It’s all too common: one spouse saves while the other spends, and it’s driving you crazy since you can’t meet any of your financial goals. Couples have been divided into these two categories for ages—often where the wife is the big-spending shopaholic and the husband is trying to keep up with paying off the credit cards.
Stereotypes aside, however, anyone can be the big spender in the relationship. Any outgoing money can turn into a serious problem without a budget and self-control, and any couple who continue down such a path will find themselves in a financial crisis.
If your partner is a major spender—or even a shopaholic—it is likely very frustrating and difficult to deal with. In order to combat this, you and your partner need to find common ground and work together to be on the same page about spending and saving. Here are some suggestions for finding a healthy financial balance in your relationship.
Discuss your financial concerns with your partner and let them know how you feel about your financial habits and theirs. Let them know exactly what you think the differences are and offer some suggestions to meet common goals. Talk regularly, and even consider setting aside a night to focus on your financial health: the two of you can talk openly, listen to each other, and strategize on future financial goals.
Devising and implementing a budget is one of the best ways to control your spending habits and create less financial stress and frustration between you and your spouse. This also helps the two of you be on the same page and know what comes in and goes out of your household. Too many couples have set up where one partner pays the bills and the other is basically in the dark.
Educate your partner, even if they don’t pay the bills, as to expenses and income and show it to them on paper. Very often this will help them have a better understanding of where you are financially. Set limits on certain spending and even consider how you are spending to limit temptations. Once you’ve drawn the line with your partner’s spending habits you can set guidelines on what you should and should not be spending money on. Be sure to discuss this together and make a note of what your needs are versus your wants when planning a budget together.
Encourage your spouse to put down the credit cards and use a budgeted amount of cash each week. You can easily set aside certain expenses that are to be paid with cash only or a limited debit or prepaid credit card on things such as groceries. Both of you should follow suit and use the cash-only rule. Leaving the cards at home and bringing a budgeted amount of cash with you on shopping trips will force you to stay within your budget. Don’t close your account or cut up the cards (unless it’s absolutely necessary)—just put them away in a drawer. Even consider putting your credit card(s) in a bag of water, and store them in the freezer, so they are out of sight, out of mind, and you’ll have plenty of time to think if you should use them as you watch the block of ice thaw.
Try to hold bi-weekly or monthly meetings with your partner to discuss your financial progress together, and to see what is working and what is not. You should also be looking at both of your credit reports at least once a year. Knowing what’s on each other’s reports can help you both maintain good credit and be in the know about spending. By reviewing your reports, you will be able to catch fraud and inaccurate information sooner, and see what debt your partner has (that you may not have known otherwise).
Communicating more frequently with one another can decrease the likelihood of a misunderstanding occurring between both of you. This also forces you to be honest with each other about your spending habits, and you might find you can make more progress in getting your finances together than if you had not had these discussions.
There is a way to go about confronting your partner regarding their spending habits, but if you yell, scream, and attack them, you won’t find it very productive. Write down your thoughts and feelings and address them when you are calmer and when your spouse is receptive to hearing your side. So many couples fight over money, and while it’s common, you can find a way to discuss why you don’t see that their way is helping your relationship and collaborative lifestyle.
Sometimes, if talking doesn’t work, the two of you need to make a decision to seek outside help to work through your financial issues, so it doesn’t cause your relationship to sour. Either way finding common ground and listening to why they did what they did may offer you insight into helping them curb spending in the future.
In order to fix this problem, you both must be in the know. Take a look at all bills and where all of your money is going. If one of you can go into a store with a list and come out with only those items, then that’s the partner to do the shopping. Know your limits and agree to help each other out. You may be tempted to give up on saving if your spouse isn’t meeting you halfway and causing an inability to save. This will not solve the problem, but only make it worse. It may take some time to get through to your spouse and motivate them to want to save, but until then, you should continue to lead by example and avoid splurging or spending outside of the budget.
It is great to use credit cards for the sake of building credit, obtaining rewards, or even save at the register. However, the savings can be far outweighed by the cost of purchasing on credit. There is also a cost if you do a balance transfer. It looks appealing, but there are balance transfer costs, and the ultimate interest rate may be higher than the one you have now. Adding those up, you may find the interest you’re paying now is actually less than those other costs together. It is extremely common that people spend too much on their credit cards and fail to pay their balances on time and/or in full. Not paying off credit cards has become one of the leading causes of debt.
For this reason, it is a good idea to use your cards sparingly (if at all), so that the balance is low and you can pay it off quickly. If you don’t think your spouse can handle using a credit card, you should make the shopping trips where a credit card is necessary.
Set financial goals to work toward for the future together. You may want a big savings account, an emergency fund, or to start saving for retirement. Discuss how those goals will help to set both of you up for future financial success and create a better financial future together. Working together towards a common goal will bring you closer and create a common bond.
It’s not easy at times to deal with a partner who can spend beyond your combined means. If your partner has an addiction to spending, encourage he or she to attend Debtors Anonymous meetings or talk to an addiction specialist. If you talk it out with each other and work together to spend less and save more, there’s a greater chance you’ll be able to get your finances in order and create the financial future you envision together!
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