Through stories from real-life couples, Money in Love aims to start conversations about how money works in relationships.
Whether it’s negotiating each other’s spending habits or sharing costs from loft conversions to loo roll, the financial side of romance can be fraught with challenges.
In fact, according to the Money Advice Service, the average couple has 39 arguments about money a year! One in seven married people have a secret stash of cash, and almost a quarter said their other half would be surprised if they knew the real state of their money.
This week, we speak to a couple who met as students, but after a decade together have to deal with a big discrepancy between their salaries. While Frank and Charlotte try to be as financially independent from each other as possible, the pair find themselves conforming to traditional gender norms.
Describe Frank: Strategic, rare splurges
Biggest purchase: Piano
Biggest regret: A tailor-made dress that got ruined in the wash
Guilty pleasures: Storage solutions
Describe Charlotte: Guilt and frequent fripperies
Biggest purchase: Car
Biggest regret: None
Guilty pleasures: Chocolate bars
Why did you choose these words to describe each other?
Charlotte: Frank is strategic because he often thinks about the big picture. Then the rare splurges are how he’ll spend on big ticket items, like a snowboard, guitar or suit.
Frank: Charlotte often feels guilty about money because she goes out with friends and ends up spending more than she wanted to. Sometimes she feels pressured into splitting a bill when she knows she’s had lots less than everyone else. She gets annoyed about that, but then she’ll also feel guilt about it and worry. I can understand where she’s coming from, but I just go along with the crowd. Although I guess I have the luxury of not worrying!
How do you manage money together?
Frank: We don’t have a joint bank account, but we usually split everything 50/50 using Splitwise. We don’t tend to buy each other things for birthdays and Christmas. But if we want to treat the other person, we’d use our birthdays, Christmas or our anniversary as an excuse.
Why don’t you have a joint account?
Charlotte: It feels simpler to keep our money separate. I think we both prefer feeling financially independent of each other. When might we get one? Maybe never! But perhaps we would if we had kids and one of us stopped working.
Is one of you better at managing money than the other?
Charlotte: Frank is good at deciding what we should be doing with things like savings accounts, but he doesn’t actually set himself any budgets because he doesn’t have to. You’re not bad with money Frank, but you earn so much it’s not really fair to say you’re better.
Frank: I’m good at not getting into a habit of spending money on things I don’t actually care about. So things like getting taxis or takeaways. I could afford to, but I don’t let myself because they’re not things I particularly value. Plus I quite enjoy getting public transport or walking and seeing more of the city. The rules in my head stop me getting into a habit of spending money that won’t make a difference to how happy I am.
What works for both of you as a couple?
Charlotte: The fact that Frank earns more but isn’t interested in spending works well for me, because I’m not under pressure to keep up.
Frank: For me, it’d be more of a problem if I was going out with someone who earns similar or more than I do.
Charlotte: If I earned as much as you then I would definitely be pressuring you to spend more.
What doesn’t work?
Frank: Sometimes, if I suggest doing something together that Charlotte can’t afford, I’ll pay for both of us. Charlotte then feels guilty about the fact that I’m paying for it.
Charlotte: If I let him pay for me so that I can come along, I feel like I’m being a bad feminist. I want to split things equally, but I can’t always afford that. And because I don’t want to stop Frank from doing what he wants, sometimes I let him pay.
Do you always split money equally?
Charlotte: Frank paid for the car as he has more money. You got to choose what car it was, though.
Then there was the cleaning thing... Frank doesn’t like cleaning and wanted to pay for a cleaner, but I didn’t. I quite enjoy cleaning, so why would I pay someone to do it?
Frank: I was used to having a cleaner at my previous flat.
Charlotte: So we made an agreement that I would do the cleaning and he would treat me to dinner every so often. We thought it would be weird to make it more transactional, like having him pay me or something! But we wanted to balance things out.
But we never got round to organising the dinners, so one day I made Frank clean the shower so that it was fair. Then I realised that he was actually quite good at it, so now we split the chores more equally.
I knew our deal was ridiculously gendered, but it made sense in the context of our personalities. I’m a neat freak so originally I didn’t even want Frank to do the cleaning. We have different standards – a little mess doesn’t bother him but it does bother me. Also he does help by fixing things if they get broken. Which also plays into gender norms. I’m ashamed! But you’re a lot stronger than me Frank, especially when it comes to thing likes plunging. And you’ve been brought up to be more practical, helping out on your parent’s farm. Unlike me with artists as parents!
So you don’t mind cleaning anymore Frank?
Frank: No, Charlotte’s shown me how fun it is.
Frank earns exactly double what you do, Charlotte. Does that create an unequal power balance?
Charlotte: He’s always earned double than me, it’s so annoying! Whenever I’ve had a pay rise, his salary has also gone up. But somehow we manage to make sure it doesn’t feel like he has all the power. If you were flashy with your cash it would probably be different. But the fact that your money is just sitting there means it’s not a problem. The power dynamic might shift if you buy a house though, as it will be your decision. It’ll be a bit like how we share the car. And I am a bit annoyed about the car you chose.
Frank: We’d find a compromise. I wouldn’t force you to live somewhere you didn’t like!
Want to share your story? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with a bit about yourselves and your relationship with money. If you’d rather stay anonymous, we can change your names (like we've done in this post) ❤️
If you're thinking of managing money with your partner, open a joint account with Monzo!