Interview With a Woman Who Wants to Pay for Her Boyfriend But He Won’t Let Her

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.

LS: Exactly.

 

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44 Comments / Post A Comment

WayDownSouth (#3,431)

I found this article to be profoundly depressing.

She has two low-end jobs with very few prospects for increased income. She spends what she makes on clothes and restaurant meals, so she’s not even building up any productive assets. She’s not managing her credit card debt. I didn’t read about health insurance, so she doesn’t have financial backup to help if she encounters a health issue.

Her boyfriend is unemployed lives within his means (which I think is a smart perspective). She doesn’t like his perspective and argues with him about it.

Unless something changes, I suspect that this relationship isn’t going to end well.

jmdj (#2,994)

@WayDownSouth Agreed. I think she’s also losing sight of the idea that his current source of income is temporary. So preparation/discussion about how to budget should be done now, not after she realizes too late that money spent on dining out could have covered his half of the rent when he’s no longer able to pay.As you said, this isn’t going to end well.

WayDownSouth (#3,431)

@jmdj you’re right. I suppose what makes me depressed about this story is how tenuous their relationship is.

He’s aware of his financial constraints (due to being unemployed) and is spending within his means, wants to have a budget, etc. He’s presumably also aware of the risks that she’s running (and resolutely ignores). She pushes away any discussions about finances, even though she recognises that her actions are entirely short-term.

If something is important to my wife, then it’s important to me and vice versa. What depresses me about this article is that he’s trying to work out their finances as a couple, but she’s pushing him away. I just don’t see how this relationship is going to work out, even in the medium term. It’s just sad.

EDaily (#4,396)

@WayDownSouth But what if what is important to your wife is spending money on eating out? Would that be important to you too? The problem here is that what is important to Claire is the opposite of what is important to her boyfriend and they need to reconcile that. And Claire is totally wrong if she thinks that standing up for what she believes in means she doesn’t have to make any compromises so that they both can have what’s important to the both of them. Claire is going to have to cut back a little so that she has some money to fall back on in case she falls ill and can’t babysit children. Her boyfriend is going to have to accept that Claire won’t stop spending money cold turkey. It’s unrealistic to expect her to. There is an opportunity for them to work this out, but there has to be some give and take or this relationship is doomed.

barnhouse (#202)

“I don’t want to think about it” is not a reasonable position for an adult woman to take. And lobbying for dinner out when finances are so tight is not “what you believe in”–it’s a refusal to grow up and take some steps to improve your future, with or without your boyfriend.

But if you value your relationship (“we’re in love!”), it’s very important to support your partner by respecting his values. A treat once in a while is okay, but this isn’t something you should be arguing about, not ever. Privation today, fulfillment tomorrow! When he finds a new job, it will be a lot more fun to go out, because he won’t be stressed out about it.

peas of mind (#3,959)

@WayDownSouth

Yes. “I don’t want to think about it” is a REALLY reckless and childish financial strategy. I honestly can’t imagine spending so freely and casually on dinners and clothes, given an unemployed partner, credit card debt, and minimal savings. I’m getting anxiety just thinking about it.

It sounds like a pretty privileged worldview all around. Like . . . is this person in a position where their parents would pick up rent or medical bills if something happened? Do they even have student loans? *Hyperventilates.*

WayDownSouth (#3,431)

@peas of mind yes, those are very good questions. She said she has a degree in comparative literature (which I’m not familiar with, but assume that it’s part of an English degree). I very much doubt that baby-sitting paid for it, so her parents must have done so. There weren’t any comments about repaying student loans.

I suppose that if anything bad happens (e.g., the IRS calls, she needs medical attention), she’ll just file for bankruptcy and hopefully learn from the experience.

To be honest, it was also a bit of a worry that Logan basically approved of her financial strategies. She may have been better off talking with Mike…

EM (#1,012)

If you guys are living together and sharing bills, and he is feeling stressed about the no-end-in-sight unemployment, and your finances are pretty tenuous (ie, $20 a month in savings), I can see why he is unenthused about the prospect of going out for dinner and watching that money disappear into appetizers. It’s sweet of you to want to treat him, but if it’s making him feel guilty or reminding him of his brokeness, then as much as it’s intended as a kind gesture on your part it’s probably just making him feel shitty.

Also maybe it would help if you had a clearer picture of each other’s finances? Like, maybe it would be easier for you to see each other’s points of view if you knew more about what his debt burden was like and why he is so anxious about it. If you plan to be together for a long time it’s stuff you’re probably gonna want to know eventually, and not knowing is already causing strain on both of you.

garli (#4,150)

@EM Yeah even reading this made me feel anxious and it’s not my money.

hungrybee (#73)

@EM “We’re not married, maybe if we got married then it would be time for full disclosure.” This makes me so stressed out! Surely that conversation should come before marriage?

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

@hungrybee “Surely that conversation should come before marriage?”

This, a thousand times!

bgprincipessa (#699)

@hungrybee maaaaybe, to give her the benefit of the doubt, she means once marriage is really on the table?

wrappedupinbooks (#1,426)

I just did some back of the envelope calculations with her expenses vs income, and added in rough estimates for expenses she didn’t mention (say $200 for groceries, $300 on resturants and $100 on shopping) and I still came up with about $600 leftover. Girl! Where is all that cash going?!

highjump (#39)

@wrappedupinbooks Yes yes, I also have this question. I enjoyed reading this but it made me kind of anxious for her!

zeytin (#4,005)

@wrappedupinbooks Sounds like a lot more than $100 is going towards shopping to me.

wrappedupinbooks (#1,426)

@zeytin my brain is short-circuiting trying to comprehend how she could possibly be spending $500+ on clothes, etc. every month. And I’m the type of person who will spend $300 on a pair of boots or whatever. But I think I would die of anxiety if I made a purchase like that every month.

bb (#2,061)

@wrappedupinbooks I’m impressed that none of the people on this thread have ever under-estimated their budget. I noticed she didn’t include gas, coffee/snacks out, little crap like movies, events, gifts etc. And I bet utilities are actually more than $100 if they have high-speed internet and smartphones. Things add up, and honestly when I was in my 20s (which she clearly is) I didn’t have much of a handle on it.

A#1 advice for people who wish they knew the basics of their spending (the first step toward making a realistic budget): use mint.com. It’s free and effortless.

wrappedupinbooks (#1,426)

@bb I am also in my early 20s, and my take home pay is comparable to hers. I used my own monthly expenses to estimate the missing bits of her budget. [The big differences between us are that my rent is a lot more than hers, but I don’t have car payments or credit card debt. I do have student loan payments.) Even though my natural instincts are to HOARD ALL THE MONEY, I recongize not everyone is like that. Which is fine! But I just cannot even begin to understand living so close to the edge and not feeling anxious about it. That is the most distressing thing about this piece to me– that she’s trying to justify living right up to the edge of her means, and arguably even beyond them. I recognize that some people do that because they have to just to survive, but it would seem that with some minimal planning she could be building up a cushion, and/or getting out from under her credit card debt. And, despite only having been on this earth for 23 years, to me that seems to be less than prudent.

LDW (#4,492)

I think Claire might have to meet him half way on the subject of a budget. Unemployment gnaws at you and makes every expenditure look frivolous. The fact is that until he gets a job, he likely won’t feel good about eating meals on her dime because it will just intensify his anxiety.

Perhaps she can agree to the idea of a budget and insist on a going out budget being part of that. This means that regardless of how tight things are she still put X dollars towards that budget. That might be a way of reaching some kind of peace. And they’re both going to have to come to terms that, for her, being with him is going to mean being a bit more frugal than she otherwise would be, and, for him, being with her is going to mean spending a few dollars on a night out on a semi-regular basis. That’s how relationships work.

eagerber (#1,958)

So many questions! Don’t babysitting/shop-girl jobs constitute being “in between jobs” as well? Is she looking for other jobs to better their situation? Is he also working part-time while searching for new jobs? Have they cut back considerably since his unemployment? I know from experience that if I’m dating someone who’s unemployed/underemployed, I trim down my own expenses, and up my savings in case of a “rainy day.” Sorry, but this girl sounds very naive about her future financial situations, and I don’t understand how those credit cards will ever be paid off.

eagerber (#1,958)

@eagerber Also, if they’re living somewhere where rent costs $900/mo, she can likely charge more than $10/hr for babysitting.

francesfrances (#1,522)

So, I think we need to be a little bit kinder to dear Claire, but I also share some of the anxiety other commenters have expressed. A little short-term planning seems in order (what happens in a few months, or next year?). It would be good to know her age, how long she’s been out of school, and what the boyfriend is doing about finding a new job.

I have a lot of her bad habits (clothes, dining out). My boyfriend and I are moving in together in about 6 months, and a lot of my bad financial habits are things I’m trying to get in control in order to have smooth sailing when we live together, because I want to contribute to building a great life together. I expect the desire for that life to become stronger than my desire for new Gap shirts.

Enough about me… so she’s working 50 hours a week as a nanny, plus retail? That is a lot of work. No wonder she wants to go out to eat! At least the boyfriend cooks – that should make things easy. Maybe try just going out for dessert?

shannowhamo (#845)

@amyfrances I’m with defending Claire. She’s not asking how to improve her finances and she’s happy with her life (who cares if she isn’t looking for a *better* job if she likes what she does?)and while more savings/more aggressive debt payment is responsible it’s just not the phase of her life she’s in right now. She seems in her early 20′s. He’s obviously being more responsible but if it’s a fight EVERY time she wants to go out, well then he needs to compromise, too. They sound financially incompatible which I think is just as damning as being sexually incompatible. But that’s okay, the whole point of your 20′s is to date people who don’t work out!

RachelW (#2,605)

Please file a tax return! You probably don’t owe much. But $24,000 a year is not nothing, and tax evasion is not cool. You are creating a paper trail by depositing checks in a bank account, and the family may be deducting what they pay you from their own taxes. Certainly if the IRS wants to go after you for back taxes and fines, they can.

EM (#1,012)

@RachelW Yeah I was struck by this also. Depositing a regular paycheque from the same place every week/two weeks/whatever is not “under the table” in any sense.

Kzinti (#1,805)

@RachelW Thank you! Regardless of whether they are paying you cash or by check, you legally owe taxes on your income and should be paying taxes accordingly.

@ellabella It may be the responsibility of the family employing her to withhold taxes and / or provide a W-2 / 1099, but it is her legal responsibility to report her earnings on her tax return whether the family does that or not.

Claire – when you don’t claim your income or pay your taxes, those of us who are law-abiding citizens and DO claim our income and pay our taxes end up having to make up for that in higher taxes or lower benefits for those who need them.

Megoon (#328)

@Kzinti @RachelW Yes, for the love, pay your taxes!!! It can really bite you in the behind later. I doubt she’ll owe much/anything anyway, since she isn’t making a ton of money. But not reporting your income is just a terrible idea. Look at those people from the Real Housewives of New Jersey. Don’t be a Giudice!

@RachelW She would probably get fired from her nanny job if she did that. I don’t think nannies should be paid under the table, but it is so hard to find a family who is willing to do things legitimately. I have tried.

raw money (#3,975)

Girlfriend needs to wake the hell up.

sesomai (#3,874)

Pay. Your. Darn. Share. Of. Taxes.

Pro-solar (#4,871)

Off topic?
Please, please, PLEASE be my nanny.

applesbanana (#4,872)

Oh, honey, get a grip. This isn’t some macho backwards-thinking guy; this is a man who is trying to be financially responsible and open so you CAN be together for a long time as you claim you want to be. It’s what grown ups who live together do. Financial secrets are for people who break up long before marriage is on the table because they will absolutely destroy relationships.

A budget is so you can plan your spending, not some terrifying monster. It’s so you get to the end of the month and don’t realize you have no idea what you spent your money on and have nothing to show for it. A budget exists so you can show your boyfriend that you can afford to spend $X a month on restaurants, and you can then go out and spend it without fighting about it. Seriously, it is a thing that can actually work to your advantage. Also, create a spending journal. Write down *every single penny* you spend over a month and you’ll realize that if eating out is so important to you, you can give up a few other things.

Calling yourself a ‘foodie’ does not entitle you to eat at restaurants. A foodie appreciates a home-cooked meal. It’s made with love and it can be made to your specifications. Here’s a thought: take the money that’s in your eating out budget and have a nice meal at a restaurant, and then go home and spend some time over the rest of the month trying to replicate it. Try to make it better. Tweak it until it’s exactly to your tastes. Set the table nicely, put on some music, and enjoy your ‘foodie’ meal at a quarter of the price. Pat yourselves on the back and gloat a little that you made it from scratch and it’s SO good. Master some dishes and become the couple that throws killer dinner parties so you have more of a restaurant air (but your friends supply the wine instead of spending $9 a glass out).

Also, I sincerely appreciate that you seem to be working hard (though yes, please pay your taxes, for the sake of everyone) but the only things you deserve in life are the things you can pay for, and your boyfriend is right – if you have credit card debt, you are living beyond your means. You can’t afford to keep eating out. But guess what? If you make a budget – a plan to spend your money and pay your debts – you will crack down for a while, and then you will free up all that credit card bill money for things like eating out. As it is, you are paying a restaurant bill, taxes on the bill, a tip, and then you might as well add an additional 20% to the bill because you have credit card debt.

It’s not fun to deal with bills – no one WANTS to do it, regardless of age – but they are reality, and relationships require the empathy needed to see that this is stressful to your boyfriend. He is trying. Meet him halfway and plan your spending so you can find a happy medium.

fennel (#2,494)

@applesbanana

haha, some of us could spend more on cooking with amazing groceries and ingredients than on going out to some crummy restaurant. But I know what you mean.

They don’t necessarily have to disclose everything about their finances. Just come up with an open and transparent budget that covers the expenses that they share (as well as the existence of an emergency fund, for the emergencies that might cause one to want to borrow from the other). Lots of couples have “private” funds of money that they do whatever they want with, without running it by the other partner, just to preserve some autonomy — and know that they each have those private discretionary funds, and make it part of the overall budget maybe, but don’t share the details.

applesbanana (#4,872)

@fennel Yeah, things like proteins can definitely add up, though finding a good cheaper alternative can be a fun challenge if you’re game :) The thing with crummy or even mediocre restaurants is that it’s SO EASY to top and her boyfriend clearly wants to try, which is an awesome quality to have HA. There are just so many websites and even YouTube channels that have interesting meal ideas on them. I like to think one of the big points of being a foodie is being adventurous and trying it out yourself :)

Yes, it’s definitely possible to not run every purchase by each other and it doesn’t have to be about controlling each other’s finances. It’s simply about having the knowledge so you can work together towards whatever goals you might have. It’s also just good *for yourself* to know where your money is going – you spent a good ~240 hours in a month earning it, you should know where it went! But really, once it’s in black and white, it’s so much easier to say ‘honey, we have money in our budget to go out Friday’ and just GO rather than argue about abstracts. And if that money is gone, ‘honey, I’ve cut my clothing budget for the month so I can take you out to dinner without putting it on my credit card. I have paid off all the necessary bills for the month and we’re good to go.’ So much less stress!

TatianaT (#4,873)

It sounds to me like CB wants to be roommates with benefits. You don’t need to know your roommate’s financial info because you know that they’re going to cover their portion and, if they don’t, then you move. In a relationship that you’re planning on being in for a while you should probably talk it out before stuff goes wrong. Mint is useful to see where your money is going.

sunflowernut (#1,638)

@TatianaT Yeah that’s kind of how I felt. She says she’s in the relationship for the long term, but all her actions say otherwise.

marzipanda (#4,875)

Claire, I actually just created an account on Billfold, which I will never use, to imploringly tell you that you can make TWICE that money for nice, normal families all over New York. Some even live in Brooklyn! I nannied for them for years, and $20/hr is pretty standard in many households. $10/hr for a nanny is absolutely criminal. I am shuddering at the thought.

That’s really cute that you don’t pay your taxes. OH WAIT IT’S NOT. GURL, STAHP! From one girl with a Humanities degree making less than $30,000 to another, this is not you being naive. It’s just a betch move.

@Emily Scott Robinson@facebook The family she works for is responsible for paying taxes for her in this case.

Kzinti (#1,805)

@Alanna Maeve@facebook

It may be the responsibility of the family employing her to withhold taxes and / or provide a W-2 / 1099, but it is her legal responsibility to report her earnings on her tax return whether the family does that or not.

It is not the family’s responsibility to pay her taxes for her, just possibly to withhold taxes from her pay, just like a normal employer.

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