. I may be wrong.

My religion tells me one should be in this world like a traveler. That one is on a journey to another destination where what you possess here does not mean much there. One is encouraged to aim for less worldly things and garner more spiritual attainment. A belief that only augurs well for those who deeply believe or have a core belief.

But what does it mean to be a traveler? A number of things. One, you are transiting from one place to another for an objective. You have left home in search of something. And when you assume the status of a traveler, something is bound to adhere to; packing. What do you bring on your journey and what do you not?

I was a terrible packer years then. In fact, right from High School days, I remember how I always try to bring everything and fill my bags to capacity. Fast-forward to my adult life, I still fail, not miserably though. At one time when I traveled to Tokyo, I had brought a number of clothing, for every weather (despite it was summer then). To be fair to myself, I was going to be away from my place of domicile for about 3 months. Therefore, I thought I should just bring enough clothes.

It was a terrible idea. I had simply brought more than enough. Now let me ask you, how many clothes do you bring for a journey lasting for about 3 months? Clothing for one month, so you can wash and reuse or for 3 weeks or two weeks or one week? The math isn’t so easy to come by after all.

When you are going away for a year! 😀

My observant roommate in Japan, Alex noticed the need to improve my packing (over filled bag) and tells me how he packs. ‘Bring together all the things you need for a journey, then just halve it by two.’ He said in a genuinely British accent that resonates in me anytime I am packing to travel. “Halve it by two’. If I am going away for two weeks and thought to bring a pair of cloth for every day, that will be at least 14 pieces of shirts/t-shirts, trousers,  underwear (singlet and boxers), stockings. At least.

Wrong! Halve it by two Alex says. And you will be okay.

Packratism on a short trip is just a little tip of the ice-berg. What about in everyday life? What do you need every day? How much should you keep and how much shouldn’t? How many cars and clothing and shoes do you need in your garage and closet?

The word for such a less material possessive life is called minimalism; having less of everything. Minimalism is a tool for finding freedom, living more consciously and more deliberately.

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It’s what Buddhists monks and many people. They call it viagyra-the intentional giving away of your possessions. Sayyidna Abu Bakr, r.a., the first leader of the Islamic Caliphate after the demise of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) practiced viagyra too in his life time, by giving away all his wealth. Read about the beautiful story here.

Practicing viagyra leaves you to enjoy moksha-the moment after giving away everything. Having this kind of moment-the moksha moment- can reduce your mental stress. It leaves you with much more time for other stuff instead of battling to create time to enjoy/use/admire/caress/display/…(fill in the blank) your gadgets, farmlands, automobiles, houses, and whatever you may have purchased. Hence the thinking that you have all these and you need to guard and use them frequently creates thinking and decision fatigue.

Buddhist Monk

Minimalism is a line of thought to always serve in what you do. From making purchases to traveling and collecting collectibles. It’s the opposite of being a packrat. Possessing a lot of stuffs that you have to carter for might become a mental stress.

I remember how last year, I used the elementary but powerful economic principle of opportunity cost and scale of preference to decide on what to spend my money on. Things or experience. See my blog post about it here.

I shrink in my chair and reminisce walking the streets of Amsterdam. From one street to another, turning at river canals and crossing over the old bridge. I found a very good restaurant; a Suriname cuisine. I heard the name of the country once before, but never knew they were colonized by the Dutch. So it was easy to have such a restaurateur from Suriname serving food cooked in his native seasoning in the middle of Amsterdam.

Those are the kinds of thoughts that come into my head often. Then occasionally, I get interrupted by what I could have possessed if I hadn’t spent my money on different cuisines and traveling to different places. That new phone, an expensive leather wrist watch or a designer couture bought from Champs’ Elysees.

The could-haves are just numerous to wonder in. but they didn’t matter then. And they cannot now.

To conclude my post, here is a challenge.

Look at all your possessions. Which ones haven’t you use used in the last 3 (or even) 2 months or so? Shoes, clothing or what? Now is the time to bring them all out and giveaway.

Want to go deeper in minimalism, read the Chicago Tribune post here.

Less is more! Less is more!!

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Decision Making; Spending Money on Things or Experience

A thought crept into my mind while sitting at my desk at the office last week. I had to take a decision about an expenditure I was about to make. I have been indecisive about it simply because I was taking my time in conceiving how much change or impact my final option would have on my life.

In trying to be decisive, I had a retrospection of last year’s event. The retrospection should aid in taking me out of my current indecisiveness. I went over some of the decisions I took last year, the strategy I used in taking them should help me in deciding what I have at stake. Some of the results of those decisions I took last year stare at me daily in the office.

Standing conspicuously on my office desk are 3 memorabilia; replicas of Eiffel Tower, Pyramid of Giza and wind turbine of the Netherlands. As you will guess, all acquired when I traveled to Paris, Giza in Egypt and the Netherlands.

Occasionally, I did hold these precious items in my hands to glance closer or play with them as I get deep in thinking about office work or whatever that comes to mind. On some instances, I remember the trips to their originating cities. It refreshes my memory and invigorates me.

Back to my indecisiveness, my final decision boiled down to one thing; use my money for a material thing or spend it on an experience I can reminisce on. I thought about all the not needed things but good to have things I could buy with the money; upgrading my car, getting a cozy apartment, new shoes, a new laptop, a new phone, new wrist watches, sunglasses, etc. The consumer culture thing you know.

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The thing is I can manage without those new things. I learned to resist impulse expenditure about 3 years ago from Brian Tracy. Sometimes, it is more about ranking expected expenditure according to needs. Economists call this scale of preference. The idea that you rank a number of things you want to expend time and money on, in order of desperate need. And when you forego one item for the other, it becomes the opportunity cost of the foregone item. Last year, I had a European trip, culminating to be the opportunity cost to many material possessions I could have. Did you miss the story? Read it here again.

And that’s why I often don’t do well to the expectation of people I meet after returning from a trip, when they ask ‘what did you buy from …(insert name of a foreign city I visited)? I did not purchase something worth their 100% attention or societies 200%. Instead, I invested much of my little cash in paying for an experience such as snorkeling, go-karting, new dishes at restaurants, transportation, desert safari etc. and invest the tiniest fraction on a memorabilia such as the ones quoted above or good to have things.

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Go-karting in Dubai 2014
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My fun friends after the go-kart race in Dubai

I looked up some hard facts online about whether my decision on spending money on experience instead of on things is congruous to many people. Yes it is. Huffington Post reports about a 20 year research carried out by a Cornell University professor Dr. Gilovich on spending money on experiences instead of things  makes you happier.  Here are the three things that helped him arrive at his conclusion.

One. Getting accustomed to new possessions. At the instant you acquire something new, it’s your high point of excitement. However, this thrill fades away as the earth orbits around the sun. True?

Two. Raising the bar always. When you buy a $100 dollar sunglasses today, an expected value of what cost of sunglasses you will buy next will be higher than $100. Once we get something, we want a better one next time. True?

Three. Keeping up with the Joneses. By nature, Dr. Gilovich says, possessions foster comparison. Very true. The instant you see a friend’s car, it’s about comparing which is better. Truth is, there will always be someone with a better car.

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It is called the paradox of possessions says Dr. Gilovich. The wrongful assumption that buying things will make you happy as long as the item exists is wrong. It defies common sense I know at times. Buying something that will be there for a very long time should sustain the happiness you got earlier. Reality is, no. It won’t and will never.

However, foregoing such material expenditure for experiences such as travels, dining out with friends, donating to fundraisers, signing up for gym or yoga classes, trying out new cafes or restaurants should leave a more lasting happiness for you.

This will give you some well lasting memories. Take your friends with you.
Or go kite-surfing

Often times, it is not easy to always think of the opportunity cost while about to spend your money, especially when you have enough of it. But it should be. Often when I hear and see people complain of little or no money to spend on experiences such as a vacation, I am bewildered by their considerations as I observe their material possessions that could cover their dreams.

Why have an expensive car, while suffering from ADD (adventure deficit disorder) and not sell it to buy a cheaper car and get cured.

“Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods. You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.” says Gilovich.

It is easier to bond more with people you hiked Mount Kenya with or traveled to Rome with than with someone who has the same car or phone as you. Even if you did not take the trip together, knowing you all had similar experiences will bring you closer. And that’s more reason to ditch retail therapy (material items) for experience soaked expenditure.

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When I went hiking to Mount Kenya with friends in 2015

What limits you from foregoing spending on things for experiences? What frequently ranks high on scale of preference, purchase of material possessions or expenditure on experiences? Do you always think of the opportunity cost when you come to spending? I would love to hear what is more important to you, things or experiences and why?

Please drop your comments below.

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