Claire Brown is a name I made up for a girl who likes to go out to eat, but her boyfriend doesn’t.
Logan Sachon: Claire, tell me about you, what do you do.
Claire Brown: Right now I work in a dress shop and also as a nanny. I studied comparative literature in school but never really knew what I wanted to do with it. I still don’t know! But I have a nice little life here, and it’s working for me for now.
LS: How much are you making right now?
CB: I get $10/hour doing the nanny job, which works out to about $500 a week, depending on how much they need me. And the retail gig is another hundred or a couple hundred a week depending on how many shifts I get and how many dresses I sell …. and how many dresses I buy, haha.
LS: Is the babysitting cash?
CB: Well, the family I babysit for writes me checks, but it’s under the table, I guess. I don’t pay any taxes on it. Which makes me a little bit nervous, but not so much. I sort of figure that if the IRS tracks me down I’ll just feign ignorance and then pay whatever I owe. Maybe that’s naive.
LS: I think that sounds like a pretty good plan. And you know, you read the site so you know I’m a foremost expert in how to do these things, ha. Okay. So you’re bringing home about $2,000 a month from babysitting, plus a few hundred from your retail job. Does this cover your bills?
CB: It does mostly, yeah. I live with my boyfriend, and my share of the rent is $450. My car payment is $250, car insurance is $100. I have a few credit cards, and the minimums plus a little bit add up to about $200 a month. Utilities are like $100 I think. I don’t know really, he pays them and I give him cash as they come.
LS: What does your boyfriend do?
CB: He’s “in between jobs” right now. He was working in an office job, as the office manager. He was laid off so he’s getting unemployment which is good. But he has a lot of bills, student loans and some credit card debt, so things are pretty tight around here. Well, for him. And I guess for me, too.
LS: When was he laid off?
CB: It’s been about five months now, so it’s not so terribly long, I know a lot of people have been out of work for much longer. But he’s pretty bummed about it, obviously. He worked there a long time.
LS: So how are you guys doing money?
CB: We split everything evenly, or try to. He lived here alone before I moved in, so all the bills were already in his name and everything, which works for me. So he still pays all the bills, and then I cut him checks or give him cash for my half.
LS: Are you paying less or more now that you live with him, than you were before?
CB: It’s actually about the same, really—I lived in a house with a group of girls before, my rent was a little higher there actually, but utilities were lower—we didn’t have cable, internet was split among four people instead of two.
LS: How long have you lived together?
CB: About four months. I moved in about a month after he lost his job.
LS: Is that why you moved in?
CB: Well we had talked about it before that happened, we’ve been together almost a year, and we were spending all of our time together anyway. Money was something we were both worrying about, so it seemed like an easy way to solve a problem.
LS: But you’re not saving any money!
CB: Well it wasn’t all about the money. We’re in love! I think it would have happened anyway, it just happened sooner because he lost his job.
LS: So you told me about the bills, where does the rest of your money go?
CB: Dinners mostly. I’m a foodie, I love going out to eat. I will eat out as much as I can, until the money runs out basically. And clothes, I guess. And like I said, I spend a lot of the money from my retail job at the store where I work, so I don’t even see a lot of that money. It doesn’t really feel like I’m spending it. I spend most of my shifts shopping, which is silly. I should quit and get another job but I love working there. And I love the clothes.
LS: When you go out with your boyfriend, who pays?
CB: Since he lost his job, I do. But I did a lot before, too. He is happy to stay home, he likes to cook. I love to go out to dinner. Even before he lost his job I would bribe him to come out with me by saying, my treat! But he’d still pay a lot, I’d say it was about even. Neither of us kept track, or at least I didn’t and he never talked about it. But now that he doesn’t have any disposable income really, if we go out, I pay. He was making more money than me before, and now with the unemployment I think we’re about even, I’m not really sure. We don’t know the specifics of each others finances. I just sort of know that he has a lot of bills, and he knows I have some bills.
LS: Are you okay with that?
CB: I am. I mean, I plan on being with him for a long time, so I just sort of think it will even out. And I know we’re only going out because of me! He really would cook every day if he could.
LS: And with not knowing his money, and him knowing yours?
CB: I think we know enough. We’re not married, maybe if we got married then it would be time for full disclosure. But I don’t want to know everything, and I don’t know, I don’t think he does either. It would feel too parental maybe.
LS: So you originally wrote me because you wanted hot tips on how to make him feel better about you being the provider, basically?
CB: We have a fight every time I want to go out. Not a fight, but he’s like, come on babe, again, you know I can’t afford it. And every time I have to tell him that I happy to pay for him, I want to pay for him, that I have no expectation of him paying.
LS: I mean that sounds like a good response.
CB: Then he says that I can’t really afford it either.
LS: Is that true?
CB: Maybe a little bit true. I mean, I only put $20 in savings a month, I could and should be putting more. And I could and should be putting more towards my credit card I guess. And I could and should be saving for retirement, which I’m not doing. But I don’t want to think about that right now. I’m young and I live in a great city and I want to have fun. I feel like I’m going to have the whole rest of my life to save and be responsible. And I’m not talking about having a drug habit! I just like to go out to eat!
LS: It sounds like we have similar attitudes about spending. “I don’t want to think about it!!!”
CB: It’s true! I don’t want to think about it!
LS: And your boyfriend is maybe more someone who wants to think about it.
CB: Yeah now that I think about it, he actually wanted to talk more about where all our money goes. He wants to have a budget together, which is not something I’m interested in at all.
LS: So I don’t think I get it. Does your boyfriend not want you to spend money, or not spend money on him?
CB: I mean I think ideally he would want us both to stop spending so much money. Going out is not something that he values the same way I do. I think especially since he lost his job, he’s feeling like he should be really frugal. Which I understand, but I don’t want to have to be frugal, too.
LS: Do you go out without him?
CB: Sometimes, but I don’t like to, really. I like doing things together, and if doing things together means I have to pay for him, I don’t care. It really doesn’t matter to me.
LS: But it matters to him it sounds like.
CB: Yeah. Yeah it does. I just want him to stop caring so much about it, because it doesn’t matter. It’s my money, I do what I want to.
LS: Yeah unfortunately it’s hard to control other people’s feelings. I am not giving you any good advice on this really, am I. Hopefully some readers will know what’s up. But I think it’s good that you keep fighting to do what you want, which is to go out to eat with your boyfriend.
CB: Standing up for what I believe in.