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Four Words in Personal Finance that Piss me Off…and The Wife Says them All the Time

I can’t explain it, but for some reason whenever The Wife says the words, “We Can’t Afford It” my blood boils. I mean makes me argue something fierce. Hell, even writing about it makes me use weird terms like “something fierce.”  The anger can actually compound if those words are,

  • Said to someone else; and/or
  • When the item/thing/vacation in question is relatively inexpensive.

A perfect example, that actually inspired this post happened this past weekend. The Wife and I were at her parents and they had a bunch of their friends over. I was involved in a completely different conversation about scotch, football or my hatred of government spending and waste, and then it happened those words were uttered by The Wife and my spidey senses went off.  I immediately ignored those that I was talking to and snapped at the Wife something along the lines of “We can afford it, I’ll go buy it right now.” I don’t even remember what she was talking about, but it was something stupid like a new TV or adding the equivalent to what we spend in Pizza (New York has the best pizza) to her lease payment.

I have three theories why this statement makes me go crazy, and I don’t think they are mutually exclusive:

  1. The first theory has to do with genetics and social norms.  I truly believe there is a natural genetic predisposition for me, the Male, to want to be the provider, and those words indicate that I am failing.  So inside when I can’t provide something as simple as a new TV, what is my purpose?!
  2. The second theory is that she is wrong!  We can afford it!  Most of the time, when The Wife makes these statements they are utterly ridiculous (not all the time, but most of the time).  Her Christmas gift was a hardcore badass camera, if I can do that with no credit card debt, why can’t I go buy a TV or add 10% to 20% to a lease payment that we are already paying for.
  3. The third theory has to do with my personal issues regarding money.  I think the reason why I love blogging so much, is that it is private.  While I work in a Financial Planning firm and deal with Trust and Estate Issues on a daily basis, I don’t discuss my family’s money situation with anyone, so when she does it…I get annoyed.

There it is, those are my 3 theories why the words “We Can’t Afford it” piss me off.  I think you can guess what I believe it is – #2!  We have no credit card debt, we are saving liquid dollars every month, we have a very loose budget, we are saving for our retirement despite both being under 30, own our condo (with approximately $50K to $60K of equity).

I believe we don’t really limit the purchase of anything that we really want because of money, but rather, at least I believe, we don’t purchase these things because they limit our long term goals, objectives and dreams not because the money isn’t in the bank.

Since I don’t believe I am deep enough to look inside and really find a perfect answer, it matters not what I think – but only what you think.  So Please tell me!



  1. Ok…I have to respond to this…First of all I think there is a lot of things out there that we can “afford” but “shouldn’t” buy. Plus I also believe that something we can afford now, such as car payments..we may not be able to afford in the near future when we have a child, or buy another home. I feel that my journey doesn’t necessarily think ahead when it comes to that.
    1: I definitely think the answer is #1 or you wouldn’t get so upset. You certainly FREAK OUT when I use those words. Trust no way shape or form do I say them because I don’t think you provide.
    2: No..we probably can’t afford it. What if I lost a big account? The money that we have saved would have to start going towards paying for mortgage…and then no longer would go towards a downpayment of the home..we have 1 savings fund that is supposed to go towards a house..what if that had to be used for an emergency situation? I don’t think your fellow PF people would think we can “afford”.
    3: This one is just silly…I don’t tell people what we have in the bank or investments..saying we can’t afford a larger car payment or anything else is not “sharing” our financial situation
    Ok:) There is my rebuttal!

  2. I think it’s a combination of 1, 2 and 3!

    I’ve had similar situations with my wife where she will say the same types of things – like “we can’t afford to go on vacation”, or “we can’t afford a new car” when in reality we could pay cash for those things if we wanted to go do them.

    I’ll admit that it upsets me to no end as well for some reason when my wife says that in front of other people because A. I don’t like publicly sharing our finances, and B. it makes me feel like I’m not as good a provider as I should be, or that if I was a real man we “could afford those things”.

    I’ve come to realize that my wife really isn’t trying to put me down to her friends or tell me I’m not a good provider. When she says things like that it just speaks to her own worries about life – that we may not be able to afford something, or that something could go wrong and we’d be in trouble.

    I’ve found that I need to accommodate my wife’s need for security, and build up a larger emergency fund than I might have, and keep a little more money in savings – so that she feels more secure and feels like we can afford things – even if we don’t buy them. It makes her feel safe – and secure.

    So I think when our wives talk about things in this way it just shows their need to feel safe and secure – and when we blow up – it just shows our utter need to feel worthwhile and like a good provider.

    Interesting topic!

    • Peter,

      “I’ve found that I need to accommodate my wife’s need for security, and build up a larger emergency fund than I might have, and keep a little more money in savings – so that she feels more secure and feels like we can afford things – even if we don’t buy them. It makes her feel safe – and secure.”

      That is a really interesting point and probably one I should follow!

  3. Oh man, I love this post! This is so hilarious too about the Wife’s rebuttal! GO WIFEY!! Are you telling me you don’t ask her to be your editor before you push the publish button?

    The answer is #1. We have man instincts that we must provide. Society puts massive pressure on males to succeed, there is no other way.

    OK guys, kiss and make up. Or, you can talk to Dr. Sam for some counseling advice! 🙂

    • The Wife is VERY okay with expressing herself! To be honest I never show her anything before it is published. Since it is for the most part an anonymous blog I don’t think I write anything that would embarrass her too much. Although, I bet if I did have another set of eyes, there may be less mistakes.

      So, you think it is solely based on instinct? I refuse to believe that I am that basic lol

  4. Yes Evan, it’s mostly instinct and maybe some of 2 and 3.

    I would say 80% instinct, 10% #2, 10% #3!

    Your reaction is a completely rational response! That’s the gist of my post to the one I highlight below in Comment Luv.

    A post I snuck in over the holidays so nobody will read, but one which I base a lot of my thoughts on!

  5. Sounds like you both are on the same financial gameplan together. So I’d venture when your better half exclaims to your entire extended family “we can’t afford that!”, perhaps after sifting through the estrogen and adding some testerone for your benefit, this statement can be translated to mean, “We can cash flow that AND a Hummer payment, but we have a different set of financial priorities that we value because my husband is a stud!” (Last clause obviously the double-testosterone translation LOL).

    Just remember your financial values have a different definition of “afford”. Most people think it means “the check won’t bounce” — obviously it has a far deeper meaning to you.

    Now if I were you, you might want to find some flowers to bring home that you can “afford”!

    • I LOVE THE INTERPERTATION! I may rock that out on T-Shirt. I think everyone is right (except the Wife, of course lol).

      I should point this wasn’t a REAL fight…just something that irks the hell out of me.

  6. I think Jason interpreted my “we can’t afford” statement very well! “a different set of financial priorities” is totally what I mean when I say “we can’t afford it”!
    And don’t worry fights here! Although some flowers are always nice!

  7. OMG that is too funny. And true!!! It kinda pisses me off too 😉 Not to the extent it does for you, but I always remind the wife that we COULD afford it if we wanted to, but we just don’t want to.

    I think I’ve said it enough times where now I catch her changing it mid-sentence. Although, “I wish we’d WANT to buy that” doesn’t make me feel 100% better 🙂 haha….but hell, it’s a start!

    Excellent, excellent post.

    • J.

      Glad you got my back!

      What makes it better is that The Wife reads your blog too so it comes with some authority (or as much authority someone with a drawn dollar gravatar can grab at) !

  8. This is a great post but reversed in my household. I as the male “provider” am always the one saying “we can’t afford it” meaning we don’t “need” it more than the money thing. We are almost in the exact same place financially as you guys from what I could gather from your post but I have a smaller male ego than you.

    It does piss my wife off though when I do say it so I guess she wears the pants in this relationship. I think I’ll win out in the end when I get to retire at age 50 and make her work till 55 because she bought those things we didn’t “need!”

    Sorry I’m late to the party with this comment.

    • Hey better late then never! I Love comments…

      You aren’t the first one that has mentioned the ego thing in my life, it just sucks that you were able to pick it up from my anonymous blog.

      I am all with the needing part, and I actually use those words all the time. But that is different than affording it. I think the difference comes down to Me/Us making the decision that the particular item is question is not useful for us vs. the idea that I don’t have the money to pay for the item.

      Glad you joined the party

  9. I think you guys are having a language problem. Saying “we can’t afford it” does probably reflect on the husband, kicking up #1. But probably neither want to spend the money. I never thought about it before but I don’t say “can’t afford it.” I always say “we’re too cheap.” It’s a quick answer that doesn’t elicit the kind of looks that “we have different financial principles” might elicit. “We’re too cheap” is self-derogatory in a funny way, doesn’t insult the people who *do* spend the money (they’re not a bunch of misers, like us), and generally shuts everyone up that wants us to lay down the cash.

    Y’all might not want to go around saying “we’re too cheap” but you seem to be on the same page about spending money – maybe another outward-facing phrase would ease this bit of tension.

    • ooooo Amber, I am not sure if “we’re too cheap” would work for me! Again, I think it is self-derogatory.

      I just like the words, “I don’t want it.” lol

    • hahhahah I would definitely use “I’m too cheap” because my friends know that I am…but I like to use Frugal;) but if said we I know that Evan would go CRAZY!!!

      And Evan “I don’t want it” doesn’t work because I do want but that doesn’t mean I should buy it.
      .-= The Wife´s last blog ..Blogaversary Week Begins!! =-.

  10. I think you guys have a different definition of “we can’t afford it”.

    HIS – Do we have money in the bank? Then we can or cannot afford it.

    HER – Does this item fit our lifestyle and financial goals? Then we can or cannot afford it.

    Clearly there is a big emotional button here for the husband, as if his manhood and husbandliness is being questioned in public.

    I can totally relate to this.

    I used to tell what I thought was a cute story about the first meal my husband ever cooked for me. I didn’t find out until MONTHS LATER that he thought I was MAKING FUN OF HIM!

    I was totally gobsmacked.

    So I think she’s right about the definition of “we can’t afford it” but wrong about saying those particular words, especially in public.

    It may seem like it isn’t a big deal, but clearly it is.

    • “It may seem like it isn’t a big deal, but clearly it is.”

      It isn’t a crazy big deal, The Wife and I have been together 10 years and married for 18 months of those 10 years – it just pisses the hell out of me. But this isn’t breaking up the relationship.

      What was the story about the husband’s cooking?

  11. P.S. I don’t mean wrong wrong. Just that being married means you have to accommodate the emotions of your spouse.

    Ok, hopefully that makes sense!

  12. The first time he made me dinner, I was running off for an appointment. So he grabbed a can of black beans and grabbed a can of ravioli and microwaved them for us to eat. (Not mixed together!)

    When we met, he was 32 and had never really learned how to cook. (He was sort of King of the Drive Through.)

    I thought it was so caring and adorable that even though he didn’t know how to cook, he did what he could to feed me. (I REALLY appreciate people who feed me.)

  13. I found this post very interesting. My husband and I are quite tight financially, partly because of some errors in planning early in out relationship and partly because we are trying to be a one income family until our children are in school full-time. I often tell people that we can’t afford this that or the other thing and often what I am telling people we can’t afford is entertainment related (going out with friends or being involved in some sort of activity). I tell my friends the truth about why I am turning down yet another invitation because I don’t want them to think that we just don’t want to come out, I never thought about how this may make my husband feel. I do not think that he is not providing well for us, as he is doing the best he can but perhaps he sees it differently…thanks for the food for thought.

    • Steph,

      You should forward him this post! and let it start a conversation. If you want I can delete your comment if you are afraid of him reading it. Just email me.

    • See Steph, I want to be a 1 income house in the that’s another reason why I say “we can’t afford it” just cause we can afford something now..doesn’t mean that we should spend the money, because it might be helpful to have that money in savings instead in the future. I don’t think being strapped in a 1 income house reflects badly on your husband. It’s a choice you both made…and I think it’s a good choice, and looking back I am sure your kids will be happy that you stayed home with them!
      .-= The Wife´s last blog ..Blogaversary Week Begins!! =-.

  14. Great post, and I love the way you two are duking it out in the comments. I can only imagine the screaming and raging that is going on in your house. 😛 (kidding).

    I’m the person who used to say those words. I don’t really see anything wrong with admitting you can’t afford something.

    However, I will concede that in a lot of cases it wasn’t true, which doesn’t mean I should have bought the item in question, it just means I needed to come up with terminology.

    Now I tend to say something like:

    “I’d love a new car, but I don’t want to spend the money.”


    “I’d love a new car, but I’d rather spend the money elsewhere.”

    or even

    “I’d love a new car, but I get more enjoyment from using the money to pay down my mortgage.”


  15. Hahahahaha! My husband dislikes it when I say it too (not as much as you hate it, but it annoys him). For what it’s worth, I know we can “afford” it but we are choosing not to buy it to put the money elsewhere – it’s just easier to say “we can’t afford it” than it is to explain the whole situation and the fact that we like vacations and hobbies more than whatever it is we aren’t buying.

    I finally sat down and explained all of that thinking on it to Mr. BFS and he doesn’t seem to mind anymore – as long as I know we’re cool and can afford whatever we’d like, he doesn’t care how I word it anymore.

      • No cringing…he only mentions it once in a while when it really matters to him now (like when he wants something but his fun money is low, lol).


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