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 Okoye*, a 29-year-old freelance writer based in Lagos. He tells me how he recovered from a gambling addiction with the help of his lover in 2021, and also how he’s managing his now two-year-old relationship with a single mother, on a ₦300k salary.
*subject’s name has been changed to protect his identity.
Total monthly income
It fluctuates. But ₦300k on average.
Freelance writer — with a focus on finance (crypto, especially) and sports.
Bills and recurring expenses
I don’t pay rent because I still live with my parents. My dad, sister and mum contribute to it. Meanwhile, I’m saving up to get my family out of the trenches.
Food: ₦50k because we buy foodstuff in bulk most of the time.
Data: ₦20 – 25k.
Savings for relocating family: ₦80k in the last two months.
Black Tax: Upkeep for my parents and sisters rounds out at about ₦30k.
Miscellaneous: I pay for courses occasionally, and those take around ₦20k.
Netflix: Around ₦4k monthly.
How long have you been in a relationship?
Two years and two months.
How much does your partner earn?
She’s an online thrift vendor, so her income isn’t steady. But she makes an average of ₦80k weekly, which amounts to roughly ₦320k monthly. On some good months, she makes up to ₦400k.
How did y’all start dating?
Around February 2020, I saw her comment on a mutual friend’s post and playfully replied that I liked her but was holding myself back from sliding into her DMs. She responded, “Dey there na.”
So I quickly DMed her. But our initial conversations were stilted. She was mostly unavailable, and I struggled to reach her. She’d just left her ex and was learning to raise her two-year-old son on her own.
But in March, when the lockdown started, she had more time on her hands, so we started talking more often. By April 8, 2020, I chyked her, and she agreed.
How much were you earning then?
I was barely making ₦100k consistently, but we were on lockdown, so the pressure wasn’t much. We were OK with just calls; no need to travel (she doesn’t live in Lagos). We dated virtually until December 2020, when she visited Lagos for an event, and I booked a hotel (I live with my parents).
That was the first time we met.
With such limited income, what gave you the mind to toast a single mother?
I believe I’m an interesting person, and I’m relentless about doing better for myself. So even then, I knew it was just a matter of time, I would eventually earn more money. Also, I’d dated women higher on the social ladder before, and it didn’t freak me out.
Secondly, I really liked her personality. Once I like somebody, and I feel we might vibe well after watching them for a bit, omo, na to shoot shot o. What’s the worst that could happen?
A focused king! Okay, how did it go from there?
Funny, after December 2020, it took another seven months for us to see again, but under unpalatable circumstances. I’d been battling a gambling addiction and was in debt and I’d hidden it from everyone.
But one day, I lost a bet after borrowing money. When the creditors came to look for me, I got overwhelmed, so I left home, booked a hotel, shut my phone off and went to bed. My partner panicked when she couldn’t reach me. When I switched my phone back on the next day, I saw her barrage of messages. So I opened up to her.
I still don’t know how our relationship survived that.
I panicked and told her I wanted to break up — I couldn’t continue with the relationship because I thought I had too much baggage. I was over ₦350k in debt from gambling — ₦150k credit from the betting house and ₦200k from loan apps. I thought no one would want to deal with my mess. But she got pissed that I was saying “nonsense”.
Tell me more
Omo. She said it was unfair that I wouldn’t even give her a chance to decide on her own. She did say we should take a break, but she wasn’t going to leave me hanging. She would keep tabs on me to make sure I was okay.
After two weeks, she asked for my account details and passwords so she could track my expenses, and then, she helped me work on a repayment plan. She also suggested I leave my environment — the betting centre was close by — and go stay with her for a while.
How did you get out of that rut?
I was humbled by her faith in me, so I resolved to get myself out of the mess. I went to visit her and stayed there for a month. I wasn’t her favourite person during that period, but she was very supportive. But I bonded with her toddler so well, he didn’t want me to leave, and that helped.
The change of environment did wonders. I applied for and got ghostwriting gigs that brought in the much-needed cash. My partner had my account details, so she monitored my expenses and ensured I didn’t relapse. I didn’t want to disappoint her again, which helped me stay focused on dealing with the addiction. After that month, I went to live with my aunty. Gradually, I paid off my debts.
It was hard to win her trust again, but by November, our situation improved.
What happened next?
We began to plan for a vacation in December (2021). She visited Lagos, and we toured the city for a few days. I visited her soon after, and we had a staycation. Those were the best two weeks of our relationship.
How much do you budget for relationship sturvs these days?
It’s as the spirit leads. For example, the last time I visited her, sales were poor that week, so I helped her stock up on groceries and provisions before I left. When she wanted a second phone to use as her business line, I gave her ₦40k — a third of the total cost. It’s the little I could do.
When I need help, she comes through as well. We buy each other gifts: ₦15 – ₦20k here, ₦40k there, depending on our finances. She gives me more physical gifts — clothes, slides, etc., while I give cash and the occasional gift.
How much do you spend on vacations?
We make calculations and split costs. We spent around ₦120k over four days on our last vacation in Lagos and split 60/40 — 60% for me, 40% for her. Our hotel room cost ₦12k per night; beach waka took like ₦25k, including cab fares. We spent the rest on bar hopping around Surulere. Food cost us around ₦25k.
Since we don’t live in the same state, we spend the most on each other when we meet. In May 2022, I carried my brokeass to her house. She practically fed me for the first two weeks of my one-month stay and sorted all the bills because I wasn’t getting writing gigs for a hot minute.
But things picked up for me, and I took over payments for the rest of my stay.
What kind of conversations do you have with your woman about money?
We’ve decided to be lovers for the long haul, so we discuss long-term plans. We want to expand her business. I’ve suggested getting a physical location and diversifying what she sells. Her thrift business fluctuates, and I’d like her to be more stable. We’re currently making progress with that.
One of the things we agreed on was to start ajo — ₦100k monthly savings. This month, she’ll pack ₦1.2m and launch the new business line.
What about you?
I wasn’t business-minded before, but I’ve started to make small investments. My goal is to make an average of ₦800k – ₦1m by next year at least. I’m also learning about the stock market to improve my portfolio and build wealth, and taking courses in comprehensive digital marketing, covering Facebook ads, Google ads, etc. With this new knowledge, I’ll run better ads and boost sales for my woman. I plan to learn about drop shipping once I’m done.
Do you have a financial safety net?
At the moment, no. I’ve spent so much in the last couple of years, I’m practically resetting my life. I don’t like the place I currently live with my family, so I’m hustling to get us out of here soonest.
My saving grace is, worst-case scenario, there are people who see me as credit-worthy. But I’m trying to double my hustle, so I can run family expenses and build a safety net while at it.
What’s the ideal financial future you want for yourself and your partner?
I want investments in real estate and stable sources of income that would see us making a collective income of at least $4,000 monthly. I’d also like an impressive stock portfolio of low-risk investments to assure our kids of a better quality of life than I’ve had.
Liked this story? I bet you’ll like this too: What’s Dating Like in Abuja on a ₦180k Monthly Salary?
If you’re interested in talking (anonymously) about how you manage money in your relationship, this is a good place to start.