Being “Miserly” To The Mrs?

I read SMOL’s post on the difference between frugal and miserly with quite a bit of interest. Not to mention the conversation it generated with the numerous comments.

He basically summed up the difference as:

A frugal person loves to spend less on himself; but when it comes to people that matter, he does not mind spending money on them.
A miser will not spend money on himself and others.

Although I largely agree with the above distinction, I personally don’t think it’s very useful, at least in my own situation. According to the Mrs, I tend to be “kinder and nicer” to friends or strangers as compared to loved ones like family.

First, I would impose more of my own views and preferences on loved ones.

For example, when I am out dining with her, I would actively express my displeasure if we are having something that is not to my liking. However, when we are out with friends, I tend to put on a happier front even when it’s the same exact dishes.

From my perspective, I see this as a positive thing since I don’t see the “need” to hide my views or preferences when I am with her.

Second, I exert much higher standards and expectations on loved ones as compared to others.

For instance, I am more frugal and more stringent on myself and the Mrs (who I genuinely see as an extension of myself). Like living up to the moniker of Mrs 15HWW. Duh.

From my perspective, I also see it as a good thing since I “care” enough about her to influence her to make the “right” and “better” decisions.

This is how I operate and the Mrs has occasionally complained vehemently about this, lamenting that it’s probably “better and easier” to be my friend rather than my wife.

It’s quite an oxymoron. I see the Mrs and I as a unit, so I do tend to spend less on ourselves and more on others. But it’s obvious that the Mrs matters a lot to me. 

So am I a miser or not?

Nobody would really admit that he/she is a miser but there’s no escaping some “miserly” behaviour from time to time. Here’s two interesting incidents from the past two weeks.

Incident 1: A $7 and $2 item

About two weeks ago, we went on a trip to Johor Bahru with a friend. There was a Tsum Tsum merchandise fair at the mall and the friend and the Mrs spent quite some time looking around.

The stuff were easily retailing 20-30% cheaper than prices in Singapore and the friend bought quite a bit of stuff for herself and her daughters.

The Mrs was also interested in a key pouch that costs around $7 and some stickers at $2 for a page. I knew she liked them but I thought perhaps it was just the usual fleeting thing and she could have been influenced since our friend bought some items.

I also knew the odds are that she would not buy them unless I actively encouraged it.

But somehow, I could not bring myself to encourage her. I rationalised in my brain that the quality of the products were dodgy at best and they generally do not serve a useful function. They were basically just clutter to me.

So I gave a “up to you” reply.

As predicted, she did not buy them in the end. That night, she was quite upset about it and even one week later, when I bought her a brand new and speedy laptop at $1,200, she lamented how the stickers would have been the perfect accessory for the laptop.

It was only then that I realised how much she valued those items and that she would have been “happier” if I had cut $200 from the laptop purchase and bought her the two items at $7 and $2 respectively.

Talk about tunnel vision and being penny wise and pound foolish.

Incident 2: The diamond ring 

The Mrs has been clamouring for a diamond ring for some time. Since about 8 years ago. I have been stalling quite successfully so far but her argument against further delaying the purchase is that when her hands become old and wrinkly, there would not be much point having that diamond on her finger.

Honestly, I thought I could “educate” her out of it. After all, yours truly desired a IWC/Chopard about 10 years ago but I have really grown out of it and appreciate my trusty and hardy Casio nowadays.

I really don’t know how much of that inclination to own a diamond ring has to do with the ego, peer pressure or De Beers’ marketing techniques, but there’s no doubt her desire to have a bling is pretty strong.

So earlier this year, I sort of promised to buy her one the next year, but obviously with some caveats. Like if we are still earning decent incomes and without children by then. On hindsight, I think that’s really “nasty” of me since there’s no doubt about our priorities.

Now that we are approaching the end of the year and there’s still no news on the baby front, I threw in an additional spanner recently. That we could choose to either use the $5,000 budget for the diamond ring or go on a US/Europe trip. Somehow, frugal/miserly me wants to drive home the lesson of opportunity cost deep into this purchase.

And to make matters worse, just the other day, she mentioned about getting a PlayStation 4 for me. She knows I have been waiting to play the new Dragon Quest game. But I brushed it off by promising that I would not buy any gaming gadget before she gets her diamond ring. Quite sadistic, huh?

What’s the point of the above rambling?

  1. I need to stop wearing these lenses that’s just loaded with my perspective. Of course I am not a tyrant and do give in from time to time. But maybe I need to do it a bit more. Especially for loved ones.
  2. Spending less and cutting back is sometimes the right decision. But sometimes the wrong one. Vice versa for spending more. Whether it’s right and wrong, you will know it, feel it in your own unique situation.
  3. I am a financial blogger but that does not mean I do not struggle with financial decisions. Sorry dear readers that sometimes, I don’t have the answers to my questions, not to mention yours.
  4. Being miserly too often will end up in misery. I am really putting myself out to hang and dry today.


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30 thoughts on “Being “Miserly” To The Mrs?

  1. Jared - SMOL

    Hello 15HWW,

    “Whether it’s right and wrong, you will know it, feel it in your own unique situation.”

    There’s hope in you yet 😉

    But first, got to give you a kick! You’re exactly the type I’ll avoid taking overseas trips with.

    $7 and $2!!!???

    Want to save money? Stay in Singapore; don’t travel.

    If Mrs HWW is reading this,

    Mei mei, try this “Sorry tonight cannot; got headache.” punishment on him.

    Show him he is not the only one who knows how to “educate” others…

    High five!

    P.S. Oh! May you two have lots of fights but have sizzling and earth moving make-ups after!

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi Jared,

      “Avoid taking overseas trip with?” Hmm, as mentioned, I tend to be much “kinder” to friends. We spent quite a bit on food (as usual) on the trip and I think our friend enjoyed the trip very much.

      But of course, point taken. With this post, I am throwing myself under the bus to make sure these few incidents leave a lasting mark.

    2. Mrs 15HWW

      Hi Jared Gor Gor,
      Thanks for the tip!
      Having married to him for 7 years, I know of other punishments that are more painful to Mr15HWW than this.
      Don’t ask me, I’m not telling =P

  2. Von

    I think it’s really a challenge to be your Mrs 🙂 and she deserves that diamond ring!

    Think about it, what if u do not get to use all the money you saved before the end of your life. Not asking you to be YOLO but just go easy at times.

    You had been an inspiration to me and that’s how I started to invest my first dollar

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi Von,

      Glad that I have been an inspiration to you. Hopefully, you have not been turned off with this post. =p

      Yes, you are right that I need to show more consideration towards her needs and wants.

  3. grace

    Interesting read! I relate this in terms of sometimes being ‘miserly’ to my kids. Yea, being frugal and expecting the family to all adopt the new lifestyle is hard… and even harder for kids to adjust! Also a difficult thing teaching kids to be generous but yet frugal.

    Nevertheless, I think a balance is very important – so sometimes pampering the kids and spouse is a much needed respite. 🙂 It reminds them that you are human. If she is fond of blooms, buy her some flowers! Women live for these moments haha… jus a tip from another female! lol.

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi Grace,

      Expecting everyone to toe the line is indeed difficult. Every individual is unique and different. And being generous yet frugal is an art I doubt I can ever master. But it should improve with maturity.

      Talking about flowers, I need to reflect again. It’s been some years since I bought a bouquet. No brickbats please!

  4. temperament

    Until today, i can’t bring myself to buy a Rolex or any branded watch or any of these money losing “investment” for myself.

    So until today you can’t find anything i wear on my body.

    i used to buy her all these “show-off” material things since young.


    Inside me, i think i am egoistic to show off i can afford to give my wife all these… losing things or i really like her to be happy….???

    And she rarely bought herself these “egoistic & then can be egotistic” things

    Really she is quite practical minded too – aka frugal compare to many other women.

    Now we are getting old, she thinks it better to have cash the real thing then the stone, the egoistic then egotistic thing.

    That’s how practical my wife is even now.

    i think your wife is trying to please you more then you are trying to please her.

    Relax a bit man, surely you can afford to waste your money on the $2 & $7 “doggy” thing, if your wife is happy.

    just remember it the next time.

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi temperament,

      Very interesting story that you shared. And I think you hit the nail right on the head with this:

      “i think your wife is trying to please you more then you are trying to please her.”

      I will remember it next time.

  5. A* Stars

    To Mrs 15HWW,

    I really pity you as his wife. You have your own earning power and why should you get his “permission” to buy the things that you like.

    He is a misery, he doesnt get along well with his own family, let alone his siblings.

    I have no ideas what you see in him. But i do hoped you can treat yourself better. You deserve a better life.

    All the best to you!

    1. Mrs 15HWW

      Hi A*Stars,

      I had wanted to reserve my comments for the next post (which I was secretly working on yesterday after I read the blog post), but after reading your comment, I felt the need to clarify lest AWARE starts to step in.

      People who know us would know that Mr15HWW has been feeding me well such that I need to go on diet. As you can see from our monthly expenses, we are eating well and I’ve also had my occasional shopping spree on clothes and bags. So don’t worry about me, I’m fine and happy.

      Allow me to make a bold assumption that you are single and not married yet. Because if you are married, you would know that respecting each other’s opinion and decision is crucial to a blissful marriage. If there’s any reason to go against each other wishes, it better be a good and valid one. Otherwise, today it might be a $2 sticker, tomorrow it might be a car and it might snowball from then on…

      As for his family, it takes 2 hands to clap. Maybe he had not done well enough to make them love him, but have you heard the other side of the story? Whoever you may be, don’t be too quick to judge unless you have gone through what they had.

  6. Createwealth8888

    It is not too late to undo this “Miserly” To The Mrs.

    Not just to Mrs; but include your loved ones too.

    What if you realize it after 30 or 40 years later? No chance to undo!

    Sometime when I read those “miserly” blog posts and the authors seen to be proud of their writing. I shake my head. May be they haven’t read or heard about “When strangers become close friends and help to spend their money”.

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi CW8888,

      I am definitely not proud of my “default” behaviour for those two incidents.

      I guess it’s important to differentiate/modify the behaviour for small/big-ticket items.

  7. Kevin

    This –

    “It was only then that I realised how much she valued those items and that she would have been “happier” if I had cut $200 from the laptop purchase and bought her the two items at $7 and $2 respectively.”

    I feel you. Although I’m pretty sure I don’t fall under the ‘miser’ category, I do track the household expenditure and give a friendly nudge to the Mrs when I realize that we’re spending way too much eating out, for example. “Think we’re going to have cheap food for the rest of the month.” Otherwise, it’s not in my DNA to sweat the small stuff.

    What we see as useless and dodgy, the Mrs might not have the same views, because we value things differently. From a practical perspective, you may be right. For the Mrs, it might an opportunity to buy a little item to remember the trip by and create a nice little piece of memory. $800, $1000 or a $1200 laptop – a machine is still a machine.

    Recently, my wife bought like, tonnes of casings from Taobao for her new phone, each costing a few dollars, because she likes to make her phone look pretty. She would show me a couple of cute designs, and I would help her to shortlist some 😀

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi Kevin,

      Need to learn more from you on this front. I generally tend to express very little interest in phone covers and cute designs and more often than not, would chide her for already having two/three covers when yours truly is only using one.

      When it really doesn’t hurt to let loose a little and show more interest in her interests.

  8. WJ

    With SMOL on this.

    Not everything needs to have a value to it. Especially if they’re $7 and $2 worth vs the grander scheme of things that you guys have planned out far ahead.

    Translate that to the same happy feeling when you bought the $7 vs the $1200 despite the vast difference in utility. Maybe money does buy happiness.

    Final note, it’s greatly amusing that your bot catcher is asking me the sum of 2 and 7 too.


    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi WJ,

      I think at the end of the day, it’s still this conundrum.

      The Mrs wants me to be willing to spend $$$ on her, since I value $$$ quite a bit. But since I value $$$ quite a bit, I sometimes over-analyse purchases when there is really no need to.

      Thanks for your advice!

  9. jarwey

    i will speak from a lady’s viewpoint, mrs is being very accomodating and tolerant towards you. she will likely be talking behind your back about how a control freak you are!

    i won’t say that i am similar to your mrs because i dont know you guys. i am practical more than frugal, i give up on diamond rings and a long list of things, i spend to buy myself time, i spend on holidays. my husband and i have separate accounts, that was part of the deal right from the start — i heard too many control freak stories that i didn’t want to risk my freedom. i am happy and i dont ask my husband for presents or gifts. if one day i feel unbalanced because i feel that i am contributing to the money pot but not having proportionate say in the spending decisions, i will start to demand and nickpick, and he will likely find me quarrelsome for a while.

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi jarwey,

      I really don’t think we talk behind each others’ backs. Really! That’s how much trust we have in each other.

      Thanks for sharing your story and I will make sure our relationship does not turn sour because I am not willing to spend money on her. It’s just that occasionally, I forget that no matter how similar we are in our values, we are still wired differently.

  10. KPO

    I can understand where you are coming from but I feel that you should treat Mrs better –> “Mrs has occasionally complained vehemently about this, lamenting that it’s probably “better and easier” to be my friend rather than my wife.” The fact that you wrote all these down, I am sure you are well aware!

    Before I propose to CZM, I would always jokingly tell her that diamond ring is a marketing scam and I can get her 3000 units of STI ETF instead which would even pay her dividends. However, she still insists on a diamond ring!

    I secretly made a diamond ring and proposed to her. The smile on her face when she saw the diamond ring was simply priceless. So my advice to you is get her that diamond ring! Hahaha.

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi KPO,

      I always tell the Mrs that I have spent lots of money on her. Since I help to buy stocks in her name. “The gift that keeps on giving”, huh?

      The saving grace for me is that instead of proposing with a ring, I got her a watch instead. It was probably the most expensive item I had ever bought at that point in time and it was infinite times my salary then.

      And thanks for your advice on the diamond ring. Especially coming from you!

  11. ERSG

    Wow so many comments saying you should lighten up.

    I suppose I’ll be the only one who concurs with your way of doing things.
    All the stuff you’ve mentioned, I’ve done before as well… lol.

    The $7 & $2 item.
    I did something similar… I was really sticky over a $8 purchase sometime back.
    We both learnt something from the lesson.
    I learnt to relax on the light spending.
    She learnt that it could get out of hand if she always gave in to frivilous temptations.

    Diamond ring… I’ll tell you more next time we meet.

    As for a trade-off trip, she wanted to go Maldives for $6k.
    She won a Maldives stay. So the accommodation was free but to get to the very exclusive place and eat for 7 days would cost $6k or so.
    I told her. We would be bored in the Maldives cos it’s a private island. There’s nothing to do there, she doesn’t swim. How about we forgo this Maldive trip, we take $3k, and go to Taiwan, and I’d allow her to buy anything and eat anything she wanted there as long as it’s within $3k. That’s double our usual Taiwan budget.
    We ended up going Taiwan.

    I don’t think its particularly miserly, rather, I just think you both value different things.
    I also think my wife is an extension of me, I hold her similar standards. We are frugal on normal days, so that we can afford to spend on days that we cannot be frugal (cos it’s not practical to be frugal at that point, eg with friends).

    I rather believe to focus on key aspects. Like I know my wife is most happy eating. So we decided to be more relaxed on food spending. I’m also happy eating.
    So we tend to keep our resource allocation on food, travel & the car (I’m not thrilled about the car, but since we have it, resources have to be allocated).

    Whereas, the happiness spent buying stuff, we both don’t get as much happiness from it, so we just don’t allocate any/much resources.

    It would get out of hand, I think, when we try to focus on multiple items which make us happy.
    Clothes, bags, accessories, other stuff, multiple interests and hobbies.
    So I think focusing on 2-3 key aspects which make the both of you happy might be better than just a blanket idea of being frugal over everything.

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi ERSG,

      Let’s just say that I am not surprised that you have done what I have done before. =p

      But you are right about relaxing on the smaller purchases. I guess the Mrs is just worried that if she “buys” but not use, I will be ready to nag at her. Similar to your Mrs’ magazine subscription. Buying and not using especially irks me and even I myself is at my own peril in this aspect.

      I am also much more relaxed towards food since both of us enjoy it tremendously. I think our budget for food is easily twice another frugal couple’s.

      Overall, thanks for the support! =)

  12. K

    I’m usually a silent reader but this post struck a chord with me as well.

    My spending habits are more like you, although I am the female :p And my other half is the one who spends more freely.

    I understand very much that we came from two different family backgrounds with different spending habits and values with regards to money. In our many years together, we have adjusted to some sort of equilibrium. I have learnt to “close an eye” to small purchases that I find unnecessary on his part, but since their total value is not that high I have learnt to hold my tongue. For higher value items, I have to some extent influenced him to spend less or go for the more ‘value’ option, or at least reflect more before putting money down e.g. accommodation on holidays – is there a need to always go for a 5-star hotel when there are very good 3-4star options? Wait for discounts or promotions if we want to buy something, especially big ticket items. Maximise the rebates or discounts available on credit cards.

    I don’t think you are miserly at all, we just need to hold ourselves back from the instinctive reaction to condemn or show disapproval when someone values something differently from us.


    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi K,

      Thanks for your comment. I am quite happy that there are a couple of comments that “support” to provide a bit more balance. And especially coming from a female perspective.

      I guess what is indisputable is to “hold the tongue” when it comes to small and immaterial expenses. That’s something I have to be more aware and conscious of.

      Wishing you all the best in your relationship and financial journey!

  13. singvestor

    The comment of your wife “it is better to be your friend” made me laugh, as this is something my wife also sometimes say. Just like you I often explain that she and I are a “team” and that we are somehow a “unit”, but normally that explanation does not have the desired result 😉

    To us it is probably obvious how special and important the wife is, but often this might not be the case for the wife. The solution is not buying the wife stuff, but making her feel special and that she is in a class above the friends. This can of course be achieved in many ways and not only by buying things. The key is not taking the wife for granted!

    MS15HWW seems to be a financially responsible and I remember from your earlier post that she saved you about SGD 80,000 dollar by voting against the (my opinion) silly idea of buying a car. Given that the SGD 5k ring is a small cost 🙂

    Just my two SGD cents from one married guy to another 🙂

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi singvestor,

      Good memory! I was quite stunned when the Mrs told me recently that even if we had passive income of $20,000 a month, she would not buy a car. In her view, there’s simply no need for it!

      I guess at the end of the day, she wants me to be willing and eager to “dote” on her. Not easy to prove without spending most of the time. Lol.

      Thanks for your advice and glad that I am not alone with this “same unit” thingy and enjoy your European adventure!