Translator’s note: This editorial was originally written by one of our female staff in Tokyo.
My fellow housewives of Japan, I’m going to be straight with you: from the day you are married your livelihood is determined by whether you or your husband holds the purse strings in your family.
If the world of politics has taught us anything it’s that once a system has been put in place it is difficult to change, therefore it is crucial to play your hand before the foundation is set. The same can be said for marriage: if you do not make your move the very moment he slips that ring onto your finger, congratulations: you are the prime minister of the collapsing nation called your life.
Incidentally, I have complete control over the finances of my own household. This includes allotting my husband personal spending money every month. This may sound a little archaic in an age where an ever increasing number of married couples both work and manage their finances separately, but I am here to tell you that nothing but good can come of this system.
Below I have written a merit-by-merit explanation of how implementing such a monthly allowance system in your own household can make him a better husband and you a happier wife.
Merit 1: He will work harder
Like any capitalist country Japan runs on money. Whether walking along the street, watching TV, or surfing the Internet we are constantly bombarded with exciting new things to buy. If the wallet is in your husband’s hands he will not hesitate to buy the first shiny new toy that comes into his sight. If he doesn’t have the money he can’t buy it.
So far this is all very obvious: being in charge of the family finances will keep your husband from unnecessary spending. However, leaving the people penniless while the nation prospers will only cause rebellion.
This is where the allowance comes in. In particular, not setting a fixed amount of money is critical to the success of your regime. Failing to do so, your husband will start thinking only as it suits him instead of the greater good. The typical thought pattern ranges from, ‘No matter how much my pay raises, my allowance doesn’t change!’ to ‘Even though my pay went down, I still get the same amount of money, he he!’
That is no way to build a nation. Instead, I recommend you set his allowance as a certain percentage of his overall pay. This gives him the incentive to work harder, which will in turn bring in more income, and everyone is happy.
As a concrete example, consider a 5% allowance. Initially, your husband earns 200,000 yen (US $2,460) a month, netting him 10,000 ($120) a month in spending money. A few years of hard work and he’s bringing home 300,000 ($3,690) a month, which nets him 15,000 ($185) for himself. Be sure to cheer on his efforts: “Darling, if you make 500,000 ($6,165), you’ll have a whole 25,000 ($310) a month all to yourself!”
It’s also important to make allowance for his lunch if you’re not making it yourself. Assuming one meal is about 700 yen ($8.60), then 15,000 ($185) should be roughly enough to cover one month. Therefore the initial 200,000 yen ($2,465) salary yields an allowance of 25,000 ($310), and so on. This also includes cigarette and drinking money.
Merit 2: His junk decreases = the house becomes cleaner
There will come a time when your husband finds something that he just needs to have, but lacks the personal funds for. When this occurs he will likely start to nurture a secret stash.
The most common method of doing this is with online auction sites. Using the ‘secret’ credit card he has linked to his ‘secret’ bank account he will begin to chip away at that stack of manga he never reads, CDs he never listens to, DVDs he never watches, or whatever other nonsensical collections he has tucked away.
It is important here to feign obliviousness. In doing so the house will start to clean itself and suddenly you have more room to breathe!
Merit 3: He will get his act together and clean up
With the price of cigarettes having risen to nearly 500 yen a carton many men are making the decision to quit, and this is even more likely if their spending money is limited from the start. Likewise, he will have to limit his nights out to save on money once spent on booze and wash his hands of gambling, prostitution, and other pricey, immoral pastimes.
He will also lose the means to cheat on you. While this may be an extreme statement, this is the strongest benefit that this system can guarantee. If his pocket cash is limited he can’t go around blowing money on women behind your back. It is a fact that many men will cheat if they have control of the family cash flow, and cheating is the first step to a broken home.
Merit 4: He will make his own lunch
Hard-pressed for cash, your husband will start waking up early to make lunch for himself to save a slice of that food money for himself. Not only that, but since he’ll be too rushed to prepare anything too fancy, he’ll settle for packing leftovers from the night before and Voilà! Now the refrigerator is clean as well.
After about six months, right when he’s starting to get into the rhythm of it, you can also casually suggest: “You know honey, if you’re making your own lunch, why don’t you throw together something quick for the kids as well?”
However, ‘negotiation’ is important here, and you should follow up the request with a reward. In particular, you should offer to buy him something that you know he wants, but not badly enough that he will spend his own money on it. It is therefore necessary to survey his material preferences beforehand, lest you risk losing out on the lunch deal by offering something he has no interest in.
Merit 5: He can’t complain if you purchase something for yourself
It’s difficult to buy something you want for yourself if your husband manages the money. Even if you do manage to get him to concede, you’ll have to put up with him complaining about you “wasting money on that kind of thing.” Similarly, even if the wallet is in your hands, indiscriminately throwing money around as you please will also make him angry.
It is here that I would like to teach you a little psychological trick I call Throw Him a Bone, Carve Yourself a Steak.
For example, something catches your husband’s eye while taking a walk together at the department store. While anything too expensive is out of the question, you butter him up by saying: “Why not? It looks good on you! If we don’t buy it now, you might not find one like it again!”
You then purchase the item for him, and if this puts him in a good mood then game, set, and match. Pick up that item you’ve had your eyes on for so long and with an innocent smile ask, “How about me?” Having just received something for himself your husband will have no reason to decline, and the two of you head home all smiles.
So, what do you think? The five merits above should be enough to convince you that, if you can get him to agree to this allowance system, the household reins will be in your hands. As I mentioned this before, it is crucial that this be done as early as possible, for the moment that you two have tied the knot the politics of your household have already begun.
Original article: 長州ちなみ (Nagasu Chinami)