My Husband Keeps Spending Our Vacation Money on His Hobbies

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  • For Love & Money is a biweekly column from insiders answering your relationship and money questions.
  • This week, a reader asks how to tell their husband to stop spending their vacation money on himself.
  • Our columnist says it’s hard to change long-term dynamics, but you have to be straightforward.
  • Got a question for our columnist? Write to For Love & Money using this Google form.

Dear For Love & Money,

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

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

I don’t begrudge him, he works so hard, but I feel like it’s unbalanced. How do I bring this up? How should we split things and prioritize?

Sincerely,

Homebound Travel Buff


Dear Homebound,

You say you don’t begrudge your husband, but you also used the word “imbalanced” to describe the financial aspect of your relationship. The two things don’t necessarily contradict one another, but I think the dissonance is worth an honest examination. Because the tone of your letter seems split between how you want to feel about it — thrilled for your husband to indulge his every whim — and frustrated that he doesn’t seem to extend that 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 like a challenge.

Have a conversation about how to spend your money going forward

“Dilemma” denotes a person tangled up in a complicated situation. While your situation may be difficult, it is straightforward — you have to shift 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 spending. I can think of a dozen possible reasons for this — perhaps his financial contribution is higher than yours, perhaps his reasons for avoiding the experiences you crave are valid ones you respect, like a fear of flying or a job that offers little paid time off. Or, perhaps, you are a woman and used to following traditional gender roles within your marriage.

But while these various reasons that I’ve imagined may make asserting your rights harder for you emotionally, my answer to your situation remains the same: You and your husband are equal in your marriage, and you both have an equal say over how you spend your family’s income.

And, practically speaking, since you are married to a good person, you must realize that your reluctance to simply stuff 50% of your spending money into a vacation fund is due to your hang-ups and not any real threat your husband poses.

What to say to your husband

This doesn’t mean you won’t receive pushback if you buy tickets for a cruise before he can spend that money on a vintage sports car. Any time we change long-term dynamics, the people benefiting most from those dynamics will feel robbed. And I wouldn’t suggest you push for retroactive equality. Don’t say, “You got your way for the last 10 years. Now it’s my turn to decide how we allocate our income.”

Have a conversation with your husband. You could say, “Going on a family vacation this year is important. I’ve done some research, and it looks like that will cost us X amount. I will set aside money every month, meaning our leisure budget will be cut in half .”

If he protests that this will delay the 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 parity 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 suggestion. I never recommend attributing moral weight to arbitrary spending. I love attending concerts and staying at boutique hotels, and other people enjoy driving around their subdivisions in oversized pickup trucks. I may not understand this preference, but I don’t need to understand it to respect it — to each their own.

However, you said your husband’s preference for things over experiences comes from a lack of childhood exposure. And I wonder if he were to go on more vacations, excursions, and family outings, if your priorities would begin to align.

Often, what we think are our values ​​are actually our comfort zones. And getting pushed out of our comfort zone is, by definition, uncomfortable. Choosing discomfort, especially in the context of leisure spending, is never an attractive prospect. So, if your husband rarely travels outside your state or sleeps in beds beside his own, the idea of ​​getting out and trying new things may sound intimidating and unpleasant.

Once you have asserted your claim to half of the spending money and your husband is forced out of his comfort zone, there’s a good chance he will understand why you value experiences over things. Together you will be able to experience moments that later you will both be able to reminisce over. And with each new experience, he will likely become more comfortable.

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

Rooting for you both,

For Love & Money

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