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February 12, 2009


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He needs to get a part time job, or look for better employment. And show some kind of concern for your worries. At the same time, might be a good idea to quit nagging him like he is a child. From what I hear, money fights is one of the # 1 cause of divorce. Maybe you can talk to your pastor or other advisor? Aside from that, I moved to Houston over 10 years ago and have prospered. Here we have a low cost of living and plenty of opportunity. He might could get a good signing bonus with HISD.

Marriage counseling would serve you best. If you two can work through the money issues, maybe you can start to remember why you got married in the first place. If not, then you know you've tried your best to make the marriage work and seperate.

Best of luck.

IT sounds to me like he is drowning his sorrows with stuff. His feeling of self worth has been dragging over the year or two where he is underemployed. Then he's buying stuff as something to look forward to. I'd suggest getting him out of the house to do something to build it back up. Obviously its tough for him to get a job, but I think even volunteer work or a new (free) hobby like running or hiking will do him good. Something outside the house that will increase his feeling of value and to take him out of his element of sitting at home. This will probably build up his confidence to continue actively job seeking or even upping his current job situation (how ever slight it might be).

You also need to ease up on the nagging and find ways to show him the good that will come out of saving his money. Show him in a simple way how all that extra money DOES make a difference. Like cuts off payments.

I think she hit the nail on the head when she said:

"I am just tired of arguing money with him and wonder why I couldn't have someone who understands the same money value as me."

The problem here is that while she is the one controling the household finances, he hasn't allowed her to dictate financial matters - responsibility without authority. I know couples in this situation. Mostly, it's the wife that spends haphazardously, but I know of a few where it's the husband. I can assure you that making more money will not change the situation, only the amount of spending and the types of toys he buys.

If I were in her shoes, I would talk to him and suggest an allowance. He gets X dollars per week (based on his spending patterns, a weekly versus monthly stipend would probably work better) to spend any way he wishes without any comment or repercussion from her. In exchange, he lets her manage the rest of the finances in the manner she chooses. He can spend without guilt and she can save and reduce debt as she pleases. But, he cannot have access to the rest of the finances; he might be tempted to "just buy this one thing" from the household account. Get him a separate account, his own debit card and checkbook. Decide on when a weekly deposit will be made and make it - if you can automate it, great. Both will also learn a valuable lesson: he will have to learn to budget and she will have to learn to not take responsiblity for managing his spending.

I can't guarantee this will work, but I do know of a few couples that have tried this and it did work for them.

Good luck.

I'll go out on a limb and make some "prejudiced" judgments. My guess is you're a Hongkonger, from the Chinese culture where saving is a big deal. (My wife is from Anhui in China and is also a big saver and careful spender. Fortunately, I am a big saver too so we get along well even though I'm not Chinese.) He's probably not, and is an artsy sort. Artsy types tend to be big on "seizing the day" and "enjoying life", and tend to hope that things will somehow "work out" - not exactly the best personality type for saving money and carefully planning for the future. But they're often caring, passionate, and fun to be around.

In this situation, you'll end up being the "adult" in the relationship (it sounds like you already are), and will need to come up with a way to let him enjoy life and have his little impulse buys without blowing your money.

Fortunately, it sounds like he hasn't killed your finances since you've managed to pay off the credit card. The danger is when you _are_ making more money, he'll grow his spending along with it, so you need to deal with this now, and not hope that more income will make his habits affordable or make them go away. It won't.

Buying a $300 helmet while earning $1000 a month is childish and points to other problems.

I don't think calling her a nag is the right thing to do. It's very hard being the one in the relationship making all the sacrifices. If he would behave like a RESPONSIBLE adult, then she would have nothing to address. Plus it's not like he's wet behind the ears, he's a 50 year old man for goodness sake.

Marriage counseling might be a good idea. Its probably best to get marriage advice from someone you both can talk to.

A few thoughts:

You two probably need to compromise some and meet in the middle. Did you both agree on the spending plan? Did you talk about it a lot? If you haven't communicated and agreed then you should start there.

If his spending is a new development then maybe there is something causing it. You're aware his lower income might be a sore spot for him. It is quite possible that he's unhappy with his underemployment and this is causing him to spend more. Shopping and buying things is what some people will do if they are unhappy.

You two make $72k combined. $200-250 a month in spending doesn't seem that horribly irresponsible. Where is the rest of the income going? DO you expect him to have no budget at all for his fun spending? Or is this just part of it where he spends money on anything and everything?

Frankly it does seem you may be nagging a bit much and that will probably only worsen the situation. You say you get upset over $20 and you wanted the Xmas money go to debt. Honestly that seems that you're pushing for zero spending which is a bit too harsh to me. Its hard to know the exact picture but its possible you may be pushing too hard to cut the spending on fun stuff for him.

Can he get any other work? Maybe he can start giving music lessons out of the home or doing tutoring or something like that? Then if he makes additional money you could agree with him that he can spend a certain % of it on whatever he wants as long as most of it goes to debts.

Just my 2¢


I agree with the earlier commenters that you should get into some counseling both for your marriage and for personal finances, preferably with your husband, but if not go by yourself. Only you can decide whether your marriage is worth keeping, but several months of conseling will help you decide.

I disagree with the commenters on the nagging. You aren't nagging. You have a perfect right to repeatedly point out your debt and budget situation with your husband. If you are questioning his spending a few dollars on some guitar strings that's one thing, but if he is repeatedly spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on things you don't need he should be held responsible for his behavior, since it damages you and your credit rating.

You didn't say where your husband is from so I don't know if there are cultural differences that affect his attitude about marriage, money and his role as a man, but I can tell you I'm a 51 year old man with a Masters Degree and if I lost my job I wouldn't rest until I found another, and I would take any honest job that I could find in order to keep the money coming in until a better job became available.

Good luck and don't let him continue to sit around feeling sorry for himself and spending your hard-earned money. Let him know you expect him to start acting like a man.

I'm glad you posted the letter you received, , as it seems the individual has reached the limits of dealing with her husband and their financial situation. Here are some quick tips I would offer:

1. Address the problem by talking openly. I get the sense the individual has not confronted her husband about the money issues she documented in her letter.

2. Create a budget together.

3. Express how buying junk cannot lead to a positive financial situation.

Overall, the main problem seems to be 1. about communications and 2. an action plan or budget.

I hope things work out for the couple.


We can't really say she's 'nagging' or that he's 'childish'. Maybe one or the other of those is a fair statement but thats not really for us to say with the limited amount of info we've got. Yes I know I'm guilty of saying 'nagging' myself, and it wasn't warranted. Maybe she's nagging but maybe not, or maybe he's acting childish or maybe he just wants to not deny himself any spending.

They are putting a good 15-20% of their after tax income into credit card payment so they are doing OK by most standards. The fact of the matter is they seem to disagree on priorities for their finances a little bit. The disagreement is about discretionary spending and I don't think theres a 'right' or 'wrong' side on that, but just two differing views.

They should work to come to a compromise

They should also be looking at the entire budget. What else are they spending money on? Do they agree on all those areas? Maybe you can find other areas to cut spending that you both don't care as much about. $72k annual is a fair amount. You likey have 75% of that after taxes which is around $4500 a month. $1045 for rent and $800 to credit cards leaves $2650. How much are the student and car loans? Where does all the rest of it go??


I agree with the other commenters about counseling, but I would also have a serious talk with him about why saving is so important to you. Maybe he thinks you have a lot more money than you need so why not spend it. He isn't thinking about everything that could happen to put you in a bad situation fast. If he realizes how important it is to you then he might be more understanding.

Here are some ideas to get him to realize that it is important to save, and you're not just trying to spoil his fun.
-If you know anyone who has been laid off (or even if you just see it on the news) ask him what would happen if that happened to you. Saying something like "if I lost my job we wouldn't even be able to pay our rent" might just scare him enough to join with you in paying off your debt and setting up an emergency fund.
-If you want kids think about whether you want to stay at home or take some time off after the birth. Doing this would be nearly impossible on his salary, and if it's important to you, it should be important to him too. If you don't want to stop working, try telling him how much daycare costs.
-A lot of people are struggling to retire since they haven't been saving. Tell him that you don't want to have to work forever and you're scared that you might have to if you don't save more.

I would also try cutting up the credit cards (and erasing the numbers from all the websites he has it saved on) and living on cash and debit only (both of you). You may also want to have more taken out of your paycheck straight to a 401k or savings account so it's not even there for him to spend.

The bottom line is, he probably feels like you are just nagging and don't want him to have any fun, and doesn't understand why this is such an important thing to you. I don't know if arguments over money are a reason to break up the marriage by themselves, but if he doesn't value your feelings and worries about having no savings to rely on in a crisis, or your feelings about him not doing his part to support you (emotionally and financially), then that's a sign of deeper problems that may not be easily overcome.

The marriage is not going to last like this, he needs 2 jobs and start to look for something at least $50K a yr

"....everything is fine except that we have different values of money"

"We have $10,000 credit card debt, two student loans and a car payment"

Everything is not fine.

Get use of being the breadwinner

I think a great first step, if he cares anything about his marriage, would be for her to show him the email that she wrote. If that doesn't kick him into gear then I guess try marriage counseling. It seems like he probably doesn't know that he's putting his marriage on shaky ground with these habits of his.

I think you can make a relationship work even when you are financial opposites, but it's not easy. You need to find common ground, goals you can both embrace and come up with a financial plan you both can live with. The adult allowance is one way to let a spender be who they are without them ruining the family finances. Communication is key and needs to be upfront. Getting angry after the money is already spent won't do any good. This couple needs to talk and get on the same page as far as their future.

PS -nothing in the email would suggest she is a nag, why do women always get labeled as such. I hate it.

"nothing in the email would suggest she is a nag"

We don't know for sure. As I said its unfair for us to make that judgement. But honestly my first impression was she seemed nagging. I got that impression since it is clear she has talked to him about this multiple times and she is being critical of him. She is unhappy if he spends $20. He sells his toys and uses the cash to buy toys, and she gets unhappy about that. He uses Xmas money for toys and she gets unhappy about that. If you are critical about someone about a point multiple times then that to me is the definition of nagging. I'm sure that what does or doesn't constitute nagging is different to different people. It could be polite as can be but if my wife asks me about doing something 2-3 times then that feels like nagging.

But again, I think its unfair to make critical judgements like this. Maybe the topic has only come up a couple times and she wasn't nagging nor critical at all. It could be what she's communicating to us here are feelings she has not communicated to her husband.

On the other side of the coin: Its also unfair and unwarranted in my opinion for people to label his spending as 'childish' or irresponsible or assume he is uncaring of her feelings, etc. But it is easy for people to get that impression from hearing her account of matters.


It sounds like you're not quite in a Dave Ramsey-esque put-our-lives-on-hold-until-our-debts-are-paid-off mode but are trying to balance paying off debt with (at least one of you) trying to enjoy your life. We have similar situations. We have some debts to pay off but we want to enjoy life at the same time. My bride warned me early on when we were dating that "if it's in my bank account after paying bills, I spend it," so to give her that ability to do whatever she wants with money and have money leftover for saving, we both get an allowance for food, gas, etc. and whatever is leftover is for "fun". With our disposable income, we agreed on a division between what we used to pay off debt and what we use for fun and we split it that way. She gets to spend money, we get to pay off student loans and cars, and everyone is (I hope) happy.

yeah, what they all said. I'm just baffled the husband makes $1k a month. Maybe he should get a full time job and actually contribute more to the situation. I sure hope he does everything around the house when he's not part time teaching. How weak of him. He needs to grow up and realize he needs to make more if he wants to support his toys and hobbies.

It is a culture of Saving vs Spending ... there is no right or wrong. It is how one see the situation from either side of the fence. Changing a person character that is built in since a child will be very hard.

Instead, work on comprising, accepting, acknowledging, understand the differences will be better. Both can come out with a budget for "Saving", budget for "Spending". Other areas will not be monitored and each party is responsible for his/her spending. (No interference or criticism) And it should please both and reach a Win-Win case.

A toy to her hubby has an emotional value to him, similary the writer will have something that has emotional value to her but not to her hubby. We should respect, recognise people differences and then open up our thinking and show MORE love :-)

I see the replies here falls to 2 different campers but I like to go to middle ground where there is peace, harmony, love.

Expectations from anyone to a loved one is the most hard to manage, it goes for myself too. I am still learning, hope to progress to be a better dad, husband :-)


You have a joint income of around $6k a month before tax, which will be I guess $4k after tax?. That should allow some spending money to be budgeted for, which will help you feel less out of control with the finances. The thing that came across to me most strongly, is that you can't make someone have the same priorities as you, you can only jointly agree - and just because one person makes more money, doesn't give them more say.

His spending is a problem because it makes her unhappy. Fixing that doesn't have to mean that he stops spending. Just that the whole thing has to be more agreed upon.

I wasn't trying to say that she was a nag, but that he probably feels that way if she just tells him to change his behavior without explaining why it's important to her.


I usually agree with your positions but I agree with Miss M & M on this. If someone makes a statement indicating women are more likely to be bad with money they often get a pass, but if the woman takes her man to task for spending irresponsibly she often gets labeled as a nag. This isn't absolute, but in general it's pretty accurate. You did it yourself, but to your credit you corrected yourself. And I am aware of the literature that reports women, particularly elderly widows can end up in financial trouble because their husbands kept them in dark about their finances.

Based on her story (and sure, he may have a different story, but he didn't write to FMF) his behavior is a big problem in their marriage, but if she tries to talk to him about it she is accused of nagging.

I'll stand by my statement that, assuming her version as accurate, he needs to go find work, any work. It will bring in more money and keep him busy so he has less time to think about buying things.

I think the reference to nagging is not meant to be negative on her, but to show how he probably perceives her voice after buying something (that she thinks he shouldn't. Nagging to me isn't meant to point out a negative trait or talk bad about the person its referring to. I think we all mean nagging in the sense that he thinks its annoying and thereby blocks you out and ignores what you're saying.

RwH, Miss M&M,

I do agree its a stereotype that women 'nag'. Sometimes thats unfairly applied.

I thought about it last night and I decided that if I was in the womans position I wouldn't have handled it any differently. Sometimes nagging isn't bad and is very warranted. If this guy is actually just being irresponsible then what can you really do besides nag? But as I said before I think we lack enough real detail on the situation to be that judgemental with words like 'nagging' or 'childish' or 'irresponsible'. WE do only have 1 side of this story and its not got all the detail.

Here's something to consider: What if the roles were reversed here and it was a man complaining about his wife's spending and lack of income? Would we all be equally critical of a woman for 'childish' spending of $250 a month and 'only' making $12k all while they are making $72k and putting about $10k towards debt payment?


She should run a budget of yearly income vs. expenses. Then she should base how much each of them chip in accordingly. For instance: He earns just under 14% of their yearly income. If they came to an agreement that he spend no more than 14% of his income on himself and she the same they would still have money to do with as they please, but would be sharing the responsibilities equally. Each would be chipping in around 86% of their income for expenses. She needs to be objectively looking at the amount he brings home in a comparitive value to hers. I too earn the loins share of wages in our household, but I don't get annoyed at my husband because we use this philosopy of equal sharing all the time.

I would be careful of criticizing his $12k income too far. HE used to make $28k and then they both chose to move so that she could get a higher paying job. That is the right choice for both of them but is also clear he took a purposeful sacrifice so she could do better. If she criticized him or limitd his butget proportional to his income then thats not exactly fair in this specific situation. Also it sounds as if they moved to Houston they'd both likely make $40k which would be a pay cut for her, a substantial increase for him and net increase for the both of them. So theres 2 known options that would get him higher pay and both would come at the cost of her making lower pay. His low pay is on purpose and done to help her get higher pay.


I have to add my 2 cents...My husband and I were on two different pages until I asked him to attend the introduction to the Dave Ramsey course. He agreed to make the committment and attend the course. Many of the questions this dear lady asks are addressed in the course. Mostly, and the aspect which probably saved my marriage, we finally got on the same page with money, spending and saving. We sold a building lot reducing our debt by almost $90,000. How you and your partner deal with money will make or break a marriage. Blessings...

People almost certainly wouldn't be jumping on the *must earn more money* bandwagon. And that's wrong - I mean, we should treat men and women equally. I think I agree with you: if the spending is only around $250 a month, it shouldn't really be an issue. Of course there is the possibility that it's really more like $1k a month or something.

We had a milder problem approx along the same lines. We settled it by doing a budget and then discussing it. It took time and some things were left as sacred, though to the other half it seemed loony.

I would suggest the lady (since she seems to be the more financially savvy) to do a budget and then talk it over with her husband. And perhaps a nuetral observer like a counsellor might help.


I would also suggest that the lady and her husband receive marriage counseling. Addressing Wendy's suggestion that he be allowed to use his 14% of the disposable income: that would be fantastic, but might seem unfair to him, as he won't be spending very much. What I liked better was giving him an allowance. I've seen that work in several marriages. The one in charge of finance takes care of all the bills and the upkeep while the other gets a cash amount every payday. When the cash is gone, it's gone. If that means that they don't have gas money for 2 days, then they don't have gas money for 2 days and they can't drive. You work around the other person's expenditures. It will cause inconvenience, but it's the way to learn about spending.

Uh huh. Clever gal. You know the answer to your question. Caught a lot of fish with that one, too.

There's so much that is relevant that you just - oops - neglected to mention, lest it skew our understanding of you, your beloved and your marriage relationship as you have presented it.

Your husband's behavior is directly related to you, sweetie. Don't make a public case of it trying to win clout. If you love your husband, you would have taken it to a competent counsellor who understands the human heart well.

What company pays you $60,000 year with that calibre of writing - and, I'm guessing, speaking - skills? Maybe government ... maybe a freelance occupation or other work that requires competencies other than the official language of the country you reside in.

Reality, girl, reality will eventuallly catch up to you and your husband. And it might deliver quite a surprise for you ....

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