Friend's ‘Allowance’ Concerns Her & Not All Green Is Good

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

DEAR CAT: My friend “Pam” and I have been friends for 35 years. She is several years into her second marriage and often she will mention things that concern me. For instance, her husband gives her a weekly ‘allowance.’ That is what she calls it and it makes me picture a little girl getting money from her parents. We’ve always had a weekly lunch date where occasionally our daughters will join us, but it has become little more than fast food lately because she doesn’t want to “explain a big lunch to her husband.” I must clarify this is a well to do couple, they want for nothing. She is a widow and had good money from her late husband, and her current husband makes nice bucks. She is not a shopping lady and their home is beautiful. Now it is like she lives every day justifying it to her husband. I think he is a controlling man and she isn’t up front with me about it. I have no desire to stick my nose in their marriage it but I am concerned. Should I say something to her? — VERY CONCERNED FRIEND

DEAR CONCERNED: Unless you suspect abuse of some kind, the best thing to do is nothing. I imagined myself in your shoes (through the years I’ve had concerns about friends’ relationships) and I appreciate how troubling it is to see a close friend buckle under the weight of someone’s controlling ways. But Pam has chosen this marriage and lifestyle, and if she is willing to settle for an ‘allowance’ then it’s really not your business, and perhaps it’s a sign she settled for this husband, too. If things get truly bad, eventually she’ll confide in you. Then you can offer guidance and support. Until that time continue to enjoy your friendship! A 35 year friendship is a special thing….Cat’s Call: Don’t do anything that could harm it.

DEAR CAT: Your column about the environmentally conscious couple struck a chord with me. I’ve been doing that for a long time. I don’t do the no-flushing thing, mostly I try to buy responsibly and reuse what I can but I know I’m not the only person who thinks most (or maybe all?) recycled or green products are very bad quality. Have you tried recycled trash bags and toilet paper? It’s all terrible! What I find most weird is that the quality hasn’t improved since I started switching over at least five years ago. I know I shouldn’t complain about paper towels but honestly they are thin and weak, and they feel yucky. I think most people would use recycled things if the quality matched non-recycled things. Don’t you? — GREEN AS I’M GONNA BE

DEAR GONNA: I agree completely, especially about the apparent lack of improvement in so many recycled products over the years. Paper towels, toilet paper, tin foil, it all feels junky, which makes you not want to use it. The one area where products have improved dramatically: cleaning products. The availability of non-toxic, biodegradable options is fantastic and, frankly, their cleaning power most often matches the harsher chemical products. I’ve long been addicted to Method’s ‘Naked’ all purpose household cleaner because it has no perfumes or dyes and it cleans like the dickens. And no, I’m not on their payroll, I just think they lead the pack on ‘safe’ products that actually work. I’m also a fan of good old vinegar for multiple household chores, and the best, safest, cheapest cleaner of all – water. Those are a few of my picks for responsible household choices. Cat’s Call: What are yours?

What’s YOUR call? Share it below! Submit questions to: or click here!.

  1. I don’t think they call that cleaner Naked anymore but I use it too! I love that stuff. Vinegar is great with laundry because it keeps towels from getting scratchy and makes them puff up. Add some to the water as it is filling up and it makes towels like new again. It won’t smell like vinegar afterward. Also, baking soda is a time tested good one. It is great for cleaning grout. My two cents!

    — Cam, Pittsburgh    02/07/2012    Reply

    1. You’re right, they must have changed the name since I first started using it. Thank you for the clarification. Now it’s called “free of dyes + perfumes.” And thanks for the baking soda tip!

      — Cat    02/07/2012    Reply

      1. Couple more green tips.

        Mix baking soda with lemon juice and it will get baked grease off your stove. Do the same thing and put it in a baggy and rubber band it around your faucets for 15 minutes and it gets the build up off. The lemon also makes the room smell fresh.

        Also, mix vinegar, salt, and dish soap together and it will kill weeds dead in 24 hours.

        — Heather    02/08/2012    Reply

        1. I’ll have to try the baking soda and lemon juice. It’s seems impossible to clean baked on stuff without stovetop cleaner which I do not like to use (it leaves a residue). This will clean showerheads too?? You know that CLR brand, I have used that and it works but it is very hardcore chemicals. I think if small bits of this are still on the showerhead after cleaning then it will drop onto my hair or body. I’m a little paranoid : ) Thanks!

          — Shaw    02/08/2012    Reply

  2. I have known two married couples where the wife received an allowance. I think in both cases however that the allowance was big. I do not understand the concept if the wife is not going out spending all the household money without telling her husband. Maybe Pam used the word in a joking manner and not a real weekly allowance. However it doesn’t sound promising. My wife says Cat is right, do nothing because the suggestion that her husband is bad could make Pam defensive and turn her against her friend.

    For safe household cleaning we have switched to steam floor cleaners and they work extremely well. They are a pain when it comes to changing the dirty cleaning pad but buy a few of them and toss them in the laundry. For a house with small children it keeps chemicals off the floors and cleans tiles extremely well.

    — John Pittsburgh    02/07/2012    Reply

  3. To Friend:

    Agree with Cat on this one. You say that they are wealthy and can afford to splurge but you never really know what a couple’s finances are like for sure. For all you know they might have half-a-dozen credit cards maxed. Even if they are financially stable austerity, in this economy, is never a bad idea.

    To Gonna:

    Here is my call. Don’t clean. We clean entirely too much in our germaphobic culture. As long as you are limiting organic waste that can rot leaving things a little messy will add years to your life. If you are scrubbing soap scum out of your bathroom with a tooth brush ask yourself if whatever you are cleaning really needs to be “that,” clean then pour yourself a glass of wine and relax. I am a very messy person. I used to be even messier. If it were possible to kill yourself by being messy I would have done it by now.

    — Brandon    02/07/2012    Reply

  4. I get an “allowance” and I love it – haha! I will freely admit that my hubby is responsible with money and I am generally not. So I appreciate that he sets a budget and lets me know what I can spend each week on “whatever I want” items and little extras. Things that I really NEED, of course, do not count.

    Maybe this woman appreciates the structure of an allowance, too!

    — Renee    02/07/2012    Reply

  5. Years ago, my parents worked on the “allowance system.”
    They had an expected amount budgeted for weekly household expenses.
    Every paycheck, my dad would come home and hand my mom the household-allowance money in cash. He never asked how she spent it, and they never ever argued about money. She used it for food, and personal items – no questions ever asked.
    It worked for them – they are married 50+ years so far!

    — s.    02/07/2012    Reply

  6. On “allowance” I agree with staying out of it. I know someone like this who has been married for many years to a controlling husband. She works and hands over her paycheck to him, is not allowed to spend money unless he approves, and so on. She complains about his making all the decisions, but on several occasions it has been quite clear that she thinks he is wonderful, so her complaints are just window dressing on a marriage that she is otherwise perfectly happy with.

    — PB from NY    02/07/2012    Reply

  7. My call for household cleaning—You never need chemicals to clean a house. Water is all you need, the best cleaner of all. Steam for floors, ice cold for dark or blood/wine stains on cloth, almost boiling for caked on mess, room temp for dusting anything, high powered to clean decks or siding. Water erodes mountains people—it can lift a dirty footprint or handprint.

    My call for allowance—if the man is not working for no reason he should be on allowance. No man worth his salt will spend his wife’s money if he can help it. In other cases the allowance model is bad because it puts one spouse in charge. That’s not good in marriage. Sometimes one spouse is good at finances and the other is good at household management yet that is not the same is one person allowing the other a certain amount of money because if they need more than that, there is tension or explanations to be had which is not a healthy situation. Brandon could be right and they could have money deficiency that the friend doesn’t know about. If so the husband is on allowance as well, although we would call it a budget.

    — MikePitt    02/08/2012    Reply

  8. I agree with Cat & most posters here that Concerned Friend should tread lightly, and that she doesn’t necessarily know the whole situation. I know couples who have “allowances” (their name for it), but both of them get the same amount each month for fun/extras, and that amount is decided together.

    That may not be the case here, so I don’t see why the friend can’t ask, “My husband and I have never organized our finances that way, so I’m curious. How do you feel about having that system? Does that work out for you?”

    She doesn’t have to express disapproval, and should back off if the friend gets defensive, but maybe the allowance friend would actually like to vent and/or get some advice about this.

    — Isidora, Pittsburgh    02/08/2012    Reply


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