These Nairobi Streets

A friend recently informed me that I am very expensive to date. In his considered view, I have high expectations and high standards. He imagines that I will only go to top tier restaurants and desire expensive gifts. My love of travel adds significantly to the cost even if the interested suitor only had to pay for himself. This unfair attack 😊 got me thinking about dating and money. I have many questions but first, let’s start with “do you quantify how much money you spend on dating or is this guy just extreme”?

I have strong opinions about dating and money, but the blog is not only about my views. Therefore, I went out on these Nairobi streets to find out what you all think about dating and money. I’ve talked to many people through interviews and group discussions; male, female, young, mature, affluent, and those just starting financially. The opinions are as varied as the participants, but we agree on a few things you should know when you start dating.

While dating, what can you talk about comfortably when it comes to money?

Money is a sensitive topic, even without bringing emotions into it. There’s a lot of discomfort and secrecy regarding finances in conversations with your employer or banker, let alone your family, friends or dates. Money is one of those taboo topics, yet such a necessary conversation to check for compatibility. We have reservations for various reasons ranging from a fear of control, judgement, intimidation, gold-diggers or unnecessary “harping” about our financial choices. The majority agree to discuss finances only when things are serious: thinking about moving in together or getting married. A brave few were willing to talk about salaries and financial goals but not their net worth while dating.

While finances are one of those avoided topics, my advice is to learn as much as you can from your date’s spending habits, even if you’re not comfortable talking about money. Ask questions like what they spend their money on, their financial goals, their last expensive purchase and how they planned for it. The objective is not to gauge their net worth (although I know some of you will try) but to pick out any flags in spending habits.

Who pays the bills on date night?

As expected, this one caused a lot of debate. Some thought the man should always pay, and others were okay with splitting the bill. I know, I know. This is a very controversial and emotive question. Paying the bills is considered modern-day chivalry and we judge a man who fails to do so harshly. If you can’t pay for dates, how can you provide for a family? On the other side of it, women are becoming more independent and want to carry their weight. They won’t start paying right off the bat but are more likely to start picking up the tab as the relationship progresses.

Interestingly, women in their 30s and 40s were more willing to split bills and alternately pick up the tab, while those in their 20s and 50s are firmly in the “a man shall provide” club. We didn’t come to a consensus on this one although we proffered ideas that could be acceptable.

  • The guy always pays on the first date
  • The person who invites the other for the date (after the first date) should foot the bill
  • Split the bill or take turns paying the bill
  • Ladies, be considerate when you order
  • Gents, check that you can pay for the most expensive item on the menu before you settle on a location

Who pays the bills when you go out on outings or travel?

Depending on where you sit on the “who pays the bill” divide, you either expect the guy to cover the travel costs, or you will split the costs. Unlike the previous question, respondents were more willing to compromise as these outings cost more than dates. The split is not always fifty-fifty, and there’s a lot of creativity around how much each party pays. Most couples shared costs and would split the costs of transport, accommodation, outings, and food. One lady said she’d pay for her flight and he can pay for everything else. Another would pay for both flights, but he has to take care of everything else. A scant few save together in a joint account, with the majority saving separately and paying the costs as they fall due.

The excellent news here is that you are saving rather than expecting to pay for the entire trip from this month’s earnings. Kudos! When it comes to the split, talk about your expectations. Outings and travel tend to cost more than dates. Compromise.

Does it matter if your girlfriend earns more than you?

I thought this was an easy one and forgive my personal bias here. It’s the 21st Century, after all. However, this question resulted in a  passionate debate. Some of us felt that it didn’t matter so long as each person carries their weight; no one is taking advantage or lording it over the other. Mutual respect and partnership are required regardless of who earns more.

Some of the guys and ladies thought that a guy should always earn more. The argument here was that it is the guy’s responsibility to provide, and when he doesn’t, women tend to disrespect him. One of the guys said, and I quote, “Women are not humble. They’ll pay for one thing, and you’ll never hear the end of it. That single payment will come up in future arguments”.  The ladies felt that providing is how a man expresses love and ladies should date up financially, not down. And you wonder that we won’t bridge the gender pay gap during our lifetime? 🤷🏾‍♀️

What is the etiquette of dating a wealthy person?

Like the previous question, there were a lot of perspectives on this one. The ladies didn’t seem to have an issue with dating a wealthy man except these men can sometimes use their money as a means of control or make the relationship transactional. Wealthy men can be callous, demanding and poorly behaved, assuming their money makes up for everything. On the converse side, ladies should be careful not to be entitled or to come off as gold-diggers.

Most of the participants think a guy dating a wealthier woman is a bad idea. The male ego here can be a barrier, and society can be harsh. You’ll have to navigate the choppy waters when it comes to what friends and families on both sides think. The guy must step up, which can be a good thing, but most will seek to impress by turning to debt and living beyond their means.

If you’re dating someone wealthier than you,

  • Be open about your financial status. Set boundaries, be clear on what you can and cannot afford.
  • Since you cannot compete on money, bring something else to the relationship. It is not a competition, and your date sees something in you that money cannot buy. Focus on that.
  • Don’t budget with their money or their connections.
  • Don’t accept bad behaviour just because they have money.
  • Set limits on gifts. The law of reciprocity does not apply here. If you buy me a car as a gift, please do not expect one from me. The way my bank account is set up…

Should ladies expect the guy to contribute to their living expenses?

When can a lady expect financial support from a guy? Should it be a weekly or monthly stipend or just picking up some bills every so often? Is it expected during the dating stage, or is it something you do when the relationship becomes serious? Should you ask for money or let the guy decide when to start giving you money?

There’s a whole spectrum of expectations here; from the ladies who are satisfied with hair and nails’ contributions to those who expect a monthly stipend. Some ladies have even asked for rent money, new cars, and even funds to start businesses. One respondent said that a lady has direct access to your wallet once she gives you her phone number. When you ask for her number, you can be sure it is correct because she expects an M-Pesa message. Another isn’t averse to receiving money, but she’d rather swallow her tongue before the words can come out of her mouth. She’d rather the man in her life figure out he’s supposed to contribute and do the needful. Another won’t leave her house if you don’t send cab money. Others still will ask for the cab fare and not show up. These Nairobi streets are tricky.

The gents weren’t too happy with this expectation, especially ladies that ask for money immediately they give you a number or mention other men who are giving more money. Some said they know they are supposed to contribute, but they want to pick and choose when to contribute. They don’t appreciate “forward” women who ask before they have even wrapped their head around what and how they want to contribute or worse yet, you’re not even sure you like the lady.

However, the assumption is that men have to provide something if they want to date—no romance without finance. Another frequent adage was “if you’re not paying for it and I look good, someone else is paying for it”. We measure men’s ability to provide, and unfortunately contributing to a woman’s upkeep is considered a part of dating in these Nairobi streets. Watch out for ladies who ask for money too soon or ask for large amounts -this is relative depending on your financial status, so we can’t just put a cap here. You’ll have to decide what is too much for you.

If you’re going to contribute, you can randomly choose to pay for certain things or opt to give a stipend. Gifts are also a great alternative.  A word of advice: stay in your financial lane and don’t create expectations you can’t sustain.

Can a man borrow money from you?

Men rarely ask women they are dating for money. When guys ask for money, the initial assumption is that they are about to con you or things must be thick. If men ask for money, you are probably the last resort, and they’ll put themselves under a lot of pressure to pay it back before it becomes an issue. This train of thought goes back to women not being humble, the male ego and the fact that there’s a negative connotation on a man’s ability to provide if he borrows from his date. The ladies were hesitant to lend money, claiming that this money never comes back. It also brings unnecessary complications in a relationship when you have to ask for the money to be refunded.

If you cannot avoid giving money, my advice here is to limit your exposure. Do not to lend more than you can afford to lose. Be clear on whether it is a loan or a “gift” before you give the money and then decide whether you want to continue the relationship based on your date’s behaviour. How your date behaves when it comes to returning your money is a flag you shouldn’t ignore.


I’m writing in February and all around me, I hear ladies planning for Valentine’s Day. Some of the guys mentioned that ladies are coming out of the woodwork to find Valentine’s dates even when they hadn’t spoken for months. On the other side of it, Chama Cha Wanaume hosts a weekend conference on the 14th to avoid Valentine’s. The reasons men hate Valentine’s day are varied, but for the majority, it boils down to the cost and the one-sided nature of this celebration of love. If you’re both in love, why does only one person get the gifts? And thus pandora’s box opened.

The men are not pleased with us when it comes to gifts. We expect lavish presents and date nights for anniversaries, birthdays and holidays but only gift cufflinks and ties. The gifts are functional, and often no thought or creativity is put into the presents which cost next to nothing. Ladies, the guys are asking, what happened to the law of reciprocity? Unless the cufflinks are gold, this gift is akin to receiving a kitchen appliance as a birthday present. You won’t like it either!

What are the financial flags to watch out for while dating?

This one was easy. The stories were plentiful; however, we agree that you need to watch out for the following.

  1. Your date spends erratically and on impulse. One day, she’s bragging about the new shoes she bought, the next she’s broke and doesn’t have transport to work.
  2. The opposite of the erratic spender is the one who won’t spend on anything. His miserly ways make him struggle to spend on the basics. Being miserly is very different from being frugal or careful with money. A miser will not go to the hospital, buy clothes, or eat good food, all in the name of saving.
  3. The get-rich-quick guy is always talking large and chasing a quick buck. He’s chasing one scheme or the other and often sounds like a conman. Watch out for this one as it often leads to number 4.
  4. The borrower. This one always leaves his wallet at home, has forgotten the bank or M-Pesa PIN, needs transport to get to you, borrows some money to tide them over to the end month or boost their business. You will NEVER see this money again.
  5. A variant of the borrower is the one living for the Gram on debt from various mobile Apps. She borrows for everything and is overindebted. This is a sign that your date is not living within her means.
  6. If your date gambles, buyer beware. With all these online gambling sites, it is so much easier to pick up this vice which could adversely affect your date’s financials and ultimately affect their ability to provide or share the bill payments.
  7. Another flag is clamming up the minute you broach conversations about finances. Your date doesn’t seem to have any financial goals and will get very defensive when you talk about money. Again, I don’t mean you ask for bank statements but at least have an idea of their financial capability.
  8. Always assumes you have money to keep up with them or their friends. This date will plan a trip to Mombasa at the drop of a hat and expect you to keep up with her. Alternatively, if her friend goes on vacation, she’ll throw a tantrum because you don’t take her on holidays.
  9. The people-pleaser: This guy will pay for everyone, all the time. Whether it is on a date or with friends, he always pays the bill. In the short-term, you’ll probably benefit from his habit of showering you with gifts, but in the long-term, his account could dry up from too many “obligations”.

In conclusion

Financial incompatibility can be a deal-breaker. You save and invest while your partner likes to spend it as she makes it. This makes it difficult to agree on and achieve joint financial goals. Someone is continually bailing the other out, and this could lead to frustrations. Having a conversation about money and finances is necessary as you start dating. While you don’t have to share your net worth, try to understand your partner’s relationship with money. Do they save, invest, what are their financial goals? Start with the easy stuff because money is complex. As you get more comfortable, you’ll be able to share more.