I am writing this piece knowing that the typical African will survive in any environment. While his spirit is built with the resilience to overcome any situation, the “I CAN” spirit of the African man is further emboldened with information of this nature. History of African immigrants dates back a long time ago. In recent times, however, it is common to find new immigrants confused as to what to do in a new country. They are often perplexed regarding how to survive on a low income, which, inadvertently, caused them to become a burden to other immigrants.

The need for survival is the most compelling of all human necessities. It can cause happy people to become troubled and terrified to the point of running against constituted authority. The need for survival often turns meek and goodhearted people into bad guys, overnight.  While it is un-African to be criminal minded, many Africans in the Diaspora are often pressured into becoming a menace to their host community. However, in the true African spirit, the typical African man would rather suffer than commit crime and bring his name to ridicule. It is upon this reality that we need to discuss ways African immigrants can live on meager income until he rises through thick and thin to become a happy, proud member of the society he lives.


What is considered low-income earning?

While those living on minimum wage can be said to be on the national benchmark of survival, this discussion is interested in people who are not on standardized income. The expected $21,000 gross income per annul for federal workers working full-time does not apply to a new immigrant still finding his place in a strange land. This means these are people who will have to live on whatever is made day-in-day-out until they can find a regular job that pays the basic wage and more. Typically, what I consider low income will be an amount slightly around or below acceptable poverty line. In this case we will be talking around $12,000, which is about $1000 per month.

In 2014, according to the Social Security Administration, roughly 60.2 million people in the US were on the income of $20,000 or less. Although this cannot be said to be an ideal situation, the study shows these people survive on such earning annually.


Assuming you are new in town with no regular job and have to live on the little income you make each month, how do you survive? The typical line of expenses for low-income earners

The fact is that no spending is waste, but it is not every expense that is reasonable. Therefore, we need to be sincere in our daily line of expenditure to select only the expenses that are basic and necessary.

Hypothetically, the following will form the basic line of expenditure for a typical African immigrant while in the struggle for survival: Housing, Food, Transportation, Communication, Clothing, Health care, Education or new skill acquisition, Savings, and Provision.

Of course, as they say, “all work and no play make Jack, a dull boy;” living by this saying requires social expenses, but in survival term, I think you should find a hobby that won’t cause you to spend money. With that said, let’s look at how low-income immigrants can survive in the US.


Choose where to live carefully

I learned a lesson from my father-in-law, who was a diplomat. He said during his service; he prefers postings to African or less developed countries. His reason is apt for our discussion on choosing the place to live carefully.

According to him, his office pays every diplomat the same salary, and allowances; while those in developed countries would have to spend more because of cost of living in developed cities, he spent far less, and as a result, he could save more.

Borrowing from his idea about where to live, there are states in the US where your meager income can sustain your lifestyle, and there are states where the same amount will only go for few days or barely two weeks.

Therefore choose such states where you can survive with less and with better welfare package and reasonable tax regime, best minimum wage, and affordable monthly rent. To help you decide, I have listed below some states considered affordable in term of cost of living and housing:

  1. Missouri
  2. West Virginia
  3. Kentucky
  4. Kansas
  5. Oklahoma
  6. Nebraska
  7. Michigan
  8. Iowa
  9. Indiana
  10. Ohio

Of course, I urge you to do your independent research to find the state with the best offer for your economic status.


Add more sources of income

The African man is neither lazy nor lacks the ability to work; what the individual may require is the awareness of how much more they can do to improve their present living condition. As long as you can acquire the knowledge to extend your income sources, creating multiple sources of revenue is the best medicine for poverty.

If you recognize the need for additional income, I have news for you. America is not called the land of opportunity for fun; the more people you have around you, the more money you can make by identifying the major problems confronting them and proffer solutions to anyone you can. While I will not tell you the actual jobs to do to create a side income, I can tell you how to come up with side hustle ideas that will put more money in your bank account.

For the purpose of creating additional income, consider the following tips:

– Learn new skills. Yes, I understand you are well read; you got a degree and indeed a certified professional back in Africa, but how much is that worth? It doesn’t matter who you are, as long as you want to survive in the States, learning new skills will give you the ability to solve problems, and that will help you land several side hustles that pay the bills.

– Ask Google. Google is a search engine known to answer most questions. You can research for possible job opportunities in your current state. Once you know what is in demand, see if you can deliver it or you need more training.

– Start your own business. The best and somewhat easy way to secure a job in America is starting your own business. For this purpose, I suggest you put aside a fraction of your earning into savings to help you with seed capital when its time.

If you use the above tips with dedication, you should find a reputable side job to generate more income to support your current earnings.


Avoid unnecessary spending

I did say in the opening of this discussion that no expense is foolish. Any time you spend money; there is always a good reason for it. However, you need to ensure not to part with your hard-earned income when unnecessary. I know how tough it is to curb impromptu spending, but you can do better with the following tips:-

– Make a list of necessary things to buy

– Find out the cost and make provision for it

– Avoid carrying cash or credit card around

– Make saving a priority

– Learn to delay purchasing an item until you have compared the prices in at least three places

– Think of replacing your last expenditure with additional income

You can train yourself to ask these questions to determine the necessity of an expense before doing it:

– Can I do without this and it won’t hurt my living?

– Will this expense add to my net worth or just a momentary enjoyment?

– How often do I use this and when was the last time I used it?

– How quickly can I replace the money I will spend on this item back into my saving account?

If your answer is confusing, you probably can postpone this expense without hurting your living.


Use credit finance wisely

America is a land of credit; unlike in Africa where getting credit is like a camel passing through the eye of the needle, you can get a loan with the flip of your fingers in the US. However, easy obtaining credit might be, always remember it’s a responsibility you cannot fail to meet. Therefore, you have to maintain a high level of discipline with your credit. Like you do with your earned cash, you should know that credit facility is money taken in advance before you made it. This means you to be frugal and monitor your credit carefully. Never default in servicing your loan to earn a good credit rating. If you have a good credit record, sustaining yourself on credit card is guaranteed.


Sincerity is the key

If your current earning is below the annual national minimum income, you are considered to be on a low income otherwise described as living below the poverty line! Although your situation is not as bad as it may seem, you can make it worse if you are not sincere with your case.

As, Groucho Marx, the renowned American comedian, and writer, puts it: “sincerity is the key to success… if you can fake that, you’ll have it made.”

Contained in Groucho’s simple and comedic quote is the word of wisdom for African immigrants who desire to live the American dream.

Who cares if you survive or you don’t? But you are the only one who does, and that is why you need to go the extra mile to make your sincerity work for you.

Fake it or mean it, your sincerity is the dividing line between continued survival and living. I bet you know there is a wall of difference between a surviving immigrant and a living one. While the former whines and squeezes his face all day complaining about how hard and harsh life in the US is, the latter is busy expanding his territories, forming alliances, making more money and enjoying life at its best.

In a nutshell, your chances of success in the US are as bright as your sincerity and commitment to what is essential in your evolution process. If you want to fake your sincerity, better make it count because two people don’t lose in the lying game. If the person being lied to didn’t know, the liar sure knows he’s lying!

In closing, one thing is sure with being an African immigrant in the US; you are on the course of greener pasture! How green your stay in the US will be, depends mainly on how much you are willing to learn, persevere, and change to meet the needs of your new home.


Welcome to America, brother!


Mikhail Adeoye

Mikhail is a content creator, a digital marketer, and an entrepreneur. He studied Political Science at the University of Ilorin Nigeria.

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