What If My Spouse Wants to Give Me an Allowance?

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There's not one right way for a married couple to handle their finances. In some cases, spouses will agree on an allowance, or a set amount of spending money that's meant to last for a certain period of time. If both parties wholeheartedly agree to a spousal allowance, it can simply be a way for you to combine finances and budget. But sometimes, one partner may use the allowance as a way to manipulate or control their spouse with money. It's important that you understand the difference between these two scenarios.

When an Allowance Can Help Your Budget

You and your spouse may agree to give each other a spending allowance, which is sometimes referred to as mad money, or pocket money. It doesn't cover things like normal daily expenses or bills.

If you're using an allowance category in your budget to give each partner their own spending money, then it's usually not harmful. It's important to some couples to have a bit of money that you can spend on fun things without being accountable to your partner. The key is to set aside a reasonable amount that's within your budget, and to give each other the same amount to spend on things you enjoy, such as clothes or video games.

If one partner is the primary breadwinner, then the situation can get a bit stickier. Again, if both spouses agree on an allowance in this situation, the amount is the same, and both are equally accountable for their spending, then it's not really an allowance in the traditional sense—it's separate spending line items in your budget.

When A Spousal Allowance Is Really Manipulation

If you're the only person in your marriage with an allowance or spending budget—especially if you're not the primary breadwinner—then it's usually a sign of a bigger problem. It could mean that your partner is using money to control or manipulate you.

It's possible that you may be in this situation because at the beginning of your relationship, you chose not to take an active role in your finances. If this is the case, then talk to your partner about continuing in your relationship with equal roles in the budgeting and financial planning process. Working as a team can help prevent money from ruining your marriage.

If your spouse is not receptive to this suggestion, or if it wasn't your choice to step back from finances in your marriage, then you could be in an abusive situation.

Allstate Foundation Purple Purse, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing domestic abuse through financial empowerment, has identified the main warning signs of financial abuse:

  • One partner has limited access to money or credit cards.
  • One partner's spending is tightly monitored by the other.
  • One partner worries excessively about how their partner will respond to what are typically considered simple, everyday purchases.

Other warning signs include an allowance that shrinks over time, not being a signer on the bank accounts or on the home that you own, and your spouse hiding bank accounts or assets.

If You Suspect Financial Manipulation

Financial abuse is something to be taken very seriously. Victims of domestic abuse often cite financial abuse as the main reason that they stay or return to an abusive partner, and it occurs in 99 percent of domestic violence cases, according to the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNED).

If you're experiencing any of the warning signs above—including your spouse putting you on an allowance—or the financial abuse escalates to verbal or physical abuse, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline. The NNED also offers help finding shelter, financial guidance, and local support to victims of abuse.

If you're in immediate danger, call 911.