When it comes to internet conversations, the topic of how young Nigerians navigate romantic relationships with their earnings is a minefield of hot takes. So I decided to find out more from people across different income brackets.
For this interview, I’m speaking with Joel*, a 23-year-old ghostwriter based in Port Harcourt. He tells me how his babe commanded him to leave his exes, losing ₦2.1m in failed investments and how they’re making their relationship work, dating in Port Harcourt and Owerri, on a combined monthly income of ₦325k in 2022.
Average Monthly Income
Varies, but it’s north of ₦200k on most months. Averages around ₦270k monthly.
Freelance writer. Writes books and articles. Occasionally invests and holds his breath because, have you seen the forex market? That shit is wild.
Lives in Choba, Port Harcourt. Partner lives in Owerri.
Monthly bills and recurring expenses
Rent: ₦10k (₦120k annually)
Fuel, generator repair and maintenance: ₦23k (or more, depending on the mood of mechanics and fuelling stations)
Food: ₦50k+ (depending on how my palate sways)
House dues: ₦4k
Data subscription: ₦15k
Black tax: ₦15k+
Savings: Vibes and as the spirit leads. I’ve completely trashed my budget this year. If you use budget follow this country, you can die.
How long have you been in your relationship?
How much does your partner earn?
₦50k on average. But it can be anywhere from ₦30k – ₦100k. She’s also a writer; she writes SEO, blogs and articles.
How did y’all start dating?
We were friends since 2018 but kept things strictly platonic. In 2019, she invited me over and told me to get rid of the other women I was seeing because she wanted me. She’s an Igbo woman, so I obliged.
Just like that?
Well, that’s an exaggerated version. The details are much grimmer.
I was in an entanglement with two other girls, one by emotional blackmail and the second by sheer dumb luck. I couldn’t find a way out. So my current babe, who I was already friends with, told me to just dump them, and followed up until I did.
LOL. She even threatened me to be quick, lest her other suitors show up and marry her. I did as asked and we spent the remainder of the year seeing if we’d work out.
Whew. Why did you accept?
Well, for one, I actually liked her. She was more introverted than the two girls holding me hostage.
Secondly, we planned to go out when next I visited her and agreed I’d bankroll the whole thing. But on the day of the outing, she suggested I kept my money; she’d make us something to eat and we’d stay indoors to watch cheesy movies instead. I had puppy eyes immediately.
A finished man
Make she finish me before Nigeria finish me, abeg.
Also, when I arrived at her place, she didn’t expect I’d come in so early. I didn’t even call to ask for directions apart from what she sent earlier. So, I caught her in her most natural state: hair tousled, still in her pajamas and playing with her friends. She was as beautiful underdressed as she was when she dressed up.
Then again, she’s short and thick — I’m talking fleshy thighs, toned arms, tiny, baby hands and legs. Has a round face with plump cheeks. Natural hair. Small, button nose. Too many positives to count.
Anyway, despite wooing me, telling me what to do and saying she liked me first, she still demanded that I ask her out officially. We technically started dating in November 2019 but made it official on January 1st, 2020.
LMAO, Okay. How much were y’all earning then?
She was earning nada, but I finished the year with a savings of about ₦250k.
How did it go from there?
She didn’t have a phone or laptop when we met, because she’d already been robbed twice in one year. So, when she went home for the holidays, I contributed to her efforts to get a new one. Her parents couldn’t be bothered to buy her three smartphones in one year.
Then COVID happened in 2020, and I encouraged her to try content writing, as she’d previously worked as a typist. Soon after, she landed her first gig, which was worth over ₦250k spread across six months. On the other hand, I scaled up and made my first million.
Take this quiz: How Will You Make Your First Million Dollars?
About that million…
Well, there was a pandemic and school shut down. I was a student then, so my biggest money drain was gone. Meantime, I landed two high-profile clients: one in the Bahamas and another in the United States; both personable and relatively chill people.
After my first job for the Bahamian, she contacted me for two more books and several articles spread across the year. Besides the agreed cost of each job, she tipped well. Imagine getting a $200 tip on a $200 job!
The American was just as big a tipper. I became part of the team writing his dream book. We spoke often — video and voice calls, and as someone who lived in Nigeria at some point, he understood the cost. So, once in a while, he’d send me $200 for data. When my dad passed away, he sent me $200 as a consolation gift, and later, a $150 Christmas gift.
I funnelled most of that money into forex and was earning up to 80% of my capital in ROIs. By October 2020, I had a little over a million in illiquid capital, ₦400k in savings and ₦150k in disposable income.
Meh. I dropped out last year. I’ll be enrolling again next year sha. I’m just 23, but I can’t deal with this public school system no more. And I want to switch from mechanical engineering to studying English.
Okay, tell me more about your babe’s finances
Well, she’s been trying to scale her craft. Some of the clients she got either default or send her gigs inconsistently. During the epidemic of tech bros at the height of the pandemic, she had contracts with several of them. But since their business plan only involved looking like they knew what they were doing without getting any work done, they quickly went under. Some are still owing her to date. Her income has suffered, but she dey push am.
I’ve introduced her to friends and associates, meantime, and I send her jobs when I find them.
Okay. So how much do you budget for relationship sturvs these days?
On average, I spend up to ₦35k when taking her on dates to fancy places, ₦25k for semi-fancy and ₦15k for an ice cream date. If she’s feeling down, I can cheer her up by sending her money or buying her cake and Hollandia. She also loves jewellery, so pretty pennies have gone down those vices as well. There’s the occasional “I want to make my hair, gimme money” where I chuck in up to half of the cost. Then, [sanitary] pads — she hasn’t bought one herself since 2021.
EDITOR’S PICK: What’s Dating Like in Abuja on a ₦180k Monthly Salary?
Since you don’t live in the same city, walk me through expenses in a typical staycation
When I visit her, I usually take along supplies to ensure I don’t become a financial burden. Sometimes, I go with raw food like garri, rice and beans — basically, Tinubu’s list. Other times, I buy cereal, milk, sanitary pads and any other thing she wants but doesn’t want to buy herself. My phone is full of lists.
I also buy fuel to run the gen and contribute to daily expenses. I usually time my stay for a week or two at most, and pay for dates except for times she insists.
When she visits me, it’s a different dynamic. I’m fully prepared to deal with 100% of all the expenses and have probably set some money apart for a few dates or takeouts. I get her stuff she likes beforehand, like candy, cereal, milk, butter, biscuits, drinks, etc.
I also cook because she has a specific welcome food: jollof, peppered turkey and Hollandia — unless otherwise stated. So, I try to get that settled before she gets to my place. If I can’t prepare it myself, I make a quick run to a nearby restaurant.
Occasionally, she feels bad for not chipping in like I do at hers and offers to pay for Netflix, buy a keg of fuel or refill the fridge with [bottled] water. I tell her not to worry, but she doesn’t listen.
What kind of conversations do you have with her about money?
Money is a weird topic between us. We don’t often talk about it because she’s a very emotional person, and is prone to being depressed when she doesn’t think she’s doing very well. I bear the bulk of our financials and leave room for her to contribute her little, so she doesn’t feel entirely dependent. She’s always so happy to bail me out when I come calling. What I do is, I often exaggerate the situation so she can feel good about coming through for me. Keeps her happy, keeps me happy.
Give me an instance
So, about last week [July 2022], I ran out of fuel and needed to refill about 35 litres, which would cost ₦6,300. I was reluctant to spend out of my emergency funds because my paycheque got delayed for a bit. I told her I didn’t have money to fill both jerry cans, and that I might not even turn on the gen. She sent me half the money.
We sha don’t assume that just because we’re helping out the other person, they’re totally helpless.
Okay. So do you have a financial safety net?
My babe has her parents, especially her mum. They work and earn pretty decent incomes.
I have about ₦450k saved in fixed deposits sha. But my safety net for illnesses is my ₦50k emergency fund. For more devastating catastrophes, I’ve got nothing.
Hollup, what happened to those your millions?
Well, when the forex market turned in 2020, that was when cryptocurrencies first started their free-fall. Next, other things were taking a hit — bad trades and whatnot — and almost ₦2m from my life savings went with the wind.
Yep. I went from millionaire as of November 2020 to peasant on January 1st, 2021. I literally had no money to my name except what I’d previously stashed in the fixed deposit while saving for a new apartment.
How did your partner take it?
I didn’t tell her how much I’d put in, but she was still pissed AF. Also, I’d convinced her to invest too — she put in ₦150k of her own money into forex. So when things went to shit, I promised to refund her capital myself so she could take her mind off it. As time went on, we just… sorta moved on.
Wild! Okay, so what’s the ideal financial future you want for yourself and your partner?
One where we can afford our needs and luxurious tastes without backbreaking work. Like, as much as I love to cook, I’d prefer to have an in-house chef. Rather than tour the same 15 restaurants within my area, how about breakfast in Paris and lunch in Dubai, you know?
I’m eager to get long-term investments to reap huge payoffs in the future. But I can’t find anything decent in Nigeria yet. Do we even have a stock exchange? I can’t even be bothered with banks because they produce the dumbest results. Someone put in ₦20k on a bank share in the early 2000s and reaped ₦16k in the 2020s. What the fuck?
Anyway, I’m trying to build a network and become financially literate, meantime. I currently have my eyes on angel investing. In a nutshell, I want to get some good generational wealth going. It’s my biggest goal, as is hers.
*subject’s name has been changed to protect his identity.
*This interview has been edited for structure and clarity.
Liked this story? I bet you’ll like this too: What’s Dating Like in Lagos on a ₦300k Monthly Salary?
If you’re interested in talking (anonymously) about how you manage money in your relationship, this is a good place to start.