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.
Meet Lauren & Dan
This week, we speak to Durham-based married couple Lauren and Dan, who have a 14-week old baby called Rudy. Ever since the pregnancy, they’ve managed to stick to a joint budget of £100 a week, to avoid debt and protect their family’s future.
Job: Estate Agent
Together for: 3 years
Describe Lauren: Careful, Generous, Uninterested
Biggest purchase? House, and a carbon road bike
Biggest regret? Sometimes I think, “If we hadn’t had that Domino’s we’d have 25% of our budget for the week left.”
Guilty pleasure: McDonald’s
Job: Estate Agent
Income: Statutory maternity cover of approx. £482 a month. Previously £16,000
Together for: 3 years
Describe Dan: Cautious, obsessive, assertive
Biggest purchase: House
Biggest regret: Campervan
Guilty pleasures: Watching children’s movies and pretending its for our son.
Why did you choose those words to describe each other?
Dan: Lauren is careful with money because she’d never spend it on herself. She’s always asking if we have enough for this or that.
Lauren: I set a budget for a weekly shop and plan what we’re going to eat every night so there’s no waste. I’m cautious.
Dan: But she’s generous as well. If she’s buying something for somebody else, there’s no budget.
"I’m fanatical about budgeting. I’m looking at every penny going in and out the bank."
I probably described her as not interested because by contrast, I’m fanatical about budgeting. I’m looking at every penny going in and out the bank. It takes up a lot of my day.
Lauren: I described Dan as cautious because we set a weekly budget of £100. I’m on maternity, so we have to. Dan’s wage pays the bills, we put what’s left aside, and then my maternity is what we live off. We try and spend £100 a week, then if there’s any left we put it in savings.
"I had a credit card that we wanted to get paid off. It wasn’t a big balance – a few hundred pounds – but neither of us could sleep because of it."
Dan: We’re pretty strict with it. We started doing it when we knew Lauren was going on maternity leave and I had a credit card that we wanted to get paid off. It wasn’t a big balance – a few hundred pounds – but neither of us could sleep because of it. So we started giving ourselves a £100 budget every Saturday morning. That means we can have a nice weekend and not worry about money too much, then scrimp and scrape for the rest of the week.
What does the £100 cover?
Lauren: We spend £20 on petrol which does us for the week, and £40 on food. We eat out or get a takeaway about once a week, which is what we spend the rest on.
"We set a weekly budget of £100. I’m on maternity, so we have to."
Dan: When we get a takeaway, at the end of the week I end up thinking, ‘If I just hadn’t had that pizza we’d be alright now!’ Our system is tough at times, I can’t imagine it would work for most people. But it’s seeing us through a rough period without getting into debt. And when Lauren gets her full wage, we’ll be able to save a fortune every month.
Have you had to cut back a lot?
Lauren: We’ve had this budget for some time, since I’ve been pregnant pretty much. We’re used to it and we can live off it.
Dan: It’s not that if we didn’t do it we’d crash and burn, because we have savings. But if we stick to this then we’ll save our savings.
Lauren: We quite enjoy doing it as well, it’s a challenge!
Dan: Yeah. Last week we only spent £84 and we had a wedding on Saturday, so we had an extra £16 to spend. When I bought a round of drinks at the bar, I felt great thinking ‘this is last week’s budget’!
Neither of us like going out drinking which helps. I never go to parties with the lads or anything like that, not because we made these choices but because we’re not the type of people to go out drinking much. We save a lot there. A lot of my friends will go out and blow £100 on a night.
Lauren: We’d rather go for a walk or something, wouldn’t we?
Dan: Yeah, we just go to the lakes with Rude, have a look around, get some lunch and that’s us done to be fair.
"I never go to parties with the lads or anything like that."
How does it make you feel when you hear about friends blowing £100 on one night?
Dan: I feel stressed for them when they say how much debt they have. It stresses me out knowing that you owe someone money. But a lot of people are like, ‘ah it doesn’t matter.’ A lot of people have student loans, but I’ve paid my one back now because I was really worried about it.
"If I go to Sainsbury’s and spend £10, he’ll text and say, ‘What are you buying?’"
Lauren, can you tell more about why you described Dan as obsessive and assertive?
Lauren: As Dan says, he knows where everything is going. We get notifications if one of us spends from the £100 in our Monzo joint account. So if I go to Sainsbury’s and spend £10 he’ll text and say, ‘What are you buying?’ so I can’t get away with anything!
Dan: I don’t ask!
Lauren: Yes you do! I was out with the girls and I went to a cash point and he said, ‘What are you doing there? You were only going for food!’ He’s never bothered though. He questions it, but it would never be an issue.
Dan: When we had this credit card to pay off I was pretty strict to be fair.
Lauren: If there was any left over at the end of the month I’d suggest putting it in savings but Dan would want to put it towards the credit card bill right away. I just don’t argue.
Dan: I get her idea, it was 0% interest so we didn’t need to pay it back right away. I just needed to pay it back in my mind, so every spare pound that I had left over I’d use to get the balance down. When we closed it, we had our own little night in. It’s so sad. As 30 year olds we should be out getting absolutely rat-arsed on the town with all the lads, but it’s not our scene really.
"As 30 year olds we should be out getting absolutely rat-arsed on the town with all the lads, but it’s not our scene really."
Do you like being able to see what each other is buying?
Dan: Transparency is key. The girls at work can’t believe that when either of us spends, the other gets a notification. They say it’d drive them mad. But I like it. I know when I go to the shop, Lauren will know about it.
Lauren: Or you’ll go to Subway and I’ll text you a pig emoji.
Dan: I wouldn’t say we ever hold each other accountable. If we’ve overspent we always see it as something we’ve done together.
"The girls at work can’t believe that when either of us spends, the other gets a notification. They say it’d drive them mad."
Are there any other tools you use to help manage your money?
Dan: One thing we use is the Moneybox app. When you spend, it saves your roundups and invests them. If you spend 50p, it will save 50p. If you spend 99p, it will save 1p. Last year, it amounted to £800, which we used to enjoy ourselves at Christmas. It didn’t feel like we’d saved because it was only £10-20 a week.
This year we’ve already got £310 with the app. But instead of using it for Christmas, we’ve decided to use it for a holiday next year and have a good trip for Rude.
I’m always looking for new apps and different ways to save money. I got into Bitcoin for a while and that did Lauren’s head in. I try to pinch money here and there so we don’t have to be in debt.
"I got into Bitcoin for a while and that did Lauren’s head in."
Why does debt bother you so much Dan?
Dan: My dad is like this too, I’ve inherited it from him. But I wasn’t quite this cautious until Lauren and I met three years ago and made big plans together. We joined our money together and I was elected to look after it, so I’ve grown into being more worried.
I just want to give the best things to Lauren and Rude. I don’t want to let them down. I don’t want to let myself down.
"I wasn’t quite this cautious until Lauren and I met three years ago and made big plans together."
Lauren: You don’t want to have to worry about it do you, or owe anyone anything apart from our mortgage.
Dan: I worry that someone’s going to come knocking on the door saying that I owe money. If you don’t have money, it spirals. I’m an estate agent, so I see a lot of people who have bad credit. They can’t have nice things or give that to their families, and I just don’t want to be like that.
"I’m an estate agent, so I see a lot of people who have bad credit."
I have always been a bit cautious though. When I bought a Macbook Pro, the shop assistant was telling me the lease terms and I was like, ‘ah no I’ve got cash in my pocket’. He didn’t know what to do with himself. I don’t think he’d ever witnessed anybody going in to pay cash. But I thought that was the way it was done!
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