Family budgeting ‘better left to the women'
by Trung Hieu
In Vietnamese families, especially in urban areas, wives are traditionally in charge of the family budget.
Each month, husbands bring their wages home and hand it over to their wives, who respond with radiant smiles.
However, some unique families have opted to turn away from tradition, with the husband taking on the role of family cashier.
This unexpected situation was a shock to newlywed Nguyen Thi Hoa during her first days as a wife.
Hoa and her husband both graduated from medical school. In addition to working as doctors at a State hospital, they also own a private clinic which attracts a lot of clients because her husband is a skilled doctor. During the clinic's first days, Hoa worked in the pharmacy and assisted her husband. The days were busy, but Hoa felt happy.
But at the end of one day of hard work, Hoa asked her husband: "How much money did we get today, darling?"
"Don't worry about it. That's my job," he replied.
After that, Hoa asked about money several more times, but her husband refused to let her get involved in their financial issues. Since then, he has held on to their monthly salaries as well as the income from their private clinic.
Hoa has gradually grown more upset as her husband continues to keep secret where he stores their money.
She is annoyed when she has to wait for money to buy even small items, like breakfast, small sweets, even underwear. She must wait for her husband to give her money to get her hair or nails done as well. One day, while she was cooking, Hoa discovered that they had run out of fish sauce. She had to go to the hospital to find her husband to ask for money to buy a new bottle.
When Hoa finally felt she couldn't take any more, she tried to persuade her husband again to give her some control over their money but he still refused.
Since then, Hoa has given up taking any interest in her husband's family.
"I feel this house is not the right place for me to be making efforts to build a home.
"I feel like an outsider, even worse than a domestic helper because at least a domestic helper can keep their own salary and feel free to make decisions on how to spend it, but I never have any money," she said.
Hoa worries that she will be left with nothing if her husband leaves her for another woman.
Minh Nga's husband, a teacher, has a similar attitude about money.
One day a friend asked Nga how much a kilogramme of fish cost at the local market, and she was unable to answer. The reason: her husband goes to market every day. She doesn't even know the price of rice because her husband buys everything the family needs.
When people ask her husband about the situation, his excuse is that "my wife is so clumsy. She knows nothing, except our son".
But how can she know about other things if he takes care of the domestic work typically done by women?
Managing the family budget is very important. Whether it's the husband or the wife who manages the spending is a thorny issue for many couples.
In the countryside, husbands typically take control of the family budget because rural residents still maintain that the man controls the family.
But in cities the situation is more complicated.
At first, Vinh Long let his wife manage their budget but over time, he gradually became upset that his wife was managing and deciding everything.
One year into this arrangement, their relationship fell under a great deal of stress.
One day, his wife, Ngoc Thanh, got angry. "Do you think I give money to my parents? Do you want to keep our money?"
But after talking about the issue, Thanh understood the core of the problem and changed the way she managed their money. Except for the money she uses to buy daily necessities, Thanh talks about potential big purchases with her husband before spending a significant sum on anything. For example, when they wanted to buy a new TV set, she cleverly lead him to make the final decision.
In this arrangement, her husband feels free from small spending issues but maintains his authority.
The question of "who manages the money?" no longer bothers him.
If men are too busy to worry about small purchases, it's likely that their wives can.
Often, women have the unique ability to deal with money while balancing their jobs or other activities. Whoever holds the family budget, however, should not be too stingy. — VNS