Every week, Zikoko seeks to understand how people move the Naira in and out of their lives. Some stories will be struggle-ish, others will be bougie. All the time, it’ll be revealing.

Nairalife #260 Bio

What was the first money conversation you both had?

Phoebe: Three months after we started dating in 2011, he asked me to come over to cook coconut rice and chicken for four friends he was hosting that weekend. He’d boasted about my coconut rice. When he asked how much I needed for the foodstuff, I said ₦20k, and he got angry. 

Joe: Yes na. When it wasn’t like I was throwing a party. I immediately started having second thoughts about her — ₦20k was a big chunk of my ₦70k office manager salary, and spending it on that small amount of food seemed wasteful to me. We had a big disagreement and didn’t talk to each other for two days. Of course, the cooking didn’t happen again.

How did you get past that?

Phoebe: He came and begged me when I didn’t reach out. We talked through it, and he understood that I wasn’t just calling one amount for the sake of it. I’d planned to cook one more dish so the food could carry him into the following week. Plus, I don’t like to manage things. If I’m doing something, I want to do it well.

Joe:  You should be able to tell that she was the child of a rich man already. Not like us who were born with wooden spoons.

Were you really a rich kid, Phoebe? 

Phoebe: I won’t say rich. We were comfortable, though. My dad worked with Nigeria Airways when it was still in operation, and we lived in our own house and had some cars. My mum didn’t even have to work.

I had an allowance in secondary school, although I can’t remember how much it was now. It increased to ₦15k/month when I entered uni in 2005. The money didn’t see the end of the month, sha. I constantly spent it on food, clothes and make-up.

I guess growing up was different for you, Joe?

Joe: It was. We struggled a lot financially due to my dad’s poor financial habits. He was a furniture maker who loved gambling. Whenever he gambled away his money — which was often — he’d collect money from my mum’s provisions business. She had to close the business to take up a cleaning job when I was 10 because the business wasn’t going anywhere. 

I’m the first child, so I had front-row access to the whole thing — the days when my mum had to hide money under my bed so we could afford food the next day. Or when she’d beg a neighbour to allow their kid “lap” me on the bus to school, so I wouldn’t have to pay for transport. 

I think seeing that taught me financial responsibility, even though I didn’t see it like that then. I just always thought, “Why must this man always spend money like this?” I didn’t want to be like him, so I subconsciously learnt to keep any little money that came my way right from childhood.

Let’s talk about you guys. Where were you financially when you met?

Phoebe: I’d just left a toxic HR intern job and was very broke. It’s not like the ₦50k/month salary they paid did anything, but it was nice to have something at the end of the month. Thankfully, my family and siblings were always there to support me financially. I think it was even the money that one of them sent me I went to withdraw the day I met Joe at the ATM.

Joe: It was an instant attraction, at least on my part. I had to drop all the “toasting” lyrics in my arsenal that day before she gave me her number. I was at the ₦70k job at the time, and I felt I’d gotten to the point where I could afford a relationship.

What do you mean by “afford”?

Joe: I believe finances play a big role in relationships, especially as a man. I should be able to take care of my woman to a reasonable degree. My mum wouldn’t have had to go through all that if my dad had done his duty. It’s why I didn’t really pursue long-term relationships when I was in uni. I had the boldness to pursue Phoebe because I had a fairly good job and lived in a modest ₦150k/year apartment. I wasn’t doing too badly.

So only one of you had an income. What was that like?

Phoebe: We had some clashes in the beginning. He always insisted on paying during dates and encouraged me to come to him when I needed money, but then he’d complain that I was spending too much or getting too much of everything on dates. 

Joe: We didn’t see eye to eye on money matters. Every other aspect of the relationship was fine, except that. I was torn between wanting to provide and this madam trying to choke me with expenses.

Did you both have conversations about this?

Phoebe: We did, several times. But I only started to fully understand his issues with my spending when we moved in together in 2012. 

What changed?

Phoebe: Living together made our financial situation more transparent — I knew what he had in his account. Since that was essentially what we lived on, I learnt to manage my expectations and spending. 

We also started a system where he had to approve financial decisions. We agreed that he was better with money, so it made sense for him to manage it. I couldn’t just use the money he gave me to cook to buy bags. Plus, he’d even see it sef.

Joe: As if that always stopped you. 

Screaming. Did this approval dynamic continue after marriage?

Joe: Yes. We dated for two years and got married in 2013. Our alignment on money matters helped make the decision to start a family much easier, so we just continued that way. 

Phoebe: I worked as a school administrator for two years after we got married. During that time, we agreed that I’d be sending my ₦75k salary to his account for transparency. I resigned from the job when I got pregnant because I kept falling sick. I haven’t worked at a 9-5 since then. We have two kids now, and I take care of them full-time.

What’s a one-income household like?

Joe: It is a lot of planning and transparency. She knows what I earn, and she also helps me to manage it. I currently earn ₦250k, and 90% of that goes into the home. I give her a ₦90k monthly allowance that covers feeding, the kids’ clothing and any home emergencies and ₦30k for her personal needs. Then I pay for things like fuel and electricity and save ₦50k monthly with ajo contributions to cover the children’s school fees and our ₦300k/year rent.

Nairalife #260 monthly expenses

Phoebe: I almost always go back to him for feeding money before month’s end because of how expensive things have gotten. It usually lasts three weeks max. Can you imagine that the feeding allowance was ₦50k in 2019, and I hardly spent it all in a month? If you think about it too much, you’ll just start crying.

I feel you. What’s the most difficult thing about a one-income household?

Joe: Definitely the flow of money. It won’t hurt to have extra income. We’ve been considering business ideas for her that could help but also not take her attention away from the home too much. 

Phoebe: We’ve actually agreed on wholesaling and retailing bags online, but I’ll need like ₦150k to start. We don’t have that kind of disposable income right now, so we’re just making do with what we have.

Joe, you mentioned you’re a first child. What’s black tax like?

Joe: Phoebe, oya answer. You’re the one always promising money to our family members.

Phoebe: Fortunately, our families don’t ask for money like that, and there’s no monthly obligation. But I think it’s our responsibility to also offer financial help sometimes, especially during joint events which don’t even happen often. The only other expenses are random ₦10ks here and there. Do you want them to think I’m the only one spending your money?

How would you describe each other’s relationship with money? 

Joe: She’s clearly the spender, but it’s interesting how she’s evolved from almost reckless spending to weighing the importance of things before spending on them. She also allows me to lead in everything, especially money, and I appreciate that.

Phoebe: I owe my improved spending habits to his insistence on transparency. He’s very open and analytical about his finances, and I have no choice but to be the same. He’s also very big on providing. I can’t relate to all those Facebook and Twitter discussions that keep asking what women bring to the table. My man doesn’t care. He’s thinking about how to fill the table.

Energy. What’s one thing you want that’d make your relationship even better?

Joe: A house and a better job. If I had a ₦500k/month salary and didn’t have to think about rent, we’d have some extra income to do some of the things she likes. She’s been complaining about how we never go on dates anymore. Plus, our children will enter secondary school in the next three years. So, even more school fees to think about.

Phoebe: Money to start a business. If not for anything, but to have some cash to surprise him once in a while. It’s difficult to surprise him with gifts because he knows how much I have at every point, and if the money reduces, he can immediately tell I’m planning something. 

Out of interest, would you ever go back to the 9-5 life?

Phoebe: I want to say maybe when my kids are older, but let’s face it. Young graduates hardly get jobs. What chances would a mother with more than a decade-long career gap have?

Joe: Honestly, I don’t want her to have to worry about that. Let her just be chopping my money.

God, when? Is there anything you wish you could be better at financially?

Joe: Side hustles. Nigeria is too expensive to have one income source. I’m already into real estate on the side — I work as a part-time agent, facilitating land sales with a family friend’s real estate company — but I haven’t made much in commissions from it because I haven’t had time to go for site visits and network with potential clients. But I plan to be more intentional this year.

Phoebe: I think I just want to be better at contributing something to our income. Anything.

How would you rate your financial happiness on a scale of 1-10?

Joe: 5. We can only afford the necessities right now. I dread the day an emergency comes and wipes out everything we have.
Phoebe: God forbid, please. Mine is also 5. We aren’t begging, but we need to earn more to be able to afford a reasonably good life for our kids.

If you’re interested in talking about your Naira Life story, this is a good place to start.

Find all the past Naira Life stories here.



Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.