A Woman’s Declaration Of Financial Independence
“But how does your your wife feel about all that frugality and living on a farm?”
You’d be amazed at how often Mr. Frugalwoods gets this question after he shares our unusual life plan to retire to a homestead in the woods of Vermont at age 33. And you might be equally amazed by the fact that no one has ever (nope, not even once) posed the reverse question to me about how my husband feels about our plan.
There’s an ingrained trope in our culture that women are the spenders and men are the savvy investors and financial strategists. People make the automatic assumption that because our plan entails traditionally masculine components–prudent fiscal management, retirement planning, and outdoor labor–it must’ve been his idea in the first place.
The Myth Of Women As Spenders
Mr. FW and I came to the decision to pursue a life of simple, joyful frugality together and we feel fortunate that it’s an entirely joint venture. I can’t imagine it would work too well if one of us had to persuade the other of the merits of financial independence and a homestead existence. Our relationship has never been closer because there’s something about sharing a mammoth goal that deepens our connection.
While the inference that I’m a trailing spouse irks me to the core, I also realize it’s largely a product of the stereotype in our culture that women have little aptitude for finance or interest in frugality. My frustration over this perception is very similar to my frustration over the cultural premise–perpetuated by advertising and the media–that women should spend money in order to improve and adorn themselves.
My Frugal Beauty Manifesto goes into depth about how wrong I think it is that ads are devoted to convincing women there’s something wrong with their appearance, which can be fixed by buying a product.
There are so many more ways in which women are expected, or perceived, to spend money that I can understand how strangers make the supposition that Mr. FW is dragging me along unwillingly on our extreme frugality journey. In many ways, our culture is trapped in the outdated paradigm of men earning the money and women spending the money. While there’s nothing wrong with this on its face, the challenge comes in when it’s assumed that women only want to spend with no regard for fiscal prudence.
When I reflect on our less-than-frugal-weirdo existence before launching our financial independence plan, I realize that I actually did spend more money than Mr. FW. I certainly bought more clothes and shoes (the man seriously owns one of the most efficient/threadbare wardrobes I’ve ever seen). And I spent much more on beauty care products–I totally bought into the notion that I needed this stuff to “correct” my appearance.
But at the time, I didn’t consider either of those categories to be luxury purchases–I thought of them as necessities. I felt that without a frequent parade of new-to-me clothes and the requisite mask of makeup, I wasn’t presentable to the world. Tellingly, no one ever told Mr. FW he needed to wear new clothes or makeup everyday.
Do Women Need Others To Generate Their Happiness?
I’m going to make a gross generalization here, but bear with me: men are often perceived to derive their self-worth from self-created successes, such as their career or how much money they’ve made. For men, success is viewed as something they can bring about all on their own.
Conversely, women’s success is often categorized as brought about by the presence of other people, namely their spouse and children. If a woman is successful in her profession, it’s very likely the follow-up question will be “yes, but is she married and does she have children?” In this way, women are seen as reliant upon others for their attainment of happiness and fulfillment.
And the purchases of things like clothes and makeup are considered a means to the end of attracting a mate and producing children. There’s nothing wrong with women being married and having kids (after all, I myself am married and have a child). But there is something deeply wrong with the assumption that a women isn’t complete unless she has attained these external validators of her self-worth.
The ability to achieve contentment all on one’s own, separate from one’s family and separate from buying things, is probably the truest form of bliss. After all, it’s a happiness that stems from within. While I of course won’t be leaving Mr. FW and Babywoods in order to live alone (I really like them!), I do seek to fulfill myself in ways entirely removed from the easy–and ultimately empty–gratification that stems from buying stuff.
As I’ve continued my adventures into extreme frugality, I’ve discovered that by eliminating my reliance on external validators of my self-worth, I’m a much happier and less stressed person. And this is an ongoing, evolving process for me. Being comfortable–and pleased–with how I look and who I am in the absence of consumerism is incredibly liberating. Not buying clothes for two years (and counting), ceasing to wear most make-up, and having Mr. FW cut my hair at home has certainly helped me overcome my own personal stigmas and lack of confidence about my appearance.
The Questions I Get
Just for fun, Mr. FW and I keep a running catalogue of the heteronormative questions I get asked that no one ever asks him. Especially now that I’m a Mommywoods, I field a rather high volume of queries from friends, family, acquaintances, and readers regarding our plans for raising Babywoods. I appreciate having genuine conversations about child-rearing and I’m thankful for the advice of experienced parents; but, what’s odd is that no one ever directs these inquiries to Mr. FW.
Although there are biological imperatives mandating that I play a more active role in her upbringing at this stage (I’m looking at you, breastfeeding), Mr. FW is equally responsible for her care and growth. Further, people endlessly quiz me on whether or not I’ll be going back to work–another thing nobody asks Mr. FW. There’s absolutely a double expectation of me to be both proficient mother and successful professional.
Moving onto another traditionally female role on the homestead, no one has ever asked Mr. FW if he knows how to can fruits and vegetables–a question I get with almost hilarious regularity. However, Mr. FW is our cook in residence and will likely spearhead the canning efforts out on the homestead. I’ll serve as trusty kitchen assistant along with Frugal Hound.
And never has anyone questioned the fact that Mr. FW rarely spends any money on personal appearance products or clothes (I mean, one look at the guy will tell you that… 😉 ). Yet I’m quizzed on it all the time.
I don’t mind answering these queries as they all lend insight into our bizarre and joyful frugal lives, but I do sometimes mind the inherent assumptions of the roles I’ll take on as wife and mother. And I’m perplexed by the archaic social conventions they harken back to.
The Disservice Of Downgrading Women
When we, as a culture, presume that women aren’t fiscally astute, we put ourselves at a grave disadvantage. Books, conversations, and media that posit women aren’t on board with frugality and need to be cajoled into accepting it are offensive and off-putting for women–whether they’re frugal or not! We don’t need to be convinced of the merits of frugality any more than spendy men need to be. Yet, it’s rare to find an article about the “101 ways to get your husband to trim the household budget.”
However, I know from my conversations with you fine readers that in many of your families, it’s the women who spearhead the frugality efforts. And it’s the women charting a better financial future. And it’s the women who are earning more and managing the direction of the household budget. There’s nothing wrong with a man leading a family’s financial path, but there’s also nothing wrong with a woman leading it–or for two partners to lead side by side. I hope we can get to a place of parity where women aren’t continually cast as anti-frugal and pro-spending, but rather as the unique, flawed, nuanced, and interesting people that we genuinely are.
When we automatically put women in a box, we limit their potential. When women feel they must prove their worth through their appearances, the beauty of their homes, and the grooming of their children (or dogs), they’re put at a disadvantage and subject to the expensive whims of marketers. And I don’t want to levy those expectations on men either–I’d like to do away with them entirely.
I think the best way to combat these unfair stereotypes about women is to prove them wrong. Let’s assert ourselves as smart, frugal, financially savvy women who aren’t at the mercy of what corporations tell us to buy in order to “improve” ourselves. And above all else, let’s take responsible, proactive steps towards ensuring sound financial futures.
Take Charge Today
Not only do I disavow our culture’s clarion call for women to spend incessantly, I also reject the notion that we’re unable or uninterested in productively managing our money. Rather than leave you all with a generic missive to “take charge of your finances,” I want to provide a concrete call to action. Today, I implore you (whether you’re woman, man, or greyhound) to do either one or both of the following, depending on your current financial situation.
Option 1: Begin tracking your expenses.
I use Personal Capital to track and monitor our expenses, which I like because it consolidates all of our accounts to provide a holistic overview of our finances. If you’re not already using the magic of the internet to organize your financial life, I encourage you to sign up for Personal Capital and give it a whirl (P.S. the best part is that it’s free to use).
Option 2: Log into your 401K account and check on the funds you’re invested in and the fees associated with those funds.
If it turns out you’re invested in anything other than low-fee index funds, you might want to re-evaluate. I’m of the opinion that low-fee index funds are the way to go as they’ll save you huge sums over your investing lifetime. I used to be terrified by the mere word 401K—what does it mean? Why is it both a number and a letter???!!! So if I can do it, so can you.
Extra frugal weirdo bonus points to anyone who does both options 1 and 2! I realize that if you’re reading this, you’re probably far ahead of the curve in handling your finances and so this advice might be elementary for you.
However, I bet you know someone who cringes every time you mention the words ‘retirement savings’ and who might benefit from taking these specific, decisive steps. So, forward this post to them or better yet, spend some time helping them gain control of their money.
I chose tracking expenses as the first option because I firmly believe that’s the #1, top, chief, primary way to get a handle on your finances. Before you can make a plan for your money, you’ve got to know what your money is getting up to every month. Are you spending in line with your values? Is every purchase you make guided by your overarching goals?
We all have vastly different dreams, incomes, levels of frugality, and interests, and I will never judge how you decide to allocate your resources. The key is that you feel enfranchised when it comes to your finances and that your spending is truly in alignment with what you want out of life. If you keep your goals at the forefront, your money will follow.
I find that financial management is much like anything else–sometimes the hardest part is acknowledging that we need to get started. Well, acknowledge away! We owe it to ourselves to take charge of our finances. After all, no one else will.
How We Talk To Our Daughters
Now that I have a daughter, the idea that women are second-class citizens in any sense is beyond abhorrent. It’s undeniable that my generation enjoys significantly greater gender equality and opportunities than my mother’s generation, but I want to see an even more profound transformation for Babywoods’ lifetime. And I think it starts with how we talk to our daughters.
I’m not going to impress upon Babywoods that she needs to be pretty or cute or nice. I’m going to instead tell her that she’s smart and inquisitive and creative (at least, I sure hope she’ll be all of those things… at three months old, she does a pretty good job of flailing her limbs and looking at toys so that’s an A+, right?). Our focus in her upbringing will be on encouraging her to expand her mind, learn new skills, and take smart risks.
If she wants to play dress-up, that’s fine, but it’s equally fine if she wants to stomp around in the mud. There will be no mention of “girls don’t do this” or “that’s only for boys.” While it’s fantasy to think we’ll be able to raise her in a gender neutral environment, I do believe that Mr. FW and I can lay the groundwork for her self-confidence and self-direction from an early age.
I can’t change how the world treats women, but I can impact the way that I raise mine. And if I can put an intelligent, confident, thoughtful feminist out there into the world, then I hope I’ve helped transform this conversation at least a little bit.
Have you experienced or witnessed a discrepancy in how men and women are treated with regard to their personal finances?
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We camp a lot, and I’ve resented the assumption that it’s just my husband who likes camping and he’s dragging me along. On the financial note, I actually over-generalize to think women are more frugal–probably because this was the case with my parents. About your homestead plans, I always wondered if you were a Little House on the Prairie fan (which you once confirmed), not whether Mr. Frugalwoods was coaxing you. And of course I wondered this because I am a Little House fan–we’re almost done reading the series to our four-year-old son. Because they’re not “girl” books as some people suggest.
We also camp frequently, and my female friends assume the same thing. Truth is I was raised a Girl Scout and would rather sleep outdoors than indoors. The same is true for our daughter, who first slept through the night as an 8 week old in a tent. There’s nothing inherently “male” about enjoying the great outdoors!
I would love to camp more, but my husband refuses! He hates camping or any outdoor activities.
You need to combine it with a sport then he can’t say no. We go hiking and mountain biking when we go camping.
What an amazing post! As someone who was raised by parents with similar values and goals, I can say honestly that I had a great childhood. I never liked makeup or girly things. I was all about being in the woods, chopping down trees, building tree forts, catching frogs (only to let them go again in a giant frog stampede), etc… As an adult, I’ve never felt the need to be a fancy girl and yet I still have a husband. The only “girly” thing I spend my money on is eyebrow waxing, otherwise my eyebrows grow so thick it literally confuses people as to what my facial expression is. Oh, and I did have plastic surgery once, but that was only because I had my lip nearly split in half by a reindeer – two weeks before Christmas. 🙂
I see this sort of sexism a lot from my in-laws, especially my FIL. I love him dearly, but he’s a 80+ year old super conservative man. Every time I see him he never lets me forget about the fact that I drove halfway from AK to CO when me and my husband moved (he forget about me driving nearly all the way from MI to AK when I moved up there originally), that I helped him build up his firewood pile, or that I caught and gutted a bunch of trout for all of us for dinner one night. Since he found out that I’m managing finances better now, he emailed me once to congratulate me on my “couponing,” – not on my investment, retirement, or savings accounts! Gah.
In other words, traditional general roles. I’m surprised so much of that remains in our society as well. Even the expectation of *having kids* to begin with is one of those nonsensical conventional wisdom bits that annoys me to no end, especially the assumption that it WILL happen and it’s only a matter of time.
I did not have gender norms thrust upon me by my parents or (strangely enough) by my high school. But college and beyond has revealed the sexism rampant in our society. I was, and am, shocked and horrified by what people expect and think. And I wonder if being told to conform, or at least what others would expect, might not have been a valuable lesson as a girl.
Love this post. I was raised by a smart, frugal, fiscally responsible mother (and father) so I see the importance of passing that on to our future children. I find your posts about minimalism impressive, especially with regards to the constant marketing. I actually stopped reading most women’s magazines as they are just one long shopping list. I do find a lot of enjoyment in beauty product and clothing purchases, but posts like these question how much of it is independent. I’d like to retire early, but I have no desire to decamp at 33 (I blame a childhood of gardening and canning which turned me off from yardwork) but it’s nice to see some unapologetically and nonjudgmentally following their dreams. I love following along your adventure and it has made me check on my own money more frequently, with my independent goals in mind.
I really enjoyed reading this post. One of the things that I really like about your site is that it is by both of you – it’s like a breath of fresh air.. I have been struck by how many sites on living frugally are written by women and how many of them seem to have taken on the main responsibility for debt reduction, budgeting, planning, shopping, saving etc. (and don’t seem to involve partners/husband and kids – although all are obviously benefitting from the changes.
Here is the $65 question…when you move to a homestead, are you planning to homeschool? This option has really worked well for us, and it is possible to do it for free, or low cost as well. Just a thought, but I would love to see that commitment, as it would reinforce all the positive ideas for Babywoods.
Thanks so much for writing about this — it is SUCH important stuff.
I wonder if the questions Mr. FW gets about whether you *really* want to go live in the woods are also based on expectations that women don’t like to get dirty (because the woods have, you know, mud in them, in addition to involving outdoor labor as you point out), as well as expectations that men are always making the decisions in relationships in general (be they decisions to move to the woods or decisions to move to Vegas), in addition to being based on assumptions that women are bad with money.
I think this may be the first time I’ve ever seen the word “heteronormative” in the context of a blog post. Love it. 🙂
YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That’s all I need to say! You go, girl!
I refuse to take part in gender wars. Assumptions made by others have no bearing on my life because I ignore them. I love men. I love women. We are not enemies. Live and let live.
Preach! Excellent post.
I have never understood why women are seen as “spenders.” In my personal life, I have seen the exact opposite. Plenty of men in my life are huge spenders while their lives work their whole lives to rein them in.
Regardless, I hope you have better luck encouraging your daughter not to be into the beauty myth than I have. We have gone out of our way to never mention our daughter’s appearances or make them feel like cute/pretty/overly feminine is the goal. However, they are both naturally feminine and love to play dress-up, ask to wear makeup, etc. I think they’re more feminine than me! I guess you can’t do anything about the natural inclinations of your little people! =)
Amen on the naturally feminine. When my infant went crazy pumping her arms and waving her legs as I got ready to dress her in a pink leopard print sleeper at a mere 8 weeks I knew I had a girlie girl on my hands. At 5, she refuses to wear jeans because “those are for boys”. She loves dresses and skirts and her favorite colors are pink and purple and blue (that pale teal Elsa blue). Way more feminine than I am, but more of a tomboy than other girls I see at daycare/via playdates. She loves the tool set we got her for her birthday, and she seldom chooses to play dress-up.
I think we are getting closer to parity. I read part of “Working” by Studs Terkel earlier this month and that was eye-opening, to see how many barriers and expectations there were for women as recently as the late 60s/early 70s.
Amy, I’d never heard of “Working,” and just checked out the reviews on Amazon. It looks like a fascinating book! Thanks for the recommendation! I’ve added it to my “to read” list 🙂
Not to worry. I was, and still am a girly girl and was a geologist professionally for 25 years.
I wore a dress camping and in the office “with the boys”, never trying g to impersonate a man, just being me 🙂
Don’t give up hope. My sister and I did the same, it may be a (very long) phase. Playing dress up is fun, and they likely also learn “how girls act” from others than their parents. Now we’re both young adults and not getting very distracted by consumerism anymore.
My daughter , now 30 , was raised to be smart , independent and successful in whatever that means to her. She is all of those but not frugal, although raised in a frugal household. I think once she moved to a large city, one which you have lived in, she succumbed to keeping up with the Joneses. I have been told that she will not live like me. Three months ago she got married and they’re now buying a huge house and having a baby. My fear is that because they don’t track expenses, their lifestyle is going to implode in a few years when life catches up with them.,As the saying goes, ” You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.”
I really find your openness and acceptance inspiring! I’m on the other side – grew up in a household that had no sense of frugality but wound up very much on the FIRE track to a pretty amazing extent.
As I see how different people choose to live their lives, I see how valuable your outlook is.
You go Ms. Frugalwoods!! Wonderful blog as are the others…..love your use of language and agree on 99% of what you write about
FWIW, when readers ask *you* and not Mr FW about your childcare plans (like I know I did once!) there’s a good chance it’s a function of the fact that you’re the voice we hear so much on this blog, not Mr FW. =)
What’s weird to me is that I have very few recollections of having gender norms thrust upon me and I wonder why my experience was so different than yours and other contemporaries’. I pretty much never wore makeup and always had very basic clothes and don’t remember once anyone telling me that I needed to change either of those facts. It’s rare that I am asked about children – I’d be willing to guess Mr PoP gets asked if he has kids a lot more often given the type of jobs we have. Heck, the closest I came to being subjected to traditional gender roles as an adult was when a (female) secretary at a previous employer told me I needed to wear panty hose and I told her if she had a problem with my bare legs, perhaps she should stop staring at them since no one else had a problem with it and it wasn’t against our dress code. (And hell, who wears panty hose in Florida!) So I hear the complaints that other women have about this treatment and sympathize with them, but have a hard time empathizing since it just hasn’t been my experience.
Me, too! We’re lucky ladies, I guess.
O wow, this post really speaks to me! It is often overlooked that even though we live in an emancipated society, there are still very many differences between men and women that are cultivated on a daily basis. Obviously women in the Western world have it better than almost anywhere, but these are forces that we have to recognize in order to create real equality.
Much like te examples you’ve given, nobody ever asked Mr. CTC how he was going to ‘arrange things’ at work now that we were having baby CTC. Nobody asks him now whether he manages combining a small child and a career. Working in a typical man’s world, I regularly notice that I my role is not only that what I was hired for, but my role often is to be ‘the woman’ in a meeting. Being described as charming rather than anything else. I am a bit more savvy with finances and much more frugal, but when we spoke to an advisor the other day the conversation was primarily directed at Mr. CTC, as if I was there along with him. Drives me nuts, it literally gives me blind spots when being in such a situation.
Now that we have a daughter I am even more aware of this, and very keen on preparing her for dealing with this. I suppose I would have the learn how to do that myself first (without the blind spots). We have the same approach in raising her as you describe, but as it turns out she likes princesses and pink and glitter. Go figure.
Thanks for writing this! I think it does make a difference to make this a topic of discussion.
I don’t want to sound like a victim by the way, we have it good overall. Nor do I hate men. Or women, for that matter 🙂
Hey you’all need to check out the “fouch-o-matic offgrid living” . Check out the washing machine that is bike powered. Love your Blos.
OMG. You hit the nail on the head. I’m a single 25 yo lady, and the number of questions and comments I get about all this is incredibly frustrating. I feel like each one of my ideas gets thoroughly stress tested by everyone. For example, I just bought a rental property. My realtor (who is a saint) had to defend me from sellers and other landlords. Yes, she knows what she’s doing. Yes she has a mentor who’s helping her. Yes, she actually knows more about rental properties than I do. Or it was even more subtle, like when the lender asked me what my husband thought of this plan. Why do I have to have a husband to buy an investment property? What’s so odd about a single lady buying a duplex?
Isn’t the blogger Afford Anything a single woman with a bunch of rental properties??
Paula is actually my mentor! We met last year on the Chautauqua and she really inspired me. She’s not married, but she is in a long term relationship and he’s around for the big stuff. She has mentioned that she faced some of this stuff at the beginning, though.
Absolutely! Even things like solicitations from developers addressed to my boyfriend when my name’s on the deed of our house can be frustrating. The subtle day-to-day sexism that I deal with as a homeowner who lives with their male partner is ridiculous. Although we don’t combine our finances, I can only image the endless amount of comments most women are expected to tolerate. Great post on an important topic!
Great post! I have noticed similar trends in the way that people speak to me. Interestingly, I just got my haircut very short. I did have hair halfway down my back. I felt like it was weighing me down and I was hiding behind it. You’d be shocked at how many people say to me “how does your husband feel about your hair?” Or, “if I had hair like that, my husband would divorce me.” I’m not kidding. No one asked me how I felt after my husband’s last haircut.
I have gotten a lot better about keeping up with our finances and budgeting, and I have to say that it makes a huge difference to me. I haven’t been somebody who really stresses about what other people think of me, but I want to set high standards for myself.
And never has anyone questioned the fact that Mr. FW rarely spends any money on personal appearance products or clothes (I mean, one look at the guy will tell you that… ???? ). Yet I’m quizzed on it all the time.
People actually ask you if you spend money on your appearance or clothes? Are these just random people or people that know about your blog? I think I would be pretty annoyed if someone asked me that.
I really enjoyed this post. Growing up, my mom was the bookkeeper for our family farm. While I was never involved in that, and neither was my sister, we both grew up to be pretty good with money. She is now a CPA, and while my occupation isn’t related to finance, I like to think I’m doing pretty good!
What a wonderful post! I am a woman of much greater years, and I am saddened that you are still getting those same crazy gender-biased questions and comments. But I do believe it is getting better. Collective change has traditionally taken a lot of time to take traction, but this will probably change with your daughter’s generation. Thank you for putting this message out there. It needs to be said!
I am reminded of the intro to this crazy old TV show…
This was funny because around me it seems like all the savers/fiscally responsible people are women and all the spenders are men.
And being a female, I always figured that anything I like to do was a “girl thing”, even though I could look around my calculus class and see that the boys out numbered the girls 5 to 1.
I get it a number of times as I am handy with tools and we post pictures of food we prepare, canning, gardening and when we talk about our plans to buy a chunk of land where my husband plans to plant fruit trees, berry bushes and have a decent size vegetable garden. They have mentioned that he has a lot of work planned for me. That he wants to do those things, but what do I want? We do the things together, we don’t stereotype the chores. He does 95% of the cooking and grocery shopping, just because he always did, and he is a fantastic cook. I will help mow the lawn, clear snow and I can solder a copper pipe to fix a leak. My husband has been cutting my hair for me since we first started dating. I needed my hair trimmed, I hated going to the salon and didn’t have the money in my budget for it. He offered, I said sure, he did a great job, I got a free haircut. No way I was going to go to the salon if he was willing to give me free haircuts. So he has ever since. He even started giving my children their haircuts for me as well before we were married. My mother thought that was great, he did a great job on them and it saves me a lot of money, but it irked her that he cut mine. She said I was being too cheap as a woman should go to the salon and be pampered, that is not something he should be doing. I don’t wear a lot of makeup and I don’t waste money going to get my nails done. I like to shoot and hunt deer, filling the freezer with delicious venison. I prefer the fresh fruits and vegetables eating at home rather than going out to eat. My husband had to travel a good amount before he retired from the military, and he got tired of eating out. So we don’t very often except a sub or a burger if we are out for the day, but usually we will pack a lunch in the cooler if going to a park or ball game and eat at the car versus expensive junk food.
I have an example that isn’t the same thing but related in assumptions that are made about gender roles. I am an RN married to a high earning surgeon and I have lost count of how many times I get the quizzical look and comments when people figure out who I am married to. The comments sadly, are ALWAYS from women and include some variation of shock that I am working at all. Why would I work when clearly I don’t need to earn money?
Once I was at the nurses station at a hospital where I worked when my husband was paged to the operating room and another nurse looked at my badge and said, “Aren’t you married to him”. I said, “yes..guilty as charged”. She stood there looking at me and said “why would you work then? Are you getting a divorce?” I told her I had my own professional career that I loved and that it had nothing to do with money. I overheard her later telling other people about how odd I was and not believing my “story” of why I was working…she was sure my marriage was in trouble. I wish I could say it was an isolated incident but some version of that has happened over and over.
It is sad that some people cannot imagine a world in which you do work you love whether or not you need to earn money from it. Or whether you are a reluctant participant and not an active partner in the frugal future you have planned.
This is a good point Barb – definitely a gender thing going on. On the flip side, there are male biases that are the inverse. When I suggest “not having to work so that I can work on what I enjoy”, there’s frequently a reaction that supposes I’m neglecting my social responsibility to put my nose to the grindstone and “provide for” myself/my family.
Men pursuing their passion rather than fighting their way up the greasy pole is fetishized only when combined with fame and status.
Love it. I’ve been taking my expenses in a notebook. I’m going to sign up for personal capital today, so I don’t have to do so much work 🙂
I have just embarked on a no buying clothes year – I have a wardrobe jam packed full of clothes, the majority I did not need but I bought them as a reaction to feeling bad about how I looked that day or comparing myself to others – the buying of the items never helped either! I think the constant barrage of adverts that we are subjected to are damaging for men and women as they are shaping young peoples beliefs of what a woman should be- i.e perfect! I particularly hate the hair dye adverts which suggest that if a woman chooses not to colour her greys she is betraying her gender in some way and is ‘letting herself go’ urgh, personally I think the silver look is beautiful!
Off topic but i’m in the UK and it is Mother’s day next month and the amount of ads in shop windows say “show your Mother how much you love her” and listed all their wares – since when did love have to be about buying ‘stuff’
Strange, when I think about men and women managing money the first thing that comes to mind is stories about companies paying the husband’s wages directly to the wife, in order to not have them go directly to the pub. In the microfinance world, it’s also generally assumed that investing in women yields higher (societal) returns than investing in men – women are thought to be more likely to re-invest their gains into their children and/or their communities.
So, in my mind, women always had the edge, money-handling wise.
I would say it depends on the person, my husband is financially savvy. His house was paid off before I met him, no car loans or debt. He contributed to his retirement account at work every paycheck and has a significant bank account. He does not spend his money at the bar, he is a DIY frugal guy that understands the value of a dollar. He taught me to read labels on food in grocery stores, he cooks mostly from scratch and I call he the chef, as he is a better cook than me. He even cut my hair for me before we were married to save me money as well as from bad haircuts. My mother is terrible with a dollar, has to go shopping constantly, eating out and spending money she cannot afford to waste, my sister is just as bad, she and her husband have car payments over $1000 a month and combined they make under $30K a year. My ex-husband was terrible with money as well, we lost the house and he assaulted me because I had used money he planned to spend on a weekend fishing with his buddies on paying the rent and the electric bill, he told me that was his money, and needless to say the marriage did not last.
I was just thinking about this topic yesterday when I received an email from Vanguard about an upcoming webinar entitled “Yours, mine, and ours:
Managing household finances takes two”. The three women panelists will discuss: “How to get involved in your household finances. Why it’s important to discuss money matters with your partner. What to do if you become solely responsible for your financial well-being.”
It’s great that Vanguard is covering these issues, but my immediate thought was “wow, I am so glad I am not in a position where I need this information!” As a financial organizer in our household, I take pride in having my finger on the pulse of our net worth, investments, expenses, etc. and could not imagine it any other way at this point. My mom, however, would benefit greatly from a webinar like this…
I worked full-time while my husband was a stay-at-home-dad. We knew from day one as parents that we did not want our son in daycare and it really didn’t matter to us whether he stayed home with mama or papa. It just so happened that I made more $ so it made sense for me to work. But to the rest of the world, my husband was looked at as being lazy or a bad provider and people said that they felt sorry for me because I “had to work”…we were just happy that we were able to live on one income and that one of us would be home with him until he started school.
Cheering loudly from across the pond!
Ah yes, the great gender divide. I actually use my husband (with Google a close second) as my main cultural and fashion resource. When I got my first “real” job, all the women there were talking about red soled shoes and how many pairs were essential. I had to look it up (on the sly) and am proud that I still don’t own a single pair. I may be the only one at work without them, but I’m also the only one working very part-time and nearing financial independence.
Thank you for this. One of my pet peeve lines, which I get ALL THE TIME when I leave Mr. T with the kiddos “I bet your husband can’t wait for you to get back!” or “Can he manage with all three of the kids?” My response is always “They are his kids too and he’s their dad, not their babysitter.” As for money matters, Mr. T is actually the bigger shopper (which is still not that much) and hates handling any of the finances. We just picked up a whole big hold list at the library and there were baking, cooking, and personal care books (all from Mr.T’s requests) and productivity, money, and entrepreneurial books (all my requests). We picked them up, acknowledged the categories and Mr. T declared: “Classic 2016 couple!”
“My wife handles the finances”, that’s what my husband says whenever he gets a financial question from friends and family. It throws people off completely but it makes both of us smile because it’s totally true – I handle the big picture stuff, he handles the day-to-day (like making sure we don’t overspend on groceries, that we have enough money for that meal out).
Our family credit card statement that is in my name (his is a secondary account holder) is still arrives addressed to him though.
At first I was confused when I read your introduction, because in my hetero marriage I am the frugal one! I was raised by a financially savvy mother (thanks Mom!) and I spend lots more time managing household finances than my husband. I can’t imagine not knowing every detail about our money, where it’s going, how much is coming in. However it really rings true that gender assumptions exist, and it is reflected in the questions men and women get asked. To my horror, I sometimes even catch myself doing it! It’s so ingrained. We’re going to have our first baby next month, and one of the more frustrating parts of sharing the news in the beginning was the gender-assumption questions and comments. People loved to tell me about the things that were going to happen to my body (“Watch out, your boobs are going to get huge” and “Your hormones are going to be ALL over the place.”). My husband, on the other hand, primarily received comments about money, such as “Say good-bye to your money!” and “You’ll never have money again.” Not one person said anything money related to me, although I also work to support our household. Oh well. Yay for Babywoods and her parents who will break societal norms together!
I love this post and either will add a huge reply or a very short one…it’s a lot abut how we raise our daughters but since my son was born I have the feeling it may be more about how we raise our sons. It’s one thing to raise a girl to be strong and confident but another to raise a boy intentionally to wield his birth privilege justly and soundly. You managed to write a whole post without using the ‘f’ word, but I’ll use it here as an understood shorthand for the sentiments you expressed so well above: we need to think seriously about how to raise feminist boys!
Love this–this thought occurred to me too, while reading this post and listening to friends who have girls/want to have girls. We definitely need feminist boys!
> We definitely need feminist boys!
Awesome! For some reason, this post reminded me a Laura Ingalls Wilder newspaper essay in which she passionately argued that if a woman really wanted to be her husband’s equal partner, she should marry a farmer. I think what she was getting at was that a farmer’s wife is not just a spender/consumer–she’s an income generator/producer as well.
Pro tip: DO NOT TELL YOUR CHILD SHE’S SMART. Seriously, it’s bizarrely crippling! Read Nurture Shock for more. You can tell her she’s hard-working, resourceful, that she really persevered, etc. Anything but “smart.”
Also, Pink Brain, Blue Brain was a really interesting look at what might be actual biological differences between boys and girls vs. created by society and what parents and educators can do to boost all kids. For instance, parents of baby girls already more cautious than parents of baby boys about letting them crawl down a ramp, while the babies show no difference in bravery. Really an interesting read!
So since my kids are boys, who are often short on fine motor and emotional intelligence, we talk a lot about feelings and do a lot of art :-). Whereas a parent of girls might think more about formal instruction in spatial concepts (something all kids, not just girls, can evidently benefit from).
Agreed! Especially with girls, being told they’re “smart” rather than hard-working can be crippling when they encounter something difficult.
LOVE this post!
I am a single 27-year-old woman who just bought my first home. A lot of people were shocked that I was buying my home on my own, without any help! Both my real-estate agent and my insurance agent suggested I discuss things with my father first before moving forward.
In my last relationship, I was the frugal one, as my partner’s salary was triple mine. He never had to worry about money, while I was always aware of how much money was in the bank. He turned over the management of the household expenses to me, because he knew I could handle it better than he could.
Thank you for your thoughts on this subject!
Some of the issues you’re encountering/describing are life stage specific: you are young and you have a young family.
When you get to my age (or beyond) when you’re settled down and the kids are half grown you no longer are bombarded with it.. in fact, I dare say you get kinda boring.
Instead more and more people start paying attention to the kids and what they’re doing and how they’re developing and before you know it, it’s all about them and you find (and they find) that the cycle repeats itself.
Oh boy. I have to go to work, or I’d go into this in depth.
Let me just say ditto. This was probably my favorite post yet, and that’s saying something. Being a woman in tech, who isn’t into clothing or makeup, but has two kids and likes “homey” things. All those questions about going back to work, not wearing makeup blah blah blah…
Huh, I guess I never really noticed the idea of men as savers, women as spenders. Maybe because my mom was the saver, and my dad was the spender. Meanwhile, I’m the saver, and my husband is a (mostly) reformed spender.
I definitely get that there’s a stereotype that women spend a lot and might know less about personal finance. But I find the stereotype for men is that they’re frivolously blowing all their money on technology, nice cars, and dating/trolling the bars. Potentially spending a bunch on name brand clothing too. For the ladies at bars and on dates.
I think the stereotype these days is evolving more toward neither party being great at managing money/being frugal. Which is an incredibly sad comment on society.
I LOVE this article! The way women are presented in media is problematic on so many levels, but the over-spending, shopping obsessed harpy is probably the biggest misconception. I’m definitely the frugal one in my relationship and it drives me nuts that I get comments like ‘but what about your shoe budget, har har har.’
I’m so glad you’re going to be praising what baby woods DOES, instead of what she looks like. You two are such cool people and I’m sure your daughter is going to be a cool woman in her own right.
Extremely true!! When I was 25, I bought a house to renovate (and then get a roommate to help pay the mortgage)- EVERYONE assumed I was married. To the point that people in my office who had known me for several years said “I didn’t know you were married”. Why is it that a young, single professional female can’t own her own property, much less treat it as an investment?! (BTW- I work in an laboratory setting full of professionals with advanced science/engineering degrees that I thought were quite open-minded as a whole, making the comments even more shocking).
Well said!! I cringe when people assume that my husband put me on an allowance… When in reality it was a mutual decision we both feel good about and love.
Great post, love it!
Same thing when buying a car. I needed a car for work, so we had to buy a car (our first and only car, my husband doesn’t need one and isn’t interested in cars either). Salesmen started talking to my husband, of course, even though I needed the car. I do think they thought we were buying a second (small) car, for the lady, haha.
From a guy’s perspective, I thought guys are lumped in as stupid spenders just as often as the ladies. Gotta be a sports fan, with lower level season tix, all the gear, go tailgating, buy the big ESPN cable package, do spendy outdoorsy stuff, guys weekends, etc. Since I’m not a bit sports fan, it’s easy to keep the spending low, but also frustrating when I’d rather be getting those baby questions from casual acquaintances instead of sports questions (one I care a lot about; the other I don’t care about at all!).
It’s great to realize and appreciate you can be you without worrying about fitting the gender stereotypes. It’s okay if boys like pink and girls want to play in the mud.
I agree with most of the column but another possible explanation for being asked if you are ok with living on a farm is that in many (not all obviously) cases women prefer their comforts more than men do. Sure there are plenty of women who go for outdoor activities like camping or fishing etc, but in general it seems to be a lot less than the number of men that do so. Certainly in my personal experience most of my male friends are keen on camping and all the physical activity that goes with it, very few of their wives and partners are. So the question may not be about the frugal aspect of it but instead about the comfort factor, that was my first assumption anyway.
I’m a bit older than you and can remember when I reached the accepted age of adulthood, I could not get a credit card without a father or husband co-signing. Just because I was female. I also remember the only careers open for women were nurses, teachers, stewardesses.
Things have improved in my opinion, but it’s still not that long ago these cultural norms were in place.
I stayed home once I had children for many years then I went into a male dominated field for a career.
What I have learned, is that everyone should have a choice on what their career path or home path should be…
My only regrets have been that I missed some of my children’s activities because my job required my presence. You cannot get that time back. Don’t make my mistake and have those same regrets. If you can, be there to raise your children. They (along with your reputation) are the only things you leave in this life.
In our household, I (female) am the driver of the frugality and finances, including managing our investments. However, it’s probably fair to say I am also the one who spends more or who struggles with not spending as much as I may want.
Poopsie does all the cooking. I have had some “you’re lazy” reactions (both serious and half-joking) because of this. I can almost guarantee, if I did all the cooking, he would not get this reaction.
I think you’re right, we have it much better than our mothers, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be even better for our daughters.
Oh and I don’t want to send a materialistic message to her, but, Babywoods’ strawberry dress is absolutely adorable. I want one. For me.
Love this article! While I am a self-proclaimed “girly girl” and love my make-up and clothes, I am also the budgeter/bill payer/401K watcher of our family. Why? Well, read on for that cautionary tale. My husband and I both trend to the spendy side (we’re working on it!), but just in different categories. Whereas I may chip through our resources via coffee drinks, he doesn’t spend as often–but will once in a while purchase something big and spendy like truck accessories.
We’re raising two girls, and the biggest lesson I will probably teach them is that money doesn’t equal happiness, but it does give you freedom. I will pass down heartbreaking lesson learned from watching my mother, who didn’t get to control any of the money–or have access to it–during her 32-year marriage. When she and my dad divorced, it wasn’t just a lesson of heartbreak. It was also an, “Oh f&*^. NOW what?”
Well, now she will be one of those barely eeking by seniors you keep hearing about during this political debate season.
Empower the girls to make and hold onto money. It is the key to their best life … and a life filled with OPTIONS.
Woop woop, Mrs Frugalwoods represent!! Although I have been a spendthrift in a past life, I have seen the light and am working my buns off to turn a new leaf but it’s my male SO that can let go of the spendy-ness! Whenever I speak with friends about my dreams of seeing my household out of debt and to a place of financial freedom, I usually receive responses along the lines of ‘oh it must have been all that shopping of yours that got you guys into this mess’ or ‘things are going to turn around real quick now that you’re not blowing all your household income’ – as if my dear SO isn’t responsible for half the debt load, and as if they can’t fathom he’s the big spender that won’t embrace frugal living! It’s assumed that I’m running amuck blowing both of our incomes (it’s assumed that I somehow must be spending his money too. So insulting!) while he’s begging me to stop shopping as he eats rice and beans. I have yet to have someone assume the truth – that it’s the other way around!!
woops – I meant my SO *can’t* let go of the spendiness! I wish the typo that he can were true!
Your point of how some questions are asked of you but not Mr. FW brought to mind the idea that the choice of going back to work or staying home with baby is usually posed as “what do you want to do?” instead of “what do you think will be best for your child?” The ultimate consumer perspective, right? As if it should all be based on what “I want to do.” I think a frugal mindset where we realize stuff, and, further, status, recognition, or external approval, is simply not as important as love, commitment, and treasuring the time we have, naturally leads to the idea of extending “insourcing” to include childcare.
My point in all this is absolutely NOT to say that every mother should quit her job and never go back to work. Only to say that the cultural idea of “you need two incomes to provide and thrive” is as crap-filled as “you need makeup.” It’s just generally not true. People are usually surprised when I tell them that we have found it to make more financial sense for me not to work, even though my income had been the larger of our two and my husband works for a non-profit. There are a thousand hidden expenses with work and childcare, not to mention the time/money tradeoff. Even when I’ve had part time work that I’ve been able to do from home, it has never really paid off. I am the most financially valuable to my family when I can approach family (and, with that, money) managing as my full-time job. I find nothing archaic or stifling about this; although our roles may seem on the outside to be like June and Ward Cleaver, our perspectives on them are very different. We do different things but we are equal and respect our different contributions as partners working toward common goals. I think perspective makes a big difference.
darling pics of your dear daughter!!!!
this post reminds me of the premise of the absurdist “Green Acres” TV show from the 1960s,
long before your time, but ,yes, sexist attitudes still prevail
Great post overall, but I think you may not realize that many men in our Western Culture are pressured in other areas of their existence. For example, how about the men who really don’t give a whit about sports and yet have to endure the pressure to discuss the latest games of the “Home Team?” Also, cars, beer, boats, tools, whether to respond to jokes in “poor taste”, beards/no beards, length of hair, etc. Financial and lifestyle issue questions are always going to be asked by nosy friends, family, co-workers, and acquaintances. Being a woman of a “certain age” and having heard them a gazillion times, I let them go in one ear and out the other, and I almost always never answer them. On the topic of “culture,” I see you and your husband are both “Frugalwoods.” I’ve gotta ask since I doubt you both had the same name when you married, did he take your surname, or did you take his? 😉 Love your blog and your independent plans for your family’s future! Best wishes on your life in Vermont.
My wife has always been the frugal one, the “saver” of us. She’s the one who converted me to it. But I’ll take credit for transforming her frugality into a plan for FI for our family.
Just want to add as a woman in her 50’s in a traditional female field -nursing ,that it is incredibly offensive when people refer to traditionally female professions such as nursing and teaching as somehow inferior.Instead of recognizing these as really important professions that have not been adequately valued in the past ,women are told that they are better if they become a doctor or engineer,I think it has been a major failing that traditionally female professions continue to this day to be considered somehow inferior.How often do you hear,” what are you doing to ensure that 50% of the nursing college are male students vs what are you doing to ensure that 50% of engineering students are female”.Right you don’t-ever.
Also agree with a poster above,you get most of the questions because you appear to write a far majority of the posts.Also maybe it is where you grew up or where you live that makes you think that women are not considered to be frugal.
The first time someone suggested that PiC was dragging ME to Comic-Con I laughed out loud. The next hundred times, I honed my Evil Eye. They soon after learned to stop assuming that stereotypically male pursuits were PiC’s purview, particularly if the subject of money had come up.
And don’t even get me started on their assumptions about money. I think the first person to crack wise about my spending would probably wither to dust under my glare. I manage all our money and investments, and purchased our rental property, with next to no input from him because that’s how we prefer things.
I’ve got a horde of nieces and nephews and along with LB, I’m doing my best to make sure they know that you cannot generalize about people and their personalities or interests based entirely on “he’s a boy!” or “she’s a girl!”
Since LB was born, PiC has noticed this phenomenon: when I take the baby out alone, everyone expects me to have everything under control. And if ze fusses or is loud, then I’m glared at. But when he takes the baby out alone, which he does plenty, people are really quick to offer help like he must be helpless, or he’s congratulated as if parenting isn’t half his responsibility. It irritates me that we have simultaneously outrageously inflated expectations of moms and conversely such low standards and expectations for men. Do you honestly think dads deserve to be painted with the “barely competent to keep self alive” brush solely because they didn’t birth the child? I didn’t pop out a handbook that only I can read along with the child and the umbilical cord, we learned how to parent our child together! ’tis exasperating.
So yes, indeed, there is absolutely no call for the second-classing of women and it’s about time that stops.
My husband does the grocery shopping on the weekends with my older daughter and noticed this exact situation. People always comment on what a good dad he is and I surely don’t get that same feedback from strangers when it’s just me with the kids.
On the lighter side of gender stereotypes and spending, I remember in the lead-up to my wedding to Mr JH, we headed off to Ashley’s in Toronto, the place where it seemed everyone registered for china, crystal, silverware and other kitchen gear we coveted but didn’t really need. I already owned some nice china and silverware (thanks to a mother who encouraged me to pick out patterns so it would be easier to shop for her picky, adult daughter). Mr JH, who had lived a frugal and rather nomadic lifestyle until he moved in with me, was quite looking forward to jointly owning some shiny, pretty tableware with which to dazzle our houseguests. He loves organizing dinner parties and definitely is definitely the more hospitable of the two of us.
When we arrived for our appointment, it was clear that the sales rep was following standard procedure, which was to focus on the bride. There was going to be a sale – it was just a question of how fast it would occur and how big would it be. She pretty much ignored Mr JH until I said, after about 10 minutes of this approach,
“Here’s a hint. He’s the bride.”
Wisely, she took the hint, shifted her attention to him and rather quickly rang up a moderately large sale.
And BTW, we still enjoy the china and crystal he picked for us.
Great post, my feelings exactly. I raised two boys, but I tried to instill in them all the same virtues you are going to do with babywoods. Excited for you and your exciting journey!
So many wonderful points here, Mrs. FW! I’m a transplanted Southern and grew up believing many of these things (women don’t manage the money, husband makes all decisions and is head of house, etc). It’s been a wild awakening since moving to NYC. Thank you for being a voice in this important conversation. Here’s where the mindset will change.
I read your posts with eagerness every time but this is the first time I’ve commented. Love your blog and love your honesty and really love this post. Hear – hear, time for women to get real!
It occurred to me a few years ago that a lot of the women I was surrounded with were working mums intent on spending what they earned on clothes, makeup, entertainment and new kitchens. It was kind of assumed that the husband’s wage would cover living expenses for the family and then the wife’s wage was just to spend on ‘luxuries.’ Until women start to see themselves as responsible, smart and savvy women who treat money with respect, many households will just continue to live in debt and been seen as second class citizens incapable of making ‘sensible’ decisions who can be easily manipulated by marketing.
Since we decided to never have kids, you can imagine the questions Marge got. Everyone assumes you’re to have kids, but for some reason, most of those questions get directed at the wife. It took a while, but eventually these questions and assumptions passed once people realize we’re not following the conventional path. I still sometimes get the “Well, you got to get all that traveling in before you have kids!”
She still hates it whenever a contractor starts talking to me in person, even when she’s the one who’s contacted them. Seems to happen every time!
You guys are the coolest. Thanks for being such good role models. I love your posts and your baby and dog are the cutest. Keep up the good work!
Funny, I thought Frugal Hound would do the canning on the homestead. I know she won’t let the lack of opposable thumbs get in her way! 😛
In all seriousness, I loved this post!
Thank you so very much for sharing this. I agree 100% with everything (but couldn’t have expressed it so eloquently). Being a few years ahead of you, and a mom to an 18-year-old daughter, I can tell you this is only the start of a long, eye-opening, and often-frustrating journey with a new view of gender bias. But stay strong and keep speaking out. This is how we change the world. Our grandmothers and mothers fought to gain ground for us, and now we fight to continue advancing further toward equality for our daughters.
SO MUCH YES! I could not have put it better myself.
And as the parent of a female child, it gets worse, not better. People will be wanting to label and pigeonhole her every step of the way. About all you can do is find like-minded people (I’m lucky in that–even family do their best not to push her in one direction or another) and do your best to not let those influences into your household.
I don’t think anyone has ever thought that my husband was more frugal than I am, but then again I’ve always been pretty open about my frugality. However, it does make me laugh when people are surprised that he’s a really good cook, and that I’m pretty handy around the house. It’s because our parents taught us how, regardless of gender! So how you raise your child will have a bigger impact, most likely, than the world around telling her that she should or shouldn’t do things because she’s a girl. Little girls will never truly learn their limits as long as people keep trying to enforce gendered stereotypes and saying that they can’t do things because they’re “just girls”.
I have never thought about men being better with money than women ever since I started budgeting and being frugal. It never occured to me and it amazes me. But in the PF community of bloggers, I noticed more women blogged about personal finance than men. No one around me normally is frugal with their money but me in my life. But I agree on the whole women stereotyping thing. That really grates on me. Like you said, it’s 2016 and the stereotyping still happens. Men or women – it’s ridiculous! All I know as a single 24-year-old women who is a saver and not a spender, I will be on the look out for a mate who is a saver as well. If I don’t do this, there will surely be money problems if I happen to marry them. Getting along with a partner financially is very important since that is a big thing in marraiges that may lead a marraige to a divorce. Plus, they have to not have a lot of stuff. I am a minimalist and no collectors allowed, lol. xD
Wonderful post as always! Take care! C:
Great post!!! I am much older than you ( 61) and grew up as the oldest daughter on a dairy farm in the 60’s. My parents encouraged me to do everything: care for animals, milk cows, drive tractors, rake and bale hay, etc. They also encouraged all three daughters to get a college education, and we did! We grew up frugally, not much money in farming:) but what that upbringing did was set me up for success and gave me a strong work ethic, an independence, and a first hand knowledge that girls could do whatever they chose to! A rather unusual take on things in the 60’s, it shocked our suburban neighbors. Those early lessons have served me well in my career, my parenting, and my life!!!!
This really hits home with me. When my husband and I bought our home, we were both listed as co-borrowers on the mortgage, and were almost equal earners (I actually earned $300 more per year). Shortly after we closed, my husband got two letters in the mail saying,”Mr. Ryan, it’s time to think about what would happen to your dependents if something happened to you. Consider our mortgage insurance!” There was no letter for me. We laughed and threw it away. Over the next year, my husband received 16 similar letters – I received none. Finally, I got one – I laughed and crowed about it to him; my time had come! I opened the envelope and read, “Dear PJ, Think about what would happen to you if Mr. Ryan passed away. Consider getting out mortgage insurance!”
Stunned. The letters were dumb; we don’t need separate mortgage insurance. However, it really annoys me that not one single company thought it might be worth approaching the sale from the direction of, “Mr. Ryan, what would happen to you if PJ dies?” It was so off putting that the going assumption was that I depended on my husband and he would never have any reason to depend on me. If we did want to purchase separate insurance, I guarantee we never would have touched any of those companies!
This could also be related to your age. I am in my late 40’s (it hurts to say that), and although I’m no where near financial independence yet, no one really questions why I work so much or spend so little. Or maybe it’s because they know I used to be married to someone who refused to support his family. Either way, it could be less cultural and more circumstantial than it appears.
Wow, I can’t tell you how much I love this post. As the higher earner in our household and also being a mother of two little girls, I can certainly relate to the huge differences in which questions and advice I get vs. what is asked of my husband. While both of our girls do love all things pink and princess, we make it a huge point to teach them that beauty is not what’s important. We’ve started taking them to free DIY kids workshops, so that they can get comfortable with tools and are teaching them about the importance of saving. You have also inspired me not to buy new clothes – I am only going on 6 months but still a big feat compared to my old spending habits and to cut down on beauty products in general. I hope that these choices will also show my girls that these things aren’t what’s important.
I used to teach classes on frugal principles and tools on a volunteer basis. Unfortunately, my experience has been that other women are largely hostile toward frugality. I had one class that resulted in Facebook cyberbullying for a full day afterward because we were discussing wants vs. needs, and it did not go well. 100% of the bullies (that flounced out of the class en masse) were women; the two mutual friends that tried to defend me were a husband and his wife.
Beyond that, I’ve been ridiculed and called stupid to my face by women who were offended that my husband and I chose for me to be a full time homemaker rather than an income earner.
We’ve tried to take the gender neutral tact with Daughter Person, but it still creeps in there anyway. We’ve had several eye-opening conversations with her about “girls don’t do X”, where X has been anything from wearing blue, to wearing pants, to riding a bike(?!?). We’ve kind of accepted that we can only influence her so much, but that others will also, we just have to try to talk about what she hears and put it in the context of “girls can do anything they want”.
Money combined with gender roles is a volatile mix for a lot of people. It causes them discomfort to reconsider the way they see things, the way everyone around them sees things…it just is unpleasant for them. Much easier to make the requisite joke on House Hunters (I love that show.) about the man having to put his clothes in the guest room closet because the woman has so much. My husband and I roll our eyes at that and it is in nearly every episode. We have enough room in our non-walk-in 1950’s ranch closet to put all of our 3 kids clothes in there too. Why own more than we can manage? Why, for goodness sake, buy a house because of walk-in closets???
When you combine, “Everyone should save and be careful with their spending” with “Women and men are equally on the hook for that and a talent for it isn’t attached to the Y chromosome”, well, people get huffy. When that is layered yet again with notions about what a proper woman does: salon hair, nails professionally done, trendy clothes, lots of shoes, makeup…ad infinitum and the woman in question doesn’t think those things are important…gah. Things get messy.
I find myself to be more attractive in my natural hair color, with simple nails, simple clothes, a healthy glow from eating good food and exercising in the fresh air (no gym membership for me!) and maybe mascara and lip gloss if I am going to a wedding. LOL I can’t really talk about that with friends without them getting defensive. So I don’t. It makes me a bit sad for them that they are working so hard to be acceptable when they are lovely just as they are.
Love it Mrs. Frugalwoods! Rather than being the norm, it’s totally OK to be different and feel proud of it.
SO MANY FEELS!
Yes, I 100% agree that women are still treated in a way that assumes we are primarily accessories for men. We’re meant to be wives and mothers and of course — taken care of financially. It’s a notion that sickens me.
To add some insane questions that women get asked, I’ve been nagged by fellow Type-A (male) friends, “Doesn’t it bother you that your boyfriend is just a teacher? He’s never going to be able to support your family.” THIS HAS HAPPENED MORE THAN ONCE!
No, it has never bothered me that Peach is a teacher. Moreover, I plan to always be working (and likely the breadwinner) in my household, so it’s no skin off my nose if he can’t support a future family on his salary alone. I even prefer that Peach has more of a disposition to be maternal (in a gender stereotypical way) than I do and will likely take one a more traditional “Mom” role in child rearing, which hopefully in a decade or so can just be known as primary caregiver and not “Mom”.
And to your plan to raise Babywoods without the gender stereotyping, it works! My parents, whether deliberately or not, never told me (nor my little sister) that we couldn’t do something because that was for boys. We had both dress up clothing and nerf guns and light sabers in the house. We frequently wrestled with each other and ran around the backyard climbing trees one minute and then transitioned into playing with dolls and putting on little skits the next. We both grew up to be confident women that didn’t feel our lives were incomplete without the presence of a man. Next to financial literacy, it’s probably the best gift my parents ever gave me.
I HATE HATE HATE the stereotype of women as spenders. If anything, in basically all the couples in my life, it’s actually the husband who’s the spender.
Interesting. I’ve been a single homeowner for 20 years and nobody ever batted an eye at the fact. Maybe it’s because I’m from the more egalitarian West–my grandmother bought a homestead in Wyoming in the 1920s.
I’m in total agreement on all points.
As an aside; I spent the weekend visiting 2 dear female friends. The first is a cancer molecular biologist who has an large NIH grant, published kick butt research, and also is publishing her first graphic novel (?!)
The second friend is a dual trained adult and pediatric cardiologist who works at two prestigious DC hospitals, taking care of young adults/adults who had complex heart surgeries as children. She is also a gourmet cook.
Both of these women (who are in their early to mid 40’s) are unmarried.
Do you know what is the most often asked question of these two??
“Are you married?” “You should be married”
Pathetic, isn’t it?
Luckily anybody who knows me enough to carry on a conversation knows that I’m a cheapskate, so I don’t get any financial questions.
Where being female has had a huge impact is at work, which is in a traditionally male-dominated technical field. Most of it is in things that have been pointed out in STEM gender disparity studies–e.g. years of performance evaluations that laud how clean my workspace is and a positive attitude that make no mention any technical competency or the projects I pulled off singlehandedly, outright ridicule when I’ve attempted to negotiate salaries (both as an employee, and on hire). When I got a female manager this finally changed, and now I’m also a manager–who gets to hear complaints from male peers that the uptick of women in the ranks has brought down their salaries.
One good thing about science is that I can look like a hobo and no one cares; how many times you talk over everybody else at high-level meetings is more important. In my husband’s industry, business/law, the Make Money/Support the Wife & Kids stereotype is huge. I’m noticeably younger than him too. When he had a junker car and I introduced myself as a working professional, he got no business, because potential clients assumed that a Good Lawyer would have a fancy car and a housewife, so he was clearly a crummy lawyer. Playing the game–borrowing a friend’s BMW, wearing thrift store Armani, saying my job is “Oh, I help with the business (teehee)”–got him 4x the clients.
Perhaps I’m just lucky but my Mom (now 90 years old) always managed our family finances. Mom was also a frugal magician who helped 8 children go to college first on a draftsman’s salary and after my Dad’s death on a teacher’s salary. I’ve never thought finance was the responsibility of men. Being comfortable with numbers will allow you to make your own decisions whether you make a lot or a little.
I loved this blog post. I have tried to sign up for personal capital, however they require a US phone number. Anyone found a work around to a UK mobile number working?
Funny, isn’t it? Feminism and gender roles I mean. I raised all three of my now grown children to be independent, curious and frugal. I told them – male or female- that they could do anything ( I was not raised this way at all!). Now they are fiercely independent, curious and (mostly) frugal adults who have moved to various parts of the country and world. Some of my husband’s siblings raised their kids with more conservative values and they have all married very young and live within a stone’s throw of their parents. Just be aware that if you tell your kids they can do anything that they will believe you and the Frugalwoods kids may move far away from that homestead someday. But then you just have somewhere cool and new to go visit!
The struggle is still real. It was easier in the 90s than now. We have backslid a lot, I’m not sure why but it makes me sad.
Do either of you get asked about brands of Baby things?
My friend, also a very accomplished geologist, got asked this. There was a “competition” of best stuff, schools, kid IQ..ad nauseum.
Wondering if that nonsense continues.
Loved the post.
In Japan the women traditionally control the finances. I think it’s interesting how our society says it’s like x everywhere but really it’s not. I’m financially more aware than my bf. Also, as the former editor of a fashion magazine I actually made myself sick. I can tell you what’s been paid for, what’s a sponsorship deal etc in every magazine and once you’ve seen that – the whole mystique of magazines is ruined for you!
I think children learn a lot about how they should be in the world by watching their parents. Based on reading your blog I think babywoods will do very well to base her idea of what’s ‘normal’ on you two 🙂 for myself, being raised by a mother who didn’t feel the need to wear makeup all the time and would rather go hiking and camping than watch t.v. has had a clear impact on me. I realize this more and more all the time, especially when I hear lady peers talking about how they can’t leave the house without makeup on. On the matter of feminism: YES. Being treated like an incompetent fool half the time is irritating to say the least, but the saddest thing is how many ladies are so used to accepting the way things are that they think feminism is a bad thing- Yikes! So thanks for writing this post and spreading the good word!
I think the issue isn’t just finances. It is about what people see marriage and the role of women. I get judged a lot for deciding not to have kids (I love them, I work with them, but I am more of a dog person). People don’t judge my husband the same.
I was given the opportunity to go and work in Tokyo for 3 months a number of years ago. When I accepted this position, people said things like “your husband is letting you go.” Letting me go? Of course given I would be having all the fun and he would be left back in the real world, we discussed it. It went something like “how long?” “Can I visit?” “Have a great time.” He supported the opportunity that was best for me.
On a financial note, I see us as partners. While I don’t check the investments and bank accounts daily like my husband, I know exactly what is going on. We each have different roles in the daily maintenance of our money. I am leading the “frugality” charge, but he is help keeping me grounded. I am the one doing the research on what is best to do with my inheritance (to protect me and my future as unlike my husband I don’t have a pension), however I will discuss it with him. He is the one who is calculating how much we need when he retires and researching funds. It works for us.
Maybe in your daughters lifetime, the roles for men and women will be even more blurred and we won’t have to deal with all these issues!
Even though my husband and I conform to traditional gender roles in a lot of ways – he’s the primary earner, I’m primarily responsible for cooking, cleaning, running the household, and childcare – we’re nothing like the financial stereotypes you’ve encountered. I do all financial management, and I’m much more interested in setting goals, tracking expenses, budgeting, etc. (Frankly, I would prefer a little more equality here…)
I started using Personal Capital a couple of weeks ago, and I’m smitten! One of the things I love most about it is the 401K fee analyzer tool. I’m in the procress of rolling over our 401K/403b accounts from previous employers, after realizing how hefty some of the fees are. Vanguard, here we come!
The first point about women being spenders is complete bullshit too. It it highlighted by societies distorted view of ”women” in general which then becomes a difficult stereotype to break down. I’m the saver, my husband is the spender. He likes new shiny things, and if given the opportunity would partake in retail therapy weekly. Thankfully he doesn’t, not because he doesn’t want to but because he respects our goals and the work (I mostly) put into making them a reality.
Okay, I love the photos of Babywoods, but she’s so adorable I find myself hopelessly distracted from the text. 🙂
There is so much worthwhile in this piece it’s hard to know where to begin. I’ll just say ‘thank you’ for greatly elevating the value of the usual discourse one finds in the blogosphere. I hope you are at work on a book. Are you? If so, please let me know how I can sign up for an advance copy.
I’m the one that’s prioritized retirement savings and frugality in our household. If my husband could have his way, we’d have expensive flat screens in every room of the house and two brand new cars in the drive way.
While my husband is frugal (with the sole exception of his lunches out at work and the paper towel thing that drives me crazy) I am the one who comes up with all the cockamamie ideas to retire early, pay off our house early etc. If people have issue with my boring nontrendy clothes, make-up free face, and college furniture filled home, no one has ever said anything. My core group of friends is just as focused on saving as I am, so maybe it’s just the company I keep?
This article was so perfectly stated that I couldn’t possibly add a message that you did not. Thank you for articulating it so eloquently! You are absolutely right about the gender roles as they relate to finances. I am the money manager of our household and more often than not find myself talking to my friends’ husbands about their ideas on personal finance. With two daughters myself we plan to raise them as the bright, confident and independent people we know they can be.
Yes! Thank you for this post. Yay Feminism!
Excellent article as usual, but usually I don’t think of finances or independence as a facet of feminism. Sure, there are benefits of having traditional roles, after all, you’ve admitted it anyway, both Mr. FW and you have a role to fill in raising Babywoods! The way to achieve that seems to be very different between men and women. Personally, I do think that finances are something that BOTH genders need to have a role in, just as much as their role in whatever it is in life, be it raising children, having a mate, jobs, etc.
From my observations is that we are pushed into spending, but why we do it seems to be different. Like for us women it is to keep up with appearances. For men, it seems to be linked to this reward system after working so hard. Did he just get a promotion? Drinks all around! Or expect a new car in the future!
Frugality and money matters should be kept gender neutral. The thing is that there are no gender roles about it at all. Much like the misunderstanding about jobs and their wages; the higher paying jobs which usually goes to men traditionally or that men earn a lot than women do…. It really is all about how much time and effort that men put into their jobs to serve as providers to the family. If you sit down and think for a while, why do men earn more? They spend more time at work more and put themselves at a job that would earn more! If women want to earn as much as that men do at a white collar job, then she has to put herself into that position and work into it, even if it means that she has to sacrifice some of her time at relaxation or raising a family. Much like you said earlier, the role saving money seems to fall on the men and it’s mostly because they have been thrust into the role. It is always assumed so, but it would be much better to remove the stigma by telling our women to do the deed themselves.
Also, it’s really all right for having girls stomp around in the mud. My only caveat is that there are some things that only girls can do and there also things that boys can only do and you have to also instill that into them as well. (ie: why we don’t have mixed gender brackets in sports) Otherwise, I do believe that the sky’s the limit for any child, no matter what gender, as long they put their hearts and minds to it.
I’m just here for the super adorable pics of your daughter! Oh my goodness, what a sweetheart. Almost makes me want to have a third. Almost but not quite!
I bought my first house as a single person in the late ’80’s. I had saved my ass off (a year’s salary in the bank) and received a tiny ($6k) inheritance. I couldn’t afford to buy where I lived, so I bought in the town I grew up in, which was much more affordable, and rehabbed it prior to renting it out.. The shocker question I got way too often was along the lines of “Oh, are you divorced?” As if a single woman couldn’t possibly have bought a house on her own unless she had a divorce settlement. Man, that used to get my goat!
In the FWIW file, my first career job was as a rep for a major cosmetics company. Now I can hardly be bothered with make-up, except for the most formal of occasions. I hate mascara, eye shadow and foundation. I don’t look at magazine ads and I don’t buy crap that is alleged to change my life. Don’t miss it either.
Love this article! Heck yes. I live in France and if you think these issues suck in the States, lemme tell ya! When I got married over here amongst the Frogs, the government automatically changed my name on ALL of my paperwork. I no longer existed from a bureaucratic perspective. I still have not changed my name legally, so I kind of am a ghost. It’s crazy. My husband and I cannot have joint accounts at our bank because if he dies, I do not have access to our funds without going through inheritance laws (i.e. paying 50% of all our joint funds to the government–even though I earn more than my husband and it is technically more than half my money). Talk about fiscal intelligence not being encouraged! And as for fiscal cooperation through equal partnership in a marriage, eh, forget it, hah! We had to open up separate savings accounts, which is basically the opposite of what we like to do, i.e. share our money like we share our life. In most bureaucratic affairs, I am the add-on, and never the original. Our health insurance policy is under his name, and I am a dependant. It makes ME SO CRAZY. Anyhow, thank you for keeping it real States-side. I’ll keep it real over here and we’ll all make a dent in this gender-babble nonsense!
Amen to this entire article.
Right now, I am single. And I am working. And I am being frugal, and saving and investing.
I look at the men around me at work and I see them going out to bars, buying new suits, eating lunch out every day.
I do intend to get married and share finances with a man one day. But when that day comes, you best believe I will be bringing a lot to the table. I’m about 99% sure I will handle half, if not more, of our financial responsibility.
I get so much negativity towards women and finances at work, and I am just about over it. I will create financial success, without or without a man by my side.
Hear Hear Mrs. FW ! Well said! Another thing that always irked me was the assumption that all women have dozens of shoes and they are always salivating to acquire more. I’ve never owned more than 2 pairs of shoes in my life. I’ve seen men who are just as shoe lusty as some women. Stereotyping people is just lazy thinking. We all do it sometimes, but should always be on the lookout to stop it as soon as we realize it.
I like these thought provoking posts. I think you’re an exception to the general rule, which I LOVE, but when people ask you questions could they be asking out of curiosity because you’re breaking the mold. They see it as odd, and want to know where all your plans are coming from.
Do Women need other’s to generate their Happiness: Humans are extremely social beings and while it’s not healthy to lean on others in an attempt to have them make you happy it is extremely healthy to have people in your life. I think what you mean is it’s healthy to learn to be happy without a relationship “Making you happy” which is think is different than being happy and being in a relationship or having children. I really believe a person, man or woman, isn’t “complete” with out finding someone(unless they have maybe antisocial disorder or something similar) – coming from a guy who’s been in a couple long term relationships and currently single. While I’m happy with myself and my life in general, I also know how much more fulfilling life can be. My last girlfriend I was with for 6 years had major depression issues, wasn’t happy with herself and that’s a type of happiness she needed to attain that I think you’re talking about. She couldn’t have a healthy relationship without sabotaging it. You don’t need a relationship to make you happy, but you need to be happy to be in a relationship.
Coming from a Wisconsin perspective, I don’t think anyone thinks there’s something wrong with a woman taking financial charge and being frugal. People assume gender roles because gender roles exist, they’re not upset(hopefully) when people buck the norm, but people are curious beings. I think I’d take their questions as a sign that you’re bucking the trend 🙂 and even if you have to repeat yourself to many people, maybe you’ll inspire others to do the same. It sounds like Babywoods will grow up with people asking similar questions to her because she’s hopefully, a little different.
Stereotyping is a type of protection our brains develop, it’s not entirely learned by media, our brains makes associations to everything so the next time we encounter it, we are hopefully better prepared. If I see a guy in a hoodie walking like a gangsta at night approaching me and just looks like a thug with a chip on his shoulder, I’m probably going to avoid that person, that’s me stereotyping that person. If the stereotype is bad and turns out to be incorrect, I’m very happy, but it’s an automatic initial response I can’t control. – all my opinions at least.
The first time I used the electric drill, my little son said, “That is Daddy’s drill.” I replied that if we waited for Daddy to use it, it would never be used! My kids (the youngest is now 30) grew up with two strong parents who didn’t assume gender roles.
I totally empathize with your post! The number of times I have been asked who takes care of my kids, or how I juggle career and kids – nobody asks my husband these questions. As for money – generations of women have managed household budgets, stretching them out to the max. Unfortunately the media is intent on perpetuating the myth that women are vapid spenders thinking only about handbags and lipstick.
I realize I am late to the party, here, but I MUST tell you that that photo of your baby lying against the dog is one of the top ten cutest things I have seen in my entire life!
Oh, my GOD!
Thank you for putting this enormous smile on my face! 😀