In this interview series, we chat with amazing women about their relationship with money. We discuss all things finance (no-holds barred) with the aim of demystifying money myths, highlighting mutual experiences and learning from one another.
This week, we are joined by Damilola, who left a career in Linguistics to become a Culinarian. We chat about her love for food, her favourite finance books, and maintaining joy despite being broke broke.
Hello and Welcome! Please tell us a little bit about yourself
My name is Damilola Balogun and I’m 27 years old. Oh my goodness, I can’t believe I’m that old, I remember a few days ago when I was just a child. I’m Nigerian but I currently live in Michigan, USA. I recently graduated from Culinary school. (Whoop whoop!) So I guess you could call me a Culinarian. Okay wait, let me be serious.
Don’t be! Please be yourself.
Haha, are you implying my regular self is unserious?
I refuse to be caught in this trap. You were saying?
I currently work in a Restaurant. My job description is so long you wouldn’t believe I’m not an Octopus or a Magician. To summarize it, I handle Guest Management, everything from taking orders to doing inventory to ensuring the Kitchen has everything they need to give the guests the best experience possible, sort of like a liaison officer. I also babysit part-time.
I loooove to cook. The kitchen is my safe space. I also love to eat. Figures.
Tell me about your first recollection of money
Growing up, my mum did not believe in giving us loose change. She would rather get us stuff we needed. However, I had this friend in primary school. We must have been about 8 or 9… this girl spoiled us silly! Her parents were abroad or something. I really hope she wasn’t stealing all that money, because the way we balled… real definition of Small girls, Big God.
I also remember going around with these “Promise Me” fundraising cards which we used to raise money for school and church projects. I would go round my mum’s office and tax all the adults for donations. They couldn’t resist me.
In one word, what does money mean to you?
Freedom- There are a lot of things we would like to do, and our only limitation is in the mind. Well, and money when you don’t have any. With the money issue sorted, you have greater freedom to accomplish whatever you want to.
What do you wish you knew about money before you started earning an income?
That money is a scam.😂😅🤣
As a child, I just couldn’t wait to grow up and start making money. Nobody tells you that with income comes responsibility. If you know anyone making money for making sake, someone without responsibilities, (what my people call bukata), please point me in their direction, let them show me the way. Another thing is that money always wants to be spent. It won’t just stay in one place. You have to decide what to do with your money or it will decide by itself “Today, I want to eat until I can no longer walk”.
When did you first earn money and from doing what?
In my first year of university, I lived in a hostel where the buttery closed early and opened late, and the closest place to buy airtime was quite a distance. So I sold airtime recharge cards in my room when I found out there was nobody selling on my block. It was more of a “why not?” thing. The profit margin wasn’t wide at all, but I had a steady cash flow.
Do you think your spending patterns change with an increase in income?
According to all the books I’ve read, it shouldn’t, but honestly it does.
When I first moved to the States, I was being fully supported by my brother and sister-in-law (Bless their kind hearts), so I tried to keep my requests to the barest minimum… When I started earning my own money, ayyyy, sunday treats, new jeans, my taste changed. Even now things I barely noticed in the stores. Talk about a level up.
Would you say money played a role in choosing your course of study and in charting a career path?
Not exactly. I don’t know any Linguistic-Culinarian so… My path has been so unique to my personal growth. The drive for culinary school was mostly passion. I was torn between doing a Masters and going to culinary school. I decided I didn’t want to pursue Linguistics anymore So it’s more of a passion over profit thing. Sometimes, it feels like “more work, less pay”.
Do you actively invest, and if you do what influences your choice of what to invest in?
I just made my first major investment, other than getting my degree, (because I consider my education an investment). I recently invested in Agriculture. This line of investment is something I intend to keep up. Food is crucial to human survival so I’m open to investing in sustainable agriculture. I’m also looking to get into investing in real estate.
What would be your first three spends if you suddenly came into a huge fortune?
If I hit the jackpot abi?
I usually try to decide where my money is coming before it arrives. So I’ll first take a minute.
A nice meal is somewhere on my list, whether I make it myself or eat out.
I’ll definitely spoil my family members. My nephews are about to have a favourite aunty. Then I’ll travel someplace nice.
Wait, I already mentioned food, right?
Tell us about a time when money really stressed you out and how you managed the situation?
I think about this time often. Late 2018. I was broke broke. Like “I’m praying that I don’t run out of gas all the time” kind of broke. I’m so grateful no emergencies came along. I just braved it. I knew it would eventually pass as my income increased. I try not to let the presence or absence of money determine my moods. I didn’t want to become a cranky, irritable person all the time. I focused on maintaining my joy and you know what? I was never stranded!
Do you feel burdened by “black tax”? How do you strike a balance between supporting your family and increasing your investment portfolio?
Right now, I don’t have any official dependents. I have a younger brother in college and I remember how my older siblings helped me so I try to pay it forward. It’s not an obligation per se so I wouldn’t call it a burden. It’s voluntary and I give within my means.
Do you always budget? If yes, do you stick to it?
I don’t use a strict budget, but I map out a range I can spend on particular things ahead of each month. Other than my regular monthly bills, I don’t budget a specific amount for groceries etc. but at the same time, I don’t just walk into stores and swipe my card anyhow. I need to get better at using shopping lists though.
Do you often feel intimidated by finance and investing jargon? Do you think banks and financial organizations could do better with communicating financial jargon?
I do, I do, I won’t lie. I just want finance people to demystify all these terms. Arrrgh. I just want to know how my money can make more money for me.
A lot of people just see financial institutions as glorified messengers for helping us move money around. I had a friend in Economics who was trying to make me understand how the banks are supposed to help regulate the cash flow and distribution in the economy.
If you could be a superhero, which character would you be?
Wonder Woman. She’s a fine girl, and she’s a badass too! In layman terms, she can fight!
When was your ‘aha’ moment that made you realize you needed to be more financially responsible when it comes to money?
Ah, the summer preceding my 2018 story! I had big plans. I was working 6 days a week. The plan was to have a reasonable chunk saved. Then I had car troubles. Although that’s no excuse. The next year, I didn’t play oh!
That summer, I learnt how not to procrastinate too. I paid almost double the price for a bad flight because I didn’t plan ahead.
What is the most expensive thing you have ever paid for?
What has been Your most ridiculous purchase ever?
Do you mean something you bought and regretted or something you bought and barely used? Because that would be some of my shoes.
What bank(s)/financial organization apps do you use and why?
Huntington does this cool pie chart thing to track my expenses. Unfortunately, I now use that account to save.
Have you ever fallen for a ponzi scheme?
Never! I don’t believe in free money.
One thing you don’t feel guilty indulging in?
What book, movie, podcast or person has had the greatest influence on your financial life?
I’m currently reading The Richest Man in Babylon and It. is. Blowing. My. mind!
The conversational writing style is so good, and it is so simple. I’m trying to be deliberate about practising what I’ve learned.
Person would have to be my fiance, Wole Akanni. He recently wrote a book called The Laws of Money. It’s actually free.
We’ll round off with a quick set of lighthearted questions.
Entrepreneurship vs. paid employment
[Dami sighed deeply and analysed a loooot of factors but the final analysis is]: Paid employment
Saving vs. Investing
Saving, until I know enough about investing.
Spending your own money vs. spending other people’s money
In what sense? Like if I eat out with friends? Or as business capital? Spending people’s money is sweet but I hate to be a burden. I actually don’t know how to receive but I’m learning!
I guess ultimately it depends on the person. Some people’s money will choke you. I can spend Wole’s money sha. 😜
A song that describes your current relationship with money?
This year by Jaywon
The year is 2030. You’ve been invited to give a TED talk on how you built your immense wealth, lay it on us in 60 seconds ending in “Thank you for coming to my TED talk”?
The first time it occured to me that I could be a billionaire in every currency in the world, I was stunned. But I had a dream to make good quality food available and affordable for people of every social class. I’m glad I stuck to my guns because 10 years later, Mimi’s food is in homes across the world in one form or the other. 80% of our food is locally sourced. We’ve created job opportunities for millions. Running a scholarship fund has also been so fulfilling. Countless people have been able to travel the world because of our fund and come back to build our country. It all started when I asked myself “Why can’t we make cheese in Nigeria, when we have cows in Nigeria?” So dare to ask yourself difficult questions, do hard things and make your dreams a reality. Thank you for coming to my TED talk!