J.G. asks from Baltimore, MD on March 08, 2010
How Do You and Your Husband Handle Spending and Money?
My husband and I are at a crossroads about our day-to-day finances. I am looking for ideas on how others budget, handle checkbooks, who decides how much is OK to spend...
Some info about our problem: My husband has always been lean and mean and does not like to spend money on anything material like clothes, furniture, home improvement, extraneous items of any kind, dining out, etc. He is OK with spending on food, Target and Sam's Club. I, as the female, am in charge of grocery shopping, preparing meals, and any shopping for the house, kids and myself. Therein lies the problem: I spend it and he controls it.
My DH does not have any idea how much groceries, kids clothes, my clothes or haircuts cost. Whenever I buy clothes for me or the kids or something for the house he goes crazy. He likes to be in charge of the checkbook and credit card and looks online every day to see what I spend. I get a hard time for anything except buying food. He keeps the checkbook with him but gets mad if I don't record all of my spending in it from debit card expenses (I can never find it!!). I have asked many times for more control in handling the budget and the way we pay bills but he just gets defensive and says I don't "do it right."
To top things off, I am now working part time, which gives us extra money and makes me more determined to get a little control of the way we handle things since I am contributing also. I would love suggestions on how you handle your checkbook (joint or separate?), if you have your own "budget" for things you want to buy for yourself and general ideas on how to make handling our money not such an anger-producing thing. Thank you!
W.J. answers from Roanoke on March 09, 2010
I just wanted to also recommend Dave Ramsey to you. My husband sounds just like yours (he literally looks at our account every day and if I've made a purchase with our check card, he calls and asks me what I bought), and using Dave's system has really helped our finances and our marriage. The best thing about it is that it gives you a way to get on the same page about these things. We use the cash system that he talks about, and it has done wonders for us. We looked at what we were spending each month, set up a realistic budget, and then began taking the cash out each month for the expenses. We keep the cash separated by category (groceries, personal care, kids money, personal money, household items, etc), and stick to the amount of cash we have each month. This has helped us because now my husband knows how much money I'll spend each month on things, and I know that I don't have to give him any details on how I spend the money unless I want to. We have personal money built into our budget as well, so each of us has money to spend however we want. This is where money for clothes, eating out (without each other, if we're together we use our entertainment category), fun stuff, books, etc comes from. My husband plays fantasy football, so he uses his personal money to buy magazines about it as well as going out to each with work friends. The funny thing is that my husband (who is truly a saver) always spends all his personal money each month whereas I, the spender, rarely do. Because we're on the cash system and have all regular purchases accounted for each month, I never make a purchase that isn't in our budget without talking to my husband. Even a small one. We've found this is what works for us, and since the majority of all spending comes from our budget I don't need to talk to my husband all that often about extra purchases.
Another positive thing about doing this has been that I can see how my husband's annoying habits over money are actually strengths. He is anal about our spending, but he has a long term goal in mind that I didn't realize he had since we were too busy arguing over daily money issues to talk about long term stuff. He has a plan for us to have an emergency fund that will support us if something were to happen to his job as well as a plan for our retirement. I've also come to realize that I'd rather my husband be the one controlling the money than to do it all myself. I have many friends who hate being in charge of the finances, but their husbands are not as good with money so they end up doing it by default. They are constantly telling me how lucky I am to have a husband who takes care of those things, and now I can see that they're right. I'm sorry to have been so long-winded, but I really believe that sometimes husbands get a bad name for things (like being told they're dealing with something in an unhealthy way) when in reality they're just trying to do what they think is best for the entire family. A lot of time we just need to learn how to communicate with each other about these things so that we can all be on the same page.
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J.D. answers from Washington DC on March 09, 2010
Honey, this is soooo much bigger than working on a budget. This is about his controlling you and making you have to answer for every cent you spend. This is not a marriage, this is a dictatorship. I'm not saying he isn't otherwise a great guy or a good father but I'd bet this is not the only issue he has controlling issues with. Lots of people with abusive personalities or at least aggessive issues are "good" spouses, fathers, etc. But that does not mean that this controlling aspect isn't a problem. Do you want to live like this where you are worried about dealing with it? I'm not saying go spend money like crazy, but if you go to the grocery store because it is your "job" as the woman, and then you have to turn around and defend your purchases!! Come on, you don't deserve that. And the kids don't need that influence either.
Make a stand. Seek counseling - with or without him. Set up your own bank account - your name only - he'd probably be pissed but you need to protect yourself. You have sent out a very scary message and if you are able to step back and read what you wrote, you'll see that there are some major issues going on here.
I do wish you luck.
1 mom found this helpful
M.B. answers from Washington DC on March 09, 2010
Hi, you already have a lot of responses, and I haven't read through them all, so my appologies if I'm repeating anyone. My husband and I have gone through the same issues.
Firstly, some things need to be identified as essentials (bills, food, etc.), others recurring costs (kids clothes/shoes), others being family wants (home improvements, etc), and lastely, personal wants. Identify how much the essentials and recurring costs come to each month, so you have a better idea of what HAS to be spent each month.
Then, decide how much you as a family wants to save each month (so important) for a family vacation, or emergencies, or whatever.
From there you have an idea of what is left. My husband and I get an allowance each month, to use on whatever we want. For me that's clothes (I haven't changed shape much in the last 10 years, so unless work necessitates new clothes, clothes and shoes are a luxury, not an essential), eating out with my girlfriends, whatever I want. For him, it's gadgets and techy stuff.
Sometimes we have to have a conversation about whether something should come from our personal accounts, or the joint account, and usually, we can rationally talk it out and make a decision that we're both comfortable with.
It was hard at first, and kind of embarrasing to ask, "what did you spend $150 on at Target?" but it became good for both of us, and the way we communicated about it and other things.
Now, we are doing much better financially. No more fighting, we have a decent savings account, and aren't living month to month.
Good luck, and feel free to contact me directly if you have questions.
C.M. answers from Washington DC on March 09, 2010
Hi J.. DH and I have a budget and know when cash flow is heavy or tight based on whether it's early or late in the month because of when he gets paid and when all the bills come. Honestly, I never come close to hitting what we budget for things like clothes, haircuts, toys, etc, because I like to shop second-hand and get a good bargain. We cut our son's hair at home, don't do a lot of driving which would waste gas, etc. It's rare for us to "splurge" on a nice piece of furniture, and that's something DH and I would discuss and plan out ahead of time. No impulse buying here. You don't have to go to any extremes if you don't want to shop for sales or consignment. My main point is just to keep communication open with your hubby. If you're at the store and you see something expensive that you want or there's a sale and you want to buy a ton of things, just give him a quick call on the cell phone and make sure it'll be ok. If he's the one doing most of the bills, he'll have a better idea of whether you can handle it. If you're concerned that he'll always tell you not to get something, you guys can discuss now much of a necessity it is and ask what other options he suggests. If it's a sale, you can tell him you won't find this item at such a good price again for a long time, so it's smart to stock up if you can afford to do so. If it's one expensive item like furniture, discuss it ahead of time with him and plan how much you will pay. Then he can move money around so you don't have to call at the time of purchase. Hope these ideas help.
A.F. answers from Washington DC on March 10, 2010
Sounds like you both need to sit down together and write up a budget. This budget will be your spending plan. Together you can decide how much to alot in each category. A monthly plan is the easiest to work with. This could help reduce your disagreements on spending. There is good budget advice on the internet. Hopefully this can bring peace to your relationship. Each of you should include in your budget a personal purse....a piggie bank fund of a small deduction from your paycheck . This personal purse gives you a little freedom to spend your hard earned money in just the way you want without asking your partners permission. AF
S.T. answers from Kansas City on March 08, 2010
Me and my husband always argued about finances and money that was pretty much the only fights we would have. I decided to do the Dave Ramsey Total money makeover and we are doing great not only getting rid of debt but communicating and knowing where all of our money is going. Start a budget and you tell you money where to go!! Good Luck!
S.T. answers from Washington DC on March 09, 2010
the degree of control your husband is maintaining over the money is a big red flag to me. being frugal is great, but going crazy whenever you have to spend for basics like clothes or new sheets is worrisome. it sounds as if you have to sit down and have a Budget Talk (oh, how i hate those, but they're so necessary sometimes.) arm yourself beforehand with facts and figures about how often the average person needs new jeans and socks, how often pillows and towels wear out, and what their average costs are. insist on having 'replacement items' worked into the budget along with food. if he absolutely cannot bear you to shop freely (red flag!) without trusting you can stay within the agreed bounds, then he'll have to simply give you a set amount of cash out of each paycheck for you to be able to spend on whatever you choose, without his prior approval. then you decide whether it goes on new shoes for the kids and a rice steamer, or an occasional massage for yourself.
when i was working more we had separate checkbooks, but now that i'm part-time we just have one. we both have to stay on top of entering debit purchases and so forth. he does the main budgeting and balancing so i don't make any substantial purchases before checking with him, not to get his permission but because he has a better overall vision of what we can do at any given time.
with a fellow like your husband i might just be inclined to have a separate account or at least build up my own rainy day fund in the lingerie drawer.
E.L. answers from Charlottesville on March 09, 2010
Hi - I'm not usually a big fan of giving anyone marital advice because everyone's marriage is different. Since you asked and it seems like a pretty pervasive issue, I'll give you my opinion based on *my* experience and ideas about the subject.
My husband and I do the budget *together*. It's actually one of the many "activities" (if you want to call it that) we do together to build our relationship. We sit down with the laptop when we have some quiet time usually at the begining of the month and review our budget (that we developed in excel when we first moved in together). We tweek it and just do a general overview to make sure we know what's coming up that month in terms of spending, bills, etc. Some months we might have extra cash so we plan accordingly if one of us needs something, or wants something, or if the house needs something, or we want to take a trip, etc. We make the decsion together about what gets priority. We are fair, rational, reasonable people, so there has never been any arguing or hurt feelings when we do this. Sure we've disagreed, but we always work through it with compromise or maybe once or twice we've just "tabled" it until the next month or payperiod giving the issue time to sink in or allowing more time for research (if it's a big purchase). In terms of the check book/debit card/credit cards - we both have access to all of them. Since we have already discussed the cash flow for the month, there should be no question as to who is spending what.
We both work for the state and make decent money. We are both students as well. This means we have to manage student loans and grants as well as our salary. Right now, I make a little more than he does as he is a full time student and I'm part time. In a month or two he will graduate and *hopefully* find a job in his field which will mean he will be making much more than me. We don't really even think about who makes what because we see it all as *family* income, combined money that only serves the purpose of our common goal - taking care of our family the best we can.
For me, this is the *only* approach toward finances that I would find acceptable in a relationship. Personally, I wouldn't feel respected or as if I were in a partnership with someone who handed me an "allowence" or kept watch on my spending as if I were a child incapable of good judgement and common sense. This wouldn't change if I were a stay at home mother either. In fact, when he graduates, our plan is for me to become a full time student and quit working. Nothing will change in terms of our budget or how we handle the money just because he is the one bringing home the bacon. Caring for your children is THE most important job a parent can do, not to mention it cuts daycare expenses, etc. Why shouldn't that person have just as much of a say in where the money goes?
Working together on finances has been one of the single most important bonding experiences we've had (aside from parenting). It gives us a chance to have healthy debates, feel like a team, support each other in individual goals (such as, him one day building his dream PC and me one day getting plastic surgery to remove my stretch marks)...his dream seems silly and wasteful to me because the PC we have is fine, but it's HIS dream and I support it as long as we can afford it....likewise, my dream is silly to him because my stretch marks are a part of me and he loves me, but he knows they bother me a lot and supports me in gaining more self esteem, regardless of how wasteful or silly it seems to him. When our finances allow for it, we will both get what we want and neither of us will feel shameful or resentful. Marriage is complex, but it really boils down to loving, respecting and trusting one another enough to compromise and care about someone elses needs/ideas.
The other thing that I should mention is that money is not that important to us. Neither of us are the type of people that want to be rich or wish we could have the very best of everything. Sure, we want to be comfortable and not have to stress about bills being late or not buying the food we need. We even have goals like being able to buy organic/local foods that are healthier, dreams like what I mentioned above. The thing is - we discuss these things, we plan for them accordingly and then we drop it and LIVE LIFE.
I hope that helped, or at least gave you some perspective into how another persons marriage works. If you'd like to email me, feel free: ____@____.com
Best wishes, Liz