Dear 100 Hour Board,
We had a heated discussion the other day. I decided to cool down and collect my thoughts for a couple days before writing this up. Here's the gist of it:
My wife and I both have full-time jobs and contribute to household income, but she utterly refuses to help me with budgeting. It's well documented that millennials do not earn as much as previous generations did at our age, but she expects us to be where her parents were when they were young. I try to be very conservative with our budget, because she always talks about how there's not enough money in our bank account to put a down payment on a house (we're not even shooting for 20% down,for what it's worth). He biggest desire is to live in a house ASAP and she's upset that we're not there yet, even though I graduated last year and she graduated this year.
Her other biggest desire is to travel. In her words, she gets "stir crazy" and *needs* to travel out of state at least every other month and out of the country every year. Once again, her words, not mine.
She also cycles through lots of clothing and decorations for our townhome she insisted on renting (as opposed to a more economical apartment). In the past year and a half that we've lived here, we've cycled through:
2 dining room sets
2 full-size couches
5 area rugs
4 bedsheet sets
4 duvet covers
8 sleeping pillows
20ish decorative pillows
2 bed frames
3 tv stands
Countless wall decorations
Every time we buy something new, something almost-new "just doesn't work" any more and we'll be buying a replacement next weekend. Rinse and repeat.
Right now, she's expecting me to somehow budget that with rent for our townhome, a trip across the country in January, another trip across the country in March, and a tour of Europe in May. Oh, and we also need a down payment for a house when our lease is set to renew that same May. By the way, she doesn't get paid time off so every vacation means that there will be a small or non-existent paycheck from her job.
When she demands to know why we don't yet have enough down payment for a house, I try to talk about cutting down on expenses. She's open to one of two things:
1) selling my work laptop (worth $400 brand-new, much less now that it's used. Also it's necessary for my job.)
2) unplugging the tv and microwave when not in use, and trying to be better about turning the lights off
I'm not allowed to say no to house decorations or traveling because I'm accused of being "needlessly controlling and mansplaining how money works".
Even on two full-time salaries, we cannot afford to pay for all this and also save up for a house. I've gone out of my way to approach budgeting together from a non-accusatory standpoint, but she immediately starts screaming at me (yes, screaming) the moment I say the words "Hey honey, let's walk through our monthly budget to set a timeline for when we're going to buy a house and how we're going to do it). Through screaming, she tells me that I didn't communicate well enough that those plane tickets/area rug/etc wouldn't be affordable if we really wanted to save for a house. Heaven forbid I bring up that she calls me controlling and a mansplainer when doing exactly what she thinks I should be doing.
I am married to someone who refuses to crunch a single number with me yet expects me to give her a lifestyle beyond what we can afford and complains that I'm controlling if I don't deliver wholeheartedly. (For the record, I've never successfully talked her out of a purchase so apparently I'm really bad at actually controlling her but okay).
Yikes. That sounds like a lot, and I'm sorry for all the stress it's causing you.
I would recommend counseling, because hopefully it can give you a neutral space to talk things out, and maybe with an arbitrator there your wife will be more open to actually having a purposeful discussion about your finances. It's also possible that there may be some underlying issues that are causing your wife to feel the need to travel all the time, or change the furniture so often, or get so defensive when you bring up the finances, and counseling could help you work through those. Marriage counseling sounds like it could definitely be helpful, but if she's not open to that, it may still be helpful to go yourself to try to come up with some strategies for how to deal with this/figure out what you could do to defuse the situation when she's upset/see if there's anything you can change to make these conversations smoother and more productive.
It may also be helpful for you guys to talk to a financial planner. This website talks a little bit about what financial planners do, but in a nutshell they're there to help people with decent incomes save up for big things, such as buying a house. It would cost some money to hire a financial planner, but it might be worth it to have someone qualified there to talk about where you guys could be cutting back and how you can use your money better. If you do go this route, make sure you talk with your wife about it first, and explain that you're not doing it just so an expert can "prove her wrong" or anything, you're doing it because having someone who knows what they're doing with finances help you figure out finances would probably be helpful for literally anyone.
Another thing you could try is both of you keeping track of all your expenses for a few months. Both of you write down every time you pay for anything, however big or small, so that way you can see where your money is going, how much of your monthly income it is, and see what leisure activities are taking up most of your budget to see where it would be most effective to cut down. If your wife accuses you of mansplaining every time you try to talk about finances this may not fly, but maybe you could bring it up when you're both in really good moods or something. And if you do decide to go this route, there are a lot of apps you can use for it.
Finally, just try to control what you can when you talk with your wife about this. Obviously it's a sensitive subject for her and you can't control her reaction, but if you can keep your cool and talk with her with empathy and kindness it may help defuse the situation. Maybe you're already doing this, in which case congratulations, but personally I know I tend to get upset back if the person I'm talking with is upset with me, and that only escalates the situation. So the less you do that, the better.