I have told my boyfriend numerous times that he needs to get a better job to provide for his family more, but he always has an excuse (“My job lets me get off in time to get you to work,” and “My job cooperates with my school schedule”) to not get a better-paying job. Is it wrong of me to feel like he is not doing enough for us? He splits the bills with me but can’t buy his family groceries or clothes. Is it wrong that I feel it’s unfair that the extra responsibility is on my shoulders? I know we are partners and you have to support your partner for richer or for poorer, but we are not married yet and I am spending all of my wages supporting my daughter AND him, I feel. Am I just being selfish? I spend $800+ a month, outside of what I spend on bills, on groceries and other miscellaneous things for our household. — Fed Up With Supporting Him
I assume, since your boyfriend is in school, that he has goals for the future that extend beyond working at a job where he makes just two bucks more an hour than minimum wage. And if the job he has now works around his school schedule AND allows him to to take you to work in your shared car, I think he has a point about it being a good fit for now. That doesn’t mean he couldn’t at least LOOK for a job that would be equally flexible in terms of schedule and also pay more, but I do think it’s unfair of you to demand or expect him to make a certain amount of money or to split the household costs with you 50/50 when you have always known what his income is and it doesn’t seem like his earning potential has likely increased very much in the past several years.
I have several suggestions for you: First, talk to your boyfriend about your shared financial and life goals. When will he finish school? What kind of work does he hope to find then? How much does he anticipate his earning potential increasing once he has a degree? Second, brainstorm together about how either or both of you could earn extra money in your “free time.” Does either of you have marketable skills? Is your boyfriend handy? Can he offer to fix things for people for money? Can he mow lawns for cash? Do you have things you could sell? Third, cut your expenses. Move to a cheaper home. Change cell phone plans. And whatever “miscellaneous things” and “things of that nature” imply, cut down on them. Find cheaper versions of them. Do more yourself at home. Skip the little luxuries. Barter with people.
The fact is, you and your boyfriend ARE partners. Even if you never get married or you break up, you will always at least be partners in raising your child. And, you know, as long as you love each other and get along and have an otherwise strong relationship, it is so much easier to raise a child together than it is to raise a child apart. Maintaining two households is much more expensive than maintaining one for your whole family (and you ARE a family, whether you’re married or not).
In long-term relationships, the financial, household, and childcare responsibility among two adults can shift and evolve dramatically over many years. Just because you are earning more now doesn’t mean that will always be the case, and supporting your boyfriend, both financially and emotionally, may put you both in a better position to have a higher combined household income eventually–AND a stronger relationship. Right now your time, your money, and your love are investments, and what you are investing in is your relationship, your family, and your future. Call me crazy, but I think that’s worth a few hundred dollars a month. If, in time, you find that the return on your investment isn’t paying off, then by all means MOA. But from what you write in your letter, it seems too early to tell, and the stakes seem too high to give up just yet.
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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].
LlamaPajamas May 20, 2014, 9:20 am
“Is it wrong of me to feel like he is not doing enough for us? He splits the bills with me but can’t buy his family groceries or clothes.”
I understand how stressful money issues are, but you’re only looking at one way your partner can support your family. There’s so much more than just financial support! I have a few girlfriends who are the bread winners for their families and their husbands stay at home with their kiddos. These guys can’t buy their families groceries or clothes, but they provide a wonderful amount of emotional and practical support. Does your boyfriend support you in other ways? Is he a good father and partner to you? Would you be OK if you made more money than him for the rest of your lives together? It sounds like he’s in school now to improve his employment prospects in the future, and he’s making sure his current work schedule allows him to take into consideration school and your work schedule. Without knowing more details, it sounds like he’s maybe doing the best he can juggling a lot of commitments right now.
ktfran May 20, 2014, 9:26 am
Yes. This. If we was blowing his discretionary income on, idk what kind of items men spend extra money on, instead of helping with groceries or picking up something for your daughter, I might be more wary about him. But, LW, you don’t mention that so I’m going to assume he isn’t.
So, I agree with Wendy and LP. There’s also A LOT to be said for flexible work schedules. Seriously. I don’t even have a child and I appreciate my flexible work schedule, whereas I have friends who have to adhere to a much more stringent work schedule and it sucks.
lets_be_honest May 20, 2014, 9:32 am
What DO men spend their extra $ on? They don’t buy purses. What else is there really?
ktfran May 20, 2014, 9:35 am
Well, I was going to say beer and video games, but I didn’t want to stereotype. Even though it’s probably true.
I love purses and shoes and clothes and I agree, other than that, I agree. There is nothing else. At all.
Portia May 20, 2014, 9:42 am
Ha you guys are great 🙂
Bassanio spends his money on electronics and travel. And shoes.
ktfran May 20, 2014, 10:46 am
This is hilarious. I really just said the “whatever men spend money on bit” because I figured if I named off a couple items, I would be blasted for stereotyping.
I really don’t care what men spend their disposable income on and I know each are different.
But, is LBH said, my disposable income goes to clothes. I love clothes. Ooh, and nice dinners out, because I love food more than I love clothes.
Simonthegrey May 21, 2014, 3:41 pm
No stereotyping. It’s video games.
Morgan May 20, 2014, 10:01 am
Whisky, Guitars, Stuff to customize his guitars, hats, occasionally video games, going out to eat, wine.
othy May 20, 2014, 10:03 am
I have a couple of guy friends who still buy toys. I went over to one guy’s house this weekend, and he insisted on showing me his new Optimus Prime toy that he had just purchased.
iseeshiny May 20, 2014, 10:11 am
Ha yes, one of my friends has a room of action figures, mostly GI Joes. Like an actual room. Full of shelves with Joes. He has open packages framed on the walls, too.
Morgan May 20, 2014, 10:58 am
Oh yeah, bf makes me stop and look at the legos anytime we go anywhere. His lego collection is pretty legit. My mother encourages him; she bought him the dump truck set.
gigi May 20, 2014, 10:06 am
Oooh yeah this! I work with a guy, probably around 37 yrs old, who still buys Hot Wheels & Star Wars toys. He has a whole room full of toys & it drives his wife absolutely nuts! He keeps saying they are for his kids, when they get older. But we all know that they are really for him.
MW May 20, 2014, 10:09 am
Wait a minute! You know my husband? The youngest already “has” a light saber, and he’s only 3 months old.
gigi May 20, 2014, 10:12 am
Doesn’t every baby need a light saber? LOL – Maybe this is more widespread than I thought!
lets_be_honest May 20, 2014, 10:10 am
I have a good friend whose in his mid-30s and still buys action figures all the time. Its kinda cute.
othy May 20, 2014, 10:12 am
His wife lets him keep his toys in his ‘war-room’, but he’s not allowed to bring them into the rest of the house.
bethany May 20, 2014, 10:04 am
If you’re my husband, camera lenses, surf boards, a motorcycle… The list goes on.
lets_be_honest May 20, 2014, 10:09 am
Wow, I guess I make up for his lack of spending, because I can’t think of one thing he “wastes” his money on. I think he bought a video game like 2 years ago. I guess wine could count, but that’s really an “us” expense.
Lemongrass May 20, 2014, 10:14 am
Mr. Grass never buys anything. But he likes to go on hunting trips which is really expensive especially since he never actually gets anything and basically just drinks in the forest with his friends.
lets_be_honest May 20, 2014, 10:17 am
I wish Peter had something like that. He doesn’t really have a “thing.”
Sue Jones May 20, 2014, 10:09 am
Being the only female in my household, I think I can safely say that many men/boys like to spend money on expensive electronic shit. (Think computer stuff/upgrades, gaming cameras, sound systems, tools big TV’s and useless crap like that). And watch, someone will jump all over my case for ” gender stereotyping”… 😉 Cue the outrage!
othy May 20, 2014, 10:13 am
Damn, I guess I’m a guy now. I’d much rather have a new computer upgrade then a purse any day of the week!
Sue Jones May 20, 2014, 10:22 am
Oh sure, I guess what I am getting at is that men seem to spend a higher portion of their money on more high ticket items with their “disposable” income. For myself, I am splurging when I replace my expensive skin cream . And eating organic is a huge priority for me. Whereas I know several guys who will eat cheap crappy food but boy do they have a big TV! When I was apartment hunting years ago, I could always tell a guy’s place: Nothing decorating the walls, crappy furniture, and a TON of electronic /gaming stuff and a really fancy mountain bike and skis adorning the livingroom. Seriously! Well I guess that goes more for straight men, anyway… And a lot of the old male roommates I had carted along boxes and boxes of old useless electronic cords and chargers and junk like that because hey, you never know when you may need it! If I do not know what antiquated gadget something goes to. it goes in the trash!
lets_be_honest May 20, 2014, 10:25 am
Ahh, hording of electronic cords! I’m breaking out in hives just thinking about it!
Portia May 20, 2014, 10:51 am
One of the first things we did when moving in together was go through the cords and seriously talk about what we had multiples of and did not need. This process is redone at least once a year.
lets_be_honest May 20, 2014, 11:13 am
But, Portia, you just never know when you might need those 13,000 cords!
Portia May 20, 2014, 11:24 am
See, this is what Bassanio gets for dating a girl who knows her way around electronics. I know when they’re shit cords from some device he no longer uses.
PSA: Everyone, get rid of 3 ethernet cords. Right now. I promise you have enough and will never need them. And will get them free every time you open a new Comcast account.
GatorGirl May 20, 2014, 10:31 am
IDK, I think this is heading into an uncomfortable line of rational. Sure there are some guys who fit into this model, but there are plenty that don’t and plenty of women that do. I know I for one will save up to buy a high ticket item (like a big tv) rather then splurging on skin cream. Yeah, IDK this is just giving me the willies.
Portia May 20, 2014, 10:43 am
GG, I’m the same way. Then number of collective devices over here would astound most people (I’ll be as guilty of it as Bassanio when I have more disposable income).
Sue Jones May 20, 2014, 10:44 am
I was mainly going off on a tangent about it from my own experience. It may be unrelated to the LW’s actual situation since she didn’t say anything about her BF overspending. But… We have a big TV in our spare bedroom. I never watch TV. I would never, if I lived on my own, even own a TV. I consider it a waste of time. (and I am most certainly NOT wasting time at this moment on Dear Wendy, am I??) The boys in my house love watching movies, Game of Thrones, etc. So… we have a BIG ugly TV, it makes them happy. So we have a TV. A BIG TV. It is not in the living room, at least, Thank God! My splurges are smaller. That’s all. I just bought a bunch of dirt so I could put in more raised gardening beds…
LlamaPajamas May 20, 2014, 11:18 am
I always spend my allowance from my fiancé on aprons and cleaning supplies! And I hide my makeup receipts from him because he thinks I’m naturally beautiful and I don’t want to spoil the illusion.
Portia May 20, 2014, 10:45 am
When I was 10, my mom asked me what I was saving my money for. My answer? A laptop. True story.
Sue Jones May 20, 2014, 10:48 am
My 10 year old is saving for a laptop now, as we speak. He was out over the weekend selling his matchbox cars for the computer. And he already has an iPad, an iPod touch… next year he wants a phone for middle school… it starts early over here
Portia May 20, 2014, 11:07 am
At least they’re cheaper now. When I got my first one, laptops were minimum $2500 each and I wanted ones that could play my computer games, so they were pricier. I think that’s what I spent my bat mitzvah money on eventually.
othy May 20, 2014, 11:15 am
Me too! I bough my first computer at 12. And when we went shopping for it, my dad made me do all the talking. And we bought from the guy who actually answered me, rather than talking to my dad when I asked the questions.
Portia May 20, 2014, 11:26 am
DesiDad May 20, 2014, 12:54 pm
Agreed! I applaud your dad, too.
I make my daughter (now 17) do things like that. I have to work harder on it as her mom (my ex-wife) is the type that goes “Oh, my babeeeeee! Don’t worry, I will do it for you…” (barf!)
othy May 20, 2014, 2:41 pm
I am so thankful that he made me do it. I was really nervous about it, but as an adult, I’m much more comfortable with sales people.
Moneypenny May 20, 2014, 2:28 pm
When I was 13 I saved my babysitting money to buy a pair of Doc Martens. They were the most expensive thing I had ever purchased. I actually still have them and wear them! And I still spend lots of money on shoes… Some things never change?
gigi May 20, 2014, 9:41 am
Electronics, tools, smokers & grills, video games, drinking, car stuff, motorcycle stuff, boat stuff…in my group of friends anyway, this is what the guys seem to spend the $ on.
kerrycontrary May 20, 2014, 11:19 am
Guns, traveling, watches, new shoes.
Addie Pray May 20, 2014, 10:20 am
csp May 20, 2014, 9:25 am
LW, I can see your feelings. I feel like a bunch of us go through a quarter life crisis when you really feel the financial burden and then realize you are going to do this forever. These feelings are very, very normal. But if your relationship is going to succeed, you are going to have to get over the ebbs and flows. Think of things as “our money” and not “mine and yours”. Just remember that things will get better as you both develop in your careers.
lets_be_honest May 20, 2014, 9:31 am
So you each pay 50% of the bills even though you make substantially more and he’s in school. Wow! I think that’s pretty awesome he’s able/willing to do that.
So he’s got $300 left over, and you’ve got $1,200 left over after paying shared bills but you’re annoyed that he’s busy furthering his education for your shared future and because of that, he can’t also pay half the groceries?! Come on!
MsMisery May 20, 2014, 1:29 pm
Exactly!! It is pretty common for one partner to make more than the other. In this case it just happens to be the lady. But he is going to school (so I assume he has aspirations) and also has the ability to be flexible with his time, which he uses to the family’s benefit. As others have said, not all support is financial. And unless you either prefer a partner who splits all finances 50/50 OR a partner who pays your way, this isn’t going to be the guy for you (unless you can wait until he is done with school).
Fabelle May 20, 2014, 9:36 am
Your feelings aren’t “wrong”…but I don’t think you should be using these feelings to pressure your boyfriend into finding a new job right ~now~ ? His “excuses”, like Wendy said, are actually pretty on-point reasons for why a different job might be impractical with his current situation. He’s clearly helping as much as he can–by splitting major expenses with you–so I’d give him a break & remember that this is likely temporary.
Miss MJ May 20, 2014, 9:38 am
This is really great advice, Wendy.
LW, here’s the thing, if your BF is in school and working and contributing what appears to be all of his money to your household, then right now, I think he is doing all he can do. I’m not sure what more you want from him. Or, if this is your only problem together, what you hope to accomplish by breaking up with him. I mean, sure, you could break up and meet a nice, rich guy who will pay for everything, but, probably not, you know? Instead, you’d be paying for your entire life with your one paycheck because even if your BF had to pay you child support, it’s not gonna be everything he makes. So, breaking up because you don’t think his contribution of 100% of his meager salary is enough and you want more money is basically shooting yourself in the foot.
But, more to the point, your situation, though draining on a daily basis, is really not that grim for a couple of reasons. First, your BF is in school. Presumably this is going to enable him to get a better job, which translates into more money sometime relatively soon. Second, your daughter is 2 and in a few years, she will be going to school, which should cut down on child are costs, if you’re paying those. Third, you also have the option of changing jobs to make more money to have more of a cushion so you don’t feel so taxed all the time. Point is, you’re not stuck in this cycle forever. So, instead of throwing out the baby with the bath water and dumping your BF in the hopes of meeting a man who will take care of you (until he decides he doesn’t want to anymore – and there’s a worry that will keep you up all night), why not work with your BF to come up with a plan about how you’re going to improve your financial situation. I think having a firm plan for how your future will be more financially stable may make you feel better than anything else.
AmyP May 20, 2014, 9:40 am
“I have many more bills to pay such as credit card expenses and my cell phone and things of that nature.”
If it were a student loan, I’d be more sympathetic, but credit cards and cell phone represent your consumption. You have more bills because you’re spending more.
Be patient for another year or two and take a personal finance class with your boyfriend when he has a break from school. Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University is a 9-week weekly class that you may find very helpful for improving your financial planning. It’s offered in a lot of areas. I’m sure there are other good classes, but that’s the one I know.
lets_be_honest May 20, 2014, 9:45 am
I don’t know about the cell phone being unnecessary, but very good point about her extra bills.
katie May 20, 2014, 10:24 am
yea i caught the credit card thing too… LW, stop using credit cards. cut them up. save one for emergencies, one that doesnt have a yearly fee, and do not ever use it expect for actual, real, emergencies.
honeybeenicki May 20, 2014, 11:14 am
I’m working on this right now. With the whole fertility treatment costs thing, I’ve maxed out 2 credit cards for a lot more than I’m comfortable with (although apparently less than “average” credit card debt), so I’m working on paying those off and not using them at all and I’ll keep one for emergencies.
katie May 20, 2014, 11:16 am
i hate credit cards. i always get uncomfortable when any amount of money is on them!
Simonthegrey May 21, 2014, 3:46 pm
Or use them responsibly. I don’t like to carry cash (and where I work, it’s not really safe to have a lot of cash on me) but I pay my credit card balance in full every month. Other than 2 months last summer when I wasn’t working and trying to pay off my wedding (which was around $4,000, which is way below average for our area) and I had to carry a balance, I’ve never carried one. Credit cards themselves aren’t evil, but having multiple ones and carrying a balance is what gets people into trouble.
lets_be_honest May 21, 2014, 3:49 pm
Hate the person using the credit card badly, not the credit card itself.
I think that’s in the bible.
Addie Pray May 20, 2014, 10:57 am
I was thinking the same thing. I’m glad you said something. So they have cable and internet and cell phones…. And credit card debt. Stop spending money you don’t have, people! You can’t afford those things right now; so get rid of them.
Painted_lady May 20, 2014, 9:46 am
LW, I was in a really similar place to you a a year ago. My boyfriend and I don’t have any kids, but otherwise we’re virtually identical – I bring in about $1,000/month more than he did at the time, and it frustrated me to my breaking point that he refused to even look for something else. Ultimately, I let him know how much it hurt that he wasn’t putting any effort into job hunting, and that the money he earned wasn’t a dealbreaker by any means, but his willingness to let me pay for a majority (though not a huge one) of our expenses without even attempting to get a different job was. I won’t bore you with details, but we sat up all night and got to the bottom of why I was so adamant that he look and why he was so reluctant to do so.
The next day, he started looking. That was three months ago, and he hasn’t found anything yet, but he did get a small promotion at his current job. He’s still looking, and that’s enough for me. That’s all I wanted – that I mattered enough to look. And I promised him as long as he was looking, I would leave him alone, and if he couldn’t find anything that worked with his current schedule for school, then that was fine. He’s got some issues regarding how much I help him (he feels like at a certain point, my help takes away from his accomplishment), and given that he’s not really like that in any other way, I can respect that and keep my distance. Ultimately for me, it was about him making an effort to help me out on that front. And he has, so I’m much happier.
Painted_lady May 20, 2014, 10:46 am
Oh, also: if my boyfriend were doing a job he enjoyed or would help him with his degree, I’d have shut up as well. But he hates his job and wants to go into a completely different field, though he was supposed to have been done with school about now. He’s decided to go another route that means he has at least another two years (grad school as opposed to a certificate that supplements the degree he already has). At the point where he made that decision was the moment I put my foot down and insisted he look for another job because his school schedule is the *only* reason it even makes sense to keep the job he has, and since he’s a bartender it means that he has no paid vacations, no health insurance, and his income fluctuates between “not great” to “holy shit I can’t afford groceries” from week-to-week. It’s tough to budget like that as a couple because when he has an unexpectedly rough week, but the internet bill is due, I have to pay it and hope he’ll make it back the next week. So it’s not just about how much he makes overall, but rather that what he makes is so erratic.
HmC May 20, 2014, 9:46 am
It doesn’t make sense to me to demand that your boyfriend make more money or take another job because you don’t feel he supports your family enough, but, I think that says a lot about how I was personally raised because I know a lot of women consider their husband/boyfriend’s “provider” ability to be very important. I know you have a kid, but it sounds like this guy is not exactly a slacker (I mean only you really know that, but if he’s in a promising school program and has a flexible schedule that allows him to pick you up from work and care for your child, those are significant things). I guess it just seems like, you shouldn’t get to dictate what his line of work is (within reason) just because you chose to have a kid with him. Presumably, you knew what he did when you got pregnant.
Lemongrass May 20, 2014, 10:12 am
Yes. Even though I am fully dependant on my husband’s income I would never feel that it is okay for me to demand him to make more money. It’s his job, I knew what his income abilities would be before making a baby with him and I accept him as he is. Oh, and even though he doesn’t make that much more than average we have done very well. We are careful with our money and save whatever is leftover. There are so many ways you can cut down on your bills!
FossilChick May 20, 2014, 10:01 am
When I first saw this, I thought it would be another letter about some slacker mooch, but it’s not! Hooray! LW, it sounds like your BF is paying the bills to the best of his ability and is a supportive partner. There are many ways to “support” someone. Let’s take a look at what might happen if he quits the flexible but lower-paying job to meet your income demands. If he has to quit school to work more hours, will that be better for your and your child’s future? What if he gets a new job and now he’s working 7 am-7 pm and you have to get another car? Is that a net positive? What if the new job has minimal personal leave and he has no days banked and now you are doing all emergency childcare? Is it still worth it to you, financially?
Maybe it would reduce some tension to begin reframing this. Partners support each other in different ways, at different times, through life. Please think about ALL the ways your BF does — or maybe does not — support you, emotionally, intellectually, at home, parenting your daughter, and don’t solely focus on the financial. Relationships require big picture thinking.
Lemongrass May 20, 2014, 10:03 am
You either aren’t that committed to this guy or you are uncomfortable being a female breadwinner. Either way get over it. You made a baby with this guy, you owe it to your daughter to get over your issues (and they are your issues) with this man going to school and working and still splitting half the bills with you. He sounds like a stand up guy. That is a lot of work, how would you feel if he was telling you that you weren’t working hard enough? If this was your friend but instead she was making less and going to school and her boyfriend suddenly started demanding that she start making more money, what would you say to her? That shouldn’t change because of the genders.
GatorGirl May 20, 2014, 10:05 am
“My job lets me get off in time to get you to work,” and “My job cooperates with my school schedule”
Hmmm, these seem like pretty valid reasons to not change employment. It can be hard to find a job to work with school schedules and partners working schedules (and I assume childcare schedules!). I’d chill until he is done school and then have a talk about a more high paying job. (Which, having a high paying job isn’t everything. So I don’t fault your BF for not making that a priority, since it sounds like your basic needs are being met.)
Flake May 20, 2014, 10:28 am
I’ll even throw this out there: if I were your boyfriend, I would even suggest splitting things not half -way, but proportionally to the income. That would be the ”fairest” way, in my opinion.
katie May 20, 2014, 10:37 am
like lemongrass said, this is either a gender perception issue or a relationship perception issue.
if it is a gender perception issue -if you find yourself thinking, “but he is the man! he is supposed to pay for more stuff!”- then you need to unlearn all the shitty things that were taught to you about gender, and re-learn how to be a breadwinner. it still completely baffles me how so many women have these complains, yet if a man said them, he would be horrible. you are a breadwinner, get over that. be proud of that.
the relationship perception issue is another thing. i actually think that this is a little more of the issue because of the “but we are not married yet” line. now, its valid for you two to always split your bills. its valid for you two to never marry. whatever, you and your feelings are valid. but let me tell you that you may win the proverbial battle with the “everything has to be split down the center 50/50” tactic, but i guarantee you will not win the war. nothing in your relationship will be 50/50. it just wont. even if you made *exactly* the same amount of money, take home, each month, it would be impossible because what if one month you need or want something that is $5 dollars more then the 50/50 split? its just impossible. so, then, the way you solve that is you accept that you are a team, married or not, and you all play for your little team, along with your daughter. dont nickle and dime one another. figure out a budget, stick to it, together. from the second my boyfriend and i moved in, we knew that we couldnt do it alone, we needed one another, and the money became ours. we figured out how to make it work, and it never mattered who the money came from. even if i paid for every expense out of our household and then wanted or needed something else, he would pay for it. and vis versa. because we are a team. the success of our team means more then the individual contribution. whether you ever marry or not, you are going to have to shift your focus. and hey, if you need to marry to shift your focus, maybe its a good time to do so. but no matter what, you will not win the war with these thoughts. yes, you might be able to push or nag or whatever until he relents, and you win that battle, but 9 times out of 10 that will not end well, and you will end up ruining the relationship or even worse, you could ruin the finances you have now. think long term.
and ps. flexible schedule is a fucking good reason to keep a job. that is nowhere near an “excuse”.
lets_be_honest May 20, 2014, 10:44 am
I love this so much.
lets_be_honest May 20, 2014, 12:21 pm
Maybe, like you said, her real issue here is that they are not married. LW, why? I suspect you want marriage, and maybe he doesn’t so because of that, you resent this situation a bit.
katie May 20, 2014, 12:52 pm
yea, maybe marriage would help. and i think getting married to form a team is a good reason to get married (right? i mean that would be one of my like top 3). but i think that also part of the problem here is that they had a roommate before, so she is still thinking in roommate-terms, not in team-terms.
(my top three marriage pros: 1. we are legally a team. 2. death benefits. 3. ….?)
GatorGirl May 20, 2014, 1:02 pm
haha, I think the “team” reason is a just fine reason!
lets_be_honest May 20, 2014, 1:03 pm
Katie told me her #3 is “getting to use the term Hubby.”
Her words, not mine!
katie May 20, 2014, 2:00 pm
damnit, lets!! i told you that in confidence!!
Lucy May 20, 2014, 5:41 pm
Laura Hope May 20, 2014, 11:26 am
Wendy’s right about the shift in relationships. When I was dating my husband and for the first part of our marriage, I paid for pretty much everything. Then as my salary maxed out and his career took off, he became the primary breadwinner. It’s a journey. But more importantly, this tit for tat attitude doesn’t bode well for your relationship. Marriage isn’t 50/50. It’s 100/100. (I’ve heard that many times and it’s true).
Liquid Luck May 20, 2014, 11:56 am
Let’s say your boyfriend agrees to get a higher-paying job. What salary would you be comfortable him making? Is that realistic with his current skills and education level? How much time is he allowed to spend job hunting on top of his current job and schooling responsibilities before you get upset that he’s ignoring you and your daughter? Is he supposed to quit school for this job? Because if so, his salary requirements just went up to offset the loss of future income that education would get him. Finding a well-paying job is not as easy as you make it sound.
I think you’re undervaluing your boyfriend’s job because you’re only focusing on the salary. His “excuses” are actually perfectly valid reasons to stay in a job. Having a flexible work schedule is worth a lot of value to some people, and it sounds like your boyfriend is one of them. He values being able to get you to work and to be in school (which I assume he’s doing so that he can get a higher-paying job at some point) more than a couple hundred extra dollars a month.
If he’s splitting all the bills he can with you and not blowing his money irresponsibly, then maybe you need to consider the fact that you’re living outside your means. Think about what expenses you have that you really need, and what you can live without. And try to be a bit more realistic about your situation. It honestly sounds like you just wish you had more fun money, not that you’re unable to make ends meet. Sorry, but almost every adult I know (especially those with young children) wishes that, but the rest of us manage to live off our budgets and find ways to save for whatever luxuries we really want. So find a budget that works for your family, and then stick to it.
AKchic May 20, 2014, 12:19 pm
Oh honey, you are so mistaken if you think that finances need to be a 50/50 split. You seem to imply that your partner isn’t enough because he doesn’t make enough money to suit you.
He’s in school. He needs flexibility. Especially if the two of you share a vehicle. Wendy is right when she says you need to cut down on expenses. Get rid of the credit card, don’t eat out, buy generic, etc. Eventually, your boyfriend/father of your child will be out of school and capable of working a more standardized job in order to make more money.
I supported my SO through school when we first got together. I have always made more money than he has. When he couldn’t find a job in his chosen career field, I supported his decisions to work other jobs, even if they didn’t make much money. Why? Because any money is better than no money. Yes, we have kids, but that doesn’t mean that just because he has a penis that he has to make more than me and support us financially. He contributes around the house. He cleans, has learned to cook more than macaroni and cheese, and takes care of the kids when I’m not home. To me, that is valuable because it frees me up a bit.
LW, stop thinking that money is the only thing your boyfriend contributes. Look at the other things he provides. A loving father, loving boyfriend, household duties, and SOME money in order to help pay for things, yes. But, with schooling he is also giving you the chance for better money down the road.
And if you are still struggling after cutting back on things, look into food stamps or low income housing.
LS May 20, 2014, 12:47 pm
I’m curious why LW defines some expenses as “extra”:
“anything extra that has to be bought such as groceries, gas, diapers, clothes for our daughter, etc., has to come out of my pocket.”
She is not talking about extra nights out or special treats for their daughter–groceries, diapers, these are essentials. I think these costs should be included in their calculations of what expenses to split.
I am a hard numbers person so it helped to see it laid out:
Combined income: $3,100 (split 2000/1100)
Current shared expenses: $1900 (split 950/950)
Additional expenses LW is paying for the household (as she says): $800
REAL total of household expenses: $2700
If you split that in half, her BF cannot afford to pay his 50% “share”.
Other commenter have covered why it’s maybe not practical for the BF to find another job right now, and have done a great job encouraging LW to think of the big picture/long-term.
I think short term potential solutions are, much like Wendy said:
1. Lower expenses, find ways to save so you are meeting the BF’s budget and you two can then contribute equally. This would probably mean finding ways to cut ~$800 from their monthly expenses so the BF could keep contributing the $950 that he does today (unless he is willing to raise that contribution a bit).
I’m a strong believer that you should try to live within the means of the lowest earner and right now they are exceeding this (not to say they should live on JUST $1100/month, but if you’re each contributing 50%, treat household expenses as if you both make only $1100 not that you both make $2000)
2. Divide expenses up proportionally. LW makes 2/3 of their household income, she could contribute 2/3 of their expenses ($1800), and the BF could contribute 1/3 ($900). The BF will be paying less than he is now, which may mean some more flexibility to pick up the actual nonessential “extras” like a night on the town or small gift for their daughter, which could help improve LW’s view of his financial contributions. If this does not leave LW with enough to pay her additional expenses–they should re-evaluate their household budget.
Even if going with the second option above–LW and her BF should probably look at lowering their monthly household expenses right now. It does not leave a lot of room in either person’s budget for personal expenses (such as the cell phone and credit card bills or “whatever men spend their money on”), or even for saving.
LS May 20, 2014, 12:49 pm
Ugh. I put in page breakes to try to make that easier to ready but they didn’t stick! Hopefully the message still comes across!
katie May 20, 2014, 12:53 pm
this is a good point. maybe when this LW talks about “expenses” she just means things that have a bill that are sent each month? that is kind of how jake and i thought for a while, so that could be it.
lets_be_honest May 20, 2014, 1:09 pm
Doesn’t $800 seem like a lot for non “bill” expenses? groceries, gas, diapers, clothes were mentioned as those expenses. Gas for one car and groceries for a family of 3 being $800 seems like a lot. Maybe I’m crazy though.
LS May 20, 2014, 1:56 pm
Someone else mentioned that LW may be factoring childcare in as well. They both work and at least he goes to school too, so the “etc” beyond groceries, gas, and clothes could include daycare or something?
For just me, I spend ~$200/month on groceries (granted I buy a lot of name brands and more expensive convenience foods–I could cut down on this a lot more if I wanted), and ~$100-150 on gas since I have a long commute, limited public transportation options, and high fuel costs (all may be true for LW, long commute esp if they share one car to both get to work/school). If LW has a similar lifestyle, plus with additional child care costs, it seems possible it really is adding up to that much. But also possible to potentially budget down.
lets_be_honest May 20, 2014, 1:59 pm
Oh, I wasn’t even thinking about child care!
Liquid Luck May 20, 2014, 2:02 pm
I was thinking the same thing when I read that, but I just figured they were in a high COL area or something. There still seems like there’s some unnecessary spending in there, though.
lemongrass May 20, 2014, 7:48 pm
That really depends where you live. We spend $1500 a month on gas and groceries, that is pretty average here.
rachel May 20, 2014, 8:35 pm
Wow, I didn’t realize the cost of living there was so high!
lemongrass May 20, 2014, 8:58 pm
Yeah it sucks, but it’s beautiful! And free health care haha. Mr. Grass does have an hour long commute and both him and E eat a lot. Plus we don’t buy cheap food, I make home cooked meals every night.
LS May 20, 2014, 1:07 pm
Also, other DWers may disagree, considering they are not married… but I don’t think it’s a bad idea to have a “household” account. When they agree on an amount that each of them should contribute to the household expenses–put that money into separate checking account and use that to pay the household expenses.
This might obscure who exactly pays for what–you know you are each contributing to the household the amount you agreed upon–you don’t start building that resentment that you’ve paid for more.
It also means shared control in what you’re spending. So you can work together to figure out how to cover expenses when the account is running low instead of one person always picking up the slack. And vice versa (not saying LW is doing this) it avoids the possibility the one partner is spending more than the other can afford (ex: buying organic instead of generic) and then holding it against the other partner for not contributing enough. They both see the total in the shared account and both come to the conclusion that “hm, WE can only afford the generic this week and if it’s so important to ME, I can cover the cost of organic but it’s my choice and not because my partner hasn’t contributed his share”.
Tmd260 May 20, 2014, 12:57 pm
I’m getting so much “me me me” from this letter, which I think is a major factor in why a lot of relationships fail. Actually, I did read an article on that a few moths back.
You made a choice to move in with this man, share your life with him & even procreate with him. From what you’ve stated, by no means does it sound like he is sitting on his ass expecting you to foot the bill for everything. His reasons for staying at that job seem very legit for where you both are in life right now, esp if you’re sharing a car! At least in the city I live in, that is a top priority in being able to have a job- having a car.
Instead of sulking & complaining about all the expenses you have, do WWS, *talk* with your bf, your partner, the father of your child! Find out where to cut expenses & make plans for short term & long term goals.
Jess May 20, 2014, 1:00 pm
I think everything I want to say has been said but yeah, here is my take. If you are in a true partnership, you have to stop thinking mine and yours in such a black and white way. In my household, we think about how much money is coming in and how much is going out. We don’t actually share a checking account but we do approach our income and expenses collectively. I dramatically outearn my husband because he has a small self-employed business. He loves what he does and is building great experience. It doesn’t bring in a ton of money but we have enough with it. More importantly, to me, he truly runs our household. His job is flexible so he takes care of lawn, groceries, cooking, etc. And when our child is born this Fall, he will be a stay-at-home dad. It may not be traditional but it works so beautifully for us and I feel SO grateful that we are both pursuing careers that we love while earning enough money to pay our bills and run our household. If you were to look at our situation from a 50/50 model, you’d think a horrible injustice was being done to me. In reality, I’m spoiled. I come home to a clean house, a warm dinner, and a happy husband.
Anyway, that’s just my story but its one example of many where 50/50 just isn’t necessary.
Oh and to echo someone else’s point above– it wasn’t always this way nor do I expect it to stay this way. When we first dated, he had a corporate job and I was barely making ends meet. He helped me out a lot at that time.
Lyra May 20, 2014, 1:13 pm
I may get flamed for this, but in my humble opinion the boyfriend needs to make more money. Even though he’s in school, they’re not bringing in enough right now. Yeah he’s going to school to gain more earning potential, but the pressure on the LW is going to build and build. She’s already resenting him for not bringing in enough money. It’s only going to get worse at this point.
Maybe that means he only goes to school part time, or he works more weekends, or they get another car so he can work longer hours. Something needs to change, otherwise this relationship will only get more strained. Yeah he’s not earning much for good reasons, but if things don’t turn around soon I don’t think this couple will last much longer.
I can’t imagine trying to support two adults and a child on $3100 per month. If it was only the couple yeah it’s definitely possible. But with a child? More money needs to come in.
rachel May 20, 2014, 1:24 pm
$3100 a month is probably quite close to the median family income. I think a lot of people raise children on that much or way less. I mean, maybe it’s not enough money for them, but she shouldn’t just get to declare that he has to make more. There are a lot of factors to consider, and him being in school will only be a temporary thing.
lets_be_honest May 20, 2014, 1:30 pm
Does she say they can’t afford the bills? I should scroll up haha. I don’t think she does though. She just doesn’t like having to pay more.
rachel May 20, 2014, 1:35 pm
No, it sounds like things are tight, but not that needs aren’t being met.
iseeshiny May 20, 2014, 1:31 pm
Yeah, just a rough guess but 3100/mo take home pay is somewhere around 50,000-60,000/year gross. Which is right around the median household income in the US.
Also a second car can be pretty expensive, even a clunker carrying only liability insurance.
rachel May 20, 2014, 1:33 pm
Yeah, I would do a lot to avoid being a 2-car household. I know it’s unavoidable in some places, but that many extra bills is just more stress. Related – I can’t wait until I get my car paid off so I can cut down my insurance to liability only.
iseeshiny May 20, 2014, 1:44 pm
I should probably go down to liability, I’m just paranoid that the second I do I will cause an accident and be screwed, haha. So I still carry comprehensive even though I paid off my car a year ago.
AliceInDairyland May 20, 2014, 1:48 pm
We have 2 cars and 3 trucks.
🙂 All of them are paid off though, because they are clunkers.
rachel May 20, 2014, 2:04 pm
Well I have to imagine your public transportation options are limited on a FARM, haha.
AliceInDairyland May 20, 2014, 1:48 pm
…But what about the long term potential of getting done with school as quickly as possible? Part time schooling with the interest rates on loans seems like the kiss of death to me. If they can just buckle down for a year to two and try to save as much as they can and he can get out of school faster and start paying back his loans faster and get a MUCH better job than he has now/could have with his current education… I just think that’s what would make the most sense to me if you are on the forever train. Which you have a baby, so you’re stuck on the forever-parent-train if not the forever-relationship-train.
But this is coming from someone who has skimped by on less than $800 a month for the last 7 years so $3,100 sounds totally do-able. Don’t have cable. Don’t have a smart phone. Make saving money a fun challenge you tackle as a team instead of resentment between you.
lets_be_honest May 20, 2014, 2:02 pm
Didn’t you just say yesterday that 80k was being rich? 😉
Lyra May 20, 2014, 3:20 pm
Haha, I did. For one person I think $80,000 is quite hefty. I mean I can live off of pretty little and I definitely bring in less than $2000 per month. I can live comfortably while putting a bit in savings. It’s not as much as I want to, and I don’t max out retirement like I want to either. But I can’t imagine trying to do that PLUS support a baby and another adult even with another part time income.
lets_be_honest May 20, 2014, 3:26 pm
You’d be surprised the minimum needed to support a small family. When it was just Lil and I before I was making decent $, I got by on next to nothing. I don’t think this LW’s situation is anywhere even close to impossible.
GatorGirl May 20, 2014, 3:29 pm
I totally agree. If you think about it a lot of the costs won’t change that much. It’s not like 2 grown ups equals twice the costs across the board. Rent and many utilities will likely stay the same. If you only have one car, that cost is the same. I don’t find that food costs twice as much, more like 1.5 times as much and we have less waste.
Lyra May 20, 2014, 10:54 pm
That’s true. As someone who has always lived on her own and loves living alone I have never shared expenses. For me, $2000 per month is my ideal. That includes rent, groceries, health expenses, retirement savings, insurance premiums, utilities, etc. In doing the math I factored in another adult person so more food, more insurance premiums, more health costs, twice the retirement savings, etc. Adding another baby to that seems like a LOT.
I would be very interested to know how his school factors in — how long he has been in school, how long he has until he finishes his degree, if it would add a ton of loans on top of everything else, what his earning potential is with the degree, etc.
GatorGirl May 20, 2014, 2:31 pm
We make around $3,100 a month combined take home pay and we absolutely could comfortable afford to care for the two of us plus one child if we switched a few of our spending habits. Less take/alcohol, buying more cost effective clothing, dropping the sports pack on cable, changing to a more budget cellphone plan. A few little changes free’s up a LOT of money. If we dropped cable and changed our cellphone to a basic plan, we’d have an extra $250 a month freed up. That could definitely cover a lot of a child’s expenses, if not MOST of what a 2 year old requires. (Assuming there is not day care costs, which I didn’t get that there are, maybe I missed that.)
bethany May 20, 2014, 2:44 pm
I’m trying very hard to stop buying wine in anticipation of baby time. It’s really hard!
GatorGirl May 20, 2014, 2:47 pm
It is hard!! We’re starting to make bigger changes too and it’s an adjustment! But it’s definitely very do-able with in our current means.
bethany May 20, 2014, 2:50 pm
What other changes are you making? Help me get ready!
GatorGirl May 20, 2014, 2:55 pm
Drinking less, running, drinking less. Reading baby books. Going off BC. Drinking less……. haha. Oh and saving more/just being more fiscally responsible.
katie May 20, 2014, 4:36 pm
” they’re not bringing in enough right now.”
define “enough”. all their bills are paid. they are able to have whatever “extras” she alludes to. how is that not enough?
Diablo May 20, 2014, 2:11 pm
In the 25 years i’ve been with my wife, I have been able to earn more than her and pay a higher share of the expenses for 5 of those years, maybe closer to 4. We have the same education, but she has a broader work experience. We’re both doing fine now, but she has recently gotten ahead of me again, salary-wise. It’s just the price I (don’t) pay for being married to an awesome modern woman. Our rule has always been that everyone makes 100% effort and earns what they can. Then, WE pay OUR bills. Most of the time, her discretionary spending is higher than mine, but that’s just because she likes stuff more than I do. But i got the first new car we ever owned. The only ignoble thought either of us has ever had about differing salaries is that she thinks i should earn tons of money so she can be a kept woman, and I think she should earn tons of money so I can be a kept man. No luck so far for either of us.
Lindsay May 20, 2014, 2:43 pm
I agree with what Wendy and others have said. I get the impression that the LW thinks her boyfriend is just making excuses and being lazy, but flexibility is a big deal, so I think it’s valid. However, the fact that he shoots down the idea is slightly problematic to me, because I think that it’s important to “shop around.” It’s possible there are jobs that are flexible and pay more, and maybe those are rare, but you never know until you look.
But in the end, I guess I’m confused about what the specific issue is. Partners do share the load, but the chances of both people contributing completely equally are very slim. Maybe I’m wrong, but the tone of letter was one that she maybe feels like the guy should shoulder more?
The other thing that stood out to me was the phrasing of some of the expenses. “Credit cards” do not cost anything. It’s what you pay for on them. Maybe it’s semantics, but it bugs me when people list their credit card as a cost in their life because it’s not. I’d also suggest looking at reducing your expenses if possible. Maybe they are reduced as much as possible, but when two people are both working hard and still struggling financially, it’ hard to do much except for cut corners where you can.
SpaceySteph May 20, 2014, 3:15 pm
Credit cards can be an expense if you have outstanding balance and therefore have to pay interest. People, seriously, do everything in your power to not carry a balance on your credit card. I do understand that its sometimes unavoidable, but “I need that new Marc Jacobs” in not a reason to run up a credit card balance.
If you are paying down previous credit card debt, include that pay down as part of your necessary expenses for the month and budget for it. DO NOT rack up more debt. If you cannot trust yourself not to rack up a bill, cancel your credit cards and keep just one in a drawer somewhere for a true emergency… do not take it with you to the mall.
Lindsay May 20, 2014, 4:16 pm
Yeah. It comes from having purchased something, though, so that’s why I still sort of see it as paying for an item.
Regardless, debt is bad.
SpaceySteph May 20, 2014, 3:02 pm
I agree with many posters that the LW seems resentful of being the woman in a woman breadwinner household. If you love this guy, then that’s something you need to get over; what if he never makes enough to be the breadwinner? Plenty of households thrive with a female breadwinner and yours certainly makes enough money to survive, which is something that plenty of households cannot say right now. If your concern is that you want to come from a wealthier family overall with more disposable income, then you need to discuss that with your boyfriend. Maybe you two have different opinions of the lifestyle you want. I’ll admit that I like a certain level of income; not that I wouldn’t be able to survive on less, but I’m happier being able to afford a 2-car household, eating out once a week, cable TV, etc. What that means is that I’m willing to work hard and long in order to make that extra money to pay for this (and am lucky enough that I found a job which allows me to afford it). Maybe for your boyfriend, he would rather work less/easier even if it means he can’t afford everything he wants– not everyone thinks a cable bill and a second car is necessary to a happy life. It’s possible that you two are just on different pages about the lifestyle you want. If that’s the case, then you’ll need to reach a compromise. Only you know what that compromise would be.
Also consider switching it up a bit in terms of how you pay for things… I know that many of my baseline bills are taken out of my account automatically and I don’t really think about them. Maybe if you shared more of the day-to-day load and paid more of the recurring bills it would help you think about it differently . I know that if I had to hand my husband $40 before I sent him to the grocery or if I couldn’t have him swing by the store on the way home because he didn’t have any money or if I always was paying for dinner out, compared to just paying $80 more to our rent every month and leaving that $80 in his account for incidentals.
Lindsay May 20, 2014, 4:30 pm
That’s a good point about people having different expectations. It’s not black-and-white in terms of how much money a person should be bringing in because it really depends on what sort of life they prefer to live.
Cassie May 20, 2014, 3:03 pm
LW, let’s look at it as percentages of income instead. You say your household expenses are $1900, which you split 50/50. So, each person pays about $950. Your boyfriend, if he makes about $1100, is paying 86% of his income. If you make $2000, you are paying 48% of your income. Yes, there is a disparity here, but not what you had originally said.
If he’s going to school to further his education so he can eventually get a better job that makes more money, you need to just hold on tight for now. As Wendy said, trim back on expenses or cut some out (such as cable) to lighten the load. Most internet providers have a loyalty department that you can talk to to get a discount for a while if finances are tight. After expenses have been trimmed, you can also discuss with your boyfriend if there are ways both of you could earn extra income. However, if he’s working full time as well as going to college, his education is also his job right now.
Lindsay May 20, 2014, 4:25 pm
I might be getting the numbers mixed up, but when she said the expenses were $1900, I don’t think she was including the $800+ additional that she spends on groceries and other household expenses? So, based on what she’s saying, he’d be spending $950 of his $1100, and she’d be spending (at least) $1750 of her $2000, which are both around 86-87 percent. Unless I’m just not understanding her explanation well enough. I’m not sure what my point is, either.
But I agree about school. School is also a job. And having a flexible job that will allow you to do both is important.
Cassie May 20, 2014, 6:10 pm
Ah, good catch. I wasn’t reading closely enough.
Lucy May 20, 2014, 5:46 pm
I can’t get over how sexist this LW comes off. If she were a man with this exact same set of complaints, can you imagine how that would go over? LW, drag yourself into the 21st century. You make more than the father of your child. That doesn’t mean he’s a failure, or lazy, or making excuses. In fact, if he’s working and in school, he’s certainly not lazy; and his flexible schedule is probably a lot of what’s keeping your household running. Stop acting like the boss of him and start acting like a team player.
bittergaymark May 20, 2014, 7:13 pm
I’m so glad you waited and had a child only when you could truly afford it. I am also glad you aren’t shackled to pointless sexist stereotypes or at all selfish and whiney.