Sheila’s bf of 14 months is in a different tax bracket – he earns about $40K more than she does. And he doesn’t have kids. During the first months of love, this didn’t seem to be an issue. She was willing to be more extravagant than usual, and he also picked up the tab a lot.
Now, the difference is starting to bubble up to the surface. His lifestyle simply does include lots of weekends across the border, upper-scale dinners out at least a couple times a week, and a generally more easygoing way of spending his money.
Sheila is quietly starting to resent feeling obliged to rearrange her budget to afford this lifestyle – even though he does help defray the costs quite a lot. Lately her bf has also made an offhand comment or two about being willing to help pay for dates with her, but not if the kids are involved (eg. going out for pizza and a movie together – something she would do as a treat, not a regular event).
After affirming Sheila’s right to set financial boundaries, we came up with a few approaches on broaching this thorny topic. At this point, the starting place is simply opening the conversation, more than coming up with specific financial strategies. A couple “rules of engagement” included:
- Remove any judgment. Her bf is allowed to have the lifestyle he wants; she’s also allowed to put boundaries on her spending. He’s not being extravagant and she’s not being cheap.
- Give themselves permission for the conversation to be awkward and possibly go badly. It may take a few tries before talking about money, much less coming up with an M.O. that works, starts to come naturally.
- Assume the best possible outcome: that they can come up with ways that feel good to both of them that take into account both his lifestyle and her budget.
Readers: how have you started conversations about money with people close to you? Did it feel awkward? Did it get better? Did it create a wedge between you, or open the channel of communication?
photo credit: Rick