The Moneyist: I received a 30% pay raise, but my girlfriend is struggling financially. I would like to treat myself to a new car. Should I buy it?

Dear Quentin,

I have a question for you that’s been weighing on me.

I’m in my mid-30’s, and my career is finally really hitting its stride. I just changed jobs and received a 30% wage increase, to a level I didn’t think I’d be at for years.

On the other hand, my girlfriend, who I love very much, is in the opposite scenario. She’s been trying to find her path, working part time, and trying to start her own business, but she doesn’t have her nose to the grindstone the way I’d expect. Which admittedly is another issue.

I want to get rid of my practical little second-hand commuter car that I bought years ago, and get something fun, like a Miata, as a bit of a reward to myself. I feel weird splurging on something fun like this for myself when she is sometimes stressed about money.

But I feel like it’s a result of the work we both put into our careers. Do I even bring this up with her? Do I just go for it? Our finances aren’t linked beyond us living together, and my raise would more than cover the cost of the car, so it wouldn’t affect our standard of living.

Any insight is appreciated.

Reservedly Upwards

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Dear Reservedly Upwards,

There’s a fine line between joint finances and codependent finances. Some couples disagree about whether debts should be shared, while others happily keep all finances separate. You don’t appear to fall into either camp. Not yet, at least. Still, these things must be handled with care.

You are in a committed relationship, live in the same house, share the bills, but you are on different career trajectories. It may be that your girlfriend’s career that is underpaid — similar to this recent letter — but you don’t need anyone’s permission to buy this new car.

As I said, it does not mean that it should not be done delicately. Ask her opinion on the car to involve her somewhat in the process, but stop short of justifying why you are buying it. Say something like, “This is a good opportunity for me to upgrade my car. What do you think of this one?”

But there would be nothing worse than going on and on about this purchase, so I would be very careful about leaving brochures all over the house, or expressing your anxieties over the new car by talking about it a lot. That said, it sounds like you are already cognizant of that. 

The Miata is a smart, modestly priced car, at least compared to a Tesla
Make the purchase in the context of your other financial priorities — retirement savings, for instance, and plans to buy a home if you don’t currently own one — so you don’t end up with the advice I gave this guy.

Save driving. Enjoy your new wheels — guilt-free. You deserve it. Your girlfriend will — in all likelihood — be very happy for you, and support your purchase. Hopefully, one of her business ventures will take off, and in a couple of years, she will be the one asking the same question.

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The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

More from Quentin Fottrell:

‘I just don’t trust my sister’: How do I gift money to my nieces without their mother having access to it?

We’re getting married and have a baby on the way. My wife has offered to pay off my $10,000 student debt and $7,500 car loan

I have three children. I quitclaimed my house to my most responsible son. Now he has blocked my calls

My brother-in-law died, leaving his house in a mess. His landlord wants me to repaint and replace the carpet. What should we do?

This post was originally published on Market Watch

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