Allowances For Grown-Ups

Davey’s hobby, for as long as I’ve known him, has been computer game play.  Way, way back, a new game used to cost around $50.  In the beginning, I’d never tell my hardworking man that we couldn’t afford that, and, of course, if he got to spend frivolous money, I got to spend frivolous money, too, right?  Enter vast amounts of credit card debt.  But once we started paying off those debts, and we weren’t really spending unnecessary monies at all, he still liked to play computer games, and they still cost $50.  He didn’t buy them as often, but he bought them.

And I asked, “If you get to buy a new game, shouldn’t I be able to get something, too?”

He pondered that for a moment, and, since fair is fair, he asked in return, “Okay, what do you want?”

“What if I don’t want anything? What if I just want the money to save for something else later?”

He pondered that for a while, too, then decided that seemed fair enough, so whenever he bought something for himself, I got an equal amount of cash.  Eventually, I turned it all into Polish pottery, but that’s irrelevant.

Once we had all of our debts repaid, we got a lot looser with the money, and we didn’t really manage our resources particularly well.  We had no debt, and modest savings, but still had to scramble a bit to meet bigger expenses.  So when I started trying to reign in our spending a couple of years ago, we had to deal with the problem of personal purchases.  Again.  Our Germany experience became the basis for what we just call an allowance.

Davey says some people might feel annoyed at having an allowance as an adult, like they’re being treated like children, but it has really worked well for us, and has an entirely different purpose than children’s allowances.  So call it what you like.  Pin money.  Fun money.  Whatever.  We each have a budgeted amount of cash to spend – or save – as we wish, no questions asked.  Davey has a couple of new hobbies that can be quite expensive, but he’s limited by his available spending money.  I like to take the kids out for ice cream sometimes, or buy art supplies I’ll never use, or a camera lens, and it doesn’t affect the family budget at all.

The bottom line is that it removes that tit-for-tat mentality that just breeds angst and resentment.  And it keeps the budget stable.

Practically, we manage personal funds with personal checking/debit accounts.

I hope your bank has excellent online banking services; if it doesn’t, and you have any sort of military affiliation, I wholeheartedly recommend USAA.  They cater to long-distance clients, so access is versatile and easy, and their customer service is the best I’ve ever seen, from a bank or anybody else, quite frankly.  We can have an unlimited number of bank accounts, and transfers are easy between accounts, so my money management routine is pretty simple.

All of our money comes in by the first of the month, so I have automatic transfers set up for various purposes, two of which are our allowances.  We each have a debit card for our accounts, so the money can easily be spent online or in person, and it can be withdrawn from an ATM if cash is preferred.  I don’t track the money at all after that transfer; I just categorize it as allowances and then forget about it.

Now what you consider personal expenditures may vary.  I bought chairs for the front porch with my allowance, because I wanted to cozy up the space, but we really didn’t need them.  However, we do need a new picnic set, so that will be a home expense when we finally get around to it.  Books for the children’s courses are an education expense; books I just want are a personal expense.  You may love your Starbucks, which I’d classify as personal, but maybe you order pizza once a week for the family, and that might fall into dining out or grocery.  Maybe you really love your gym membership, and your husband really loves his smartphone, so those might be paid out of personal funds.  You’ll have your own personal value set that will dictate what counts as personal expenses and what is paid out of the family budget.

How much?  That depends on your resources and your goals.  Are you trying to pay down your debts?  Maybe you only get $20 a month.  (Even if you’re paying off debts, I think a little personal money is important.)  Are you financially stable, but quarreling over who benefits from certain bills?  Maybe you set it high enough that the playing field is level, but those expenses can be covered.  Whatever amount you decide on, make sure that number comes out of monies remaining after you’ve taken care of all of your obligations.

I’m sure that there are a lot of couples who are both equally laid back about money, and none of this will matter in the slightest to them, but most of us bring some sort of emotional baggage into our relationships, with each other and with money.  In a marriage, differing feelings about money can cause angst and stress – and they can can completely derail a budget.  For those people, adult allowances can be a really helpful part of the financial plan.

How about a pair of irrelevant photos from yesterday, which happened to be both warm and sunny?  It’s a rare combination around here in the winter.

8x10 Evie and Penny 8x10 evie on car


6 Comment

  1. ” Eventually, I turned it all into Polish pottery, but that’s irrelevant.”

    That made me laugh, hehe. We do this too. My husband, for some reason, really really wants (I refuse to call it a need) to be able to pick up a fast food snack or get junk food from walgreens or whatever. He is kind of a junk food junkie. I consider that to be such a waste of money,,,plus it is impossible to budget for without assigning it some kind of allowance. I never know when or where he will spend, or how much….the spontaneity is part of the appeal to him. So, he uses his allowance for that, and whatever he doesn’t spend that way usually funds his electronics/ham radio puttering hobby.

    1. I’m glad we’re not the only ones who use this system. Sometimes, I feel like a crazy woman. 🙂

  2. Emily G says:

    I like this idea, although I am afraid my husband’s hobbies would never get anywhere with it because they are so expensive. Don’t let Davey get into sticks that go bang, or working on them, or “loading up” for them…unless, now that you reside in the country, this warning comes too late. I admit my husband is practical about his purchases-they each have a purpose, and he has pared down his collection a lot lately. However, they still consume more than I spend on sewing. Don’t even get me started on the machine shop hobby! I think I’d have a nice fat nest-egg and he’d have a Never Enough fund if we started allowances.
    But…I do like the idea, so much so that I am going to ask him about it anyway. 🙂

    1. Good luck. 🙂

  3. I think this sort of arrangement save my marriage in the early days. 23 years later he has a certain amount of money from his paycheck deposited into a credit union to spend as he pleases.

    1. Hi, Maggie! Money is a big source of arguments in a lot of marriages, and I’m glad this sort of arrangement worked well for you, too. Thanks for chiming in!

Comments are closed.