Money in love: Craig & Nichola

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Through stories from real-life couples, Money in Love aims to start honest 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 Craig & Nichola  

This week we meet Yorkshire couple Craig and Nichola. Since Nichola moved from her home in Malta to build a life with Craig in the UK, the couple have been sharing their joint income equally. But with Craig earning more than twice as much, Nichola has had to wrestle with guilty feelings about spending money she hasn’t earned. 

But she’s recently come into some inheritance, and the couple are debating how they’ll spend that money as they begin to share their lives together. 

Money in Love Nichola and Craig 1

How did you meet? 

Craig: When we were teenagers we both used to play the same online game. We struck it up as friends, added each other on Facebook and were good internet friends for quite a while. Nichola’s from Malta.

Nichola: We always talked about visiting each other, but it never really happened. 

Craig: She decided on a whim to come visit me, after we’d known each other for about 10 years. We hit it off and it turned into a long distance relationship for just over a year, before she moved over here.  

Nichola: With my cat, most importantly! His name is Polo. He looks like a cow, which was a selling point for me. I adopted him four years back. He’s black and white and is a British Shorthair mix. He’s my baby.

Tell us about your jobs.

Nichola: Before I moved here I used to work in special education, teaching literacy in schools. But I’ve always loved anything horticulture based: growing vegetables, flowers, propagating, anything natural is my thing. 

When I moved here I wanted to align my career more with something that I enjoy doing. But I needed a job, so I found one similar to what I did back home while studying to get credentials in horticulture. 

Craig: We’re getting married in February next year and we’ve got a lot to save up for the wedding. We’re putting away £1,280 a month, so we thought it would be difficult if Nichola handed in her notice. 

But I track our finances and forecast how much money we’re going to have at any particular time in the future. I took out Nichola’s income and found it still just about works out. For me, it’s better for Nichola to be happy in herself. 

How do you manage money together? 

Craig: I’m more involved with the money, probably because I’m that way inclined. It’s my personality. I like to keep track of things and see what we’re spending and how much we can afford. 

Obviously I earn more than Nichola. I know a lot of couples tend to keep their finances quite separate, where they each pay half of the rent/mortgage and bills, and keep whatever is left. But I’ve never been comfortable doing it that way. 

We’re living a life together, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable knowing I have more disposable income than the person I’m sharing my life with. So we pool all our money together when we get paid and ring fence what we need for the bills and mortgage. Then we halve whatever’s left. 

Nichola: It used to freak me out in the beginning. I used to feel like it wasn’t fair that most things come out of his bank account and that I needed to be putting in more. It made me feel uncomfortable. I felt bad that everything he worked hard to earn would go into the house and I could only contribute a small bit of it. But he’s stubborn, and doesn’t want it any other way. 

Do you feel more comfortable now? 

Nichola: I’ve become used to it. I guess it’s the realisation that if I gave 50% I probably wouldn’t be able to cover everything with my pay because it’s quite low. I always feel like I should be giving more. 

He pays for things more than I do, but I try and compensate for it by doing things around the house to square it up. I don’t feel like I have to, I want to. And it’s more for me than for him. I feel more comfortable knowing I’m putting in an equal amount of work. 

I wouldn’t know how else I’d pay it off to you. I feel awkward about it. I feel guilty, really.

Craig: If we were to have a child and one of us stayed at home to look after it, then we’d just split the remaining income. Or if Nichola were to get a job that paid twice as much as what I earn, then we’d probably still maintain the same practice of paying the bills and then sharing what’s left. 

It’s not about me giving money to Nichola so she can share my lifestyle. It’s very much: this is what we earn together and we can spend the same amount together too.

Nichola: It’s just a difficult concept for me to understand because that mentality isn’t one you encounter often nowadays. I think people are more geared towards thinking, “this is mine and this is yours. This is what you owe, this is what I owe.”

Craig: If I’m brutally honest, and I don’t know if I’ve said this before, if it was the other way round I’d probably feel the same as you. You almost feel like you’re indebted to someone else.      

Nichola: Yeah, that’s it I guess. 

Nichola, does this setup make you feel differently about buying things for yourself? 

Nichola: I’m not a big shopping freak to be honest. Usually if I buy stuff, it tends to be for Craig anyway. I’ll be like, “Oh my god, your shoes are horrific” and I’ll buy him a new pair. I don’t spend on clothing much, I tend to buy stuff for the house or the garden. 

How did you decide that Nichola would be the one to move to the UK? 

Nichola: I persuaded him not to move to Malta. There’s a big difference in salaries and the cost of living back home. His job pays better than one back home would. Renting and life is too expensive there. It would be harder to live comfortably.

Craig: It was definitely a conversation we had. We made a pros and cons list weighing up things like family, friends, lifestyle and house prices. But it wasn’t an easy decision. 

Nichola: I do miss my family and friends. But now when I go back to visit, I’m excited to go back. I’m settled now: we have a house, an allotment, chickens and my cat. I think we made a good decision!

Can you talk me through what your plans are for the inheritance? 

Craig: It’s not something we expected to have to deal with anytime soon. But unfortunately we had to because of the circumstances.

Basically, any income we have, whether it’s a salary or bonus, we decided that we’d share. But anything that’s a gift from friends or family – and an inheritance comes into that box – that’s for us to keep.

Nichola: Naturally I want us to be able to make the most of it. I’m not going to say, “hands off, this is mine!” But I think the decision making is a bit more in my hands than yours. 

Craig: I wouldn’t expect to see anything of it. If you were to put it towards the house or anything that would mutually benefit us, I’d probably feel a bit guilty. 

Nichola: Oh the guilty feeling again!. We haven’t had to make any decisions yet because it’s still in the process. We talked about putting it towards the mortgage, to save the interest.

Have you ever argued about money? 

Craig: A couple of weeks ago Nichola told me that she’d spent a lot of money. When I asked her what she’d done, she said she’d bought some face cream for £400. To me, the very idea that you can spend £400 on face cream is completely outrageous. 

Nichola: Yes I know, but I want nice skin for our wedding! So I thought I’d try it out. I’m not someone who normally spends money on this kind of thing. But me skin makes me feel uncomfortable, so I thought, why not try it out?

Craig: My knee jerk reaction was, “Oh my god how can you spend so much money on a load of marketing crap?!” But I’m not one to judge, because a few years ago I spent £1,000 on a pair of pedals for my bike.

We also had a disagreement when you wanted to buy some furniture for the house. I checked the spreadsheet and it said we couldn’t afford it. 

Nichola: It just made me unhappy because I wanted to finish the front room. But it seems like you won the argument, for the obvious reasons of logic and finance!

What are your financial goals as a couple? 

Craig: We intend to overpay the mortgage as much as we can. I think the earliest we could have it paid off is in about 13 years. But we said we’d start doing that as soon as we moved in, and I think I massively underestimated how many additional things like furniture we’d be buying.

Nichola: I’d like us to build up a rainy day pot again. 

And then I’d like a leisure pot. I’d like us to be able to do more stuff and go out more. We’re happy to stay at home, watch a movie with some popcorn, spend the afternoon at the allotment on a nice day or go for a walk. But it would be nice to go out for dinner on a whim without worrying about the money. We’ll be able to do that more after the wedding. 

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