Life & Love

Dear E. Jean: I’ve got a money problem, and I’m really ticked right now. While I toil away at my just-out-of-college first job, my boyfriend, who has been working for four years, makes a lot more money than I do.

I’m trying to stick to a budget, but my boyfriend makes it hard. I’ve cut back on shopping (it nearly killed me), and now I’m cutting back on expensive restaurant meals. But every night he wants to go out for dinner!

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Even though I say, “Tonight I’m making us a romantic dinner at home,” at the last minute he’ll grab me and say, “Hey, let’s go get dinner with Chad and Jason!” Only when I refuse to go does he offer to pay.

What do I do? I believe in equality of the sexes, but I also can’t keep this up much longer. Can people in different economic brackets ever make it work? —Poor Girl

Poor, my girl: Address him gently: “You sexy posh boy! I love running riot in restaurants with you, yes! But look, darling: This is what I earn every month after taxes.” Write it down. He’ll stare at the figure in concerned shock. Continue: “Here’s my rent.” Start jotting down the sums: “Car payment…cell phone…utilities…insurance …clothes…food. Now, if I spend $147 for peanut butter, oranges, jumbo M&Ms—this is how much I have left for restaurants.” Hold up the number. Smile. Then say: “Can we cut back to once a week?” Of course, you’ll end up going out three times a week, but he’ll step up and pay. Sometimes the cold, frozen facts bring the warmth of understanding.

This letter is from the Ask E. Jean Archive, 1993-2017. Send questions to E. Jean at

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