I’m 36 years old and I am going to start getting an allowance.
Like it is for a lot of couples, money is a hot topic in my marriage. We met living on loans in law school and in the intervening 11 years, our finances combined. Over this time our budget has grown and shrunk with the regular grown-up life things- homes and cars and daycare. I wouldn’t say money is something we fight about, but we do discuss it an awful lot and are always looking for ways to improve.
Our newest angle- allowances! Inspired by this article, in April we are starting to pay ourselves allowances. When my husband first broached the subject, I bristled. I started working at age 15 because financial freedom has always felt like the key to personal freedom to me. By the time my husband and I met, I’d been working for 10 years. I was used to managing my own finances and doing what I wanted with my money, for better or for worse. In a perfect world, once we began living together, I would have liked to maintain my own separate bank account. But for a long time, we didn’t have any “extra” money to keep separate, so everything had to be combined for many years.
At first being paid an allowance seemed like it would run counter to all of that– allowances are for kids, this is money I earned, and, well, I don’t know… is this really necessary?
But I thought on it some more. It’s not like I have been buying whatever I want until now. I often feel a vague sense of guilt when I do grab a random shirt from the Target clearance rack or order a face mask to try from Amazon. With our current non-system, while those are relatively minor purchases, the accompanying guilt means they’re not even bringing me pleasure. I like treating myself to massages and manicures every so often, but again with no system, I don’t feel comfortable with when I can do things like that. I feel like I don’t spend very much money on things for me… but to be honest I have no idea how much I do spend on a little thing here and a little thing there.
To be clear- my husband isn’t doing anything to make me feel this way, he’s not scouring the credit card statement and confronting me about charges or trying to make me feel guilty. But I realized that I feel accountable to someone for any spending at all and that has ended up giving me the opposite of the feeling of freedom I’ve been looking for.
The couple in the article gets $500 each, per month. That’s beyond our budget and so we’re starting with smaller allowances. I think this where, if all goes according to plan, this could be adapted for a variety of income levels. There are, of course, families where there is nothing extra. Allowances wouldn’t work if there is no way to fund them or if a family is in the red each month. But there are also many families (I’m hoping ours!) where with the right ground rules, a modest allowance could be the source of happiness and less strife.
I am hoping the allowance system will:
- Allow me to take guilt-free joy in small purchases again
- Allow for larger treats every so often
- Allow me to purchase gifts for my husband from “my” money
- Allow me to save money for long-term goals, like fun solo trips with friends
One challenge I anticipate is exactly defining those ground rules. We’ve discussed it some and some purchases are obvious – the aforementioned massages and face masks. But I can foresee some things being a little murky. Beauty masks are allowance items but shampoo isn’t… right? But what if I up my game from drug-store shampoo to salon brands, could it become allowance? I expect my husband and I will have to keep discussing ground rules over the first few months we try it out. I’ll let you know how it goes.