Question: I have been married for more than a decade now. My husband owns a profitable business and is a good provider. I have never held money to handle the expenses at home. I just ask when I have to. For groceries, gasoline, shopping, etc. I use the credit card. I was thinking, what if I ask for an allowance from my husband? I want to learn how to budget and maybe I’ll only learn how to do this if I held some of our money. When I try to teach my children about budgeting their allowance I secretly cringe at the thought that I don’t even know how to do it. – Tess via text
Answer: Hi Tess. Believe it or not, you are not alone in your situation. I’ve heard this a few times and there are different reasons why couples come up with this kind of financial arrangement. I wish I knew the background why you’re in this situation. Did you talk about money matters before getting married? Did you allow him to take care of family finances because you were not interested or not very comfortable handling money? Is your husband uncomfortable with your spending habits that he would rather take care of this chore, which is usually assigned to the wife?
Whatever the reason is, it’s important to handle the situation with care when you bring up the subject. I hope that the two of you can discuss anything under the sun freely. I’m assuming that your interest in asking is because you now want to be more involved with your financial affairs. And I think it’s about time.
The first thing that you can do is to “do your homework.” What I mean is, take a closer look at your monthly finances. Since you’re the one who handles household matters anyway, you already know how much goes to groceries, electricity, water, gasoline, clothes, etc. Use your credit card bills, statements of account, checkbook and cash disbursements to get historical figures of all your expenses. List them all down. List down even the smallest of your expenses.
Study your monthly expenses. You will be surprised to find out how much it takes to run your household. When you have your expenses listed down you can have a basis for your monthly allowance. You will see where you are overspending and this will give you an insight on how to cut on costs. When you’ve come up with a good estimate of your total monthly expenses, you can start by saying, “Honey, do you know that we spend at least PhP____ every month for our household expenses?” Isn’t that a good opening salvo? If he becomes sensitive about the topic he might say, “Why? Am I lacking in providing for you and the kids?” You can explain to him your reasons why you want to be more involved. Tell him that you want to help control your expenses so you can increase your savings and investments for your retirement nest egg. Tell him that you want to teach your children how to budget, but how can you if you’re not even doing it yourself?
This conversation should not only open up your discussion about your monthly allowance. It should lead you to discuss your assets as husband and wife. Do you know what your properties are? Do you know that if you were married in the Philippines in 1987 onwards, your marriage is covered by the more encompassing Community Property under the Family Code (vs. Conjugal Property). The law states that the Community Property shall consist of all the properties owned by the spouses at the time of the celebration of the marriage or acquired thereafter, unless you signed a pre-nuptial agreement that states otherwise. So it is but right for you to know what you own. It is also best that you are knowledgeable about your financial affairs so you can plan your retirement together as a couple.
It is always advisable that both spouses know what’s in their Balance Sheet. If one of you goes unexpectedly, knowing clearly what you own and owe will help the surviving spouse and children deal with taxes and transfer of ownerships. We’ve heard a lot of sad stories about a spouse being clueless about their properties and debts when one partner suddenly dies. I’m sure you and your husband don’t want that fate.
Oftentimes money is a sensitive issue even between spouses that they’d rather not talk about it. But it should not be the case. Money is the number one cause of marital conflict and maybe it is so because of the lack of disclosure and meaningful discussion about it. So I wish you a good conversation with your husband about money. May it be an enlightening exchange of ideas and may it help you forge a stronger marital bond.
Wishing you financial and marital happiness,