The Perils of an Overspending Spouse

For married couples, one of the vital ingredients to a successful debt reduction strategy is that both people maintain an open line of communication and share common goals. Unfortunately, it is far too common to hear of couples where one spouse is diligently working to reduce their debt while the other spouse continues to spend money.

Taking things a step further, there are even instances where one spouse goes so far as to hide their overspending from the other spouse. Obviously, this can have disastrous results and lead to even more debt, not to mention additional problems with the relationship.

If you find yourself in a relationship with an overspending spouse, here are a few potential ideas on strategies that might help solidify your relationship with respect to financial matters:

  • Create goals together. While you have a clear picture of your goals, are you sure that your spouse shares the same goals? It is quite possible that your spouse has a different set of goals that are being ignored in favor of your own goals. Sit down together and discuss the goals that each of you have and develop a plan that will allow you to meet those goals.
  • Use an allowance. At first it may feel like you are 9 years old again with an allowance, but this strategy can really work wonders. Often times, one spouse may be overspending as a result of feeling too confined by a budget or spending plan. Sit down together and determine a dollar amount that is reasonable for each of you. Some people like to do a weekly allowance while others may prefer a monthly allowance. The important thing is that the allowance should be used to cover all unplanned expenses, such as a coffee at Starbucks or eating out for lunch at work. Once the allowance has been used, the spending must stop. Also, it is essential that neither spouse judge the other for how they are spending their allowance.
  • Attend a class together. There are many community colleges or local organizations that offer basic classes on budgeting and personal finance. In some cases, the overspending spouse may simply be spending as a rebellion against a feeling of being controlled by the other spouse. When hearing financial advice from an impartial party, the overspending spouse may embrace the changes more readily.
  • All cash, all the time. Some people find that using an all cash system will help curb any cases of overspending. The all cash system relates well to using an allowance. The convenience of credit and debit cards can often lead to impulse buying and overspending on small ticket items. If you do not have cash in your pocket, you pass on the purchase.

For additional ideas, check out 9 ways to rein in a spendthrift spouse by Liz Pulliam Weston. If you have your own tips on overspending spouses, please Contact Us or share your thoughts below.

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3 Responses

  1. JEANNE says:

    The allowance idea works for us. (I’d like it if his was a bit smaller, but he disagrees so I don’t push it 😉

  2. Amy says:

    My husband withdrew money and didn’t tell me, putting us in a MAJOR bind. So, I took away his cards (because he said it was a temptation having them) and wrote up his debt. He’s paying it off with his monthly allowance. After that, he’ll have cash from now on. I’m glad I found this site. I thought I was the only one who had to deal with an overspending spouse.

    • mnc says:

      Amy, thanks for sharing your situation. The important element underlying your comment is the importance of communication. Had you been aware of the withdrawal, you might not have been put in a major bind (or at least been better prepared for it).

      Keep the communication open between both of you and it will help avoid the surprising situations.

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