My Boyfriend’s Parents Spend Money But He Still Sends Money

Dear Penny,

My boyfriend and I are both college students abroad. We all got scholarships. We can make a lot of money freelancing online. He saved his to graduate school. I keep mine for travel.

My family’s economic conditions are better than his. I want to pay for my grad school and they are willing to help me when I need it. But his family did struggle financially.

Neither of his parents are working much now. His father was doing small jobs that brought in almost no income. His mother was a seamstress, but all she did was put food on the table, and sometimes not even that.

My boyfriend gave them money every month for two years. He paid their rent and gave them a little pocket money. He thought his parents’ situation was temporary, but I don’t think so.

We plan to get married after college. He has no one to help him financially so he has to work and save for our wedding. I suggested we split the cost, but he said he wanted to pay in full. (In our country’s culture, men pay for weddings and women pay for engagement parties.)

His future is not secure at all, but his parents continue to demand money from him. He asked them to find decent jobs. He even gave them money to start a small business. But when they have money, they splurge (like keeping their family at home for a few months and paying for everything).

When they don’t have money, they ask my boyfriend for money. He has talked to them about how to manage their money, but they don’t seem to listen.

A few months ago, my boyfriend gave them all the money they earned in a month to start their own business. He also told them this was the last time he would give them money. They accepted.

But they haven’t paid the rent since then and they want my boyfriend to pay the rent for them. Otherwise, the landlord will kick them out.

My boyfriend doesn’t know what to do anymore and he’s asking me for advice. I don’t know, so I wanted to ask.

We are from the same third world country. We were studying abroad in a developing country that was much better than ours, and we were both in our 20s.


Dear A,

The problem here is not that your boyfriend sends money to his family every month. That’s when he basically wrote them a blank check.

When your gut tells you that the situation is not temporary, your gut is 100% correct. As long as the money magically appears when your boyfriend’s parents need it, they have no incentive to change.

Since you plan to build your life together, you need to create a budget together. This can include a monthly allowance for your boyfriend’s parents that you both agree to. But that should be based on what the two of you can always afford, not what they ask for in any given month. If your boyfriend doesn’t set strict limits on his parents, their needs will eat into every penny you two make.

It’s hard for your boyfriend to break this pattern. If he can afford to help his parents with their rent, I’d reluctantly say he can save his parents one last time – but only if he makes it clear to them that their allowance will go forward.

He should remind them of this limitation frequently. The first time any trouble is mentioned, he needs to restate it before they ask for more money. Maybe he can arrange to pay the landlord rent directly. At least your boyfriend may feel at ease knowing that his parents’ poor choices won’t jeopardize the roof over their heads.

The hard part of saying “no” is accepting the consequences. Your boyfriend’s parents will no doubt feel guilty. Even harder is accepting the consequences they may face. If your boyfriend’s parents are profligate, they may not be able to afford their expenses. As long as home ATMs keep spitting out cash, they’re unlikely to change.

Since your family is in a better financial position, lean toward them and accept whatever help they are willing to offer. You should break with tradition and ask your family to help pay for the wedding. Doing this will put your boyfriend in a better position to both help his parents and build a life with you.

While the situation is challenging, I think your boyfriend sounds like a good partner. He obviously loves his family, but just as importantly he cares about your opinion. The fact that he asked you for advice rather than trying to figure it out on his own bodes well for your future.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and senior writer for The Penny Hoarder.Send your tough money questions to [email protected].



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