I'm a miser, he's a spendthrift - how do we compromise and coexist?
April 11, 2013 6:53 AM   Subscribe

So, I'm with this guy, and we hope to spend the rest of our lives together. I'm a Millennial saver* and he's a Gen X spender. He has a middle class income (around 40k), and I make half of that. When it comes to our arguments, it may also be of relevance that he's a human and I'm more of a Vulcan. How do we reconcile our opposing viewpoints about finances, trust, and gadgets?

In the past, we've had conversations about finances that gave me the impression that we were to keep things separate, and that my opinions about his spending habits/levels are unwanted, which I'm fine with as long as I get to reap the benefits of non-involvement, take my shiny objects back to the hovel, and... perhaps convert him through the power of my example. But recently, he's been asking me to front him cash/credit so he can purchase electronics. I strongly dislike this for multiple reasons, and seeing as it's my money, I express my apprehension and/or displeasure. This usually offends him, and he responds by getting upset when I don't give him the go ahead or do not sign on as enthusiastically as he thinks I should to spending that I consider wasteful. He also tries to "punish" me for dissidence by asserting financial equity in all matters, which I actually agree with in principle, but find difficult in practice due to the aforementioned disparity in income and the fact that we haven't built a life together so much as he's allowed me to become a part of his, so costs are scaled to him. Confusing things further is the presence of a pending but not present windfall that he may use as a gauge when considering what he can afford, which may mean that he is transitioning to a lifestyle that I couldn't even conceive of being able to foot half of the bill for with amenities that cost more than I can afford to informally lend in the interim.

He seems to see my desire to lend him money as a matter of trust and inextricably linked to our relationship health in a way that I don't. He gives me expensive gifts on special occasions and has made unsolicited promises to me in the past regarding transfers of money from him to me without recompense (which he cited and rescinded in one of the money arguments), and he sees my willingness to do this in return as part of a relationship give and take. I was aware that as the saver I may serve as our "internal bank", but I thought it would be for important things like medical expenses and emergencies. He owes me money currently and I was stressed about it, because it is debt, and my sole responsibility on paper. I wanted to introduce the idea of a slow steady manageable payment plan. He rebuffed the very prospect of my input and composed his own aggressive payment plan. He has not stuck to this plan. He has lied to me about when he'll pay to postpone, as if I were a bill collector. This definitely doesn't foster trust. So what do I/we do about it?

Full Disclosure: He cannot get his own credit card because of delinquent student loans. He also gambles large sums of money away. That's the primary reason why I do not want to make a habit out of this, because he has borrowed money from me to gamble with in the past, which has been repaid. He hasn't done any gambling recently, but this has not been accompanied by a change of attitude towards it from "alternate source of income/informal 2nd job" to "occasional recreational pursuit." I also had an informal auto loan with him previously. He bought the car upfront and I paid him until he waived the rest.

*I was unemployed for three years post-graduation and am paranoid about the prospect of becoming unemployable again, and would ideally plan my fixed costs to incorporate long stretches of time with little income. I'm also as concerned with retirement and health coverage as a person twice my age
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (60 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
He's a gambler?

The rest of it is peripheral; that's all I needed to know.

Keep your finances separate, in all ways, from now on.

Stop lending him money. Stop borrowing money from him. Don't cosign anything. Just stop, immediately.

Someone else can address the rest of it (and I'm sure they will, because this is a freaking train wreck in slow motion).
posted by Salamander at 7:00 AM on April 11, 2013 [68 favorites]

Also, could you specify how long you've been together and (less importantly) your respective ages, please? Makes a difference, etc.
posted by Salamander at 7:03 AM on April 11, 2013

He gives me expensive gifts on special occasions and has made unsolicited promises to me in the past regarding transfers of money from him to me without recompense (which he cited and rescinded in one of the money arguments), and he sees my willingness to do this in return as part of a relationship give and take.

If he holds them over you and insists that you reciprocate, then they weren't actually gifts. Dude sounds manipulative as all hell. Sorry.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 7:05 AM on April 11, 2013 [12 favorites]

Wow, he's asking you to give him money out of your $20k salary so he can buy electronics and then getting offended when you're apprehensive? You're not the one who needs to adjust here. The things you want -- some measure of financial stability, actual reasons to trust your partner -- do not make you a Vulcan. I agree with Salamander that you need to stop lending him money immediately. This might cause the relationship to end. If so, future you will be very grateful.
posted by oinopaponton at 7:06 AM on April 11, 2013 [17 favorites]

Wow wow wow wow WOW okay. Wow. I kind of started freaking out on your behalf midway through reading this.

This guy is a disaster. And if he's actually a Gen Xer, he's a disaster in his 40s, and the likelihood that he'll ever break these habits is pretty slim.

Asking you for loans out of your savings? Punishing you for not wanting to fork money over for expensive items when he's already deep in debt? Lying to you about it? Forcing you to share all expenses equally (on HIS terms) except for when he wants something that only you have the cash to afford? GAMBLING??????

Are you living together? Please tell me you aren't living together.

Look, if you love this guy and like spending time with him, go ahead and keep dating him for as long as he's fun to hang out with. Assuming you're in your early or mid-20s, even if you want to do the whole marriage/kids thing you've got time to have a little fun before you settle down.

But the only way any kind of relationship with this guy is going to work is if your money is TOTALY separate, starting now, no exceptions. Because his behavior is appalling, it's VERY unlikely to change, and he'll drag you as far into his financial mess as you'll allow him to.

Please take a giant step back from this situation and think of what you'd tell your friend to do in your place. You sound like a nice woman with really great attitudes about money management. Don't let this guy ruin it for you.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 7:09 AM on April 11, 2013 [38 favorites]

Two big red flags: He's a compulsive gambler and he's using money to manipulate you (in a way which sounds at least borderline emotionally abusive). Please keep your finances separate. You especially don't want your money in the hands of someone who gambles away thousands of dollars.

Be really careful about mingling your money with this guy. And I say this as a spender who drives saver partners crazy sometimes! Is he kind and caring in other ways? I ask this because a man who has a gambling problem and who uses money as an emotional weapon might not be such a good relationship candidate in other ways (and certainly might give you pause as a father candidate). I suggest relationship counseling.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:10 AM on April 11, 2013 [7 favorites]

I'm sorry, but this guy sounds abusive or at least manipulative and disrespectful of your boundaries. If I were in your relationship, I would seriously consider leaving it.

More specifically, if he makes more money than you, why are you the one lending him money? And how dare he pressure you to spend money that you're not comfortable spending on unneccesary things like electronic toys?

He is using you. You need to set some firm boundaries. His temper tantrums and "punishing" you are unacceptable. The fact that he buys you expensive gifts sometimes is irrelevant. It's a red herring. A gift is given freely; you don't "owe" him anything for it.
posted by windykites at 7:10 AM on April 11, 2013 [5 favorites]

I agree, don't lend him any more money. Basically, I don't think you *can* trust him about money, and you won't be able to trust him about money unless he makes some big changes. If you trust him in other respects and he's willing to keep the finances separate and let go of the "if you trusted me, you'd give me money" thing, then this can work.

But yikes, what you've written here it seems like a really bad situation, maybe unsalvageable. Relationships break up over money issues all the time. It's a big part of life, and a big part of making a life together.
posted by mskyle at 7:11 AM on April 11, 2013


Keep everything separate. Honestly, this type of behaviour would be a deal-breaker for me in a relationship.
posted by barnoley at 7:11 AM on April 11, 2013

So he's a) insisted repeatedly on borrowing money from you, b) made that an issue of trust in your relationship, c) refused to agree to your payment plan to pay you back when he's in debt to you, and d) lied to you about when he's going to repay you? And then he insists on both of you splitting expenses 50/50, whether or not you can afford them, something which you (rightly or wrongly) view as his attempt to punish you for dissidence? Yowch. You've got bigger problems here than spenders vs. savers.

You need to draw a line on this, for your own peace of mind as well as for the state of your finances. Maybe that drawing a line will look like a long, painful but compassionate conversation in which you lay down how you feel about all this stuff, and you hash out a way forward for your finances together and separately, one you're happy with. Maybe it'll involve you just flat-out telling him that you'll only be happy with XYZ arrangement, including no more lending him money and no more paying half on a lifestyle you can't afford. You know him better than I do, so you've got a better sense of what it'll take and how willing he'll be to hear you. But he seems pretty unwilling to hear you so far, and when he's got such a track record of financial irresponsibility and of using finances as an emotional tool in your relationship, you're going to need to metaphorically raise your voice on this one. Loudly.

Don't lend him anything else. Don't go along with any financial arrangement you're not happy with, especially when it involves him literally and metaphorically gambling with your money. When you end up broke and financially reliant on him, when he gets himself into some kind of financial crisis that'll screw you over as well - and he will - it is going to be very, very small comfort to you that he trusts you to lend him cash.
posted by Catseye at 7:12 AM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yikes, sorry - just picked up on the 'Gen-X' thing. I was in too much shock & horror to process it all before.

Yeah, he is BAD NEWS financially. I'm Gen X and fairly crap with money, for what it's worth, but only with MY money. For the love of God.

And I don't think I've ever said this on AskMe before, but I'd DTMFA for good measure. Sorry.
posted by Salamander at 7:13 AM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

So, I'm with this guy, and we hope to spend the rest of our lives together.

C'mon, this guy is bad news--you know that, right? A disaster on his own, and not right for you.

I think tacit in your "he's a human and I'm a Vulcan" is a sense that you're weird, and no one else will love you. This is not the case, and it's certainly no reason to stick around with this guy.

And honestly--speaking as a fellow Vulcan--it's much, much better to be alone than to suffer with the wrong person.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:13 AM on April 11, 2013 [37 favorites]

Oh dear, no, don't lend him money.

I am a "Gen X spender" in that I can be a bit of a fool about money and have champagne tastes - but it would never occur to me that my SO should lend me money for any non-emergency, assume my debts, etc. This isn't just a generational/cultural difference - it's about deep seated character traits.

What you describe in your relationship does not seem typical to me.

It sounds like your "Vulcan" character may be more of a "poor sense of social norms and resulting poor boundaries, possibly exacerbated by age difference. When I see an irresponsible man with someone substantially younger, that sounds as though irresponsible guy is too emotionally immature to attract someone his own age or handle the resulting serious relationship, for one thing.

This sounds as though it's all going to end in tears, honestly.

I've lent significant others money, and lent money to friends for emergencies - and I never got any of it back. I don't regret doing it especially, since they did in fact need the money and I won't lie on my deathbed pining over the cumulative couple of thousand involved, but I no longer expect that friends with emergencies will be able to repay loans.

You should not be the "internal bank".

This guy is taking advantage of you. He probably doesn't mean to do it - his relationship to money is probably so messed up that he will have trouble thinking of it this way. But he needs a sit-down with you about new money rules for the relationship, and if he is a well-meaning guy who has had some weird/traumatic experiences with money (not everyone who is a spendthrift gets that way by being lazy or stupid or selfish) he may need therapy or some kind of support group to get back on track.
posted by Frowner at 7:15 AM on April 11, 2013 [11 favorites]

This isn't a difference between spending styles, this is a huge financial problem for him and if you stay with him, for you.

Do not lend him any money, do not borrow any money from him and it sounds like you took out a loan in your name for him DO NOT DO THIS! EVER! EVER! EVER!

I'm a spendthrift. After I fund retirement, and pay the bills, I'll take what's left over and buy something pretty. Husbunny is happy if there's food, a house and cats. Notice, all the essentials are covered first, before I go on my little buying spree.

Your partner is...pathological. If he's in debt, borrowing from you, has bad credit, is relying upon a windfall and spending it before it's in his hot little hands and GAMBLING money he doesn't have...that's a psychological problem, it has NOTHING to do with money. If he had millions, he'd still be broke.

You can never be financially stabile with this man so long as he has student loan debt in default. They can garnish his wages, and his windfallto pay the debt. You can't discharge student loan debt in bankruptcy.

If he were an alcoholic, drug addict, sex addict, etc, how much of this nonsense would you be willing to put up with before having an intervention?

You need to have an intervention with your partner:

"Dude, I am concerned about how profligate you are with money. If you were just wasting money, that would be one thing, but you are mismanaging your money at a level and at a rate that I consider dangerous. Your inability to control your spending affects me in the following ways: I am frightened by the fact that you are one paycheck away from financial disaster, I don't make enough to cover both of our expenses. I have gone into debt for you, and your not making a good faith effort to pay me back makes me afraid that I'll have to pay it all back out of my small wages.

In order for me to remain in this relationship, I would need to see the following things from you. I need you to go to a therapist so that you can understand why you are so impulsive and reckless with money. I need you to plan your spending and to not buy anything until your debt is cleared up. I need you to make a re-payment plan for your student loan debt, because that's just a time bomb waiting to go off and destabilize our financial life.

If you don't agree to any of this, then I will pack up and move out, because I value my own peace of mind too much to let you destroy it."

So...DTMFA dear. This isn't a small disagreement about money, this is a fucking deal-breaker.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:15 AM on April 11, 2013 [11 favorites]

You should keep all of your money, and perhaps yourself, separate from this guy. He's lied to you, he's manipulative, he's broken promises....why are you considering this further?
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:16 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Red alert. Flee.
posted by mcwetboy at 7:16 AM on April 11, 2013 [8 favorites]

If you want to stay in this relationship, you'll need to set and firmly enforce several rules. Some rules I've used in the past:

- Your money and his money are entirely separate. Don't even let him know how much you've got.

- No one gives anyone any gifts worth more than $20 (fosters creativity and "experiential" gifts, which are better anyway)

- If you're living together, household bills are paid in a manner proportional to net income (you pay less). Same deal with mutual vacations and similar expenses. That might help keep his ideas in line.

- Never borrow money from him or give him any reason to feel you owe him

I'd get out, myself. If you stay, here's what will probably happen:

- Creditors will start hassling you, looking for him.

- He will lose what friends he has and increase the financial and social pressure on you with sob stories about how no one is "fair," etc. etc.

- He'll have some sort of big emergency (accident, whatever) and genuinely need money, and you'll break down and "lend" it to him, and of course you'll never see it again, and you won't be able to take that trip / buy that useful doojob / take that course that you wanted.

Rinse and repeat until you finally kick him out and change the locks.
posted by ceiba at 7:17 AM on April 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

Every time he fronts you money, and threatens to withhold it, that's a power play. Every time he wants to go dutch on an expense that does not scale to your income, that's a power play too.

Finances are a big deal and not a one of us would judge you for dropping him over money. This guy is bad news my friend.
posted by Think_Long at 7:17 AM on April 11, 2013 [17 favorites]

I do not see him changing- he seems manipulative in addition to being bad with money. If you stay with him, I think you can expect to be constantly insecure about money, unable to build a secure financial future for yourself, reliably find yourself disappointed by his behavior, and always just waiting around for that one huge financial betrayal where he puts your entire future at risk. This would be a deal breaker for me and I'd walk away from this while you can still afford to do so. Sorry.
posted by MoonOrb at 7:20 AM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

I kind of agree with everyone else, but if you're close to marriage, maybe try couples counseling? Or even a financial planner who is good with helping couples. It might help to have an objective third party help you sort through your money issues and see whether you can find some way that you can both feel trusted and respected while handling your finances responsibly. Or not.
posted by chickenmagazine at 7:22 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Actually given the Vulcan v. human thing, here is Captain Picard's response to your guy's ideas about financial boundaries.
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:22 AM on April 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

Compatibility on the day-to-day, practical stuff isn't as sexy or exciting as compatibility in terms of chemistry, but it's often what makes the difference between successfully building a life together and having to split up.

The way he handles disagreements about finances is childish, unkind, and petty. I'm guessing that he's not willing to reduce his entertainment, restaurant, etc. consumption to a level that you can afford to split equally, and if so, his "punishments" after you hesitate to lend him money are totally unreasonable. It's like, one way or another, he's going to get you to do things financially that you're not comfortable with. That's not a healthy basis for a life together.

If the two of you wanted to split things 50/50, that would be fine, but you'd need to scale your shared lifestyle to what you, the lower-earner, could afford. If he prefers to maintain his higher-spending lifestyle while sharing costs with you, the two of you need to split the costs in a way that's proportional to your respective incomes.

My husband and I have differing views on spending, but we've been able to negotiate and compromise based on a fundamental respect for each other's judgment. My husband is quicker to spend money than I am, but I respect his ability to make choices that fit with what he's bringing into the household and the budgeting decisions we've made together. It sounds like you don't respect your boyfriend's financial judgment--and that's smart! He's making some really, really poor decisions. But it doesn't sound like he's interested in changing, so your options are: accept and support his irresponsible spending, or make this a deal-breaker issue. Premarital counseling, or some type of couples' financial workshop might help facilitate a "come to Jesus" talk with him on this topic.

I'm sure there are good, likable, attractive things about your boyfriend. I'm not saying he's a terrible person. However, this disagreement cuts so deep into the life you propose to build together, it's hard to see a way to resolve the conflict without one of you switching sides.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:22 AM on April 11, 2013 [6 favorites]

In a normal relationship, a couple typically has at least three bank accounts. In the interests of brevity (apologies for the implied heteronormativity), they are (1) hers, (2) his, and (3) ours. In a normal relationship with two people living together, you also divide up house expenses proportional to one's income. If you make $20K and he makes $40K, you would pay ~33% and he would pay ~67% so with $1500/month household expenses, you would pay about $500 and he would pay $1000 into a shared account from which bills are paid.

This is not a normal relationship. I would not trust him with access to a shared account. He makes 2x as much as you and borrows money from you? That might not be a flag in a normal relationship but again, this is not a normal relationship.

If this was a relationship that you wanted to continue and you were living together, I would suggest that you take responsibility for expenses and have him write a check to you for the shared household expenses. But that takes a toll on a relationship. You would basically be putting yourself in a pseudo-parental role. Do you want that?

You are not a Vulcan for being a responsible adult and he is not a human for being fiscally irresponsible. You sound like someone who has worked hard for what she has. Please consider reading stories about women who have lost money because they got in relationships with guys who were irresponsible with money. If you married this guy, his debts would become your debts, your savings his savings. Do you know the whole story with his debt situation? People are terrific at hiding things. There's a reason that he can't get a credit card. You can't give him money with the expectation that you will ever see it again.

I'm sorry but this does not sound like a sustainable situation. Both of you will feel resentful towards each other in the long run, you towards him for acting irresponsibly and him towards you for not giving in every time something shiny catches his eye. Do you want kids? How will you feel when he tells your kids that Mean Mommy won't let you have a new bike? How will they be able to look up to their father as a model of financial responsibility when you don't trust him?

Unless there is something amazing about him that you have not shared, I do not think staying in this relationship is a good idea.
posted by kat518 at 7:25 AM on April 11, 2013 [5 favorites]

I would not stay with a gambler. He can ruin your life.
posted by walla at 7:25 AM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Another thing you really must think about is - is this a man you want to have children with? What if he's financially irresponsible to the point of compromising your children's health, housing, or futures? As in, he can't hold down a job that provides health insurance, there's no emergency room co-pay or money for the dentist because he's spent it all, he gambles away their college fund, etc. Plus fathers like this almost inevitably grudge any money spent on their kids instead of themselves, almost as if they see their kids as interlopers.

Is this the kind of father you want for your kids? You really should think about this if kids are in your future. The stakes are much, much higher when one brings children into the mix.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:30 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, consider that the more you merge your lives together, the more his debts and bad decisions are going to become your problem too - especially if you get married. You want to buy a house together only to find out down the road that he hasn't been paying the mortgage and now the bank are after you? You want to find out that his creditors can legally chase you for a debt you didn't even know he'd run up? No, you don't. Get on this now.

I suspect you're going to read the avalanche of "woah, run like hell" in this thread and back away from it, because you know him better than we do and you can see the both of you living happily together in the future. And maybe that is where you'll end up! Maybe his weird and harmful attitudes to money are something he can fix. But he will need to fix them, if you want this to have a future. If he isn't interested in changing his attitudes towards money, the future looks pretty bleak.
posted by Catseye at 7:32 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

There are so many red flags here that it looks like we're in a hurricane.

I am not a DMTFA person but this fellow is bad news. I personally would leave the relationship. (I am Gen-X saver btw - are we that unusual? Of course, I am single...)

If you do not leave the relationship - keep all finances separate, keep your account numbers and access codes and PINs secure and check your credit every 6 months in case someone has forged your name to a credit application. Ask me (or my lawyer) why I say this.

I'm sorry but you are a fabulous catch (Vulcans are sexy, yo and so is being financially responsible) and this fellow will likely try to drag you down too.
posted by pointystick at 7:37 AM on April 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

The whole gambling thing is a huge red flag for me, as someone that grew up in a household with a father that gambled away a LOT of money your boyfriends behaviours and manipulations seem very familiar. A lot of it is he's trying to hide how much he's loosing, even from himself. How tight we were with money was always my mothers fault because she insisted on trying to pay bills and feed us, and in the end he refused to let her have anything to do with their joint finances saying she should trust him and being hugely offended if she gave even the appearance of asking him about it.

As he was dying from lung cancer, he continually told my mother that she would be OK financially after he died as he had an insurance policy. His debts after he died ate up what little money my mother could make from selling their house, which included a second mortgage against the house my mother didn't know about, 5 credit cards maxed out and he had withdrawn all his superannuation(like a 401k) early and gambled it all away oh and he'd not paid the insurance he'd gambled that money away too so my mother was left cleaning up his mess.

Do NOT trust a gambler, it is an addiction, and like a drug addict they will lie to your face to keep their addiction going. He doesn't see you lending him money as some huge exercise in trust he sees it as a way to keep gambling and for you not to find out how much of a hole he is in. My father used to make huge extravagant promises about gifts of money and then have to reneg because he didn't win the money he thought he was going to. His being easily offended about money, the secrecy etc all scream at me as warning signs. Please be very careful about what you decide to do, living with a gambler can be exciting I guess but please be very firm about keeping your future security and money separate from him.
posted by wwax at 7:38 AM on April 11, 2013 [17 favorites]

He changes (unlikely), or you leave. And be very careful to clear up any residual liabilities he has opened for you.

I also wouldn't attribute generational marketing demographics to character traits. The so-called Gen-X survived the 1991-1993 recession, and used to be portrayed as cynical cheapskates.
posted by scruss at 7:41 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Agreed, you need to keep your finances separate for now.

As I read through the first part of your question, I was thinking the issue could be resolved with a frank discussion. My spouse makes substantially more than I do (and I make a good salary). We just reviewed our finances and he pulls in 70% of our household income which is about where we have always been, even as both of our salaries increased. While we dated, we kept separate finances. Any big expenses like trips, we would split as long as I was ok with the expense. Now that we are married, he pays 70% of our household bills and I pay the other 30%. When we were looking to move in with each other, I told him if the expectation was to split bills, we would have to live within my means so that I could afford my half. We moved into a house I cannot afford on my own and I pay 30% of the mortgage, etc. that way we both contribute equally but in scale to our incomes. So the income discrepancy is something you can successfully navigate if both parties are honest, reasonable and responsible.

It sounds like he is not being reasonable or responsible. Do not loan him money. Do not take debt out for him. Do not feel guilty for saying you cannot afford to pay for half of something. He can chose activities that are within your budget if he wants you to pay half, or pay for the extra of he really wants to do something you can't afford half of.

If he has a gambling problem, you should not put your financial security in jeopardy for him. Your credit is something to be protected and he does not feel the same way apparently. It can have a very real impact to your life - it will effect buying a home, a car, perhaps getting a job or an apartment to rent. Do not let him guilt you into subsidizing his habit when it puts your financial security at risk. Electronic are not needs, they are wants. He needs to learn to budget and save for those things and not depend on you to fund them.

You are not a Vulcan for wanting to be responsible and for being wary of this situation. Your guy feeling is right. Don't let him make you think otherwise.
posted by polkadot at 7:45 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

nthing that this is more than a money issue.

Your example is full of manipulation and control issues. Replace the concept of money with sex. Would you think this was a healthy relationship if he held that over your head as something he can give, take, or withhold as he pleases? The fact that he makes more money than you is something he is obviously aware of and using as leverage. Unless their is something you didn't tell us about his compassionate, loving side, I fail to see how this will turn out to be anything other than you being his personal lender.

posted by _DB_ at 7:49 AM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

All I can say is keep your finances as separate as possible and reconsider continuing to emotionally invest in this relationship. He seems immature and a risk. If he leaves or breaks up with you, you'll feel terrible and humiliated and worse.

I was start really thinking if you constantly want to struggle for the rest of your life with him. He may be using you to lean on until he gets himself together.
posted by discopolo at 7:50 AM on April 11, 2013

He owes me money currently and I was stressed about it, because it is debt, and my sole responsibility on paper.

Asking you to take on debt on his behalf is really crossing a line. Don't ever let him do this again. When you break up-- and I am pretty sure you will-- you're going to be left with whatever debt he has persuaded you to take on.
posted by BibiRose at 7:52 AM on April 11, 2013 [8 favorites]

So he wants to control the finances and have access to yours? To buy electronics and gamble away? Get away from this guy or he WILL use you and drain you and you will re-read this question in a few years and wish you took our advice. The red flags aren't just waving, they have combusted.
posted by futureisunwritten at 7:56 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is not a difference between humans and Vulcans, or between emotion and logic. It's not even a difference between Gen X and Gen Y. This is the difference between someone who is both financially irresponsible and manipulative, and someone who is responsible and seemingly willing to be manipulated.

If a friend of yours told you exactly what you wrote here, what would your advice be?
posted by muddgirl at 7:57 AM on April 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

One more thing to add on to what everyone says (namely that his behavior is creeping me out big time):

perhaps convert him through the power of my example

You can't do this. It won't work. I am sorry to be so blunt but people's opinions on money are so incredibly deep-seated and close to the heart. You can't build a relationship with the person you want someone to be, only the person they are - there is no guarantee that someone will change for you.
posted by capricorn at 8:01 AM on April 11, 2013 [6 favorites]

I was going to chime in on the manipulation and the gambling. Oy, the gambling (he's acting like an addict, by the way - textbook even). But I think that it's been covered pretty well above. Instead, I'm going to attempt to answer the question in your title: "How do we compromise and coexist?"

Compromise, by it's very definition, is a two way street. You need to ask yourself - is he willing to compromise? Does he take your values seriously and try and meet you at least half-way? Does he listen seriously and engage you on your concerns about spending? By the text of your post, I would have to say he does not. You will not be able to find a compromise as things stand. He is being irrational about money. He's using every manipulative tactic in the book to keep the money flow going and - if he's the addict I think he is - there's not going to be much opportunity to remove the emotion from this conversation.

The only way you can peacefully coexist with a person like this is to give way. Give way on your values around money. Accept that he's going to be irrational and manipulative in order to get the money he wants to spend. Accept that he will never be even remotely responsible with money. If that sounds like something you want to do, then your way is clear.

Otherwise - DTMFA.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 8:08 AM on April 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

Your whole post says to me that you are looking for ways to be OK with his behavior. The thing is his behavior is *not* OK.

In your shoes, I would keep my finances separate, I would never give him another dime and I would seriously be considering DTMFA.
posted by dgeiser13 at 8:09 AM on April 11, 2013 [5 favorites]

1. gambling problem
2. borrows money from you to gamble, thinks of it as his second job
3. lies to you about when he's going to pay the money back

If you want to continue this relationship, you need to draw a line in the sand. He gets help for his gambling and/or spending addiction, and gets his finances under control or you walk. You keep everything separate and do not lend him any more money.

This is about so much more than money. This is about a person who is not respecting your boundaries and is lying to you. This is a person who sounds unwilling to compromise.

My partner makes more money than me, and always has. He's a spender, I'm a saver. I'm terrible at paying bills on time and have bad credit, he's great at it and has good credit. We respect each other's boundaries, I'm trying to rebuild my credit (with his help) because I hate the idea that my bad credit could one day effect the life we want to build together. He hates the idea of borrowing money from my savings (which he has done when large, unexpected bills came up), because he knows that saving money is important to me.

It doesn't sound like your boyfriend respects your financial decisions, or you, at all. It doesn't sound like he cares about how his gambling and debt affects the future of your relationship.

He also tries to "punish" me for dissidence ...

This sentence kind of horrifies me. People in healthy adult relationships do not "punish" the other person for disagreeing with them.
posted by inertia at 8:10 AM on April 11, 2013 [11 favorites]

Confusing things further is the presence of a pending but not present windfall that he may use as a gauge when considering what he can afford, which may mean that he is transitioning to a lifestyle that I couldn't even conceive of being able to foot half of the bill for with amenities that cost more than I can afford to informally lend in the interim.

He's spending money he doesn't even have while delinquent on his student loans and in debt to you?

DTMFA. Or if you don't, and you ever think about marrying this schlub, pre-nup, pre-nup, pre-nup.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:12 AM on April 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

He makes twice as much as you do, and is asking to borrow money from you so he can buy toys.

When you're hesitant, he gets upset because someone who makes half as much money as him won't lend him money to buy toys, or will do so but isn't especially happy about it.

I'm sure he gives great backrubs and listens to your problems in every other respect, but somewhere out there is a dude who is not a huge goddamn baby and does all the things your boyfriend does right. So the advice I have is to kick your immature, inconsiderate liar of a boyfriend to the curb.

If, for some reason, a couple paragraphs from a total stranger on the internet do not convince you to end your relationship and entire emotional investment in this guy, then here is what I say.

asserting financial equity in all matters, which I actually agree with in principle, but find difficult in practice due to the aforementioned disparity in income and the fact that we haven't built a life together so much as he's allowed me to become a part of his, so costs are scaled to him.

Keep your finances completely separate - no borrowing or lending between either parties - and start putting your foot down about this. If he wants to eat somewhere expensive, tell him you can't afford it. Do not bend on this. Learn to say no and be firm about it.

And here is what I think: He will start throwing some pretty serious tantrums when you say no and he doesn't get his way, and that may make it a little clearer what needs to happen here.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:15 AM on April 11, 2013 [8 favorites]

I agree with kat518, you should not be splitting anything 50/50!! With an income disparity you each put in an equal percentage of your earnings, you don't put in an equal amount on a mortgage if it's twice what you'd be able to afford on your own.

I'm a money saver myself, and if I hooked up with a guy like yours there'd be a Dynex shaped hole in the wall of his house right now. If you're agreeing to the 50/50 split and lending him money because you think he'd walk out on you otherwise, ohhh honey please just let him go.

I can't wrap my head around someone earning a significant amount more then you making you put yourself in debt for his exorbitant pleasures. I'm sorry, but no Vulcan would go for that, it is completely and utterly illogical.
posted by Dynex at 8:16 AM on April 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

I think you need to re-frame your thinking. You are not a miser -- you are very responsible with money -- very, very different. Being so responsible is a GREAT thing.

He's is a spendthrift....and even worse a gambler and a master manipulator.

Any man would be so lucky to be in a relationship with you. Vulcans make wonderful partners. "Live Long and prosper."
posted by Lescha at 8:17 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you stay in this relationship, he will ruin you financially eventually.

You need to leave.

He needs to get help for his gambling. Gambling can be an addiction. Just like alcohol and drugs. And people with problem gambling exhibit similar poor decision making -- one more drink, one more try to win, etc.

Please take this very seriously.
posted by zizzle at 8:18 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Honey, run. This sounds like a horrible situation for you. In some relationships money can be made a non-issue if both partners keep their finances strictly separate, but in this case it will do you no good to keep your money separate from his when he doesn't recognize or respect those boundaries. I mean, he thinks he should be above all your criticisms over how he spends his money — which you are willing to respect — but then he thinks he's entitled to criticize and pressure you into loaning him money, and then to take his time paying it back. How is that fair?

And look into taking this guy to small claims court for the money he owes you, because you are unlikely to get it back otherwise.
posted by orange swan at 8:25 AM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Ugh, he's not a spendthrift while you're a miser, and he's not a human while you're a Vulcan. He's an ASSHOLE, while you're a normal person. DTMFA.
posted by like_a_friend at 8:25 AM on April 11, 2013 [16 favorites]

Full Disclosure: He cannot get his own credit card because of delinquent student loans. He also gambles large sums of money away.

Walk away from this relationship. This will not change and this man will one day break your heart and ruin your life through his debts, and even if that doesn't happen, you'll get to retirement and be poor and struggling instead of comfortable and happy because he won't have saved a penny over his working life.
posted by Dasein at 8:28 AM on April 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

He hasn't done any gambling recently, but this has not been accompanied by a change of attitude towards it from "alternate source of income/informal 2nd job" to "occasional recreational pursuit."

I bet if you google "gambling addiction," you'll read that the idea of gambling as a source of income is a sign that someone is in very deep trouble. There's a lot of mythology about that that is very unhelpful. It would be interesting to know what game he thinks he can win at. Counting cards in blackjack, for instance, has become impossible in most places, but you'll still see websites telling you you can make money that way. People who make money selling gambling systems have largely moved on to craps and baccarat, and after that it will be something else, but all of them are nonsense for your average person. What they mostly do (besides making money for the people who propagate them) is give problem gamblers intellectual justification or ways to rationalize their behavior.

The other thing about compulsive gamblers is, they have magical thinking with regard to money. They believe there is going to be some windfall in the future that's going to change their lives. This doesn't just affect your financial planning, it affects the way you live your life. You're always looking for some transformational event in the future. This expectation drains everyday life of it significance.
posted by BibiRose at 8:32 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is not a generational difference. (Incidentally, I'd be curious to know where you got the idea that what you're describing are generational issues. Did he try to disregard your concerns at one point by telling you that's what it is?)

In any case, this metaphor will be apt, given that he's a compulsive gambler: He is a Bad Pony, and you do not want to bet on him.
posted by scody at 8:46 AM on April 11, 2013 [7 favorites]

I loved reading your description of your financial habits and turns of mind. Refreshing and sensible. The thing is, you are not alone in this, as you seem to think. The world is full of responsible adults who manage their finances prudently. You're not unique, you're normal. (And you should not let anyone suggest otherwise, per the answers above.)

And, yes, you SHOULD be thinking about retirement. It's the people who begin to set money aside in their twenties, however much that might be, that are able to retire early and/or in reasonable comfort. Saving is a habit that responsible adults cultivate (barring periods of hardship, like job loss, of course).
posted by Short Attention Sp at 9:04 AM on April 11, 2013 [6 favorites]

The "experts" say that financial compatibility is MORE than sexual compatibility. Hard to believe but it seems to be true. Having very different feelings about money, especially given his gambling and debt, will start you off in a hole. Please be careful.

Even if you keep your finances completely separate, as a married couple you could be responsible for his debt if he defaults.

I think you're getting a sense from the previous comments but there are some red flags going up around your situation.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 9:05 AM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

With the exception of an emergency situation, someone making twice as much money as you has absolutely no grounds to be asking you for money.

That AND he's guilting you AND he has gambled with money you front him AND he expects you to buy him expensive gifts just because he chooses to buy you expensive gifts.

So, another vote for DTMFA. Being able to negotiate finances with a significant other is a huge deal. And also, better guys do exist.
posted by donut_princess at 9:18 AM on April 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

If you stay together with things as they currently are, he is going to force you into bankruptcy. Sooner, rather than later. Please protect yourself.
posted by belladonna at 9:23 AM on April 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

I am something of a spendthrift....with my own money. I'd never in a million years borrow money from my partner for a thing I want but don't need.

I have my accounts; she has her accounts; we share a house account, into which a set amount of each of our paychecks is automatically added, and out of which household bills and expenses are paid.

If I want to spend $$horrifying amount on new cowboy boots, I go ahead and do that...with my money. My partner does likewise with hers.

His behavior to you is manipulative and seriously not-adult. It is not respectful. You need to evaluate why you would stay with someone who treats you this way.
posted by rtha at 10:21 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm going to tell you a short story.

I grew up really, really, really poor and spent some time in my young adulthood homeless and otherwise impoverished. Over the course of several years, I brought myself onto the cusp of the middle class with great credit, good savings, and all of my needs met. This made me so happy. I was able to travel if I wanted, and had only just started being brave enough to do this regularly.

Then I met someone. This person didn't have the same discipline with money that I had. They had a philosophy that was very similar to trying to drink water from an empty glass and then being angry that it did not quench. They wouldn't go fill the glass for themselves, merely rage that it had not been filled. Being who I am, I would do what I could to fill the cup, even getting to where I had it full before they got it to their lips. They made promises of making things equal, throwing weird tallies in my face during arguments, but otherwise never taking full responsibility for the most vital lesson any adult can ever learn: living within their means.

I enabled this for a while, trying to work on their understanding of financial responsibility and fairness while becoming more and more alarmed at the absolutely limitless grasping that was soon overriding my carefully constructed stability and safety net. Did I walk away? No. We had long talks and heartfelt confessions, arguments and apologies, promises and, ultimately, lies. Did I walk away then? No. Because now I was invested. Now I felt I had to stick it out to see if they would ever make things right the way they'd said they would, or at least acknowledge that I was not the selfish git they'd made me out to be in our arguments.

Did that happen? No. What did happen is that when the recession hit, I was in a uniquely vulnerable position and I toppled far and landed hard. I've been back to hardscrabble for a few years now, and it is miserable and infuriating and embarrassing. Have they done anything to make it better? No. Do I feel very, very foolish and extremely regretful for becoming so invested in someone else's broken relationship with money that I allowed them to break my own relationship with it? YES.

Don't be me. Listen to Narrative Priorities and the others giving similar advice. Draw the lines very crisply between yours and his. If he continues to say shitty things, dump him, because you absolutely do not deserve that for trying to make sure you are living within your means, which is one of the most basic requirements, again, of being an adult. His inability to remain self-sufficient is his own problem and should not be foisted onto your shoulders.
posted by batmonkey at 10:43 AM on April 11, 2013 [20 favorites]

You've gotten plenty of advice already, but just as another millennial money fretter, I would run for the HILLS if I only made 20k and my partner wanted to borrow GAMBLING MONEY from me. Emergency medical expenses, yes. Everything else, if he makes twice what you do, there is absolutely no reason he can't get to a financial counselor and figure his shit out. Why is he gambling or buying electronics when he has delinquent loans?

He needs financial counseling and you both need couples counseling SO MUCH before you consider any kind of long term or legal commitment. Absolutely no more loans until he pays you back what he already owes you, absolutely no opening credit lines in your name or buying things for him on your credit, and I would tell him NO MORE DISCUSSION of anything money-related unless it's in front of a therapist.
posted by nakedmolerats at 11:41 AM on April 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

Wow, from what you posted above the fold I came in to say you should follow the Suze Orman budget plan (if he brings in 60% of the income he pays 60% of the bills, you pay 40%)... but then I read the rest of your post and wow, is this post not even about budgeting at all.

I agree with most of the answers above, but this one
Another thing you really must think about is - is this a man you want to have children with? What if he's financially irresponsible to the point of compromising your children's health, housing, or futures? As in, he can't hold down a job that provides health insurance, there's no emergency room co-pay or money for the dentist because he's spent it all, he gambles away their college fund, etc. Plus fathers like this almost inevitably grudge any money spent on their kids instead of themselves, almost as if they see their kids as interlopers.
really got to to me because this was my cousin. Gambled away all his earnings (at the expense of the security of his wife and two little kids), talked his mom into buying them a condo, which he was supposed to pay her rent/the mortgage but of course never did (at the expense of her retirement account), eventually she sold the condo, and after a few more years his family (and by then tween-aged kids) ended up homeless. Then his wife divorced him and yahdah yahdah yahdah, but those kids are around 25 now and don't even begin to know how to have healthy relationships due to their trust issues. It's awful to witness. Good gravy, don't allow yourself to go any farther down this road.
posted by vignettist at 12:42 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

asserting financial equity in all matters, which I actually agree with in principle

So do I. But "equity" does not mean "equal shares" when there's an income disparity between partners. There are a number of examples of this above, but I just wanted to highlight the language here.

Even if he's one of those people who's a solid poker player, or has a system for blackjack and does manage to do better than break even gambling, even if he doesn't have addictive behavior where gambling is concerned, it is not appropriate for him to be borrowing money from you to do it. That would be massively irresponsible in the absence of delinquent student debt.

As a hypothetical exercise, let's say you are a miser and your attitude toward money is unnecessarily stringent and it's compromising yours and your partner's well-being. In this situation, someone who is going to be a good long-term partner for you is someone who will talk to you about changing, try to help you figure out appropriate changes, and support you and help you feel safe in implementing them. Someone who can help you change healthily will work to build the trust, build the sense of security, and compromise with you. Not punish you or dismiss your feelings or disregard the terms necessary to build trust with you.

I don't think you sound like a miser. I think you sound like someone who's in a relationship that needs a lot of work to be a good fit for you. Sometimes the work is worth it, but sometimes it's not.
posted by EvaDestruction at 12:45 PM on April 11, 2013

Full Disclosure: He cannot get his own credit card because of delinquent student loans. He also gambles large sums of money away.

Talk about burying the lede here.

Yours is not a budgeting question at all. This person is not a financially responsible partner for you, and based on what you've written, I don't think he will become one. Ever.
posted by RedOrGreen at 2:18 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Incidentally, I'd be curious to know where you got the idea that what you're describing are generational issues. Did he try to disregard your concerns at one point by telling you that's what it is?

From what I read in the zillions of financial journals that cross my path, this IS a generational issue, speaking in gross generalizations. However, "generational issues" do not excuse behaviors that are detrimental to you.

Even if 80% of Gen Xers are crap with money (I made that number up), there are 20% left who are good with money


would be willing to keep their money woes to themselves by means of any number of hacks.

Borrowing money from their (lower income!) girlfriends to bankroll their crap money habits is NOT a generational issue- it's just shitty behavior.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:59 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

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