The gist in town now is that prices of food and commodities in the market have reduced drastically. But many men both on and off social media say this is not reflected in their family’s cost of living as their wives have either continued to demand the same feeding allowances or more. This has raised other issues about women and how they manage the family finances, otherwise known as housekeep allowance. So, during the week, I had a discussion with a group of women and men, to find out how they manage this money. Most of the discussants say it is never enough and they always have to add their personal money to it. Some say there are germane reasons why women must keep part of the money for themselves. What do you think?
For Abbah, 38, housewife, a man can only get his money’s worth. How?
“House keep allowance is a man’s responsibility. Whether he has or not, he must leave something. If he earns N50.00, he must leave a part of it for the feeding of the family. That is why he is the man. That is why he is the husband and that is why he is given the status of the head of the family. By all consideration, whether religion, tradition or even morally, it is binding on the man to feed his family. That is the only way he can be a real, fulfilled man and he too can be happy with himself. It is true that most men feel that their wives have a way of short changing them through the housekeep allowance, but that should not be an excuse for not meeting up to one’s responsibilities. As long as a man is eating his money’s worth, he should not concern himself with how much has gone into its preparation. Real men must not concern themselves with such petty things.
So, do you take out of the housekeep allowance for personal use?
It will be foolish of any woman to spend all that her husband gives her on feeding the family. Our mothers used to say that a prudent woman will not eat with all her fingers. So it is not a crime if a woman with holds some of the money. That is the way our mothers taught us to do it. I am not working so that means I cannot have money of my own except to take out of what my husband gives me. On the other hand, I also believe that it is not all that I need that I must demand from him. I can’t imagine having to ask him for money to buy underwear or even cloths. So, what I do is to save from the feeding allowance. It is this money that I use for all these little needs in the house too. This does not include things like repairs around the house or medicines when the children are ill. It is for things like cutting or plaiting the children’s hair, buying underwears, emergency pencils and exercise books and little things like that.
I take the money monthly because I can buy in bulk to save some money. Retail buying is very expensive. House keep allowance ought not to cause problems between couples, but it is just that many men are suspicious of their wives. A few years ago, I complained to my husband that the money he was giving us had become inadequate. Even though he acknowledged that the economy had worsened, he refused to increase it. His excuse was that he knew men on grade level 06 with our size of family who are living happily and eating well too. I asked if he had visited such people and seen what they were eating but he refused, insisting that his salary had not changed. So, I took my own decision, if he wants grade level 06 food, I will gladly cook it. So I did and within a few days, he began screaming. I told him that was grade level 06 food and when he realised I would not budge, he had to do the needful. Only an insensitive and wicked man will not want to feed his family well if he has the money. Such men never complain about what they are given at home because they know what it can lead to. What I save is not even up to a quarter of my needs but because I need to keep my home I must manage. I cannot compare myself with working class women and wives of rich men. You must know your limits”.
Shade, 32, trader and student, keeps an account book for the family expenses.
“My husband gives me feeding allowance every week. The feeding allowance is just to make stew. He buys every other thing by himself. I only buy pepper and what to cook it with. As a student and trader, I have some money of my own but it is not enough to meet my needs. He is responsible for my schooling as well as our son’s. It is not that we are rich, but he tries his best. My husband is a man that loves to be in charge. He believes that it is his responsibility to take care of his family and that even if I have money, it is for me and whatever I wish to spend it on. I have come to understand him and so we do not quarrel.
So, what do you do with your own money?
It is a little bit complex but it has worked for us so far. I have a book I record every kobo I spend on the house or on myself and our son. At the end of each week, I sum it up and he refunds it with the soup money. It is like I am borrowing him the money. Sometimes he may not have it at the end of the week, so we roll it over and he gives me eventually. I have a younger brother living with us and he is my responsibility, but every other thing is my husband’s responsibility. I think the arrangement is good for us because sometimes, even before I ask, he would tell me to bring my books and pay me off.
I thank God for my husband because I know that there are men who are naturally stingy with their money, especially when they know that their wife has some form of income too. They will always try to give what they know is inadequate so that the woman will always be forced to add her own money. Such marriages may eventually have problems. In fact, I know an aunt whose husband never leaves money for food once they have a quarrel. You know there is a way you can communicate even if there is a quarrel. You may drop the money on the table or give it to the children to give to their mother. But my aunt’s husband uses it as an opportunity not to give anybody money, even his children cannot get anything from him at that time. To make matters worse, he does it ever so often”.
Gladys, 45, accountant, says, sometimes, there are genuine reasons to take from the feeding allowance
“I don’t gain from feeding allowance, instead, I add my own to it. You see, I don’t enjoy cooking at all. Maybe I should be married to a very rich man but destiny dumped me where I am. I hate having to go to the kitchen all the time. It takes up too much of my time and leave me too tired to do some other important things. So, what I do is to cook in excess of what we need and store in the freezer. To do such large cooking, I have to add my own money to whatever my husband gives me. I don’t ask for refund. I believe this is part of my contribution to the success of the union. Sometimes, he gives me more than enough and I spend it on something else in the house or on the children. If I really want him to buy something for me, I ask him and he will buy it. So, there is really no need to spend feeding allowance on something else. It is a joint project and each of us must contribute to make it a success.
The problem is that many women love to copy each other. When they see someone doing something, they want to do it also. It is not bad to desire something good but not when the thing is not compulsory or you know you and your husband cannot afford it. That is where many of these problems comes from. Women must realise that besides feeding, men are responsible for shelter, planning for the future of the family and taking care of the extended family amongst other things. So, diverting feeding allowance to other things is like contributing to keep the man down perpetually. Unless a woman has genuine reason to believe her man is spending the family’s resources in ways detrimental to the wellbeing and success of the family, feeding allowance should not be a big deal. She has to learn to manage whatever is available. There is a season for everything and so there is a time to make sacrifices, especially in the early years of the marriage.
So, what would these genuine reason be?
If a man is obviously not responsible, I see no reason why a woman must help to put food on the table for him to eat. She should just take care of her children until he comes to his senses. A man that does not leave enough money for his family but is spending on other women, cannot expect that wife to be cooperating with him with her own earnings. Some men go clubbing and visit beer palours and mama ‘point and kill’ to enjoy themselves without leaving enough at home. Some men don’t have girlfriends because they are too stingy but they will spend on their own personal needs and never for the needs of their spouses. Such men will only give just enough or even not enough and expect everything to be normal. For me, these are genuine reasons for a woman to watch out for her interest and that of her children”.
More respondents speak next Saturday. Do have a wonderful weekend!!