Husband and wife: Who pays what?

Published: June 28, 2012

Is it to be understood between both partners that an equal share is to be injected towards the family's expenditure?

Your husband earns and so do you, but do you share financial responsibility?

In Pakistan, I have seen women proactively arguing for gender equality. We have heard countless rants about how they are entitled to have careers just like their spouses. So, does this also mean that when a woman is given the liberty to work, she must contribute financially along side her husband?

Is it to be understood between both partners that an equal share is to be injected towards the family’s expenditure? After all, isn’t ‘equality’ what women all around the world have been fighting for?

When a husband and wife both take on the role of breadwinners in a family, the question of how much each should contribute financially lingers. I have come across a variety of financial sharing models in families. Each one of them have their pros and cons and, perhaps, there is no correct answer.

Here I am sharing a few stories that I have heard from couples in which only one spouse earns money, to situations where responsibilities are shared.

Please read on to see the various financial models in Pakistan.

Model 1: The sour sacrifice

Rehana* pays for entire household expenses because her husband believes that she earns a lot more than him. Thus, she is obligated to spend all of her earnings on household expenditures. She’s quite frustrated, and wants her husband to take some responsibility, but she is putting up with the set up because she wants her marriage to work.

Model 2:  Wife’s salary, wife’s business

Salma* is married in a rich family and is not expected to chip in any cash for daily expenditures. Interestingly, when her husband lost his job, Salma did not realise the change in their circumstances and continued to believe that her salary was her pocket money. Her husband did not ask her for financial support either – perhaps to protect his pride – and so they had to move in with her in-laws till her husband found a new job.

Model 3: The working ‘housewife’

Ayesha* believes it is her moral duty to take care of her two children. To compensate for her absence, she pays her maid to take care of her children while she is away at work. However, Ayesha considers the household expenses, like rent and fees, to be her husband’s responsibility. In spite of working full time, she takes care of all the house work and makes sure that there isn’t a spot on her ‘ideal housewife’ reputation. According to her, this method justifies her decision of keeping her money in the bank rather than contributing towards household expenditures.

Model 4: Her recreation money

Urooj* has a very low income as compared to her husband’s. She spends all her money on herself because she thinks her husband doesn’t need as much pampering as she does. She likes to spend on makeup, facials and spa treatments. Her hubby’s salary, in her opinion, is more suited for the expenditures of the house and its maintenance.

Model 5: Assigning liabilities

Sonia* and her husband like to share responsibilities. Her husband pays the rent and utility bills while Sonia pays for groceries and fees for the children’s school. On occasions when the family dines out, they take turns in paying the bill. Sonia, however, sometimes finds herself a little confused whether she is paying too much or too little.

Model 5: Strictly business

Ammara* and her husband keep account of everything. She collects all the bills and notes down who paid what. At the end of the month she splits the bills, and whoever has paid less than the other will immediately compensate them. Ammara is happy with the idea of keeping account. She says it gives her a sense of accomplishment as an equal breadwinner.

The questions that arise after looking at all these models are:

Do husbands get a clean chit for not financially supporting their wives even if their wives are employed?

Do wives get to disconnect themselves from rent and utility bills and declare their salaries to be personal just because they are wives?

If wives keep their salary to themselves, then is it so unfair for a husband to expect them to take care of the house chores?

Is it fair for a wife to expect the husband to share household responsibilities if she does not share financial responsibilities?

I want to hear your ideas and thoughts about this dilemma; tell me about your household financial model and what your ideal expectations are from your spouse. I shared these stories because I am a strong advocate of females joining the work force, but I am always intrigued by the ambiguity surrounding financial responsibilities.

*Names have been changed to protect identities  

Do you think working wives should share equal financial responsibility with their husbands?

     View Results

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Nadia Rizwan

The author is currently pursuing her PhD in Marketing and is a Lecturer at an Australian University.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Danish Shah

    In my opinion, the best model would be to have a joint account and both the spouses putting their salaries in it. This way they can still spend the same way if only one spouse was employed without causing or holding grudges against each other. They’re life partners for heaven’s sake, not roommates. They should act as adults and if both are earning (doesn’t matter who earns more), they can both contribute however they want. If the whole money is in one pool it wouldn’t matter who’s money is being spent on what. At the end of the day, they should both be happy in living their lives. End of story!Recommend

  • Parvez

    I am the last one to drag religion into anything but since its Pakistan we are talking about aren’t there clear cut rules on this subject in Islam ? Having said that I feel both husband and wife should discuss this and settle on what is best for them. Recommend

  • A

    My wife and I earn same amount but my wife doesn’t spend a penny on anything. I even pay her work related expenses. And if she ends up paying a few thousands some month she has big resentment and reminds me of that for months. The result is that my bank account is empty, hers is fat and then she makes it an issue that why my account is always empty.Recommend

  • Confused

    Don’t measure your worth in a relationship by your financial contributions? Sounds cheesy, but it might feed more insecurities sometimes. It will remain ambiguous because it depends on your personalities and interaction, and thus the models vary.
    As for gender equality, you could argue that for a wife to earn equal finances it would require more effort from her end than from her husbands, due to society’s gender gap….and so on.Recommend

  • A

    BTW, I forgot to add I contribute more in child care and house hold chores than her.Recommend

  • I’m all ears !!

    I’d love to see what veterans got to say on THIS topic !Recommend

  • MrLonely

    I’ll let you know when I have a wife! But on the face of it, I would rather want my wife’s salary to be ‘considerably lower’ than mine :)

    That way, I won’t have to worry about her pocket money at least!Recommend

  • Zubair

    My wife and I both work and I still give her pocket money! I dont have a clue what she has in her account. Its just good to know that if an emergency was to occur (gid forbid). I could count her to help out.
    Money is a small matter. The partnership and trust is more important.Recommend

  • WhatThe??

    I feel you have tuned your entire article to come down to one acceptable model the one where the bills are equally split up. The reality is couple dynamics and home realities of many marriages differ, so really you cant put down on paper which works best. Also technically i think no matter how much a man tries, a woman ultimately does more the work in terms of raising kids (a full time job in itself) really feeding your kids, chasing their homework etc is something no man ever takes full time responsibility for but a mother, so if she is being a bit selfish in terms of her expenses she is completely entitled so.Recommend

  • SJ

    @Danish Shah:
    Completely agree with you mate. My wife and I are the living proof of that. Both of us were working when we got married. Two years later she left her job, because she wanted to stay home with kids. Both of our kids are in school now, so she has joined the workforce again eight years later. We traveled around the world when both of us were working, later had to cut down on a lot of expenses when we had just one income. Now, since she is back to work we can start saving for kids and our retirement (long way to go, BTW – just planning). Traveling around the world with kids is one of our main goal and hopefully will do it one day.Recommend

  • Saad

    I am unmarried but my ideal wife would be a typical South-Asian Housewife.
    I wanna earn so much that she don’t even think to earn by herself, Because earning and all the expenditures are responsibilities of a Husband.

    However, in financial crisis, i can allow my wife to work and share the expenditures. But once again, it will be my worst option. Recommend

  • OME


  • Wanderer

    Well there could no single model which could be termed as the “Perfect” or “Standard”. It is a matter which completely depends upon the understanding between the two partners and above all it is very much circumstantial.
    However, the things should be very clear from day one between the spouses. Recommend

  • Umair

    well i think both husband and wife should set a percentage to be spend on expenses out of their incomes. i.e. if husabnd is earning 100,000 and wife is earning 120,000; their monthly expenses are 150,000 which is 68% of their total income so both should contribute 68% out of their salaries.

    As far as savings are concen both need to set joint goals rather on individual basis i.e. purchase of property, car, foreign trips etc etc. Recommend

  • Huria

    @Danish Shah:
    so what happens if they divorce? Recommend

  • SJ

    Chances are slim because this arrangement shows the level of understanding you have. Even if it did come to that, just split everything in half at that point of time.Recommend

  • Sammy Wiseguy

    I believe in today’s competitive and unfortunately troubled economic environment there simply cannot be one formula that can apply to all cases. Everyone’s circumstances differ. Ideally the couple should have the understanding of what they want and what needs to be achieved. I think certain BIGish expenditures need to be split especially if there is little age difference between the husband and wife and hence little difference in where they are in their careers. And if they married young then they both need to understand that maybe for the biggish expenses in life (like vacations, saving up for kids schoolings etc) will need both of them to contribute something of the other. Recommend

  • Huria

    What if husband earned more and hence contributed more? what if wife spent most of the money buying jewellery for herself? do you think at point of divorce such amicable 50-50 split will happen.Recommend

  • Faa D

    I think it’s husband’s responsibility to bear all d expenses cuz its Man’s Pride, but it depends on the understanding b/w husband wife dat if she wants to contribute according to her desire, m living in a joint family and i dnt allow my wife dint contribute but she always try to pay entertainment expenses i.e. outing, dinner etc.Recommend

  • SJ

    I know what you mean, and totally agree with you. Divorces can get rally nasty and hope none of us have to go through that. Best rule of happy married life (in my opinion) is, keep your expectations low and accept the fact that other person will always do things differently. Not even two siblings have the same habits let alone two strangers who are now in love and share their life together. Another important rule, try to find time to spend together without family even without kids. Go out for a dinner date with your spouse and watch a movie. Friends or family will help you to look after kids. There are a lot of things that are working in our situation but may not work for others.Recommend

  • Zakir Hussain

    There is a strange feeling in heart about the World’s deploring perception about women and discrimination of women. It is really embarrassing that one wants his wife to contribute in regular household expenses and also to compensate him on behalf of going out for work. Every woman has her individual rights on society and family coupled with some basic responsibilities. Women should be given equal rights to work and to not to be discriminated in the society as an inferior. Household daily expenses is what i think the responsibility given to men religiously as well as socially. Similarly women must also fulfill the duties. I’m in the favor of giving a chance to women to show their skills and not to just being inside home with a label of householder; 21th Century We must give chance to women as they are also from the ones who holds the capabilities watching from another point of view and to change the world according to his own vision.Recommend

  • nasim ahmed

    For the last 32 years i have been paying everything and i am happily married with 3 grown up kids.We neither discussed nor grumbled as i always felt it is my duty to run the house.Recommend

  • Loser

    ‘Many people will prefer to stay single because they know that you get nothing in return after so much giving’. And ‘I am I and you are you’. Husband and wife have political relationships. Power struggle keeps seeping in the walls. ‘Working’ wives may have different priorities in life and husbands have different career stakes. For example, a friend wanted to have a good office and a well functioning business but his wife wants a bigger and better house. Both earn. Now ultimately what keeps the roof from falling is ‘I am I and you are you’. It is painful but it avoids a bigger pain which comes through the suffering of children. Two career families are the most difficult to handle since the basic assumption is ‘at every moment, ‘equality’ must be observed’. It should be at every transaction in life. Recommend

  • sarwat

    Well if you are saying that if both husband and wife are working both should contribute in expenses, for this i wanna share my life experience with u. me and my husband both are working (almost equal salaries) and have no kids, when i got married i was not of the view that i will not share money but first my husband started with asking money from me for honey moon very next day of our valima then asking money whenever we go out for dinner or lunch and so on his habbit of asking money increases so much that it has now end up in breaking our wedding. Im really tired of such life now and want to leave job but my husband is not agreeing. Therefore i will say man should understand his responsibilty and bear all the financial expenses of his wife even though she is earning which is in our islam also.Recommend

  • Amnah

    I don’t think it is as simple as as it sounds when it comes to taking decisions on financial contributions. While some men have gradually accepted the role of a woman as both a wife & a working woman, they have not let go of the notion that it is a wife’s “duty” to oversee household chores. At the end of the day, women have been duped. Not only are they now managing the house & kids but are also slogging away at work. To add, in my experience most women are still being subjected to curtailed freedom in terms of choice of company, attire, decision making etc. My premise is simple: if you want the women to contribute financially then she must be given the same freedom you are enjoying. And “allowing” a woman to work is not freedom. Recommend

  • Waseem

    Wot about me!!!! I pay for everythingRecommend

  • amlendu

    In my family we take equal responsibility of household chores but I take care of all the expenses. My wife spends a part of her salary on herself or invests for a rainy day.Recommend

  • Clarus

    where is the MODEL 6 – THE FREELOADER WIFE – Husband pays for everything , and only thing she does is COMPLAIN COMPLAIN.Recommend

  • Loser

    @nasim ahmed: Must be luck and you are talking about a relationship which started 32 years ago meaning a different value systems. Now things have gone in a melting pot. You have to equalize on almost daily basis otherwise someone can kick your bottom to be out of the home.Recommend

  • http://[email protected] ramsha

    I believe that it is important to look at what Islam says. Islam states that women can work and earn in a proper attire and women are not forced or bound to pay for family expenditures it is a man’s responsibility. However, as we have become more educated and women out of their own wish in order to reduce the burden on her husband can divide to the expenditure. I believe and i support that both the members of the family should contribute so that the living standard of the family can be raised. Also shared burden will reduce stress levels.Recommend

  • Clarus

    what freedom we men are enjoying? – we are first ones to be fired during downsizing , we are usually paid less , we are given less preference over female candidates YES THIS HAPPENS , we are victims of verbal abuse by our seniors, we are made to work late in the office, we are assigned to dangerous places such as quetta & lyari and worst every men atleast in karachi has been a victim of mobile snatching or some other robbery and has been held at gunpoint or beaten.

    and worst when men are unemployed its a huge social stigma , society does not accept them , they are termed jobless , worthless , good for nothing and what not? so can this still be regarded as FREEDOM?Recommend

  • KZ

    It doesnt matter who earns more or less nor how much or little the amount is, what one need to work on is the end goal that should be acheived. Those could be buying a house, car, travelling, dinning out or just spending on extravagance or simply saving to give the best for your child or for that rainy day. Recommend

  • Intelektual

    The classicaly prevalent norms of marriage suggest Man earns & wife takes care of the household & him. However if the classical norm is diviated from the responsibilities should still not change Most women work & take kare of the household & the primary responsibility to earn still lies with the ‘Man of the house’ however if the Man is Man enough to handle household responsibilities and is able to process a financilably stronger financial dependensy to sme extent on his wife it would be a Just thing for the wife to contribute in the home economics.
    Whereas demanding contribution from the wife without assuming any of her classical household responsibilities first or just to curb her financial independence is undeniably WRONG !
    Husband’s not earning at all while demanding the Mazaji Khuda’s unchallenged status there’s a typical Urdu title for that if mentioned would be censored .. So u get the idea !Recommend

  • Intelektual

    A: I’d love to hear ur wife’s account on it cant she comment as well plz.. Also my sympathies r with u bro :)Recommend

  • Pak Tester

    @Danish Shah:
    This does not work when there is a very small fight starts. This thing create big problem.Recommend

  • mokh

    Married for 45 years.I’ve worked for many years and been a housewife for many also.From the beginning we’ve pooled everything and used as needed-any big expense we talk through then decide.
    Everything in our marriage is joint-money,property and decisions-thats what marriage is about-sharing !Recommend

  • Bushra

    True datRecommend

  • umarz

    I think if we talk about gender equality and that sake my wife does a job for her career or whatever the reason YES we should share equally our earning to our vaultRecommend

  • Realistic

    You have done a good job but the reality is still vague??????Recommend

  • maz3tt

    apart from the valuable advice here i think that the husbands should have a secret account as well :) well hidden from his wife at least for 10 years after marriage (because of the fact he has to think about the things in broader perspective retirement , rainy day, goals etc). after that tell your wife only if she is not a huge spender. :)

    if the wife is maintaining her secret account as well that’s totally her call. remember equal rights :) Recommend

  • BlackJack

    Interesting discussion in the comments section. When I got married, we were in the Model 5: Assigning Liabilities phase, which was a function of our relative incomes. In the last 7 years, my income has grown much faster than hers, so now the liabilities that she takes care of are a much smaller part of the pie. I am not in favor of the joint account because I think that once the fixed commitments are taken care of (which includes expenses/ investments/ savings/ holiday plans), one should be free to decide as to what to do with the rest of the money. So I blow up a lot on meeting friends, and buying books and movies (almost the same amount every month), and she spends a lot on her family members when she goes home (twice a year – fairly large amounts). Both of us are happy with the arrangement.Recommend

  • Fools

    Men who force their wives to work are fools. Recommend

  • Benish

    Models wuth wives not contributing financially are relevant to only upper class. In middle class or lower middle class, burden autometically falls on wives’ shoulders without giving them any choice. Still a single, but surrounded by quite a few married women in thier 30s, with small children, I have witnessed their stories that how they are forced to contribute in monetray terms and also take the full responsibilty of household chores.Recommend

  • Fizza

    I think sharing of responsibilities should not be limited to financial side alone. I’ve seen husbands who, after coming from the offices, rest in front of TV, switching channels and abusing politicians and then ask their wife for a cup of tea or keep on commenting on the taste of dinner while the wife, who have also come from the office, run from here to there to make sure that dinner is ready on time and her sweet hubby can have the hot cup of tea when needed and, if they have children, their uniform is ready and they have done their homework and all that. If your husband is that kind of person, I strongly recommend you to keep your money to yourself. You have done your part by doing the chores that can cost thousands if a cook, a maid and a tutor have done them.Recommend

  • SJ

    Good comment Fizza, completely agree with you. Recommend

  • Mrs. A

    My salary is 4 times higher than my husband and i’m responsible for everything except car fuel. Even though it is irritating that he never takes me for shopping and never think abt my needs as he thinks that i have enough money so i can manage everything but like typical “Mashriki Auraat” i consider my expenses always after paying all bills which usually makes me frustrated cuz by the end of month my account becomes empty.
    However, my husabnd helps me a lot in house work and at home we work like a team.
    But still sometimes i wish that his income should be higher so that i have some peace of mind and like other ladies i ask him for shopping or dinner. Recommend

  • its funny u mention this..i have always been intrigued by this myself? who does what? :)
    join account seems a good option, or the no pocket from the husband side maybe? or maybe one of them cud save his/her income in total per month and have extra savings this way :)Recommend

  • yasir akram

    @A: It’s not anybody’s business bro but please have a talk with your wife and explain your point of view. Im sure she will understand if she sees your logic. If you don’t do it soon, this is going to drive you nuts and you will prob just explode one day….which can never be a good thing….for either of you.Recommend

  • Sarah

    Interesting subject. Since both husband and wife are sharing their lives, both partners should share their resources and pool in to pay for the expenses. Simultaneously, they should also devise a sensible savings scheme to keep up with the needs of time and changing human conditions. I agree with what Mr. Danish Shah has said.Recommend

  • Hammad i Khan

    Being and accountant, I would recommend both Husband and wife to put equal share in any kind of Fixed or Capital expenditure(one time long term expenses) and on the other hand they can meet the daily expenses out of their own salaries.Recommend

  • 3rdRockfromtheSun

    Barring a few like the first one, I am amazed at the kind of responses given here – “secret accounts / permit her to work / pocket-money for wife / expenses borne separately by each spouse”. How do you still stay married with attitudes like these?

    Someone pointed out if you pool finances, then what happens in case of a divorce? If you get married assuming that the marriage will fail, well then it will fail!

    After marriage, you are a family unit – there is no “mine” and “yours”, there is only “ours” -and that includes chores, finances, everything! Recommend

  • Vikram

    @Zakir Hussain:
    ” It is really embarrassing that one wants his wife to contribute in regular household expenses and also to compensate him on behalf of going out for work”

    Tthere is nothing wrong with a woman contributing expenses or husband washing the dishes or helping in the kitchen. This is 2012.

    Sharing without any condions should be the model. If you need to talk about some other Model, you are talking about two people married but living like single.Recommend

  • Vikram

    “I dont have a clue what she has in her account.”

    Do you guys live in the same house? If you have no idea “how much your wife has” shows lack of communication/sharing.

    Divorce rate is growing. If a couple has joint account and suddenly wife starts transferring money into her own (single account) it could be a sign of trouble.Recommend

  • Intelektual

    @Mrs. A:
    Surly U r not the same Mrs A as above..Recommend

  • Intelektual

    @Mrs. A:
    Ur husband should chip in by 20 or 25% and once in a while a romantic gesture out of his own pocket is not gonna hurt him too…Recommend

  • BlackJack

    Dude – the assumption that one’s life as an individual ceases to have meaning after marriage is unrealistic. And the fact is that after meeting certain fixed commitments, I see no reason to keep an eye on my wife’s spends or activities because I trust her and assume the same goes for her as well – seems to have worked reasonably well so far. As discussed in my earlier post, we also have different spend patterns and maintaining separate accounts helps us manage our annual cash requirements better. Yes – we do agree that any big-ticket expenses will be discussed in advance, and being the major breadwinner, that I will contribute the lion’s share – which I am comfortable with, and don’t need to put money into a joint account as proof.Recommend

  • Zubair

    @Vikram Sahib
    I’m old school my friend. I believe if my wife left me (which she won’t! IA) then money would be the least of my worries :)
    And yes we live in the same house and have something called total trust on each other. Recommend

  • awellwisher

    “Do you think working wives should share equal financial responsibility with their husbands?”

    It all depends whether the couple follow TRUE Islam or not. In Islam, it is the husbands duty and responsibility to provide for his family. In the case of divorce, the husband owes only a 90 day maintenance obligation to his wife.

    Of course, if Islam does not come into the picture and a modern human-rights principle is applied, then in most civilized countries, both husband and wife share equal responsibilities for their families, but the actual division can be flexible according to what they agree.

    However, in divorce, again in most civilized countries, the alimony, property division, child support etc. shares depend on the wealth and capacities of the parties. Property is usually divided equally among the couple.Recommend

  • Anonymous

    I see the all seeing eye on a Pakistani E-PaperRecommend

  • rz

    Men are in charge of women, as Allah has made one of them superior to the other . 6-24.

    this superiority is in context of who is naturally good at doing certain things, because no one is superior to other but who is more pious.
    i think it should be sole responsibility of the man to provide for family. A working wife as long as fulfilling her household responsibility doesn’t have to contribute a single penny.Recommend

  • Huria

    So does the man then support the wife too irrespective of her earning because she is being the “house wife” isnt she? so a good husband should pay for all of her expenses right? then what is she earning for? Recommend

  • Vikram

    @rz: “this superiority is in context of who is naturally good at doing certain things, because no one is superior to other but who is more pious.”

    Are you saying Muslim men are more pious then Muslim wwomen? Pious in what sense?
    Do you think a Muslim man can also beat his professional working wife alo?

    @Huria… a woman man be earning for Social Security in case her husband leaves her. Recommend

  • northern lights

    Good at what things? Examples, please. Recommend

  • Shoaib

    With all due respect – why then are women asking for equality?

    Does equality in Pakistan therefore mean that the man should be the primary provider of all things that can be bought with money and that the working wife should just save up that money for whatever personal reasons she has and live like a queen?
    I totally disagree.

    If you want equality, then the women also need to contribute a fair share of their income to the household/family just as the man is doing.

    If a man earns Rs.50000 and a woman ears Rs.5000 – lets say both should be contributing equally (Rs.30000) to the cause of the family i.e bills, groceries, occasional outings etc etc.

    It is completely biased of women to think that if they earn the same amount as the man, only the man is liable for the expenditure and still has to listen to the constant whining of his wife about his earnings. Recommend

  • Amnah

    I agree with you on this , that men do have a tougher job but women becomes with so much on their plate. By freedom , the reference is freedom from exploitation by in laws husband of what one earns.Recommend


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