Spending

Yes, I'm Married and I Still Have an Allowance

Catherine Alford

Early in my marriage, I was, without a doubt, a financial micromanager. I’d scour our bank statements, questioning my husband’s every purchase: “You went to Starbucks again? You spent how much on that watch?”

My behavior stemmed from my well-meaning, Type-A tendencies—but it was causing a strain. After all, we were new at this: My husband wasn’t used to sharing a bank account, and I wasn’t used to giving up spending control.

While we didn’t often have outright arguments about money, an underlying resentment was building. I’d later learn how restricted my husband felt, how he couldn’t enjoy a purchase because he was so worried I’d question it. Fortunately, five years into our marriage, we found a solution that changed all this for the better.

It all started during a heated discussion about hair.

My husband has fantastic hair—McDreamy kind of hair that’s long and wavy and gorgeous. Despite this, I couldn’t understand why he spent so much on haircuts ($50 every six weeks!) and hair products ($20 or $30 every time he got a haircut). I could care less about my hair—probably because my toddlers like to put yogurt in it.

So there we were at the dining-room table, discussing how much my husband spent on his hair (again). Only this time, something shifted. It finally clicked with me that we were really talking about values. And just because we didn’t value the same things didn’t mean he shouldn’t be able to buy something.

There was just one problem.

I still wanted to set parameters to prevent overspending. We had too many other priorities, like paying off student loans and saving for retirement, to waste too much on pure wants.

So we changed things up. Although we kept the bulk of our cash in joint account, we decided to move a little each month to prepaid debit cards that we could spend however we pleased. No questions asked. We dubbed this money our allowance.

The amount varies, depending on our financial goals at the time. It’s been as high as $225; now it’s around $100 while we aggressively pay down debt.

The system has done wonders for our marriage—and financial lives.

Now, when my husband spends his allowance on a chocolate bar for me, it feels like a sweet gift. And when I sacrificed my money one month to give him an extra special birthday present, he was so grateful. The best part is that because this is such a small percentage of our combined income, we still have that important sense of camaraderie and accomplishment when we stick to our family budget and hit financial goals.

My husband has regained his independence and no longer feels guilty when he buys something for himself. And I feel great because I have my own money, too—usually spent on fancy coffee drinks. Even better? I don’t ever have to know how much he spends on hair products. I just get to enjoy his hair.

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