Ask the Yangxifu: My Chinese Husband Cares About Money Too Much | Speaking of China

29 Responses

  1. c
    c August 12, 2011 at 5:29 am | | Reply

    He has probably been reading the news of another economy crisis yet to come… Not because he’s chinese = thrifty. The american dollar is heading for a serious plunge.. of course he’s gonna be tight and spend less… and prepare for the worst in bad times…

  2. John
    John August 12, 2011 at 6:59 am | | Reply

    The next economic crisis will come from Europe if it comes at all. The second recession is not going to happen until mid 2013 when federal government cutbacks will probably cause one. I have no idea why Obama wants to get re-elected. The next President will be unpopular and with that goes all the chance of another minority getting elected if Obama is indeed the President. However, the CNBC, Marketwatch and others are talking up a recession and this psychology will feed on itself. Let us also not forget that the oil industry is gouging the citizens at the pump.

  3. Rebekah
    Rebekah August 12, 2011 at 9:33 am | | Reply

    My boyfriend is like this…When we first started dating 5 years ago he would buy stuff all the time but now he complains about gas prices and doesn’t want to eat out unless it’s fast food because it is too expensive…It can be a real drag! He also says he worries about the way I spend my money and says it makes him question whether we can get married someday! He worries I would spend spend spend him into the negative.(I am really not that bad, but the thought of me buying makeup to him is unbelievable – At least it’s cute when he tells me not to buy it because I don’t need it!)
    I guess I am wondering the same as Pinched – How do I reassure him I can save AND we can still have fun.

  4. Jessica
    Jessica August 12, 2011 at 10:05 am | | Reply

    My husband is extremely thrifty too. He doesn’t mind spending money on necessary things but he gets very antsy about things like, say, vacations, or shopping for fun. I think it is part cultural, part the way he was raised, part generational, part personality. I do know some American guys who are pretty thrifty too so I can’t say it is just a Chinese thing but my husband does like to point out that Chinese people are good at “chi ku” and that they don’t need a lot of luxuries. Which is true, Chinese people generally do not live beyond their means the way it is common to do in the West, and also what is considered essential to a “good life” is not necessarily the same. I visited a very wealthy family recently and despite it being the middle of a Beijing summer, they didn’t have their air conditioner turned on and instead handed out hand-fans to the guests. My parents, by contrast, just moved to Beijing and they run their A/C 24-7, even when they’re out of the house. Most Chinese people, no matter how much money they have, just wouldn’t do this. I don’t think every Chinese person is very thrifty, obviously, because you have lots of frivolrous young people out there spending all sorts of money on useless things, but for Chinese people of a certain generation the need to “chi ku” in order to ensure a better future is pretty strong.

    Just remember that when your husband is being thrifty he’s not trying to be mean or spiteful, he honestly wants to make sure that you both will be comfortable in the future. Perhaps he’s looking forward towards children, providing for their education, buying property, etc. I know that when my husband complains about my buying, say, clothes or whatever, that he isn’t saying that I don’t deserve nice things but rather he thinks we should both be doing our part to make sure that we’re not just enjoying the here and now, but that we’re comfortable in the future too.

    I would have a chat with him and see if maybe you can reach a compromise. Maybe you can make a savings goal each month and try and work your spending around that goal so that you can have a bit of money to play with and he can feel like he’s working towards something. Make a rule that as long as you’re setting aside X amount each month then he can’t complain about anything else that you want to spend money on. This is pretty much what my husband and I do and I find that it works well.

  5. Bruce
    Bruce August 12, 2011 at 10:06 am | | Reply

    Hi guys,

    Before I go to lunch with my business friends, I want to drop a few comments. I told my wife 10 yrs ago that our incomes were not stabled so we had to have 4 to 5 yrs reserve. 5 yrs Reserve means you don’t have to work and you still could pay for food, gas, clothes, mortgages and unforeseen expenses for 5 yrs. When the real estate market collapsed during the yr of 2007, we are/ were on survival mode. From 2007 to present, we only take small vacations and we buy items like clothes etc during summertime for winter use ( most millionaires next door do that). Many people went under the tube right now in America!!!!!!!!!! Millions of foreclosed homes are insanely low price right now. That’s why majority of ASian/Chinese/Japanese etc don’t get hit hard like dealing with foreclosures etc. We use credit cards but we pay off every month. You will never learn this in college let me tell you. We were taught when we were young and our culture and society made us this way.I like to save for the worst case scenerio/rainy days ,but I love to enjoy life. My wife and I eat out most of the time . We take trips 3 to 4 times a yr. The good thing about me is that I must check our bank accounts constantly to make sure if we can pay for everything that we ‘ve purchased. We have mortgages, investments, office to pay , entertainments to attend damn it’s a lot of stress . We have home projects to complete like extending our outdoor living lifestyles, basement, fish pond. We love our outdoor kitchen and all my friends,neigbors, families , friends’ friends love it alot. Even though we are constantly working but we enjoy our lives. Bottom line is my wife is happy and things are going as planned. I think I talk too much and let you guys comment here . Jocelyn , when you have time, please BAN me from her website lol 🙂 heheheh.

  6. Juliet
    Juliet August 12, 2011 at 2:08 pm | | Reply

    My husband is the same way and he’s Chinese American. Our children have never had vacations, we have a beat up old couch, we go without a lot, even though he makes good money. And he ysed to be very generous. I understand being frugal, but come on!

  7. xl
    xl August 12, 2011 at 2:59 pm | | Reply

    In response to Pinched, certainly talk to your husband and make him understand your perspective, but also, give him time to adjust to the American way of thinking. My parents had a similar attitude toward money and spending when they first came to the United States. They constantly converted all the prices from USD to RMB in their heads and couldn’t bear to buy anything. As new immigrants, they were understandably (over-)worried about their financial security. For the first 3 years of being here, they didn’t go to a single restaurant, cinema, or buy any new clothes; any money left over from basic living costs went straight into the bank.
    But gradually over the years, they relaxed and realized that an occasional splurge was okay. It’s easy to be “cheap” in China where everyone around you is thrifty and savings-conscious and your ability to “chi-ku” is considered a virtue, but in their new American environment, my parents came to see that their self-imposed “chi-ku” was completely unnecessary. It did take them many years to come to that conclusion because their understanding of America was limited by their poor English and few American acquaintances, but in the case of Pinched, perhaps that transition will be quicker b/c she herself is an American…….

  8. ordinary malaysian
    ordinary malaysian August 12, 2011 at 6:49 pm | | Reply

    It is generally true that the Chinese people do have this tendency to want to save, and to save as much as possible, for the rainy days and for the future. Perhaps this is partly due to historical reasons. China is a vast country and although it was one of the earliest civilisations and very successful in many ways, way before others, it was still a country often blighted by unimaginable floods and famines. Probably because of the uncertainties, the Chinese people were forced to learn to save for the rainy days. To the Chinese to be able to “eat bitter” chi ku 吃苦 was, and still is, I believe, something necessary. They do not have this enjoy now and to …. with the future attitude unlike most westerners. And this is seen today in the huge amount of debt Americans carry vis-a-vis the Chinese. But of course to be so tight-fisted as not to spend a little on entertainment is not wise. After all, one also needs to relax a little and not just let life passes by. In your husband’s case, you probably need to have a little understanding talk with him. Maybe just like Jocelyn said, your husband may feel pressured, just by being the only son in the family of several daughters and moreover the only one working in America. But at the end of the day, I think it is better to save more now when one is young and able and employable. That will make it more easy for your husband to take care of you and your family in the future.

  9. Pat
    Pat August 12, 2011 at 9:06 pm | | Reply

    @Jessica – “My parents, by contrast, just moved to Beijing and they run their A/C 24-7, even when they’re out of the house. Most Chinese people, no matter how much money they have, just wouldn’t do this.”

    a/c on even if no one is in the house? that’s not very green/energy efficient. it’s very wasteful.

  10. c
    c August 13, 2011 at 3:42 am | | Reply

    money runs through the drain like water if we’re not careful what we spend it on…

  11. Aorijia
    Aorijia August 13, 2011 at 7:03 am | | Reply

    After reading some of the experiences here, I have realised that my (Chinese) husband is not only not thrifty with money, but rather splendid. And we save quite a lot as well!

    His parents, on the other hand, are too much into the “don’t waste” thingy. They would complain if I left a SINGLE GRAIN OF RICE in my bowl! (and yet, they would buy dozens of dishes in a restaurant to show off to other relatives, even though half of the food would end up unfinished).

  12. Bruce
    Bruce August 13, 2011 at 10:05 am | | Reply

    Chinese men and women are normally very very responsible people . Don’t worry about it he will loosen up later trust me . In America , ASian people usually have high credit scores when you check them. They will pay rent on time and they won’t give you any problems. Chinese men and women love to plan for the family’s future and keep the money in the family and taking good care of mother in law etc. I’m thinking that is it true that Western men like Asian women because they are more responsible in terms of education, jobs, money, families ,etc???? That’s why I hate all those peanut brains , narrow minded people only talk bad about Asian or Chinese men in general. You mean all those good qualities from these Asian /Chinese women have nothing to do with Chinese men? ASian/ Chinese women have ASian/Chinese dads , right or no? Anyway, I know Millionaires who are Chinese women and men and they use money very wisely. They are willing to spend lots of money on their kids like education and housing for kids to go to school. Lots of my Chinese male friends love to enjoy their lives. Give your husband more time to adjust and he will break thru that shell!

  13. Richard
    Richard August 13, 2011 at 10:08 am | | Reply

    Well, at least he is telling you these things. It’s a plus for communication to be able to discuss them openly rather than have resentment simmer silently underneath!

    The thing with immigrants that Americans have to get used to is that they don’t take anything for granted. They see/read about Americans going into massive debt all the time and don’t want to get suckered into spending above and beyond their means. A job is by no means guaranteed, so they need to plan for all contingencies.

    With that said, Jocelyn’s idea of an entertainment budget is excellent. Minor frivolities and splurges, if planned for, are quite sensible. I think fundamentally the unwillingness to spend comes from a fear of losing control and spending to excess, so a hard enforced limit is quite good at letting him let loose a bit.

    This trait is by no means limited to immigrants or Chinese. Germans have a famous frugality about them as well. Historically, it’s these nations of savers that have gone on to be successful while debtor nations spend themselves into the ground.

  14. Sean
    Sean August 13, 2011 at 10:14 am | | Reply

    Could he be saving up for your future children? I know some Chinese guys would do that. Just a thought.

  15. Richard
    Richard August 14, 2011 at 5:20 pm | | Reply

    Another good post on this:

    It’s a psychologic condition formed by his upbringing that you’re unlikely to be able to change. The article has some good ideas on how to ameliorate things (more bundling, budgeting for fun, emphasize investment).

  16. Gary
    Gary August 14, 2011 at 10:57 pm | | Reply

    I’m a full-fledged chinese man. And YES money is very important to a chinese man (every men too I guess, no?). There is one chinese saying that goes, “If you got money, then you got woman”. Really I’m not kidding. And here’s another one that goes, “Men only have two things to worry about, money or woman full stop.”

    And I bet you, your man’s parent had taught or preached him about the importance of money. Is a traditional thing you see, probably due to the fact of the WW2 and those tough times. Well you could say, we do appreciate things a little bit more I guess (or maybe it was just me? ahhh…)

  17. SB
    SB August 15, 2011 at 12:39 am | | Reply

    Part of the Chinese habit for thrift and savings comes from how, thanks to governmental policy, there really aren’t many ways for the average Chinese person to make their money work for them productively, so they prepare for their future by socking away lots of cash under the proverbial mattress. Buying houses on credit is a fairly recent innovation in most of China with people traditionally having to save up large amounts of money to buy their house in cash. That having been said, I’ve seen Chinese people do some incredibly penny-wise, pound-foolish things in the pursuit of thrift (heck, read any book about western manufacturing companies doing business in China for numerous examples of this).

  18. James
    James August 16, 2011 at 9:24 am | | Reply

    I think many men are tight with their money. I’m a fairly well off guy but I still am always cautious about how much I’m spending. Many Chinese men I know are also like this. I just thought it was because of the hard times they had before everyone had disposable incomes.

  19. wwwizard
    wwwizard August 17, 2011 at 3:22 am | | Reply

    I’m a full-fledged Chinese man, too.
    And YES money is very important, I totally agree.
    But what gave you the notion that the two crappy sayings are Chinese?? No, it’s yours, not Chinese.
    BTW. There IS a Chinese saying: 书中自有颜如玉,书中自有黄金屋。

  20. Bruce
    Bruce August 20, 2011 at 12:28 pm | | Reply

    It’s hard to explain here why Chinese people spend money like this. Chinese people see values differently from Westerners. Yes, they are thrifty when it comes to spending on wasteful items ,but they spend money freely on real estate , stocks and investments. Chinese people throw money like water when it comes to gambling. You can go to Las Vegas and see that there are lots of Asians all over. I think you guys have heard of the company called Market America . This company is created by Westerners but all those down lines are ASians/Chinese (70 to 80 %). I asked a friend about that and he said Asian are more focused into businesses. I know a few Chinese millionaires and multi millionaires but they don’t dress fancy at all. They are very thrifty also. We always care about our kids future and try to give them a better life. Most Chinese kids don’t save money and they use their parents hard earned money but their parents are willing to give them . Actually, I like to explain things face to face rather than writing about it.

  21. Jin
    Jin August 24, 2011 at 2:23 pm | | Reply


    Actually, I have heard that saying that Gary is talking about from my dad all the time

    I’m a full-fledged Chinese man, too.
    And YES money is very important, I totally agree.
    But what gave you the notion that the two crappy sayings are Chinese?? No, it’s yours, not Chinese.
    BTW. There IS a Chinese saying: 书中自有颜如玉,书中自有黄金屋。”

  22. BRUCE
    BRUCE August 25, 2011 at 9:46 pm | | Reply

    Average Americans are having a hardship right at this moment. They just didn’t prepare for hard time like this and it’s going to last for ten yrs. Most of my friends call me and they will rethink/reconsider every financial decision they’re going to make. We have to live below our means eventhough we have $1 million dollars. What a big lesson! It’s not about making money , it’s about keeping your wealth for your family. Enjoy your life but don’t throw money away on junk ( things we don’t use ). Do spend money on vacation and things that will bring you memory. Come on, does it cost that much to take your gf/wife to a circus or a nice cafe shop?

  23. alstonian
    alstonian September 4, 2011 at 4:57 pm | | Reply

    Jocelyn…. This kind of situation happens in between men and women whether they are from the same or different culture/race. In your particular case it happens to be a man whose culture values savings a whole lot more than having a good life.

    I can tell this is a big deal and if not handled well, it can lead to something very severe. If i were you, i would have a candid talk about this and work out some kind of compromise.

  24. jon
    jon September 9, 2011 at 7:03 pm | | Reply

    i know a chinese that tries to save money on food eats 3 days old leftovers saves like pennis only, but buys designer outfits. makes no sense. unless you realize it’s all about the face. A bank account generates face. Going to the movies doesn’t.

  25. Bruce
    Bruce September 23, 2011 at 7:19 am | | Reply

    Do you guys feel the pinch now since we are going to another recession? If we make $10 dollars , we must save 3 to 4 dollars or more at least for the rainy days and now it’s those days. Don’t go above your means. I’ve been there and the feeling of struggling with bills is depressing. “Save more , spend less” 🙂 lol

  26. Bruce
    Bruce November 4, 2011 at 3:19 pm | | Reply

    I always check and balance my family’s cash liquidation , credit cards and maintain a financial safety net all the time. Even though we have taken four small inexpensive trips this yr, we’re still on saving mode. We are leaving town soon this month but we stay within our budget. I know a lot of people that I know personally are facing hard time this 3 yrs. I felt sorry for them because they didn’t save money or talked honestly with their wives on savings. I know a friend whose wife just died and he was left with nothing. Don’t know where the money is right now. He is stressed out alot . Please communicate with your wife/husband on your family financial status. If you don’t have money in your bank accts for this trip ($5,000), don’t take it. If you don’t have money for a gourment kitchen renovation, postpone the construction for a few yrs. We always make sure we can pay it off when we put it on the credit card and pay it off monthly ( zero balance). Travel whenever you can if you have the time and money, never wait until you’re retired to do so. What’s the point of having all the money when you’re 6 ft under at 65 yrs old? We think that’s USELESS. See if you can take $8 billion dollars with you when you die. I know that Chinese tend to leave money to their kids but most of them don’t know the meaning of hardship and hard work. Even though I’m Chinese, I never expect my kid (s) to support me when I get old. You are lucky if they come over during the holidays for dinner . Don’t believe what I write here, you just have to experience it by yourself and get a taste of it. I don’t know but I’m very sacrastic with friends/family members who are stubborn. I always encourage those stubborn people to try it themselves and feel the frustration and pain. I told those people one time : “if you have not worked 12 hrs a day 7 days a week for 6 months to a yr or more , try it ! I ‘ve done it”. “If you haven’t lived in poverty before , try it, I have been there” . Most people don’t even know what I’m talking about because they haven’t been there or done that before. We still have 7 to 10 more yrs of recession to go, “try” to make money and pay off debts. A doctor once asked me ” why you know so much , Bruce?” lol ha ha ha 🙂


  27. LZ
    LZ May 14, 2014 at 2:50 pm | | Reply

    As an Chinese woman, I understand to some extent why and where your husband’s points are from. In the US, opportunities are considered equal, at least under the current system, thing are fair. Whereas in China, in its history, things are not so equal, and competition is not completely fair, due to “Guanxi” also due to “huge population”. Therefore, in order to stand out, you have to “work hard” or you can “get richer” then you could go overseas or live a better life than average. In China, cultural difference and the long history based on family value and national value, made us having too much burden and responsibilities as an individual, but socially, we are under the ethical disciplines(in Chinese philosophy)that we need to care for the family, care for brothers and sisters, care for every single one of the related family BUT us ourselves. Especially if you are the only boy, you inherit everything from the family but you also inherit the “family” responsibilities. You mentioned in your article “Maybe he’s trying to live up to their expectations?” This is to a large extent, VERY TRUE! That’s why Chinese people don’t belong to themselves, but their families! I mean, not only his wife/child “family” but I mean his parents, brothers and sisters, their families too…So it is a BIG family…How much time do you think then, he has for YOU left? not much, that’s why in some cases he is acting like he don’t care about your life, he does, BUT he has ALSO other’ lives to care about…or say too much to care about… Haha, I find this fascinating myself because I am in academics…but I can’t change it…It is THE Chinese culture:) How you are well, everything is going well. Maybe a little bit more understanding for each other’s choice is the solution…Good luck

  28. Tee
    Tee November 30, 2016 at 6:02 pm | | Reply

    LZ’s comments totally hits home. Chinese culture is one that most 1st world countries cannot relate to, because it is a collective culture where everything you do is absolutely and intricately tied into a larget network of relatives and family opinions and pressure. To a larger extent, one caves in to this pressure because of one’s own awareness of this horrible burden. It numbs you and oppresses you. In fact, I truly believe most Asian people have some degree of depression due only to the culture. But more accurately, Chinese people live in mental slavery brought on and reinforced by a misture of vanity, atheism, materialism and huge influence of pessimism from Buddhism and Taoist beliefs. They do not norice how much faith and religion have on the mentality and lifetstyle of a society until you have lived extenstively in China and the West and learned a bit about the beliefs of the general public.

    It took me many years to figure out why, though I am Chinese, I had always been different than those around me. I didn’t save, didn’t care about face and was always outgoing. All these Chinese classmates of mine would go to tutorial sessions everyday after school. But like the American students, I would have time off and pursued interests instead. They always interpreted my lack of tutoring with good grades as me being smart. But seriously, I really wasn’t smarter. It wasn’t until I became older that I realized it was because of my faith in Jesus. What does Jesus teach me? That I am secured in His love and that He will provide. The act of saving money is to form a saftety net. The idea that you must have a house, a car, a spouse and all these things is not just vanity for most Chinese people. They are what make them FEEL safe secure. This is not a concept new to the American, especially those who don’t believe in God anymore. But truly, as a Chinese woman, I realized I didn’t become more confident because I am Westernized. No. You become more confident because you know you have a God who is bigger and you have true faith in Him. America was built from that. Europe was transformed by faith when Christianity first arrived. But now everyone is saving more because of the demise of the general faith. But still there is a great deal of Christian traditions in these countries.

    Now China? I’m not gonna go into that. But to be plain they are straight atheists, which means you got nothing but you. But you are just an evolved animal living and dying in a modern “jungle” with no safety whatsoever. It is a dog- eat-dog world out there has a literal meaning for people who believe this. So what can you do except for saving some food for the winter and gather money for security? You’ve got no one and nothing otherwise. Therefore, in these kinds of societies, families must stick together in herds.

    I know these words come across harsh. But they are the reality. The truth is ugly. I am not trying to offend or attack anyone in particular. But as a Chines people who have struggled on all fronts, lived both Eastern and Western lives; and away from my faith, and having returned to China for over 8 years again; I have finally seen the light on the situation after all this time of research, observation, studies and experiences.

    EVERYTHING is about faith. Look at the cultures of the world and the beliefs each group has and you can see the fruits of their belief system. It is all about what you belief. And when you believe a lit, you live a lie. When you think you a descendant of an ape with a large family who have no chance of livelihood without relying on you and your money, you live a miserable life. Everyday I am in China, my heart grieves for my people. They are under this huge yoke. Yeah, part of it is the government. But they really don’t need the government to be miserable. Chinese people live in walking cages. I wish people would just see already. But when the truth is spoken, who listens?

    If Americans doesn’t stop taking in all the atheists trash that Hollywood and the media is contstantly trying to preach to them, you are gonna end up miserable. The economy and social disorder is already starting to show that distance from God is a not smart. I wish people would search their hearts and not be so blind.

  29. Tee
    Tee November 30, 2016 at 6:12 pm | | Reply

    So, I guess my advice for the Pinched is this: go back to Bible and seek God. Invite Him into your life again if you are not already walking with Him. Your husband’s issue is not about money. It is about a lack of peace, a true sense of security and belonging. It’s fear. It’s childhood terror. It’s stress. Nuture yourself in God’s love and ask Jesus to rule in your life. And then pray for your husband. Ask God to heal him and nurture him, and most importantly save both of you out of the lies we are fed everyday and trust only the Bible. Information is changing everyday. But the Bible doesn’t change. If you put your trust in God, He will surely give you the sense of peace and joy and courage your husband yearns for and have not found so far.

    May God bless you.

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