Love & Other Funds is a monthly PiggyVest series that explores how Nigerians are spending, thinking, and dealing with money in their relationships — romantic or otherwise.
Blessing Abeng-Uwem and Uwem Uwemakpan met in 2010, while they were undergraduates at Covenant University, and became best friends. Nine years later, they got married.
For Love & Other Funds, they talk about how their 9-year long friendship influenced their approach to money, planning a ₦2 million wedding, and how they avoid conflicts in their marriage.
How did you two meet?
Uwem: We met in 2010 through our mutual friends, while we were undergraduates at Covenant University.
Blessing: We were friends for a very long time, and we never had any romantic inclination towards each other. It was a normal friendship.
Uwem: Actually, she was my guy, my wingman.
Blessing: I was friendzoned from the very beginning, and so was he.
When did things change?
Blessing: One day in 2016, we attended this really cute dinner for a group of 10. He had invited me as his plus one because he didn’t have a girlfriend. We hung out regularly — saw movies together, visited restaurants, went sightseeing — so this was normal.
I was the youngest person at the event. It was a gathering of C-level executives, and everybody had something to say, but somehow, I wasn’t intimidated by all of that.
Uwem: I feel like my eyes got clear at that event. She’s smart, she’s my friend, she knows me, she understands my struggles, and she ticks all the boxes I had in my head. We’d grown together, literally, from scrawny young people into understanding what we actually wanted to do with our lives. It just made sense. You know how the Bible will say the veil was torn off? That was what happened.
Blessing: The way he put it to me was that he wondered why he was stressing himself and looking everywhere else, when what he was looking for was right here.
One thing he’d always said was that he wanted to date someone he’d be able to build with, and that’s something I also wanted, but we never imagined it with each other until that day. He asked me out that evening, and in about a month, we started dating. That’s how we got here, married and stuff.
Would you say you had similar financial backgrounds prior to the relationship?
Uwem: Yes, we were definitely from very similar financial backgrounds
Blessing: I agree. Very similar.
Do you remember when money became a thing in the relationship?
Uwem: I don’t think money ever became a thing in that sense, or maybe I don’t remember because the relationship was very interlinked with our friendship.
Blessing: The fact that we were friends was really helpful. There were times on my birthday, when he’d just send me money to buy cake for myself or something, and this was when we were still friends. As friends, we confided in each other frequently, and I felt comfortable sharing my highs and lows. There were times I would message him and talk about being broke or just give him random financial gist, like when I was scammed in Lagos. [Laughs].
Uwem: Remember when you just started working in Lagos, and I’d send money randomly for your transportation.
Blessing: Yes, sometimes, he would just send me money and label it “your transport money for the week.” You always looked out for me, which was really nice.
Uwem: We always looked out for each other. She used to return the gesture, too. One day she came to my office, picked my car, and went to service and paint it.
Blessing:. Yeah, I remember that! I thought he would really like it because every time we saw a matte black car, he would get so excited. So I had a guy come pick it up, service it, wash the engine and repaint it.
That’s so sweet.
Uwem: We had drama after that, though.
Blessing: Yeah, it was so dramatic. It was a good and a bad gift because it ended up costing more money; water got into places it wasn’t supposed to get into.
Blessing: I know! Generally speaking though, I think that because we started as friends and grew into being best friends, it was very easy to talk about money in the relationship.
Uwem: And when we were friends, we used to talk about our previous relationships and the things we didn’t want to deal with anymore, so we understood each other well.
Blessing: We had moments when we would hang out, and we knew the specific amount we had to spend. Nobody was ever responsible for paying more than the other because we were friends and we didn’t have any expectations.
Somehow, that sort of transitioned into our relationship, where we know that we have his money, my money and our money. Same for investments. We’re actually pretty organised. Wow.
Uwem: It’s actually because of you.
Is that your favourite trait about her?
Uwem: Yes. There’s a level of order with how she manages finances. If there’s anybody that knows how to manage and calculate money, it’s Blessing. I work in the money industry, but I don’t know anybody who does it better than her. She’s always budgeting. Also, she always emphasises the importance of enjoying the present.
Blessing: While I’m better with money, he’s very future-driven. So if he has a certain amount of money right now, he’s going to figure out how to preserve that money for the future because he doesn’t want us to be stuck next year. I get it, but in my mind, there’s now and we should not die now because we’re trying to save for next year. It helps because we balance each other out. We save, we invest, we enjoy… same energy.
But how did you get this good with managing money?
Blessing: My father was really intentional about our upbringing. When we were younger, he would make us read books like Rich Dad, Poor Dad and discuss it as a family. My dad had an experience where he built a business, lost it all, and re-built it from scratch. That put an unconscious fear in my head that there was a possibility of losing all the money I was making. So, I took savings and investments seriously to protect my money and hedge for the future. As I grew, I got rid of my fear, became intentional, and developed a robust philosophy about money, which Uwem and I both seem to be aligned on.
Tell me about that.
Blessing: I tweeted something a while ago about how people talk a lot about investment portfolios and building assets, but we don’t talk enough about experience portfolios. Experiences widen your eyes. You don’t know when you’re going to die, and you keep hoping that when you retire is when you’re going to go on vacation. But nobody knows if they’ll make it to retirement age. Would you have missed out on all your experiences? Would you have worked hard and just paid bills?
I’m a big advocate for investing in experiences. Save first before you spend, yes, and ensure next year is fine with plans like insurance. After settling those things, though, the next question should be: How can I reward myself for a job well done? So even if I don’t have money after the experience, I know that I have investments and savings, so I’ll be fine. Find little ways to enjoy yourself and make yourself happy. Reward yourself for your hard work after you have saved and invested. You can live for now and the future, they don’t have to be mutually exclusive — just don’t be too excessive on either.
Uwem: And the thing I’ve noticed is that as we grow older and meet people, it’s actually the experiences that you talk about the most, especially when people don’t want to talk about work. Experiences eventually define you. They give you balance beyond the monotony of work and home. From experiences, you meet friends and build conversations.
Blessing: We’ve always been big on experiences, right from our time as friends. It’s just that now, we’re a bit more intentional about it.
Uwem: And to add, it doesn’t even have to be expensive. There were times when we would go for late night movies in Yaba.
Blessing: Or road trips!
Uwem: I’ll never do road trips again, but it was such an experience. We had one road trip from Lagos to Port Harcourt to Calabar, and the stories are plenty. We even went to the Calabar Carnival together.
So what’s been the most expensive experience?
Uwem: Most of the experiences that are tied to travel. And expensive is so relative. The very first time we went to Tanzania, when I look back at it, it was so cheap. But at the time, we were squeezing money from our pockets.
Blessing: I can mention a couple of things we’ve done that have cost quite a lot. The hour-long private helicopter ride was something! It wasn’t expensive, but it was a luxury.
Uwem: The dinner in the sky also wasn’t cheap.
Dinner in the sky? God when?
Uwem: The interesting part of some of these experiences is that they are surprises. So one person goes through the struggle of saving and planning, then the other person shows up and is blown away. The experiences that make us save together are probably travel-related because of all the logistics around that. She also has expensive taste, so places I could survive in, she’s like nah.
Blessing: Well, why should you be surviving on a holiday?
How do you save towards those travel expenses?
Blessing: Upfront, we have a percentage of our personal income that goes towards experiences. Sometimes, we go over that percentage, but we’ll still pay for it and make sacrifices by cutting down on other things — eating out or other personal things.
Uwem: Let me paint a hypothetical situation. Let’s assume it’s Valentine’s Day next week, but because she’s planning something big for my birthday, if she’s spread too thin, she’ll let me know in advance without revealing her surprise that my birthday gift will be bigger than my vals gift. Then, she’ll buy something smaller for Valentine’s Day. In the end, we’re always on the same page about it.
Blessing: If we wanted to travel next month, for instance, we would’ve been planning for it two to three months prior. We either know the cost we’re working with and use that to determine where we’re travelling to, or we have a place we want to travel to and save towards that cost. We try not to save blindly, so we’re always saving towards an asset or an experience.
Uwem: And to be honest, saving together on PiggyVest very early on in the relationship was a huge advantage.
Were you also aligned on the kind of wedding you wanted?
Blessing: When he proposed to me, we had a very serious conversation to be sure he was okay with a small wedding, and he said he was. I told him that by small wedding, I meant 100 people or less.
Uwem: You even said you were going to get married on a plane, so that there’d be fewer people and it’d be very short.
Blessing: Yes. Just the flight to Abuja and we’d be done. [Laughs]
Uwem: But we still pulled off one of the best ceremonies ever. I can go back to my wedding day and do it again. It was amazing, and everyone who came enjoyed themselves.
Blessing: So we ended up with a wedding of 100 people. It was short and very curated. We only spent ₦2 million of our own cash.
Woah. How did you do that?
Uwem: We always knew we wanted a small wedding. It just fits our personalities better to have the people who are closest to us there, rather than a huge crowd that we can’t connect with. We both prefer more intimate settings, and we like to be in control of things.
Plus, we really wanted to create an experience that we could always look back on and be proud of. We’ve heard from some friends who had big weddings and still had a lot of complaints and issues. One of them even had their money stolen.
We didn’t want our wedding to be about pleasing our parents or anyone else, we wanted it to be about us and the memories we’ll cherish forever.
Blessing: We settled on a budget of ₦2 million because it didn’t make sense to spend too much on one event when we could use that money for something else. The higher the amount, the more numbers you’ll have to crunch, and the more vendors you’ll have to pay. Instead,we focused on the experience we wanted to curate.
As a businesswoman, I decided to explore the possibility of getting sponsors for the wedding, instead of doing everything for the wedding ourselves.
That’s new. How did that work?
Blessing: That’s something we were brave about. I also leaned into my knowledge as a branding and communications professional. We wrote sponsorship letters and pitches to companies to sponsor or partner with us on some of the items at the wedding.
We had personalised gifts for all our guests. One of the gifts we gave were small succulent plants to our friends who love plants. We also had fresh flowers on every single table (that was a non-negotiable for us), so we pitched a sponsorship package to the company, and they agreed and sponsored the gifts. Someone else gifted us all the fresh flowers at our wedding which we also got at a discount based on a sponsorship package,
Uwem: Even the drinks we had were supplied from a sponsorship pitch.
Blessing: Then, we also contracted many parts of the wedding to our friends and put their businesses front and centre. Of course, we didn’t exploit any of them, but as opposed to hiring the biggest vendors for the wedding, we decided to use the people who love us, and we paid them the amount they asked us for.
For some of them, it was their first wedding gig, but we already knew they were great at what they did. The makeup artist was my friend, and she didn’t want anything. The photographer was also my friend. Even the Rolls Royce that brought us to the wedding was a gift from a friend. We felt so loved, and surrounded with people who loved us.
We had just one person each on our wedding train, and we stuck to our guest list of 100. The invitations were personalised, and we had to add the reason we were inviting them. So if we couldn’t find a reason to invite someone, we didn’t.
Blessing: The wedding was held on a Friday evening, so another hack was that we didn’t tell external vendors that it was a wedding. Many of them knew afterwards, but they had already invoiced us, so they couldn’t charge us more. We used a space that we really loved, a restaurant, surrounded by art and music. They, too, didn’t know it was a wedding initially.
Uwem: After the formal joining, there was the Bund party afterwards. Not everyone who made the list of 100 for the formal joining knew about the after party. The reception was Bring-Your-Own-Booze, and we had chests filled with drinks.
That’s so interesting. The first couple I interviewed complained about price hikes from vendors once they knew it was a wedding
Blessing: We guessed that would happen. The morning of the wedding, I walked into salons to get my nails done, and I had it done at the standard price. We were just trying to stay true to who we were.
Interesting. How did you convince your parents to go on with 100 guests at the wedding?
Uwem: The traditional wedding was technically our parents’ wedding. We let them have their way there with the agreement that we’ll have our way with the other parts of the wedding.
Blessing: We also gave our parents very specific numbers of invitations, and we told them that each person’s name was on the table, and if they gave their invites to someone else, the bouncers didn’t know the parents of the bride.
Then, after the wedding, I got a lot of enquiries about the planning of the wedding, so I asked people to pre-order my minimalist wedding guide. I hadn’t even started writing it. About 100 people pre-ordered for about ₦5k which inspired me to eventually get to work on it. When it came out, more people bought both e-copies and hard copies. Even companies reached out to buy for people.
Woah! What was the most expensive thing at the wedding?
Blessing: The venue. It was a little over ₦300k, and it was because it came with drinks and food.
What’s the most thoughtful gift you guys have given each other?
Uwem: All of our gifts are thoughtful, but the car revamp is at the top of the list because it wasn’t a typical gift. Then, there’s the Xbox gift. After we moved, I mentioned needing an Xbox, but due to Covid and supply chain problems, there were none available.
Suddenly, an Xbox was delivered to our house, which was a pleasant surprise. I also appreciate the Apple Watch, which arrived when my previous one was not working well. I had started working out and wanted to take my fitness seriously, and the new Apple Watch was just perfect for that purpose. I also remember one time she gifted me SOL and ETH. It was so unexpected, and I loved the thought behind it.
Blessing: My favourite gift to him was when I made him search for his gifts by giving him clues. I made him look for 14 gifts, and it gave me so much joy to watch him search for them. He started the task at midnight and was super stressed.
One of my favourite gifts from him is my new phone. I had left my phone by my bedside to sleep, and around midnight, he called me. When I tried to pick it up, I realised it was a new phone, and he had already migrated everything to the new device. That was definitely one of the best gifts. Then, there was a time he gifted me Apple stocks; I loved it so much.
Uwem: She spoils me, I spoil her, and it’s never an issue. Sometimes, she goes above and beyond, and I have to remind her that we’re on a budget. But in the end, it never feels like one is doing so much and not getting back.
Do you guys have financial-related fights?
Blessing: Not a fight per se, but I remember when I lost my ring and I hadn’t insured it. That was a serious one.
Uwem: It was weird. She just jumped up and ran out of the house because a friend called her. So I was upset and freaking out about the way she ran out of the house. Then she came back, and she’d lost her ring.
Blessing: He gave me a new one though, exactly the same as the old one. Actually, that’s one of my favourite gifts from him. It took us two years to find it again because it had gone out of production, and the maker had gone out of business due to Covid. It was a struggle, but we managed to make it happen.
Uwem: Generally, her fights with me are usually because she thinks I’m too frugal. I tend to be more conservative and think more about the big picture, while she focuses more on day-to-day experiences, while still ensuring we save and invest..
Talking about fights, is there any process you go through to resolve them?
Blessing: One of the things we learnt by reflecting was that we were not finishing our conversations. We would talk about things, but never come to a resolution. We also realised we weren’t giving each other what the other party needed.
Now we make sure to address what needs to be done and how we’ll do it, always keeping in mind each other’s love languages. That’s how we resolve our conflicts.
That’s profound. What’s something financial you’re hoping to do for each other?
Blessing: We want to buy a house for each other in a foreign country.
Congrats in advance. How are you structuring your lives and finances to achieve that?
Blessing: We are both increasing our earning power and actively seeking new ways to increase passive income, which is a crucial aspect of our financial strategy.
Uwem: Another thing we’re working on is being intentional about building and maintaining our friendships, offering value to our individual networks because we know that the quality of our connections can impact the kind of business opportunities we come across. Along with that, we’re learning more about real estate and potential investment opportunities.