Dear Mrs. Riches:
My wife and I disagree about how much each of us can spend without the other's knowledge or "permission." I feel that it's perfectly fine for me to go out and splurge every once in a while without having to call home. I'm a grown man; I make a decent income and should be able to enjoy it. My wife, on the other hand, feels like we need a stated limit and is comfortable with $200. Any more than that, and she says it will throw her bookkeeping and bill-paying all out of whack. This seems like a big excuse to keep tabs on me. What do you say?
Hearing the Rattle of Chains
I dare not suggest you make an appointment with a marriage therapist as soon as possible; it's beginning to sound like I'm a lobbyist for them. (I'm not.)
But in all seriousness, give some thought to consulting a neutral third party (a CPA or financial planner, for example) who can take a look at your overall financial picture and make some recommendations about what you should do with your discretionary funds. If your budget can more than easily accommodate a $200 splurge once a month (even with paying off debt and fully funding your retirement), then resolving the argument is less of an imminent concern -- at least from a numbers standpoint. I will point out, though, that as the family's bookkeeper, your wife probably has a better idea of this than you do.
Pushing the actual budget aside for a moment, take a look at the less-than-stellar way you and your wife are communicating. The two of you have dug in your heels about this issue, with nary a shovel between you. You continue to spend and splurge despite the fact that your wife has expressed concern; she continues to complain about it. You suspect she is being controlling; she is probably wondering what in the world you're splurging on and why it's important enough to risk the relationship. Your arguments ring of paternalism ("I'm the man of the house"); she may be chafing at the imbalance of power. Neither of you seems to have offered a compromise or suggested a solution, something that would help you resolve the impasse.
So put all of the bluster aside and start to take this issue seriously. See if together you and your wife can agree to a plan for resolving the problems. Your new to-do list may look something like this:
- Call a financial planner.
- In the meantime, work out a compromise that's greater than $200 but less than an unlimited amount.
- Read about how other couples resolve their money conflicts.
If your problems continue, even with a solid financial plan, yes, you should add "contact a marriage and family therapist" to the list.
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