My husband still spends his vacation money on his hobbies

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  • For Love & Money is a bi-weekly Insider column that answers your questions about relationships and money.
  • This week, a reader asks how to tell her husband to stop spending his vacation money on himself.
  • Our columnist says it’s hard to change long-term dynamics, but you have to be direct.
  • Have a question for our columnist? Write to For Love & Money using this Google form.

Dear for love and money,

I am a happily married person. We get along great and don’t fight “a lot” about money, but we are opposites in every way possible… especially in how we evaluate things versus experiences.

I value experiences. I want to use all of our money for family vacations and excursions and activities that will create memories. However, my spouse didn’t experience these things until after we got married, so he appreciates the things that were a more significant part of his childhood than he did. Therefore, he wants to spend our leisure money on his expensive (very expensive, thousands of dollars) hobbies.

I don’t blame him, he works so hard, but he seems to me to be deranged. How do I get it out? How should we divide things and prioritize?


Homeward travel enthusiast

Dear Homebound,

You say you don’t hold a grudge against your husband, but you’ve also used the word “deranged” to describe the financial aspect of your relationship. The two aren’t necessarily contradictory to each other, but I think the dissonance deserves honest examination. Because the tone of your letter seems torn between how you want to feel about it—excited that your husband indulges his every whim—and frustrated that he doesn’t seem to extend the same generosity to you.

But you clearly admire your husband and see him as a good person. This is why the problem you described in your letter seems less of a dilemma and more of a challenge.

Have a conversation about spending your money going forward

“Dilemma” denotes a person enmeshed in a complicated situation. While your situation may be difficult, it’s simple: You need to change your family’s current spending habits. This will mean having a conversation with your husband and staking your claim over half of your shared spending money.

You don’t explain in your letter why, up to this point, your husband’s values ​​have defined most of your family’s expenses. I can think of a dozen possible reasons for this: perhaps her financial contribution is higher than yours, perhaps her reasons for avoiding experiences you crave are valid ones that you respect, such as a fear of flying or a job that offers little free time paid. Or perhaps you’re a woman used to following traditional gender roles in your marriage.

But while these various reasons I’ve figured may make it more emotionally difficult for you to assert your rights, my response to your situation remains the same: You and your husband are equals in your marriage, and you both have an equal say in how you spend. your family’s income.

And basically, since you’re married to a nice person, you need to realize that your reluctance to simply put 50% of your spending money into a vacation fund is due to your own problems and not some real threat that your husband represents.

What to tell your husband

This doesn’t mean you won’t get pushback if you buy tickets to a cruise before he can spend that cash on a classic sports car. Whenever we change long-term dynamics, the people who benefit most from those dynamics will feel ripped off. And I wouldn’t suggest you push for retroactive equality. Don’t say, “You’ve had your way for the past 10 years. Now it’s my turn to decide how we allocate our income.”

Talk to your husband. You might say, “Going on a family vacation this year is important. I’ve done some research and it looks like it’s going to cost us X amount. I’m setting aside money every month, which means our leisure budget will be cut in half.” .”

If he protests that this will delay plans he already had for that money, tell him what you told me: You have different financial goals, and while you love watching him enjoy his hard-earned money, there has to be equality between you in the pursuit of those goals.

Perhaps doing more activities together will change your husband’s mind

This brings me to my final tip. I never recommend attaching moral weight to arbitrary spending. I love attending concerts and staying in boutique hotels, and other people like to drive around their subdivisions in big size pickup trucks. I may not understand this preference, but I don’t need to understand it to respect it—to each his own.

However, you mentioned that your husband’s preference for things over experiences stems from a lack of exposure in childhood. And I wonder if he takes more vacations and hikes and family outings, if your priorities start to align.

Often, what we think are our values ​​are actually our comfort zones. And being pushed out of our comfort zone is, by definition, uncomfortable. Choosing discomfort, especially in the area of ​​leisure spending, is never an attractive prospect. So, if your husband rarely travels out of state or sleeps in different beds than his own, the idea of ​​going out and trying new things can feel intimidating and uncomfortable.

Once you’ve reclaimed half the money you spent and your husband is forced out of his comfort zone, there’s a good chance he understands why you value experiences over things. Together you can experience moments that you both can remember later. And with each new experience, she will probably feel more comfortable than he does.

And even if he always values ​​things over experiences, there will come a time when he too can say, “I don’t despise my partner for these moments that bring him so much joy.”

I cheer for both,

For love and money

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