The topic of how young Nigerians navigate romantic relationships with their earnings is a minefield of hot takes. In this series, we get into what dating across income brackets is like in different Nigerian cities.
Adanna* is a 26-year-old ghostwriter based in Yaba, Lagos. Four years ago, she travelled to Lagos to hook up with her Facebook friend and ended up cohabiting with him. Now, she tells Zikoko how she lives with her partner on a ₦500k monthly income.
Occupation and Location
Ghostwriter in Yaba, Lagos. Lives with her partner.
Monthly bills and recurring expenses
Rent: ₦35,000 (₦350k annually until they move next month)
Dog expenses: ₦150k every two months for two dogs
Occasional gifts: ₦50 – ₦100k on average
Dates: Approx. ₦100 – ₦120k monthly
House dues: ₦15k
Data subscription: ₦6k
Black tax: ₦200k-ish depending on the month. Could be more but it’s never less.
How long have you been in your relationship?
Three years. Four years by February, Insha Allah.
Amin. How much do you both earn monthly?
Depends really. Last month, I made ₦800k. Sometimes, it’s a lot less. But on average, roughly ₦500k.
Right now, my partner earns about ₦600k on average.
And how did y’all start dating?
We met on Facebook. We’d been friends for a few months before he slid into my DMs with “hey” late one night. I genuinely thought he was just being a horny goat because no man texts that late with good intentions. But I was wrong. We had a good conversation.
I was in 400 level studying law then. About two years later, after graduation and a suicide attempt, I decided to do something crazy: I packed my bags to Lagos for two weeks. We met at a park in Anthony for the first time.
Just like that? No talking stage?
The connection wasn’t instant, tbh. We had mutual interests and had been interacting on the timeline. My siblings were even mutuals with him on Facebook, before we started talking in the DMs, and that’s what we bonded over. It wasn’t that strange, my siblings usually steal my cool friends after a while.
We texted almost every day for two years. We were platonic at first: he helped me through a horrible relationship, and I helped him with two bad breakups. During our virtual friendship, there was an undercurrent of sexual tension, though. Sometimes we’d veer off into suggestive topics and pull ourselves back to platonic.
But we remained friends with the intention to fuck until the day I literally told him I was packing my things and moving to Lagos. He wasn’t sold on the idea, but then he said, “You know what? Come, we’ll see.” That’s the energy this boy gave me, SMH. Anyway, I went, and we saw.
LMAO. Tell me about the “saw”
The first day I arrived at his house, we just moved straight to the sex. After five months, on Valentine’s Day in 2019, he asked me to date him in the supermarket where I was buying him cookies. I said yes.
In hindsight, we really did things backwards because it was a very physical relationship before the emotions crept in. From September to February, we were friends with benefits while I was living in his house. So by the time we started dating, it was clear that, one: the cohabiting arrangement worked for us, and two: it would be a serious relationship.
How much were you earning when you went to live with him?
Maybe ₦50–70k a month.
Fear no catch you?
Nope. I didn’t care. I’m very shameless.
What was your partner’s financial situation?
He was earning a lot more than me, around ₦230–250k monthly, doing independent writing contracts and stuff. My own writing gigs were ₦1 per word, so I was more reliant on him then. He handled the big bills while I took on smaller bills like food and toiletries. Life was a bit easier because we didn’t have that many responsibilities — black tax wasn’t choking me and we didn’t have a dog. So we somehow managed to survive on less than ₦300k a month.
He paid for stuff; I cooked him dinner, gave him unlimited sexual favours and stimulating conversations as a reward. He gave me time to sort my shit out and never asked me to pay for stuff. I just contributed when I could.
Okay. So how do y’all run finances these days?
Some months, I make more; some, he does. Sometimes, we both make plenty of money — but this one is super rare. So whoever has the most earnings covers the bigger expenses. I don’t think splitting expenses right down the middle makes sense because it’s just too much pressure.
Over time, I notice he tends to spend his money more on our dogs, major bills and fixing stuff around the house, while I spend mine on foodstuff and artisans or domestic staff. I’m the one who always has cash lying around while we use his debit card.
How much do you budget for relationship sturvs these days?
We both contribute to two or three restaurant outings per month and spend anywhere from ₦30–50k on each outing. Shiro does a bottomless sushi-type arrangement that costs ₦26k per person with alcohol and ₦16k without. We usually go twice a month: one with alcohol and one without alcohol. When we go to the movies occasionally, we spend ₦15–20k on tickets, snacks and popcorn plus cab fares. Once in a while, we look for a fine dining restaurant that offers deliveries, order in and chill with Netflix.
We make it a point to go out every weekend. Last week, we went to Classics, VI — they show old Western movies. It’s free entry, but we buy food and pay for transport (around ₦22k on average). We also like IndieView at Freedom Park (₦2k per ticket), where we always buy chicken and chips at ₦3,500 each. For drinks, we like to hang out at Hard Rock Cafe (₦11k for two cocktails) and Bature Breweries (₦15-20k for drinks, pulled pork pizza and onion rings). And when we feel like it, we carpool with friends to the beach where we spend about ₦6k each.
Lovely. What kind of conversations do you have with your partner about money?
Conversations around money can be tense sometimes. We both spend a lot on our families, so it can be difficult to take the other person into account. Despite the fact that we’ve been together for some time, our finances are separate in the sense that I have access to his money and vice versa, but we don’t keep our money in the same place.
It can be a bit difficult to be accountable. Like, for example, you had ₦800k in your account last month. Why are you so broke now; what did you do with it? This situation forces me to look at money beyond something for me to spend and do as I please.
How do you navigate money conflicts?
I’m grateful he pushes me to earn more and flags the times I’m charging too low. Ironically, he can sometimes push me to charge more and turn around to undersell himself, then I’ll now be pissed.
I had an unhealthy relationship with money growing up. I didn’t understand money early as I was raised to be terrified of it. If you give me ₦5m today, I would freak out and overthink and micromanage every single expense. But not my man. He’s more comfortable with money. He’s the one who taught me to spend — especially on things I used to consider ridiculous like ₦50k on a single restaurant outing. He’s helped me ease the burden of guilt and taught me that above everything, money is a tool.
Has money ever caused a major problem?
Oh, we’ve been in some horrible shit before. Like, we’ve been so broke we couldn’t afford food for days. I love food so much, so I was cranky AF. And he took the whole not-being-able-to-provide-for-his-woman situation to heart, telling me to find some other man to provide for me.
I was sick of his patriarchal and one-man-pity-party-with-the-world’s-smallest-violin bullshit. I told him to fuck right off, and we didn’t talk to each other for a bit. But we settled after I got paid and took him to buy some cake and food. I told him if he ever implied I needed a man to eat again, I would leave him. He ate the humble cake, apologised for weeks with small gifts like coffee and lactose-free milk. He hasn’t tried shit like that again since then.
Yup. But there was also the time when he was dealing with some serious depression and wasn’t earning anything. I didn’t even know he was depressed, and in hindsight, he didn’t even want to admit he was depressed. I was basically covering all the bills, so it hurt his ego again. We fought break-up-worthy fights. I was resentful; he was embarrassed and felt emasculated.
Anyway, we ignored each other for a while, but sorta came back when all the emotions were cooled and talked things over. I helped him find a gig worth ₦350k and assisted him with it. That began his slow process back to working full time. After about a year, we figured the finances and mental health shit out.
Wild! Okay, so what’s your ideal financial future as a couple?
It’s a pretty clear picture, and we’re working towards it. We want to build a retreat facility in a southwestern [Nigerian] state, travel to places like India and Greece, and later, settle in a Scandinavian country where we can eventually own property, live in peace, get free education for our kids — if we ever change our minds about childbirth. We’d love to see the Northern Lights from our backyard.
So I guess the ideal financial future would be when we can comfortably afford all that and then some. Right now, we’re consolidating our network, and collaborating on investments, and we’ve started a joint savings account. We already have ₦890k in it; our short-term goal is ₦5m and long-term goal is limitless.
God, abeg, I don’t wanna be a mechanic
LMAO. We’re moving houses soon. We’re currently living in a room in a shared four-bedroom apartment and we want to move to a two-bedroom, so that’s probably going to wipe out our savings. But we move.
Do you have a financial safety net?
Right now? No. We only recently figured out our financial and career shit together as a unit. We finally have stable finances and we’re both getting publishing deals while he’s been accepted for a fellowship. We both work hard, so I’ll give it a year and that answer will be yes. Hopefully, nothing theatrically horrible happens before then.
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If you’re interested in talking about how you manage money in your relationship, this is a good place to start. We’re willing to keep your identity anonymous.