When you and your spouse argue about spending on your bad habits.

Dueling Vices


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Help! We Don't Agree

My husband worked out a nice little budget for us. My husband, who is a pack-a-day smoker, came up with a bi-weekly allowance for each of us. He said that I will get $70 and he will get $100 because he is a smoker. I feel that is very wrong. I think we should get an equal allowance. I like to shop for shoes, but to him, it is a waste of money!
Broke and Ready to Choke

editor's note: Please know that we are not advocating any one of these answers. Instead, we are simply trying to provide a variety of opinions and solutions for you to consider.

Cut Down the Middle

My husband and I have always set aside equal amounts of spending money, regardless of our individual incomes, vices, hobbies, etc.
Becky in San Jose, CA

Make an Even Playing Field

Equality is the only acceptable policy. Money is value neutral. The decision of what to spend money on is not. By setting an allowance, the goal should be an even playing field. If the husband does not believe that cigarettes are worth the expense, he should not buy them. I used to smoke 1/2 pack a day and I quit about 10 months ago. The financial incentive was one of a total mix of reasons that helped me make the decision. The only other alternative would be to have him keep the receipts for all of his cigarette purchases and credit these against his allowance. I am against this, but certainly can understand his probable argument that cigarettes are like groceries. However, cigarettes are a luxury item and should be treated as such.
Matthew

Make an Investment in Future

Use part of your $70 allowance to purchase a life insurance policy on hubbie. It's sad to note you'll probably outlive him, considering his unhealthy addiction. You might also consider a small mutual fund investment with some of your allowance. A nice return on your funds may get hubbie to re-route some of his money into a nest egg too.

Take your allowance (unfair as it may seem) and turn it into something worthwhile a few years from now. Hubbie will respect you more if you're a good steward with the funds.
Stacie in Germany

Make It a Team Effort

Perhaps you should calculate the cost of treatment for emphysema and cancer, and then what it will cost to take out a life insurance policy to support you and your kids (if any) once your husband's vice catches up with him. Actually, double that since you may have conditions resulting from side-stream smoke. If your husband smokes indoors, add the cost of cleaning the yellow stains from the walls and furniture. It's there even if you don't notice it.

As for shoe shopping, take it from the movie "Shawshank Redemption." After all, how often do you really look at a man's (or woman's) shoes? For work, I usually choose from a black pair of dress shoes, a brown pair of dress shoes, or a pair of brown sandals when it's warm. I have some running shoes, and a pair of boots for when it's really cold. I have other shoes, but I hardly ever wear them, so they'll end up in the donation pile eventually.

Equal allowance may depend on need, or it may depend on earnings. For my husband and myself, we try to buy what we need, when we need it, and our money comes from one place. We do not divide, because we're in this together.
Kyle in Texas

These Are Wants, Not Needs

I think you will have a unanimous vote saying you deserve the same amount as him. In both situations, these are things you don't necessarily have to buy. His body may say he needs to smoke, but that's not true. You may say you need to buy a pair of shoes, but that also isn't true.
Lisa

Base Allowances on Income

Cigarette purchases do not constitute their own section in the budget like medical bills, rent and car payments do! Namely, it is something that is solely for him. Not only do you not get any benefit from it, but it also endangers your health as well. He should be paying you to put up with it! If the item has no benefit for the other person, then it clearly should come out of allowance.

To draw the line completely down the middle and be fair about it, allowances should be based on income. If he makes more money than you do, then he should get more allowance, but his allowance should be proportionate to his increased pay. For instance, if he makes 10% more money than you make, then he gets to pay 10% more on the bills and, consequently, gets 10% more allowance. If, however, you make more, then you should get more and pay more. If both spouses pay everything 50/50, but one makes less money and therefore has nothing left over after paying bills and the other has a lot left over with which to treat himself or herself, then that's not fair. It's best to keep things balanced, not equal.

And if you do not work outside the home or only work part-time, then the allowance should be completely equitable as your being at home is what allows him to work and pay fewer bills (e.g. child care, additional car/insurance, work clothes, etc.). If he demands more money than you get without earning more money than you earn, then that says he thinks he deserves more than you deserve. If you took up smoking or drinking or gambling (or any other bad habit), would he let you increase your allowance to match his? Wouldn't your addiction deserve financing the same as his?

As a last note, I would tell him that if he were willing to quit, you would gladly let him have extra allowance to pay for nicotine patches until he had broken his habit. If he quits, then he'll automatically have more money to spend on other things.
Keri in Chattanooga, TN

Physical Addiction Justifies Own Budget Category

My husband and I used to smoke and I quit three years before he did, so we were spending money on his cigarettes while none for me. Spending money was figured after the cost of the cigarettes. When we smoked, it was more like a bill in our finances. Some people need their morning coffee, while others need their cigarettes. It isn't like buying a gift for yourself. It's to help you get through the day. Hope that this added a different perspective.
Julie in Florida

Define an Allowance

I have to say that your husband's taking advantage of you in a horrible way. A few years ago, my husband and I also did our budget and came up with an allowance amount that we would each get. We got equal amounts and we defined allowance as something that we want ourselves (a want, not a necessity). He was a smoker at that time and we both agreed that it would come out of his allowance because it was his horrible habit and that it should not come out of our household budget. And guess what? He quit smoking. He saw the amount of money he was wasting on cigarettes and decided it was time to quit. Now, he spends his allowance on other items that he couldn't get before because of that nasty habit.

We decided that money to buy work clothing would come out of our household budget, but clothes that we simply want are paid for with our allowance. Having proper clothing for work is a necessity.

Another thing to look at is health care costs. Your husband's smoking a pack a day will most likely end up costing your family more in health costs. Diseases from smoking are preventable. Therefore, health costs that come from smoking diseases are also preventable. If your husband wants to ruin his health, that is something he should pay for himself, including health care costs. So, he actually needs to save more of his allowance for his future health. Smoking is not a necessity. It is a want, a terrible habit. There is no reason why you can't have equal allowance. In the long run, he is actually going to waste more of your household money.
Janice in Texas.

The Partnership of Marriage

Marriage is a partnership. Luxuries should be equal. If all that your budget allows is $170, you should each get half. Of course, if you are getting more money for other things, such as a larger clothing allowance, then he's justified.
Colleen

Consider Future Expenses

I would suggest taking the $30 difference from the husband's "allowance" and putting it in a savings account specifically for future smoking-related medical problems. This makes both "allowances" even and takes an eye toward the future expenses of smoking complications.
Andrea

Make Key Decisions Together

I'm of the opinion that a marriage should never be about one person making any key decision without the other partner. I would hope that the two of you could "work out a nice little budget" together.
A


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