It’s a crisp autumn day. The rain has held off and all is quiet in the small town of Abertillery, tucked away in the Welsh valley of Ebbw Fach. Siân Morris has imagined her wedding day many times before but, unsurprisingly, never pictured herself getting ready in an old, stone miner’s cottage that had been empty for 13 years. Yet here she is, standing in the house that she will soon call home, preparing to marry the man she loves: Mathew Parker.
It’s a moment that captures their commitment to one another, not only as husband and wife but as co-owners of a property. Like a lot of other couples, buying a property was the first big financial commitment they made together, swiftly followed by their wedding.
“The house wasn’t furnished or decorated but it was lovely to be there,” says Siân, 29. “It’s a proper miner’s cottage,” adds Mathew, 33. “It dates to about 1870. One of the first things we did was knock down one of the walls to reveal the old stone staircase.”
The cottage once belonged to the mother of the man living over the road. “He’d accepted our offer and when he heard we were getting married, he let Siân use it so she could get ready separate to me on the day of the wedding, which was between lockdowns,” says Mathew.
Committing to the next step
Shortly after making their offer on the cottage, the couple opened a joint account. “We chose Starling because we could just sit next to each other to apply for it. With a high street bank, it would have been a branch visit, which would have been a pain.”
Mathew and Siân initially used their joint account to organise their wedding budget. Now that they live together, they use it for almost everything: bills, staycations, house repairs, renovations. “We’ve got our own pay going into our own bank accounts and then we put a percentage into the joint account - it seems the fairest way,” says Mathew.
“We have a Space for Utilities - gas, electric, water, TV licence - and then those bills coming straight out of that Space. It means that the figure left in the main balance is what we have to spend, which makes us feel more confident.”
A Space is a tool that Starling customers can use to organise their money and keep some of it separate from their main balance. “The app’s really well laid out,” says Siân. “It’s fast and easy to use.”
From the first date to entrepreneurship
Siân and Mathew have been together since 2007. “We met at an owl sanctuary,” says Mathew. “One of my friends who regularly volunteered there roped me in. Siân’s mother used to volunteer there and Siân would sometimes come along.” As volunteers, they would build pens, maintain the aviary, feed and fly the birds, organise displays for the public and give talks.
The pair continue to play an active part in their community today, primarily through their work with local businesses and organisations. Together, Siân and Mathew run Roseblade Media, a marketing and website design business.
“We work with everyone from one person teams right the way up to FTSE 100 companies. And offer everything from flyer design to radio ads,” he says. Mathew started the business in 2010 when he was still at university. Siân joined in 2013, the year that Mathew started running the business full-time.
Setting boundaries and talking about money
“It’s tricky working and living together,” says Mathew. “For me the boundaries blur. I often get home, get my laptop out and keep working. There’s always something to be done. And I feel that if something falls behind or doesn’t go well it reflects badly on me.”
Siân has been able to set firmer boundaries. “If it’s not during my working hours, I don’t talk about it,” she says. “I’m still committed to the business, I just make sure the commitment stays during working hours and doesn’t follow me home.”
She also takes this attitude when it comes to talking about personal matters at work, although there are times when the two cross over. “For example, we might end up talking about how a large bill in the business would affect our personal finances, or whether working from home is increasing our gas bill too much in the winter,” she says.
For Siân and Mathew, one of the biggest benefits of having a joint account is visibility and the resulting conversations. “You can see exactly how money is being spent, the income, and you can move money into Spaces for important events,” she says. “Talking about money is always important, whether you’re talking about personal or business.”