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Q&A: My husband's hobby is out of control, and I’m not sure it’s something we can afford. How can we think through this together?

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Doug here! This week’s reader question hits personal for me. I can’t wait for you to read it. I also promised in my last Q&A to share our Shaping Wealth BeFi Summit presentation on couples, love and money, which you can now watch for free by clicking the link above.


My husband is obsessed with collecting sneakers. It’s out of control. I don’t want to be “that annoying wife” who tells him to stop, but I’m not sure it’s something we can afford. How can we think through this together?


My knee-jerk reaction? Let the man have his shoes! I should disclose up front that beyond being a financial adviser, I’m a career collector. Heather calls it undiagnosed OCD, but reasonable minds could disagree. I get into things and get into them deep: designer ties, handmade tie-dye, coffee, and most recently, tequila. She’s written about her painting hobby before. Some of my buddies play poker, bet on sports, smoke meat, brew beer, tinker with an Ooni pizza oven…it’s not my place to judge. 

Hobbies are fun, but the benefits are real, too. For me and many others, hobbies are an escape from our professional obligations. They relieve stress, allow us to meet new people with similar interests, and teach us about things we’d never learn otherwise. But not all hobbies are harmless, especially when they cost money.

Here’s the thing: you may not think your partner’s hobby is cool. That’s fine. But when you don’t think your partner’s hobby is cool and it pulls on your household resources, then there’s something worth evaluating. 

I tried to put some thought into mixing the subjective (“I like this, so I should get to do it!”) with the objective (“Can my income support this?”) and came out with THE HOBBY MATRIX™, my proprietary decision making graphic as of the time of publication. Have I oversimplified things? Yes. But does it make sense? Also yes.

The first thing to examine is whether you can conceptually support your partner’s hobby. I’d say, you should try to support your partner’s hobbies when you can. If your partner knows he’s doing something you frown upon even when he loves it very much, that might diminish its positive effects on him or make him feel ashamed, which can lead to resentment or dishonesty. Hearing why it’s important to him might help you understand its significance (or lack thereof) in his life. If he’s just collecting sneakers for the ‘gram, fine. Maybe it’s easier for him to let go than you thought. But if there’s greater meaning behind what he does, maybe you’ve learned something new and can recenter your perception around that positive impact it has on him. The message here is, keep an open mind around what your partner loves. 

Which is not to say every hobby should be supported without compromise. Anything that sucks up too much of his time, interferes with his job, or poses a reputational or physical risk, should be questioned and examined thoroughly by both of you. Hence, the matrix!

Now, let’s discuss affordability. Knowing if a hobby is affordable is a function of your budget and priorities as a couple. Start by first adding up all costs associated with the hobby and state them on a monthly or annual basis. Certain sports, for example, can be as straightforward as a monthly membership and the costs of equipment. 

Collectors, on the other hand, don’t have set costs. There’s no limit to how large (or expensive) most collections can get. The good thing is, you can budget. Examine your household numbers and decide how much feels reasonable to set aside to continue pursuing it. The reason I present this still as a “household decision” is because when the collector tries to rationalize spending his own money on his own hobbies, or even sets out to make more money to pursue the hobby, it’s a slippery slope to creating financial siphons in your relationship. When you set arbitrary rules like that, the fault lines will just grow and grow. Obviously, putting your loved ones in a financially precarious situation over a hobby is a nonstarter. 

However, if the difference between affording and not affording a particular hobby is one more night of eating in or canceling a moderately used subscription service, you can evaluate whether making a collective sacrifice is worth it or not. Ask, does the hobby bring more joy and happiness to my partner than the expense being forfeited? If the answer is yes, you know what to do…goodbye, Paramount Plus!

Where do your hobbies fall on the Hobby Matrix(TM)? Let us know by email at [email protected] or tag us on social!


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The content shared in The Joint Account does not constitute financial, legal, or any other professional advice. Readers should consult with their respective professionals for specific advice tailored to their situation.