JUST BRENDA: Help! My family is headed for financial ruin

What can I do so that my partner and I effectively manage our finances together?

Photo credit: Fotosearch

Dear Brenda,

I earn a modest pay, and I have been able to save quite a bit over the years. The problem I have now is that I feel my partner is a bit careless with money and also doesn’t have much personal savings.

I’m not perfect, and I do sometimes spend on things I can live without, and even take myself out every now and then, but I also look at the future and I have saved a bit here and there since I was single, and more so now that my husband and I have a child and a second on the way.

My husband on the other hand misuses money. Once he pays rent and a few things for the baby, the rest ‘ni sherehe tu’ with the boys or flaunting for relatives or getting new rims, or some other thing that costs a lot and we really don’t need. I have tried talking to him to a point I’m also giving up. Sometimes he listens and promises to change and even changes for a time, other times it’s like I’m talking to myself. Also, I wish I had known of this habit when we were dating. But now, what do I do so he can change and we move together and avoid financial ruin?

I should add that I earn slightly more than him (almost 1.5 times his pay) and end up doing most family expenses because he feels I earn more. I don’t mind the 'sherehe', but we also need to save and invest for our children and our old age, and our joint savings is almost depleted because of family emergencies and his own non-emergencies, and not replenishing the account fast enough.


Dear A,

I am sorry to hear about your predicament. It is sad that you are finding you have different views on finances, well after getting married and having children. The good news is that you have seen there is a problem and you seek to solve it.

My suggestion is you keep saving on your own first as you seek ways to get in sync with your husband. 

That said, you two need to sit down and communicate. Maybe you two can start with small things like deciding together what you should spend daily e.g. on food vis-a-vis your joint income, what you can afford to spend on luxuries, etc. List down your foreseen expenses and jointly agree on priorities for the family. This means serious budgeting and striving to stick to a budget. There is no one-size fits all budget, nor is it a one-off cure, you have to constantly work on it, revise it, see what works and what doesn’t and change it as situations change. Also, don’t enable him; find a way to share expenses equitably.

I would advise you two seek the help of a certified financial adviser if you are able to afford one. This could greatly help you make joint goals and help in clear budgeting. If you are unable to seek these services, educate yourselves from various books, magazines, newspaper articles and online sources, or even friends, then commit on a plan that works for the two of you and move from there. It will take commitment from you and your spouse for all this to work.

Meanwhile, you might also need the services of a counsellor to help the two of you openly and professionally discuss your dreams and goals and maybe get to the bottom of your differences in financial and goal planning. Once you two are on the same page, I encourage you to have a candid discussion on solo versus joint savings, or implementing both in your relationship. As I said earlier, there’s no one-size-fits-all plan; it has to be tailored to your specific needs and goals.

All this will be a journey and there could be ups and downs. But your determination for good financial management may just be your family’s saving grace. All the best.

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