22

My wife and I have been married 4 years (United States). We had a baby 6 months ago and 8 months ago my wife quit working, it started to be to much on her physically and now we both like that our child is not in daycare, which means someone has to be home, this ended up being my wife as she worked part time and my income far exceeded what she earned.

Originally we had our own bank accounts, she still maintains her own checking account and is now on as a registered user at my credit union on my accounts (checking, savings, special purpose and daughters account). A couple years ago we went to my credit union and got her a debit card to use against my checking account as she felt that if something happened to me she would not have any money. Many years ago, probably 7 or 8 we decided that since I am more disciplined with money that I would be responsible for making sure all of our bills were paid, both personal and joint (credit cards we had before each other, mortgage etc)

Since my wife is no longer employed (albeit working pretty hard, babies are demanding little bosses) she has obviously no personal income. This is the point in which we differ in our though process, she feels that money earned from employment is hers or mine, where my thought process is, we are married, and all accounts except her checking are joint, there is no yours and mine, there is only ours.

Since she does have a debit card linked to what is now and has been for awhile now, our checking account, my philosophy is, if you need something just swipe the card, that is after all why she wanted it, to be able to access money in what was previously my checking account before she became an authorized user on my accounts (which at the institution is equal to joint). After about two months my wife started to tell me that she wanted a weekly allowance so she can make her own purchases without me seeing what they are as I don't need to.

My wife also states that she feels guilty swiping the debit card and that she feels like she needs to get my permission before using it, she only needs to "ask my permission" (which isn't really asking my permission, it's informing your partner of what you intend to do with a larger amount of money which is a reasonable thing to do in my opinion) if the purchase is large, which I always do as well. I choose to do that for purchases of $20 or more, it just keeps her informed of where the money went, other then that, use it for what you need it for, gas, groceries, misc crap at 7-11.

Today she forgot her PIN, and this brought up the conversation again of her having her own money. She wants an allowance, so for either me to write her a check every week that she can go deposit in her own bank account (which I am not on) or for me to give her cash. My reply was in my view of the logical sort, "if you need to get something, then swipe the card, that's why you have it."

This, as it did in our previous discussion on this matter, make her mad. She stated that "You should not need to see every transaction that I make" so again my response which was taken not so well was "what do you mean I don't need to see every transaction, what are you trying to hide, you have the debit card to use, that's why we got it for you, so use it and if you have to have cash for some transaction, go to the ATM and get it" I personally do not take an allowance, I don't understand the point, if I need something I get it or ask my wife while she is out and about to get it for me.

My response was like that because it has happened to me on multiple occasions where a family member has just used my credit card to get what they want without my knowledge or even just coming to me and asking, which I count as theft. I have also had to close and open checking accounts on at least three (3) different occasions due to someone gaining access to my account, so I am always suspicious and always check my bank account, sometimes multiple times a day.

How can I approach this to discuss with her so that we can both get our feelings across and understand each other's side? To me it feels like I just have to give her whatever allowance she wants, which leaves me feeling resentful, which I can't stand for obvious reasons. I know I am failing to understand her point of view as I think she is also failing to see mine. As I said, there is, in my opinion, no your money or my money, there is one income in our family unit and it is our income.

I am by no means trying to "control her", she can do whatever she wants, she is a human being. As I said in the above, as far as I am concerned we don't have "our own money", we have a joint account where all the bills get paid from, she used to get the groceries on her own from her checking account when she was working, but now she is working at home, meaning taking care of our child.

  • Please don’t write answers in comments. It bypasses our quality measures by not having voting (both up and down) available on comments, as well as having other problems detailed on meta. Comments are for clarifying and improving the question; please don’t use them for other purposes. – sphennings Mar 19 '18 at 20:32
  • 1
    Hypothetically if you and your wife agree to some arrangement as you describe where you write her a check once a week or whatever so that she has "her own money" where you "should not need to see every transaction" she makes - would she consider it reasonable that you too have a similar discretionary fund separate from your existing joint account which she similarly "should not need to see every transaction" you make? – brhans Mar 19 '18 at 21:42
  • @MansNotHot technically there is nothing stopping her from going to the ATM and just getting it. I just want to know because I want to add it as a bill reminder in our Quicken file. I need to know if we can afford what she wants in "allowance" along with what she will spend on stuff as well, the allowance in essence becomes another bill/outflow. We don't do big presents, our money is very tight, I reserve for everything, Xmas, Amazon Prime yearly bill, New Car lease (I spread the first month payment and fees over three years for both of us) – MCP_infiltrator Mar 20 '18 at 12:43
  • 6
    You say "no yours and mine, there is only ours.", But then say "she can do whatever she wants". Actually she can't do whatever she wants, because it is not her money alone. She can't go blow it all on something stupid. She is sharing with you. You even say she can't: " feels like I just have to give her whatever allowance she wants". Which is it? If it truly is shared money, then why do you alone make the decision about what she gets and what she doesn't get? – user6818 Mar 20 '18 at 20:31
  • 1
    I think it might be a bit of a lost cause, I could not even get her to sit and pay the bills with me. – MCP_infiltrator Apr 23 '18 at 11:31
20

You say that money is tight. Do you do all the budgeting on your own or does she get a say? Is it something you decide together or something you handle by yourself? Do you include in your budget an amount for 'personal' use?

My husband and I also have the view that our money is ours. We discuss our budget and our expenses and decide on things together. This process includes a discussion about what 'personal' money we thought we needed every month. I proposed how much I need for my hobby, he said how much he'd need for his, we discussed what we could afford, and decided on an amount that we'd each get every month. This isn't giving her whatever allowance she wants, this is having a discussion together about your budget and what you can afford, and what 'allowance' you give both of you.

There are two issues here. One is the financial independence and the other is the budget. You can give her the cash in an envelope at the beginning of every month if you want, no bank account necessary. The issue I see here is that she doesn't feel like she is on the same page as you.

I sometimes phone my husband to get his opinion on a purchase. I don't ask permission, or even to state what I'm going to be doing. I phone to discuss if it's something we can afford with our money. We have a discussion and decide together if we can afford it or not. As such, purchases fall into two categories:
- in the budget so OK by default.
- not in the budget so discussion required.

Does that mean that if I want to buy myself a chocolate bar I can't because it's not in the food budget, or I have to phone my husband to ask? No, because it comes out of my 'personal' allocation which is in budget. This is why personal allocations are important. She's actually asking to discuss with you a limit on what she can personally spend so she knows where she fits into the budget. This way, she can buy herself something she wants as a treat and not worry she's ruining the budget. The bank account for this is convenient, but not essential. There may be a reason she wants a bank account, perhaps she wants to save her 'treat' money for something bigger over multiple months.

Nonetheless, it's important to discuss with her how much you can afford for both of you every month, not just her, and it certainly isn't giving her everything she wants.

  • 1
    My wife of course gets a say, I do the budget (which never gets followed anyways), but whenever I try to sit with her and explain where our money goes, she quickly becomes overwhelmed and becomes disinterested in the coversation and exits it. You mention the chocolate bar, I don't want to be asked about things like that, its actually quit annoying, just get the thing. Right now we usually break even at the end of the year, some of my paychecks don't pay the bills for the next two weeks, sometimes my paycheck has left over. All I want is the reciept. – MCP_infiltrator Mar 21 '18 at 11:53
  • 3
    @MCP_infiltrator I recommend revising your budget if it never gets followed. My husband and i usually compare our actual spending with the budget every month and if it deviates too much we look at why and decide if it was a once off thing or the budget needs revision. I generally am better with numbers than my husband so usually I do the maths but we still discuss where the money goes. If she gets flustered, just ask her what she regularly spends money on and go off that. – user6818 Apr 8 '18 at 16:36
16

We are in a similar arrangement in our marriage, where I bring in the bulk of our earnings. For a long time my wife did not work, but now as the kids are getting older, she is working a part time job.

What works for us is:

  • All money earned is “our money” - my earnings do not trump hers for any decision making. We discuss our budget together.
  • As part of the above, we budget money equally as “personal money” For us, we each get an hour of my time per paycheck, direct deposited into an account we control
  • The rest of our money is all joint, and it covers normal family expenses (mortgage, food, etc)
  • Personal money is no-judgement. If she blows it all on Starbucks or saves up for an expensive gadget then it makes no difference to me. Same goes for my spending out of my personal account.

This allows us to communicate on shared goals for trips, savings, retirement, etc while still allowing autonomy.

Sometimes we negotiate on things “Hey, I want to visit a friend for a weekend out of town.” If we don’t have much in our travel budget, then personal money becomes a way to make it work.

What we do may or may not work for you, and the dollar amounts may be different even if it does. Regardless, we arrived where we are by having a discussion about our needs and working together to design a solution we could both agree to.

It sounds like she doesn’t feel the autonomy is there for her in the current arrangement, and that gives her guilt for certain spending. I don’t know that you can get away from that while maintaining a single pooled account. Express your fears and doubts about that second account, and see if you both can find a solution to allay those fears?

  • What does "we each get an hour of my time per paycheck" mean? – AllTheKingsHorses Mar 20 '18 at 18:13
  • Probably means each person gets whatever his hourly rate is per week, so if he earns $20 an hour then each person gets $20 a week – MCP_infiltrator Mar 20 '18 at 18:57
  • Yes, if I get a raise at work, first thing I do is adjust our direct deposit to match my current hourly rate – MichaelM Mar 20 '18 at 19:16
  • While I love this answer- Where's the interpersonal part of this solution? How do you propose the OP starts this discussion with his wife? And how would you suggest improving this idea given that the OP's wife does not work part time right now? As in, if you went with this method as it reads, the wife still wouldn't have "personal money", so how do you suggest negotiating the "hourly rate" of home and child care? – Kendra Mar 20 '18 at 20:03
  • 2
    @Kendra cheers, as you can see I specifically didn’t comment on the other bits of your comment. I was trying to elucidate, not quibble. :) – Spagirl Mar 20 '18 at 21:17
12

Before the discussion

What you need to do to start is take a step back and get your feelings in order. You can't help her understand your side if you can't be completely sure you can explain it clearly.

Why do you feel that it makes no sense for you each to have a private account? Do you feel like it's unreasonable for your wife to want you not to be able to see every transaction she makes?

Also consider why this is a big enough deal to you that you needed to come to Stack Exchange with it. I'm not saying you're wrong for doing so, just that it shows that you likely feel just as strongly as she does about the situation. Why? Do you feel like this insults you in some way? Is it the insinuation that she doesn't want you to know everywhere she shops? Could it just be "I'm right/she's wrong" mentality that comes up in humans? Knowing why you're so intent on this in one way or another will go a long way towards things.

Ask your wife to do the same thing, if you think it will help to let her prepare as well. This gives her a chance to have her side as thought out as you do. Let her know that you want to get to the bottom of this, and have you both at the very least understand where the other is coming from. It might help just knowing that you want to understand why this has her so upset.

Don't let her start the discussion there- If she tries to, explain that you want to be able to convey your feelings on the matter as clearly as possible, and want to take the time to really know how to do so before you discuss things. Let her know that you hope she will do the same, so you can have a rational conversation.

Addressing the situation

When you are both ready, choose a time when you're both calm and the baby won't need your immediate attention for at least half an hour. A nap is likely the only time you'll get for this, from my limited experience with infants. Outline a couple rules: You each get a turn to fully explain yourself, then the other may ask questions to understand your side as needed. From there, the next person can explain uninterrupted and the other side can again ask questions as needed. Ask her to go first, and let her explain her side.

Then listen. Listen to what she has to say. Let her say her piece, let her outline how she feels. When she's done, ask questions as you need to so that you can be sure you understand this to the best of your abilities.

Once she's explained her side of things and you're pretty sure you understand it, restate it. Make sure your interpretation matches hers. If it doesn't, she can clarify further. From there, you can take your turn. Explain why you feel how you do. Be clear about where your points of view differ. Answer her questions, and ask her to restate how she interpreted what you've said. This should all mirror how you came to understand her side.

Now that you've both explained your sides and had a chance to understand each other, you can either both step away to try to come up with ideas for how to resolve this and keep it fair to you both while still keeping you both happy, or you can go ahead and work to sort out a solution. If you do go ahead and work toward a solution, make sure you're both still calm. Otherwise, insist on walking away for a bit until you're both calm (and the baby is napping again.)

Aftermath

Once you have a solution, stick to what you agree on. Now that you both understand each other and worked for a resolution, it should help keep this problem from boiling up again. If something in the status quo changes down the road and another issue of the kind arises, at least you'll already have a way to hit it up and try to address it.

Keep in mind, if you agree to go with an allowance for her, be sure that this goes both ways: You deserve a private "just yours" account as well! You could even make it so you each get the same "personal allowance" each week, to keep things even. This also helps show your wife that you don't feel superior to her just because you're the one bringing home paychecks. This might not even cross her mind, but if it does, then you've addressed it without a problem. (Your own "personal allowance" may not be necessary- If she suggests your paycheck goes to your personal account and you just put what's needed for bills into the account you pay bills/groceries from, then you should be able to do that. Just try to do what seems fairest to both of you.)

Keep it fair, keep it reasonable, and keep each other happy. In the end, your love and happiness with each other is more important than figuring out what money belongs to who anyway.

3

My wife and I do this, and it works well.

We have accounts that cover different parts of the budget.

In addition, we each have a personal account, which receives an allocation each month.

This cuts down on the number of money discussions we have to have and gives each of us a bit of extra autonomy. This is guilt-free money. I could spend the whole thing in one day and not worry about blowing the household budget. I could invest it all in penny stocks. Or clothes. Or games. Or the best chocolate money can buy. Or save for some future purchase.

It feels good to have some money that can be spent "worry-free". And this also helps us stay on budget with our other accounts. And it's good for our relationship.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.