Monzo
11 Apr 2019

Money in Love: Claire & Mike

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 Mike & Claire

This week, we speak to Claire & Mike, a 40-something couple who live in Nottingham and run ethical budgeting blog The Frugal Family. The couple tell us why they include their four children - aged nine, eight, five and three - in conversations about their finances.


Name: Claire 
Age: 43
Location: Nottingham 
Job
Ethical budgeting and wellbeing expert 
Together for? 26 years
Describe Mike: Generous, thoughtful, unattached 
Biggest purchase? £105,000 on a derelict house, spent £30,000 doing it up 
Biggest spending regret? Having a cleaner before kids when it wasn’t necessary
Guilty pleasures? Books

Name: Mike 
Age: 44
Location: Nottingham 
Job: Technical director at a building services consultancy
Together for? 26 years
Describe Claire: Frugal, considered and savings 
Biggest purchase? £105,000 on a derelict house, spent £30,000 doing it up 
Biggest spending regret? That we didn’t spend more money on paving the garden 
Guilty pleasures? Buying my lunch everyday

How do you manage money together?

Mike: We’ve always done it in the same way, where it all goes into one account and it’s not ‘his’ or ‘hers’ money. Even before we had kids, it was family money. To start with, Claire earned more than me. But now that it’s reversed and I’m the one earning most of the money, it’s still the same, it’s joint money.

Claire: Neither of us think money and happiness are related. We got married very young, at 21 and 23, and we didn’t have a honeymoon. We couldn’t afford it and Mike got sent away with the army for six months very soon after our wedding. We’d been together for three years though, so we’d already got used to having time apart. We knew the drill. I wouldn’t have said it was easy by any stretch, but I had two cats so I was OK!

"Mike got sent away with the army for six months very soon after our wedding."

Financially supporting four kids is a huge undertaking, how have you managed it?

Claire: I don’t think you’d have children if you did it on a financial basis. I felt that it couldn’t be just about maths, although obviously it would be silly not to consider that at all. We’ve had to buy a bigger car.

"I don’t think you’d have children if you did it on a financial basis."

Mike: And we had to buy an extension which cost about £42,000. We had three bedrooms with four kids, so that was never going to work. And we wanted to live here forever, because we’d moved around so much.

Claire: Everything is times by four. While other parents say it’s marvellous that the soft play area near us is only £1, it’s £4 for me. And of course, our food bill is a bit higher than it could be. We spend about £85 a week on groceries if it’s just the six of us with no visitors. But when I speak to other people I realise that’s not so ridiculous. We meal plan and don’t have store cupboards full of things. If we get snowed in, we’re done!

"We involve the kids a lot in our financial decisions, because I think it’s important that children are money savvy."

Do you talk about money with your kids?

Claire: We involve the kids a lot in our financial decisions, because I think it’s important that children are money savvy. I don’t want them to worry about it and take on adult issues, but I do want them to be able to make choices about what’s a good way to spend money and what’s not.

One day our son got quite worried and said he wouldn’t go on his school trip because we didn’t have the money. And I said, “We do have the money. We just like to think carefully about where we spend it, and that school trip seems like a really good way to spend it. You can’t spend it on Haribos, that would not be a good way to spend it.” It’s about helping them learn what things cost and where money comes from.

There are things they don’t get that their friends do. But I suspect even if we had unlimited money, they still wouldn’t have a phone each, which is more about our thoughts on phones than our financial status.

Mike: We’ve tried to teach them that it’s not about not spending money, it’s about spending it on the important things you want to spend it on.

"We were going to spend all this money on stuff we didn’t feel great love for, and fill the house with more shit. It felt all wrong."

What kinds of decisions do you involve them in?

Claire: Last Christmas, I was writing lists and found myself feeling stressed because we were just buying stuff because we felt we should. The kids were just telling us stuff they wanted because we’d asked. But there was nothing they particularly needed or felt strongly about. We were going to spend all this money on stuff we didn’t feel great love for, and fill the house with more shit. It felt all wrong.

So we said to the children, “We’ve got this sum of money and we’d be happy to spend it on presents, or we could do something else with it instead. We want your input.” My daughter asked if it was enough to go on holiday. We found a place for £10 more than the money we had, and so that’s what we did. We didn’t buy the kids any presents and we went away for a week over New Year. They were entirely happy with that. They had presents from their grandparents and we still had stockings. It was lovely, and I don’t feel we missed out in any way.

Mike: They enjoyed being somewhere new on holiday as much as they would have enjoyed a new toy they’d play with for a couple of hours. It’s about spending time with each other, rather than just getting stuff. We’ve asked the kids if they’d like to do it again this year and look at booking somewhere, and they’ve all said they’d rather do that.

Claire: I don’t want to give them financial responsibility or anything like that, there’s a fine line. But what we choose to do as adults has an impact on them, and I value their input.


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!

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