Dating in Benin on a ₦400k Income


The topic of how young Nigerians navigate romantic relationships with their earnings is a minefield of hot takes. In our Love Currency series, we get into what relationships across income brackets look like in different Nigerian cities.

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Among the things Douglas* wished for on his 24th birthday, finding love was not one of them. When he met Susie* in 2021, everything seemed right even though she’s an unemployed student. But she agreed to date him if he promised not to treat her as his dependant. Read their #LoveCurrency below.

Occupation and location 

Photographer in Benin City.

Average monthly income 

₦400k most times. But in a good month, it could go as high as ₦700k – ₦800k. 

Monthly bills and recurring expenses

Rent: ₦100k (annually)

Food: ₦60k – ₦70k. He‘s too busy to cook, so he mostly orders food.

Data: ₦25k. About ₦6k data subscription a week with night plans to help with the heavy downloading.

Fuel: ₦30k

Tithe: 10% of his income, so it varies. ₦40k – ₦80k

Black tax: About ₦15k. His younger sister gets at least ₦10k every month.

Friends: ₦5k – ₦10k. Every month, he picks a random friend he thinks needs financial assistance and gifts them. 

Savings: Whatever is left. ₦200k – ₦300k; sometimes, less.

How did you meet your girlfriend?

On my birthday in November last year [2021]. A mutual friend posted my picture, and Susie sent them a voice note wishing me a happy birthday, which they forwarded to me. I asked for her contact after that. 

Just like that? 

Yes. We were in the same department in the university. When I was in my final year, she was in her 100 level, so I didn’t know her. But at that time, she was in 300 level. 

When I decided to go to school for clearance in December [2021], I hoped to see her. But for some reason, she was in Lagos. So I decided to visit Lagos to meet her. 

God, when will somebody travel for me?

LOL. We started dating in January, a few weeks after my visit. 

Just like that? 

Yeah, we both knew what we wanted, so there was no need to waste time. 

Were you based in Benin at the time?

I was serving in Ibadan, Oyo state. She visited me twice in Ibadan then I went to Benin for Valentine’s Day. We didn’t see again until I moved to Benin after NYSC. 

How much went into the relationship things while you were in Ibadan 

Not much, tbh. I didn’t know anywhere interesting in Ibadan, so we spent most of our time indoors. The only expense was food — between ₦4k – ₦5k per day for both of us. 

When we met in Benin, it was a bit different. I had to budget for accommodation, feeding, transportation, and we even went on a date. Between ₦5k for two movie tickets, ₦10k per night at a hotel and feeding, I didn’t spend up to ₦40k for two days together.

You’re both in Benin now. Has anything changed? 

We spend more time together, but it’s still mostly indoors because I’m a homebody and always busy. When we’re not chilling at home and ordering in, we go for movies and lunch after. That usually costs about ₦20k tops. 

You mentioned Valentine’s Day 

I got her a curated Valentine’s box that cost about ₦20k. 

I’m not proud of it, but gifts are never top of my mind. Sometimes, I send her food and chocolates. I even got a menstrual care kit for her once; that was about ₦30k. I usually just send money. She’s always complaining about it, so I’m trying to do better. 

Do you send her money a lot? 

Not a lot. ₦15k here, ₦20k there. The highest I’ve sent was ₦40k when she resumed school after they called off the ASUU strike. She’s not the most receptive to cash gifts. When we started dating, she was very uncomfortable with taking money from me. She’d always say things like she wasn’t telling me about being broke because she wanted me to send her money. She made sure I understood and accepted that she had nothing to bring to the relationship in terms of financial support. But she was also very clear that she had her father and siblings, so I shouldn’t think of her as my dependant.

So it’s safe to say you have conversations about money? 

Yes, always. I know how much is in her account most of the time because she tells me when money comes in. And since I get paid according to the number of images I edit, we usually do the calculations together. That way, she knows how much I earn every month. 

That’s very nice. What would an ideal financial future look like for both of you? 

When we both have enough money to afford vacations together. She’s intentional when she surprises me with gifts. So I already know when she starts cashing out from product and fashion design, our relationship will be sweeter. 

Do you have a financial safety net? 

I have this account that I use for my savings. I can’t transfer or withdraw from it, so there’s less temptation to touch the money. It’s about ₦1m at the moment. I’m also part of an annual saving scheme, and I have about ₦300k there. And yes, I bought $50k one time. That one is just sitting somewhere. 

In general, I think I’ve done pretty well for myself.

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