The topic of how young Nigerians navigate romantic relationships with their earnings is a minefield of hot takes. In our Love Currency series, we get into what relationships across income brackets look like in different Nigerian cities.
Tolu* is a 26-year-old product designer currently living in London. In this article, he tells Zikoko about moving to Nairobi because of Nigeria’s inconsistent electricity supply, getting a job at Spotify and receiving the best birthday gift from his girlfriend, even in a long-distance relationship.
Occupation and Location
Product designer in London
Average monthly income
About £6,250. But after tax and pension have been deducted, I have about £4k left.
Monthly bills and recurring expenses
Rent: £1,510 per month
Food: £100 – £200
Black tax: Sends over ₦150k home monthly
Savings: £1k, £1500, £2k. It varies depending on what I earn that month.
I’m entitled to a percentage of the company’s stock; 30% in cash and 70% retained in stocks.
How did you meet your girlfriend?
I met her at a house party in Lagos in September 2020. She came out with a friend of mine.
Please, don’t judge me. He had a girlfriend. If you look at it well, I was helping him not to cheat.
At the party, she seemed so chill. She didn’t know anyone there, but within minutes, she was gisting with everyone. We started dating in November 2020.
Where were you working at the time?
As a product designer at an African tech company where I was paid ₦250k. I was also taking design gigs on the side. I worked freelance with a guy who paid me about $2,500 monthly. With my house rent at the time being ₦1.5m annually, my side gigs were basically paying my bills.
When did Spotify come in?
After I left the tech company in July , I briefly worked at a US company. I started working part-time at Nestcoin in September , then moved to full-time in November. I applied to Spotify between November and December after I moved back from Nairobi.
I was on a work call one day in March 2021, while I was still working at the African tech company, when the power went off. I expressed how tired I was of Nigeria, and my colleague suggested we travel to Nairobi.
Just like that?
Yes o. Earlier in the year, I planned to travel and explore different places, so why not?
How did your girlfriend feel about this?
Even before we started dating, I’d always said I was going to travel out of Nigeria. And she also doesn’t plan to stay in Nigeria long term, so it was easy to have the conversation when the time came. It took till a day before we travelled for it to really hit. That was when we made the agreement to never go days without talking to each other.
So this was a vacation?
Not exactly. I sold off most of my property before moving to Nairobi. I had to live with my family in Ibadan when I couldn’t return.
What do you mean?
I decided to visit Nigeria in October 2021 after four months in Nairobi. I was missing my family and girlfriend. We’d been dating for about seven to eight months and spent every weekend together, so the four months apart were hard. The plan was to stay for two months and go back. But when I was about to apply for my visa, Kenya issued the COVID vaccination mandate. I hadn’t even gotten my first vaccine shot. So there was no way they would let me into their country. I took the first dose in December, and because you need a two-month gap between the first and second shot, I knew the earliest I could travel was February. I had to get a refund for the flight ticket I’d booked for January.
When did you decide to move to the UK?
I only started considering UK early in 2022 after four out of the shit ton of European companies I’d applied to reached out for an interview. I was confident at least one of them would click. I got three offers, but I chose Spotify.
How has the long-distance relationship been?
Even though we had Nairobi as a sort of test run, it’s been hard. We try to talk all the time through video calls and all. About two months ago, we got into a fight — I can’t remember why now, but it was something silly — and for the whole three days, we were still checking on each other. With our current schedules, it’s become more challenging. She just started working as a chef for a restaurant in Lagos, so she’s swamped.
How much of your money goes into your relationship now?
My girlfriend is pretty independent, which I like. So I don’t put her on an allowance. But I do something for her every month, whether it’s getting her dresses, flowers or crocs — she loves them. Sometimes, I send her money to make her happy for the week or month. Getting gifts usually costs less, and I think it’s more thoughtful. The times when I send money, it’s about ₦100k. But with how expensive things are in Nigeria and how much she does for me, it’s not even plenty money.
What has she done?
She’s literally the most thoughtful person I know. My birthday was just a few days after we started dating and she went all out. Got me gifts— a jersey, perfumes, a belt and a fancy cup I even took to Nairobi. As a guy, I’m not used to getting a lot of gifts, so the intentionality behind these meant everything to me. She got the belt because on our first date, I had borrowed my brother’s belt.
This year’s birthday was even more special. She got me a shoe I always wanted and booked a dinner reservation for me.
Do you have conversations with her about money?
Earlier in the year , I told her I’d always prioritise helping her reach a point where she can afford to get herself whatever she wanted, instead of buying it for her. For instance, I can’t buy a wig of ₦1m, but when she needed about ₦1.4m to go to culinary school in October 2021, I assisted with ₦800k — ₦500k first, then ₦300k.
Do you have a financial safety net?
I’m running on vibes. I depleted my safety net in the process of my relocation. I can’t remember how much I’d saved, but I promised myself I’d renovate my mum’s house, so a lot of money also went into that before I travelled. I also lost about $5k between March to October 2021 trying to launch a startup. I got to London with just $2k. I’m currently working on getting my savings back.
What’s your ideal financial future as a couple?
I want to be a fucking baller. I want us to own property together. But since we’re not married yet, I can start implementing some on my end. I plan to get a house in Ibadan and another in the UK, or wherever I’m staying.
Is the plan for her to join you in London?
Eventually. She wants to get to a space where relocating won’t mean taking a step back in her career or starting from scratch. Also, I’d love for us to go on a vacation, but she just started working, and it’d be selfish of me to expect her to create that kind of time for us. The most practical thing would be to visit Nigeria, which I’ll do in March .
If you’re interested in talking about how money moves in your relationship, this is a good place to start.
Read the other Love Currency stories here.