My wife spends my paycheck as soon as I get it. I work very hard for it, and it frustrates me when she spends it so quickly. How can we resolve this conflict?

DARCY KIMMEL: This is a hot-button in a lot of relationships. I think we’ve even had this discussion. 

TIM KIMMEL: Absolutely. Every couple does. It’s not uncommon for a man to think, “I’ve worked my can off all week long. I finally get a paycheck, and it disappears inside the system. I never see anything of it.” Well, that’s because life is expensive. 

DARCY: It is. 

TIM: And then they start in with the complaining and the criticizing because usually in a home, it’s the wife that’s making most of the purchase decisions because she’s the one who is usually running the home, you know, overseeing the meals and the kids. 

But here’s the thing you need to know. For years, maybe even centuries, men have always complained that women are the ones with the shopping problems, because that’s what they like to do for free time. We like to got out and do head-butts into trees. Things like that. 

DARCY: [laughs] 

TIM: But they just think, “She likes to go shopping.” But that’s really not the way it is. 

A woman will go out all day long. She’ll shop five, six hours, buy a blouse on sale. He disappears for an hour, buys a boat. That’s just the way it is! And then we’ve got to go out the next week and buy a truck to pull it. So, usually the problem-shoppers are the men. 

But you need to identify with him, because he is working hard and he is frustrated because we tend to be breadwinners and we’re supposed to be providing for the family. We think we’re inadequate. We must not be doing a good enough job, because if we did, we would have more money left over. 

DARCY: Yeah, and in order to solve this conflict, you do need to tell your husband that you appreciate his efforts and that you’re going to do your best to make what he provides, and what maybe you provide together, go as far as it can. And the best way to do that is to establish a budget. 

TIM: No, let me correct it: that’s the only way to do that. It cannot be done without a budget. You have to know what you’re bringing in, and you have to know what you can put out, and you need to be monitoring that all the time. 

Now, that’s the standard problem when people have financial problems. It’s not about income. It’s about how you handle it. But if you get on top of this and you really get after it, you actually might find that there is more money left over. 

But you also have to engage him in seeing what the fine lines are—“Here’s how much we’re spending on this”—and as you work on it together, it changes a lot. And then if you can enlist him to actually help pay the bills, you know, as a unit . . . 

DARCY: Right. That gives a more realistic outlook. And the most important thing is, realize that you’re a team. 

TIM: Yep. 

DARCY: It doesn’t matter who makes the money, who spends the money, it’s all for your family, and you’re a team and so you need to act like you’re on the same team. 

TIM: You can do it. I know you can. 

And you know what? There’s a lot of relief on your way if you just get serious about this, because this could be one of the greatest parts of your life—making the money, providing a great home for your kids, and raising kids that make a huge difference—and you’ll have a lot of fun along the way.