Money in Love: Nellie & Nial

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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 Nellie & Nial

This week, we speak to a couple who’ve just bought a flat together, but have mixed feelings about doing it with their parents’ money.

Name: Nellie
Age: 29
Location: London
Job: Solicitor
Salary: £34,000
Together for? 5 ½ years
Describe Nial: Relaxed and measured
Biggest purchase? Our £430,000 flat
Biggest regret? My clarinet
Guilty pleasures? Red wine and finding bargains

Name: Nial
Age: 31
Location: London
Job: Director of campaigns at a charity
Salary: £39,000
Together for? 5 ½ years
Describe Nellie: Detailed and relatively thrifty
Biggest purchase? Our £430,000 flat
Biggest regret? None
Guilty pleasures? A cheeky cigarette when I’m drunk

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Have your upbringings influenced the way you are with money?

Nial: Neither of my parents are flashy spenders, so I didn’t grow up wanting to earn lots.

I’m basically pretty boring with money. I save quite a lot of it. I can’t not know how much I’ve got and what I’m doing with it. I’m not complacent and I’m sure that’s come from my upbringing, but it’s also a personality trait.

Nellie: I have a mum who’s pretty frugal: I think I’d go as far as saying that she actually finds it difficult to spend money. Meanwhile, I have a dad who enjoys spending, but doesn’t know what to spend it on!

So I’ve got this internal conflict between trying to save as much money as I can, versus knowing that you only live once and should enjoy spending what you have.

"Basically, we can’t be arsed to get a joint account."

How has the way you manage money changed as you’ve gone from dating, to living together, to owning a property?

Nial: Nellie transfers me money every month to pay the mortgage. And we use Monzo for our spending money and we have a Shared Tab. Basically, we can’t be arsed to get a joint account.

Because both of us are quite organised when it comes to money, we actually do pay each other back for stuff. Whereas more relaxed couples might assume that it’ll all balance out. We’re a bit anal like that. I can see from our Shared Tab that you owe me £7.50.

"More relaxed couples might assume that it’ll all balance out. We’re a bit anal like that"

Nellie: We’ve always been relatively equal. Maybe when I was making less money you had to pay for a bit more.

Nellie, how did it work when you were earning less?

Nellie: I was paralegalling at the firm I’m at now and they were paying me £19,000. I managed to pay lower rent for London by living in bigger house shares. But I also kept track of my money by doing the following things:

I have always had two bank accounts: one is where all my monthly spending comes out of, including things like bills, rent and my gym membership. I know exactly how much will come out each month.

Then I transfer a certain amount from my paycheck into my second bank account for spending money. I use this for eating out, drinks and other one-off expenses.

Now I also have a savings account and transfer a certain amount each month. Before we bought the house, I saved at least £400 a month.

"At best the work we both do is equally valuable... It’s just luck really I’ve been paid more."

Do you always split money equally?

Nellie: We end up splitting things equally, the bills and the mortgage, everything is split 50/50.

Nial: Really I should pay for a bit more stuff because I earn more money.

Why?

Nial: It has an intuitive fairness to it. At best the work we both do is equally valuable, in reality Nellie’s is probably much more so. It's just luck really I've been paid more.

"Nellie will start subsidising me when she becomes Mrs. Super-high-flyer human rights lawyer extraordinaire"

So why don't you pay more?

Nial: Though I did mention doing so a few times, I never seriously raised it (nor did Nellie). Obviously it was convenient for me not to, so in all honesty there was probably some intentional forgetting going on there!

It's something I'd certainly be up for talking more seriously about – especially as longer-term it means Nellie will start subsidising me when she becomes Mrs. Super-high-flyer human rights lawyer extraordinaire, while I'm still pretending people care about my well-meaning Facebook campaigns.

"We each had £15,000 in savings, but our parents also gave us £50,000 each."

How did you buy the flat?

Nellie: We each had £15,000 in savings, but our parents also gave us £50,000 each. We bought in East London, because that’s where we were living before and we really liked the area. Nial in particular was keen to stay there as that’s where lots of our friends live. We could have got more space if we’d gone slightly further north.

The only time we had an argument was before we completed on the flat. Nial asked me, ‘Are we messing up here by taking so much money from our parents? Should we actually just be buying somewhere further out with just our money?’ We could have found a flat for £330,000, but it wouldn’t have been in the same location.

"There’s hypocrisy in standing for some of the principles I do, then swallowing up money from my parents like it’s nothing."

I got really annoyed, because he was the one that had set the higher limit on our budget and wanted to live in Zone 2 in East London in the first place. I didn’t understand why this had only come up once the flat was in the bag. It felt frustrating that we didn’t properly consider living somewhere more within our means.

If I’m totally honest, the £50,000 I was given was sitting on a plate for us and I was happy to accept it. My parents had said ages ago that they had money to help me buy a flat and it was something they wanted to do. I was quite relaxed about taking it.

One of the reasons the conversation with Nial became more confrontational was because I was having to challenge myself. It made me realise that there’s hypocrisy in standing for some of the principles I do, then swallowing up money from my parents like it’s nothing.

"He’d like to think that he was someone who would live his beliefs, and having an unfair advantage above someone else conflicts with what he believes in."

So accepting the money has conflicted with both our morals a bit. It’s a huge amount of money to have taken. Though we’re both very, very grateful, it just puts you in a position that some people could never be in. Nial works in charity and I work in immigration law, so we both have types of work where you’re constantly thinking about those things.

I think there were points where you felt it more, Nial. He said he’d like to think that he was someone who would live his beliefs, and having an unfair advantage above someone else conflicts with what he believes in.


Want to share your story? Email us at [email protected] with a bit about yourselves and your relationship with money. If we interview you, we'll give you £25 each to put towards a date night. And if you’d rather stay anonymous, we can change your names ❤️

If you're thinking of managing money with your partner, open a joint account with Monzo!