My partner says pampering myself is a waste of money – but he spends loads on vapes

‘My partner says pampering myself is a waste of money – but he spends loads on vapes’

Moral Money: our reader needs help addressing an argument about spending

Dear Sam,

My partner moans about the cost of my hairdresser and nail technician, but I am bloody sure he wouldn’t even have noticed me if I had not been taking such care of myself.

Why should I stop this spending just because we are now together? I think it is a cheek that he even suggested it.

He spends loads on stupid lottery tickets, and he vapes. Both these things are a waste of money in my opinion, but it is his money and I have said nothing.

At what point do you have to take your partner’s ideas about what is an important expense into consideration, because I can see this being an ongoing problem?  

– Anon

Dear reader,

I think it may be a universal truth that men underestimate the cost of a western woman’s beauty routine. 

No small part of this is a conspiracy between us women and our beauty technicians to maintain a little mystery around where “natural” and “enhanced” begin and end.

We all deserve some individuality and choice in our lives around how we use our money, and it is essential to have some financial independence to enable this.

It is also important to our ability to have happy and healthy relationships that we work out how to build equitable partnerships.

We need to benefit from our collaborations and contribute willingly and happily.

This type of balanced and workable outcome for a couple doesn’t usually happen by accident.

In fact, as you have outlined, often the first discussions around the use of money turns up as criticism or disagreement.

One partner does not understand why the other prioritises a particular spend.  Sometimes the problems start the opposite way, with both parties determined to share equally.

You go on a first date and split the bill 50/50 to maintain fairness and independence. Things go well and a few months later you book a trip together and split the costs.

Months later, you decide to try living together. You rent somewhere together and because the joint cost is still lower than you were paying on your own it feels like a win/win situation.

You decide to buy a new sofa and go 50/50.

You really like your old sofa and thought it would do just fine, but your partner didn’t and so you agreed to buy a new one between you.  

Not wanting to seem less than 100pc committed to your new relationship, you didn’t raise the question about how the new sofa and any other jointly purchased assets would be treated in the event of separation, but if you are going to become financially interdependent then it should not happen by accident.

It needs and deserves discussion and agreement. 

The 50/50 split is rarely a sustainable and fair way for a couple to do finances.

Eventually, if one of you earns more than the other, it will start to cause problems.

Either the lower earner will get over-stretched trying to meet their commitment and have very little “spare” money to spend as an individual.

The higher earner may feel restricted by spending within a budget they are not used to. If the higher earner is to contribute more than half, how is this offered and received? Is it charity, power, generosity or equality?

It can be difficult to have money discussions unless you have been lucky enough to have role models in your life who taught you these valuable skills.

Moral Money: our reader needs help addressing an argument about spending

Most of us find discussing money difficult.

Added to this, we have all been conditioned by our own experience of money and relationships and will almost certainly have different opinions and ideas based on our history. 

It is worth acknowledging that your opinions, for example about vapes and lottery tickets, have come from your history with money and they are just a perspective.

No matter how valid and important the perspective is to you, it may not be possible for someone else to see it from your point of view.

It isn’t necessary that we agree on everything in a relationship, but we will need to find enough common ground and tolerance of our differences to be able to enjoy being together.

My number one tip for my clients when it comes to discussing money with a partner is to get curious rather than cross.

If your partner shares an opinion or idea about money, ask where it comes from. Even if you find it agreeable and easy to live with, it is important to know why they think like that. 

There is bound to be some friction along the way.

The more you understand about each other’s money stuff the more likely you are to find a workable way to cooperate. Seek to understand your partner’s perspective. Be prepared to share yours honestly even if it feels uncomfortable.

Trusting each other in this way with very personal details may even help each of you access previously unavailable information that alters your own opinion.

Co-living takes patience, tolerance, understanding and a contract.

I know the last one isn’t very romantic and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a written contract, but you need to have discussed and agreed how the finances are going to work.

You highlight a critical point in the development of your relationship where the discussion about yours, mine and ours needs to be defined. 

I have found it fascinating over my career to learn how very differently we all think, feel and behave around money.

You can learn much from listening to others on this subject and I know my original opinions have been adjusted based on new information over the years.

Staying curious during these discussions can be empowering and liberating and will certainly be informative.

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