Getting along with an over-spending spouse


Getting along with an over-spending spouseKnow that old joke about not reporting a stolen wallet? “I didn’t report it to police because the thief was charging less on the credit cards than my spouse.”  

For some, that joke rings more true than funny – an overspending spouse can make a budget-conscious spouse feel like they’ve been robbed.  Suppose you set aside fifty dollars for miscellaneous expenses through the week, pack lunches, stick to instant coffee and walk in the rain on a day when a cab would have been really nice.  Come Friday you’ve stuck to your budget, only to find your spouse spent $200 on yet another coffee machine…“because it was on sale”.  Your budget was raided just because your spouse wasn’t on the same financial page.  Now what?

First off, acknowledge (and seek acknowledgement) that their splurging habit has become your financial problem.  Next, use a family budget to demonstrate the effect of your prudence versus their indulgence on your combined and longer-term objectives.

Consider their possible reasons for overspending:

  • Awareness – didn’t know you were trying to save money
  • Selfishness – don’t care you were trying to save money
  • Generosity – spending for others is more important than saving for themselves
  • Short-sightedness – don’t understand the importance of saving money
  • Differing agenda – plan on saving money some other time
  • Excessive entitlement – think it’s okay to spend more because they earn more

Whatever the rationale, it has to be addressed if both parties have the same long-term goals.

At the same time, success in any relationship is about balance, so both spouses’ views have to be considered and accommodated.  After all, it’s okay to rob the piggy bank now and again as long as it’s your own piggy bank, and that family budget can really help clarify whose is whose.  Look at total net family income, less fixed expenses.  Then set amounts you both agree on for variable expenses.  The balance is available for debt reduction, spending and saving.  From there, you can determine an equal amount allocated to each spouse for spending.

By doing this, both spouses have their own piggy banks to spend as they please while the family budget is securely in place for the long term.  If the spendthrift spouse continues to exceed their own limits, professional help should be sought (counselling, not the cops!)

By getting on the same page, relationships will get stronger while the frugal spouse enjoys some indulgences from their diligence and the spendthrift spouse starts to appreciate the idea that the more money saved today means more financial security tomorrow.

To get another perspective on your family finances, contact your EFAP to speak to a counsellor or get some financial advice to help you reach your goals.