Frank and Linda are in their forties with three children. He's a sales manager of an auto parts company; she markets cosmetics. They fight about money. He wants to save for the future; she wants the good life now. Like many couples, they're stuck in their respective corners.
Frank: (He sees his wife quickly carrying packages up stairs) (Mildly irritable) Linda, what are all those packages?
Linda:: Hi...Oh, you're home early. Wait till you see what I bought. Look at this, I got all kinds of great things. I bought this fabulously sexy dress. Oh, it'll drive you wild, Frank. You can't believe what I found for the kids. I got this absolutely brilliant CD ROM to teach Billy how to read. I think it will help him to catch up to his class. It's so creative. I didn't forget you. I bought you this really wild tie. You could use a little pzazz. I....
Frank: I thought you just went shopping. Didn't you....
Linda: Yeah, I started last week and now I finished, well I didn't actually finish yet...
Frank: Linda, how much did you spend?
Linda: I don’t know, I have all the receipts, but it wasn’t so much. There were all kinds of sales. Come on, come and see what I got - great stuff...
Frank: Yah, great stuff that we can’t afford. I’ll tell you, I’ve had up to here with your buying sprees. I don’t need any wild ties and what does Billy need a CD ROM for? We learned how to read just fine from books. This is the eleventh sexy dress you’ve bought this year. Who are you trying to impress? I’m just going to cancel the damn credit cards. Maybe, then you’ll learn your lesson.
Linda: Wow, hold on Frank. Who do you think you are, my father? Don’t forget - I earn money too.
Frank: Yah, but I’m the one who handles the money, not you. I know what’s in our account. Stop interrupting me...
Linda: I will interrupt you. I’m out shopping looking for things we need and all you do is criticize me. You talk to me like I’m some kind of an irresponsible teenager. You have a helluva nerve, Frank. I’m the one who’s responsible. I’m the one who knows what this family really needs. You don’t.
Frank: Responsible! Who needs another sexy dress and a wild tie, Linda?
Linda: You do, Frank!
Frank: Oh, tell me Linda, when you went and bought all these things that we "really need" did you stop to consider what we have in our account? Did you think about whether we can afford these things?
Linda: No, I thought about things you would never dream of thinking about or even care about. Tell me, do you even know that Billy is having trouble reading? You know something, instead of worrying about every precious little penny, you should be thanking me for keeping this family going.
Frank: You want thanks? I’ll give you thanks. Thank you for spending every penny I earn? Thank you for forcing me to work over time so I can support your lifestyle. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Are you happy now?
Linda: Frank, let’s stop this. I hate what we’re doing. Can’t you try to understand that I’m not wasting our money? It kills me to see Billy falling behind in school. And I’m trying to look good for you. I want us to have a life now, not in 20 years. Is that really asking for too much?
Frank: It is, if we can’t afford it. It seems that no matter what we have you’re never satisfied.
Linda: I guess you’re right, I’m not satisfied.
Linda: The real problem here isn’t money. It’s fear! Frank is scared to death about the future. With him there’s a disaster around every corner. You’d think he grew up in the Depression or something. Life for Frank is something to prepare for, not to live. I don’t accept that attitude. I want to enjoy life now. It’s so crazy. I try to look sexy for him and he worries about how much I spend. Who the hell cares what it costs if it adds a little spice to our life?
I know where this fear comes from. He grew up in a family that counted every penny and saved every little bit. They weren’t poor, just cheap. Frank glorifies them. He keeps pointing out how well off they are in their old age. Yeah, but what a price he and his sister had to pay. They had nothing growing up. No toys, no musical instruments. He didn’t even have a baseball glove. He also didn’t have a childhood.
It was different for me. My parents gave us everything they could. They didn’t go overboard, but we had nice clothes, lots of toys and games and we went to camp every summer. This is something he doesn’t understand - how important it is to spend money to buy whatever a child needs to be happy and self-confident. To me, that’s the way to prepare for the future.
It’s weird. He married me because I was so different from him. He liked that I had learned to do a lot of different things and had traveled throughout Europe and the States. He knows that it was my parents who encouraged and helped me to do these things. So why doesn’t he want our children to have the same opportunities that I had - whatever the cost?
Frank: The problem with Linda is that she never grew up. She can’t say no to anything and she refuses to consider whether we have the money for all the things she wants. When I tell her that we can’t afford it, she acts like a hurt little girl and makes me into some kind of an uptight, miserly father figure who deprives her and the kids. I hate that she forces me into that role.
She has never been willing to talk seriously and maturely about money. I don’t understand this. I grew up in a home that was...we weren’t rich but we had what we needed because my parents knew how to manage money. They taught me the value of a dollar. I don’t understand this frivolous attitude of hers. I know she works, too, but her commissions are certainly not covering all her extraneous purchases. The more she spends and buys like this, the madder I get. I’ve lost all my patience with her.
I have to think about the future, something Linda won’t deal with. She’s totally unrealistic. How do I know I won’t be laid off? Nothing’s secure now. Then what? We’ll have nothing to fall back on. Even if I’m not laid off, I’m afraid that when I retire we’ll have nothing in our account, and it seems that I’m the only one worrying about this. We’re not working together for a secure future. I feel that I have to be the one to protect our future from Linda and from her compulsive buying sprees.