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I am British, in my mid-twenties, and in a pretty well paying job. My wife is Chinese, a few years older than me, and while having a moderately well paying job previously is currently is a student. We've been married for four years now, and she has no savings of her own, and as such she relies on me for her finances. We live in the UK, and generally our marriage is in good shape.

I was brought up in a middle-class family -- not poor, but I still certainly couldn't have everything I wanted as a kid. This has led me to always seek justification before spending. That's not to say I won't splash out on expensive items -- I will, but I have to be confident that there's a good reason for spending the money first. For example, I sim race a lot and so have a fairly expensive wheel and pedal set, but I felt this was justified as I was spending a lot of time on this activity and thought (correctly) it would increase my enjoyment.

My wife has a different way of thinking about money. She enjoys shopping and buying new things, but she thinks much more about the quality of items rather than the price. This would be fine in a field I'm comfortable with and understand the quality difference -- for example, when buying a new computer -- but in fields like jewellery and clothes, I find it very hard to quantify the benefits of spending a lot more in order to get higher quality. My wife correctly complains that I am only comfortable spending money based on my own thinking process, even if she is the one the purchase is for. This results in arguments when the item is not something I know enough about to quantify the benefits of.

I've suggested giving her a budget each month for spending with no restrictions on what's purchased with it, but she says that this would still stress her out as now she would always have to put money in the equation when deciding what to purchase. The truth is that I do earn a lot of money for my age and we save a lot of money as it is, so I could likely afford these items, but I find it hard to bring myself to spend money that I don't understand the justification for spending. Asking her what she would do in my position if the roles were reversed, she says she wouldn't impose any restrictions on me, which may well be true, but I'm uneasy going that far.

I don't want our differences in spending philosophy to affect our relationship, but I also am concerned about the ramifications about giving someone free access to my finances, even my own wife. We've discussed that we would keep our finances separate many times in the past, and I already percieve that I allow her more financial leeway than I generally allow myself.

Am I being unreasonable? What haven't I tried that might be helpful?

closed as too broad by Em C, NVZ, Upper_Case, sphennings, baldPrussian May 26 '18 at 19:28

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    As far as strategies, Personal Finance & Money has a few posts on the topic, this is a good overview of ways to organize your spending accounts. However, I think that would be off-topic here, as are questions asking about "who is right?" (see the help center). Can you focus this more on the interpersonal skills involved in reaching an agreement? – Em C May 26 '18 at 16:42
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    Your question has been receiving close-votes for being too-broad. This seems like a good question, but it probably could be narrowed down a bit. How would you like to cope? We can't really tell you what to do, but we can help you with how to do it. – apaul May 26 '18 at 18:45
  • If the question wasn't put on hold we could give a better answer... "is not something I know enough about to quantify the benefits of." -> ask her. Can she explain the quality and need to have it? "even if she is the one the purchase is for" -> carefully bring in the fact who is the one to pay it. – puck May 27 '18 at 7:42
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"All you need is love..."

Nice sentiment, but not all that realistic in practice.

One of the biggest points of contention in any marriage is money. It consistently ranks in the top ten reasons for divorce.

https://www.marriage.com/advice/divorce/10-most-common-reasons-for-divorce/

https://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/8086312

https://divorce.lovetoknow.com/Top_Reasons_for_Divorce

My partner and I tend to have similar issues when it comes to spending. I tend to save and they tend to spend. They usually gravitate towards the more expensive options assuming that you usually "get what you pay for" while I'll tend to research and try to find a balance between cost and quality.

What ended up working for us, and a number of other couples we know, was simply separating our finances. Separate checking and savings accounts saved our relationship in a lot of ways. We no longer had to argue about money, we no longer have to worry about what the other was spending or what they were spending it on. We split our hard bills down the middle and pitch in equally. They take care of their car payment and I take care of mine.

If they overspend, the natural consequence of being broke till payday kicks in without me having to say or do anything. Because of this, they've actually become a bit more conscious about their spending. And I've been able to spend a little more freely because I'm not worried about keeping a reserve to accommodate their spending.

I know this may seem unconventional to some with more "traditional" views on relationships and marriage, but it works. It pretty much eliminated our financial arguments.

  • Do you both have your own job and spend from that, or do you pool the money (or are single-earner) and split the total income? – Erik May 28 '18 at 5:08
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    @Erik we both work, and keep what we each individually earn separately. – apaul May 28 '18 at 5:21
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    Are you married to your partner? Given that marriage involves commingling of assets (legally speaking, regardless of whether or not you use a joint account) - it may be an important factor. With OP's wife, if she spends all her money, she still has a claim to his, whereas with an unmarried partner that isn't true (again, legally speaking). – Em C May 28 '18 at 22:55
  • @EmC Was I offering legal advice? – apaul May 28 '18 at 22:57
  • I asked because I think it would be helpful for OP to understand the context of your answer. Personal finance experts often recommend different approaches to handling finances for unmarried vs. married couple because of the legal ramifications, so knowing this may be relevant for OP to take into account. – Em C May 28 '18 at 23:09
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This would be fine in a field I'm comfortable with and understand the quality difference -- for example, when buying a new computer -- but in fields like jewellery and clothes, I find it very hard to quantify the benefits of spending a lot more in order to get higher quality.

That's not to say I won't splash out on expensive items -- I will, but I have to be confident that there's a good reason for spending the money first. For example, I sim race a lot and so have a fairly expensive wheel and pedal set, but I felt this was justified as I was spending a lot of time on this activity and thought (correctly) it would increase my enjoyment.

Quite frankly, it's not fair to your wife to use "I understand the desire behind this luxury purchase" as a deciding factor. As I've learned time and time again, just because I don't understand a hobby it doesn't mean that the hobby is meaningless. I'm going to take you at your word that there is a difference between your expensive wheel and pedal set, despite the fact that this makes no sense to me. You should take your wife at her word that the difference between expensive and cheap jewellery is not meaningless. And you should also read about fashion; a good place to start would be this article about the royal wedding. Fashion is actually quite interesting, and knowing more about it would help you connect with your wife.

The main thing you should consider as far as your finances go is fairness. You and your wife are supposed to be equal partners; that's what marriage means. It's not fair for you to spend more on luxury purchases than your wife if your wife wants to spend the same amount. That means you have an unequal relationship and that will only cause problems down the line. If you want to have a budget for how much your wife spends on luxury purchases: a budget seems completely reasonable but it's not fair to make her have a budget while you don't have a budget.

As for the technical details of how to manage your finances (e.g. budgets, etc.) go see a financial advisor.

  • Nobody explain you why you got those -1 it's because the question is actually not pretty to good to be answered regarding IPS, I believe that if you focused more on the how and less on the why, you'll be better rewarded. – user14435 May 28 '18 at 14:39

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