The topic of how young Nigerians navigate romantic relationships with their earnings is a minefield of hot takes. In Love Currency, we get into what relationships across income brackets look like in different Nigerian cities.
After losing a marketing job in Lagos, 30-year-old Chidi moved to Port Harcourt. Five years later, he’s managing a ₦40k teaching job, zero savings, ₦300k debt and a supportive girlfriend who believes his hard work will pay off some day.
Occupation and location
Secondary school teacher living in Port Harcourt.
My salary is ₦40k. But I get between ₦20 – 65k from home lessons. It’s not consistent.
Monthly and recurring relationship expenses
Girlfriend’s birthday: ₦5k each in 2021 and 2022
Miscellaneous: ₦5 – 10k whenever she asks
How did you meet your girlfriend?
She was a beautiful youth corper serving in the secondary school where I taught in 2021. I didn’t think anything would happen between us because I’m Igbo and she’s Yoruba. But one month after we met, we started dating.
Her ex is Igbo, so she didn’t mind dating outside her tribe. And she admired that I was willing to start from somewhere and put in the work, unlike her ex who was unemployed and waiting for an oil company job.
Was that your first job?
No. I had one marketing job in Lagos in 2016. The pay was supposed to be ₦20k for three months before you start earning solely off commissions, but throughout my time on the job, I didn’t get one naira.
After six months of roaming the streets of Lagos looking for who’ll buy insurance, my brother asked me to stop. I was living with him, and he was paying my transport fare. Some days, they’d ask us to report to their office at Ajah, and my house was in Surulere.
I was 28 years old surviving off random ₦2ks and ₦3ks my sister gave me when I visited her house. I also held on to change from running errands for my brother. That was at most ₦5k a month. Some days, my bet would click, and I’d win big. One time, I used ₦200 to win ₦200k.
How did you spend the money?
I bought a new phone with ₦30k, then I gave my sister over ₦10k for clothes and used about ₦10k for my transport. The rest of the money went to family members and helping with some bills in the house, since I still lived with my brother.
What happened after you quit your job?
I spent a year at home job-hunting. Even though my brother always tells me not to let my grades define me, getting a job with my third-class degree wasn’t easy. So in 2018, when my best friend from university called me to come to Port Harcourt because he thought I had a better chance of getting a job there, I agreed. I know ₦40k is not much but it’s better than sitting home doing nothing. After my first term teaching at the school, I started taking private lessons.
How’s that going?
At first, it wasn’t consistent, and the pay was around ₦20 – 30k. Now, I make ₦65k from two students and get referrals from parents. In 2022, I even got my own place for ₦150k a year. I want my babe to feel comfortable when she comes over.
How does it go when she visits?
We gist, watch movies, and sometimes, she buys foodstuff to cook. Other times, she eats Indomie, cornflakes or whatever I have available.
What does she do?
She’s a fine arts teacher and earns ₦55k for it.
Do you ever give her money?
I don’t give her an allowance, but when she doesn’t have money, I can send ₦5k – 10k. In a month, the most I spend on her needs is ₦10k.
What about gifts on special occasions?
We didn’t do anything for Valentine’s in 2022, but I want to get her a gift this year. My budget is ₦5 – 10k. Our birthdays are both in December, which is also when my rent is due. So I just sent her ₦5k for her last birthday, while she got me a perfume. I also sent her ₦5k for her birthday in 2021, but that was because I was in debt to different loan sharks.
I started borrowing during COVID. Schools were not in session and only the subjects that didn’t involve calculations — English, Social Studies, Civic Education were included in the online plan. Since I taught mathematics, technical drawing and Physical Education, I wasn’t working or making any money.
I was ready to return to Lagos, but my brother didn’t think it was the best for me.
After I exhausted my savings, he sent me the occasional ₦5k or ₦10k. My friend from work, an older married woman, also gave me and my roommate some foodstuffs. But I still needed money to help with upkeep, food and data, so I turned to loan organisations.
With the high cost of living in this country, it’s impossible to save. I tried to in 2019, but when the COVID lockdown started, I had to dip into my ₦50k+ savings. Whatever money I get now is to survive.
I started by borrowing ₦10k to repay ₦13k. Then I borrowed from another loan company to meet the payment deadline. Sometimes, my three younger siblings would call to ask me for money — two are in school — and I can’t say I don’t have. I’d have to send ₦3 – 5k. I was also sending my mum ₦10k, but it wasn’t consistent. In two years, I’ve used over 15 different loan sites, and I’m still owing them a cumulative of ₦300k.
How do you plan to pay?
In December, the government announced that those loan sharks were illegal, so I’m not paying. I used to be scared of their threats, but now, I’m a comrade. I’ve cancelled borrowing sha. I’m trying to leave this school and look for a better-paying job. If I can find a school that’ll pay ₦150k, that’d be great.
Do you have a financial safety net?
If something happens and I need money, I’ll try family then friends. After that, na God hand I dey.
Fair. Does your girlfriend save?
Maybe. On my birthday in 2021, she surprised me with a cake, small chops, food, wine, Hollandia and even shortbread cookies. That must’ve cost a lot of money even with her ₦33k allawee and ₦10k salary from the school.
What’s your ideal financial future as a couple?
My babe and I are trying to work on our finances. Her uncle wants to get her a state job that comes with accommodation and a salary of over ₦100k. When she gets it, we can start saving together, maybe in a joint account.
How do you feel about her earning more than you?
I don’t feel intimidated by that. Even if we get married and she earns ₦1m while I earn ₦200k, I’d still be happy for her. It’d be nice to have a solid support system. She’d pay for things like foodstuff, and I’ll handle rent.
I don’t plan to be a teacher forever. The future is tech, so I want to learn to program. I could learn online or from my babe’s brother-in-law who’s offered to teach me. I just haven’t gotten money for a laptop yet. My brother also promises to teach me forex once he finishes learning this year.
If you’re interested in talking about how money moves in your relationship, this is a good place to start.