We Can’t Afford to Live Like Rich Neighbors, So My Husband Wants Me to Lie

An upset woman turns away from her husband, who is on the couch holding a remote control.
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Dear Penny,

I was wondering what to do about being a couple that has decided to be on a budget. We get asked to do a lot of things: go out to eat, vacations, bowling tournaments, golf tournaments and concerts. Although we are not broke and I make a good living, we are surrounded by wealthy people, mostly retired because we bought a dilapidated house for a great deal in a fancy subdivision on a lake.

My husband is 62 and somewhat retired, and I am 58 and working full time. I am very honest when someone asks me to do something I feel we cannot squeeze in our budget, and I tell them that. The problem is my husband gets so angry about me saying why we cannot go. He also makes me be the deliverer of the message. This drives me crazy. There is nothing wrong with wanting to save for our retirement after spending so much cash on this remodel!

He says it is none of their business and wants me to make something else up. You can only turn people down so many times. How do I do this without living a lie?


I’m sure it feels great to be the new kids on the block in a desirable neighborhood, surrounded by people who want to do exciting things.

But fun excursions come with price tags, and the more fun the potential outing, the harder it can be to resist whatever price tag is attached.

Before fielding the next invitation, you and your husband need to talk about your budget. It sounds like you see the budget as a handrail, while he sees it as a cage. But regardless of your savings goals, I’m sure there’s a spot in your budget for fun stuff, whether it’s under hobbies, vacation, dining out or some other category.

If there aren’t earmarks for fun stuff, it’s time to decide what fun things you’d like to spend on. Maybe bowling tournaments aren’t really your idea of a good time together, but you’d love to try more restaurants. That makes it easier to turn down bowling but accept the occasional invite to dinner.

Making decisions together also makes it easier to express why you’re turning down an invitation. “We’d love to go to Serendipity Island, but we’re prioritizing our trip to New York City this year.” Or, “You know, that bowling tournament sounds great, but we already made plans for that weekend. How about we find time for us all to have lunch at our place instead? You have to see our renovations!”

Everyone understands the feeling of being overextended. You can relay that without cutting “WE’RE POOR” into your front yard with the lawnmower.

You have money. It’s up to you how you spend it. Don’t feel bad about those choices for a second.

And when an invitation is extended and your husband isn’t willing to respond, I vote you get to choose how you turn people down. You don’t need to be his social secretary or the sole spokesperson for your marriage.

Have an awkward money dilemma? Send it to [email protected].

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