Money in Love: Russell & Richard

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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 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 Russell & Richard 

Everyone brings baggage to a relationship. But what if it consists of thousands of pounds of debt? When Manchester-based couple Russell and Richard first met, Russell owed a total of £16,000 on credit cards after gambling at uni. 

Three years of careful budgeting later, the couple are finally about to pay off the £21,000 of debt they had between them. They tell us how they’ve done it, why they see themselves as a team and how they plan to celebrate being debt free.

Russell and Richard

How did you end up in debt Russell? 

Russell: Before I went to uni I worked for Ladbrokes, the high street bookies. I got into horse racing, slot machines, roulette and things like that. It’s an easy way to lose money very quickly. I carried on gambling while at uni and ended up with around £16,000 worth of debt. It’s still a bit of a vice now, but not to the same degree. 

It’s stunted both of our long term savings because both our salaries go into the same pot and we’ve been paying the debt off together. Rich had a little bit of debt, but mine was a lot larger.

Richard: Mine was about £5,000.

Russell: We’re now about two months away from being debt free. I think it’s a big achievement. 

How have you been paying off your debts?

Russell: The budget we came up with has been pivotal. We’ve used this plan every single month for around three years. And it’s kept us in check because we’ve known exactly what’s going out. Every month we pay off around £1,460 of debt. The budget is as follows: 

  • £4,871 Household income, after tax 

  • £1,200 Rent 

  • £354 Bills, utilities, phones, Spotify etc. 

  • £900 Russell’s spending money 

  • £900 Richard’s spending money 

  • £50 Emergency savings

  • £1,466 Paying off debt 

How did you decide to pay off your debts together?

Richard: We’ve been engaged for three years. When we made that commitment to each other, we needed to move forward as a couple. 

It’d be silly if say, I wanted to go for dinner one night and Russell couldn’t come because he was paying off his credit card. The debt affects both our lives, so we’ve decided that we’re in this together. We’re a team, and one can’t move forward without the other. So, even though we officially paid off my debt a year ago, we still see it as joint income and joint debt. 

How did you get engaged?

Richard: We went on holiday to Venice and were both planning to propose but didn’t know the other one was going to! 

When I told my mum I was going to propose she sounded disappointed, because Russell had already spoken to her. She told me to do it on the second night, because unbeknown to me she’d told Russell to do it on the second night as well.

When the night came it was raining. In the end I proposed first, because Russell had decided to wait for better weather! But a couple of minutes later he said, “I’ve got something to ask you as well.”

Russell: I was incredibly shocked, because Richard had always said he wanted to be proposed to. 

It was funny, I had no idea! The rings we got each other are slightly different but we both think they are perfect. 

Richard: Mine wouldn’t suit you and yours wouldn’t suit me. 

Have you made any plans for the wedding yet? 

Richard: We’ve got our sensible hats on. 

Russell: We’ve got clear, long-term financial goals. The first big milestone is clearing these credit cards, the next is to save up for a deposit on a house. And then we’re going to save money for a wedding. Both the deposit and the wedding are very expensive. And at first we disagreed on which was more important. 

Richard: I wanted to do the wedding first because my background’s in events. After managing so many weddings, I had such a clear idea of what I wanted mine to be. I was like, “What do you mean, we’re waiting 10 years?!” But as we’ve gotten older and spoken more about it, I can see the house is more important. 

Russell: A lot of people are moving to Manchester from all around the country, especially from London. I think house prices are just going to go up, so it’s important to get on that ladder as soon as we can.

How are you going to celebrate once you’ve cleared off your debts? 

Russell: We’ll probably take the almost £1,500 a month that we’re currently setting aside for debt and go holiday. We fancy a trip to Greece to celebrate paying everything off. 

Richard: We’re going to upgrade from the flat we’re currently renting as well. The place we want is an extra £300 a month, but we’ll still have £700-800 a month to put towards the deposit. 

Russell: We’d also like to increase the allowance that we give each other for spending. It’ll be nice to go out a bit more. We both earn good salaries, but we’ve never spent it on ourselves because of this debt. Life is going to feel completely different and so much better once it’s been paid off. 

Want to share your story? Email us at 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 ❤️

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