Inside His Head: My cheapskate husband

Dear Guys,

My husband is what I’d call a cheapskate. For example, I love to go out to dinner, but he always wants to eat at home because it’s “cheaper”. He also complains when I buy new clothes. We’ve talked about it many times but it always ends up in an argument. Any advice?

GRAY: I’m all about saving. Living in a nation mired in debt and with so many people up to their neck in credit card debt, it’s difficult to recommend anyone just throw caution to the wind; however, life’s not much fun if you’re pinching every penny and never having any fun either.

My suggestion is to find a compromise. Naturally, this may mean either finding ways to save a few extra bucks for his sake or to point out to him ways you’re already saving the family money (i.e. clipping coupons, buying products that aren’t brand names or planning your weekly menu so you can take advantage of sales at the grocery store). This might help combat his feeling that you’re simply burning money for no reason.

Also express that you’re not simply buying frivolous stuff. Sure, eating out isn’t a necessity, but having a meal out on the town together usually isn’t about the food as much as it is the company. Buying clothes isn’t exactly the same as throwing money at your 43rd pair of shoes because they were on sale. You might point out expensive things like the costly cell phones you’ve avoided even though nearly everyone is brandishing them these days.

And watch to see if he’s practicing what he’s preaching. Does he hold himself to the same standards or is he the exception? Is it OK when he decides to buy the 42″ plasma TV, but not when you need a new purse? He may really be as thrifty as he expects others to be, but sometimes that double standard exists.

In the end, nobody should lose their head tossing money down the drain or end up paying several times more for a meal than it actually cost because it was put on a credit card and sat there for years. But life’s too short to sweat every dollar, heck, it’s too short not to just go hog wild every now and again.

MAVERICK: So you say he’s cheap and you tend not to be? And now it’s bugging you? How did you miss this trait you consider irksome during the dating process and then go on to marry this guy?

I’m gonna assume that his cheapness is becoming more apparent — that he’s being significantly more aggressive and confrontational with his complaints about your spending or that he’s just suddenly become pretty tight with a buck.

I’d ask him what’s brought on sudden concerns about your spending. There might be something going on you need to know about that he’s avoiding telling you. Perhaps he’s trying to shield you from a financial problem or he’s trying to cover up some spending or financial goof of his own making.

Be up-front but not a jerk. Tell him you’ve noted he’s been pretty focused on money and you’d like to know why. Don’t come at him saying he’s a kill-joy who makes you miserable because he won’t let you spend a penny.

Talk to him in a calm, nonjudgmental way and get a good idea of your financial situation. If you don’t know how your family is doing financially, how much is reasonable to spend on a new outfit or a dinner out, you should.

The second thing you have to ask yourself is are you possibly overspending? Is your eating out reasonable or do you want to eat out five days a week? Are your clothing expenses within reason or are you a compulsive shopper? Maybe he’s not cheap, maybe he has a good point.

Assuming you’re not a crazy spender, and you know your financial situation and the cost of a new blouse or a meal out once a week won’t sink you, just be rational and explain your position. Often most frugal folks simply don’t grasp that some people don’t hate to spend money like they do.

Tell him you need the new blouse for work or that you’ve not updated your wardrobe for years. Simply tell him you work hard and you enjoy buying yourself a pair of pants now and again. On the food front, tell him a meal out once a week or a lunch with your friends keeps you sane and happy, and then prove to him it’s therapeutic by being extra kind or attentive.

As in all things that make a good marriage, try to communicate, be reasonable and hear what he’s telling you about why he thinks you shouldn’t be spending money. If he has a valid point, adjust your thinking and behavior. If it’s not valid, work on getting him to see your side of things by positive reinforcement.

MAX: “Never was a miser a brave soul.” ~George Herbert

Since talking with him hasn’t solved the problem, you need to take matters into your own pocketbook. (Do people still use the term pocketbook?) I will assume you are a working wife, so I would suggest you start your own money account and if your lugnut has a problem with that, just tell him y’all will have to agree to disagree on this issue.

As long as you spend your own money responsibly and having your own separate account doesn’t excuse you from contributing to the family expenses then he will have no legitimate gripe.

I don’t know what his reasons are for being so tight with money and you will need to show that you still respect his philosophy. There is a lot of wisdom to saving money — eating out costs up to 80 percent more than eating in –but there is a lot more wisdom in enjoying the life you’re living, too. (If I told my wife we couldn’t eat at our favorite Mexican restaurant anymore, she just might divorce me and I’m not kidding).

Have one more sitdown with him — without getting argumentative — and reassure him that you still love and respect him, you’re not going to start spending money like my ex-wife but you want to enjoy your time with him a little more.

Don’t expect to get 100 percent of your own way but insist that a loosening of budget constraints will happen. If he still wants to eat at home, then I know a great Mexican place with $2 frozen margaritas that you can take your girlfriends to on a Girls Night Out.

Note from the mamas: If you’re trying to get a handle on debt, etc., as a couple, we recently found a few websites we think are interesting, Couple Money and Broke Professionals.