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Budgeting Challenges of an Overspending Spouse
Money woes are the death of more marriages than anything else . When spouses have different approaches to money, it can cause significant stress in a marriage. So, what do you do when one spouse is a spender and one is a saver? How do you learn to work together for a financial goal?
Make a plan together
Want to find a solution to marital money woes? Make it a problem you tackle together. If the focus is on “fixing” the person who spends too much according to the person who would like to save more, it’s not about money, it’s about a person. Instead of approaching the problem from opposite sides, approach it together.
What do both of you want to do with your money? What are your goals? If you have wildly different goals and approaches to money, you may need help reaching a common plan. It’s not about one partner telling the other how it needs to be – this is something that can only be done jointly.
Bring in a professional
If you haven’t been able to find a balance between two different money viewpoints, bring in a professional. A financial counselor will provide a neutral party who can help you create a specific plan. Then it’s less about one person bossing around another, it’s about both of you being bossed around by the wise financial planner.
There is a much more balanced feel when an expert tells you both how much to save each month for emergency funds. Or helps you create a step-by-step plan to repair bad credit. It’s hard to argue with the expert, and it’s nice to have someone else to “blame” when it feels tough.
Make it about the numbers, not emotions
Accusations of poor spending choices will create serious drama in your family. Numbers, however, tend to feel far less impersonal. Rather than saying, “You spent too much on fast food last month,” you can approach the problem as, “Did you realize we spent more than $400 on fast food last month?”
It’s hard to argue with numbers, so make your plans about numbers. Make spreadsheets or use finance apps to monitor where and how the money goes. Set up a regular meeting to check in on the numbers – not on one person’s spending versus another’s.
Set clear boundaries
Good fences make good neighbors. Good boundaries make a good marriage. In your financial discussions, it is important to set very clear, very specific boundaries.
Your boundaries might include:
- How many credit cards each person should have and use.
- If spouses need to check in with each other for certain purchases, say over $100.
- If a joint checking account is used only for bills, or for other purchases as well.
- How much each partner is contributing to the monthly budget.
- How much you are saving each month for emergencies and other goals.
- How much “fun money” each partner can spend every month with no restrictions.
Set a realistic budget
When you’re first setting a budget, it is tempting to be as strict as possible. After all, the less you spend, the more you save! But there is a significant downside to making a super strict budget with someone who is not used to very specific limits.
It makes far more sense to make a realistic budget rather than a strict one. Nobody likes to feel deprived. If you are looking to cut costs, you don’t have to cut things out completely. For example, you might only get fast food three times a week instead of six or seven times. Or make a hair appointment every six weeks instead of every four.
It’s easier to think of a budget as trimming the fat rather than eliminating it completely. Having a plan that feels comfortable and includes many of the things we enjoy most will make it much more sustainable. Using the real numbers from your spending might make it easier to cut back in certain areas to allow yourself more joy (and spending) in others.
RELATED: Does Your Spouse’s Credit Affect Your Credit Score?
Make it easy to be successful
Simple is best when it comes to budgets and a successful financial plan, especially if someone is having to break bad spending habits. There are many ways you can simplify your finances to make it easy to be successful with your new plans.
- Use a personal loan to pay off multiple smaller debts. Then put those cards away (to avoid filling them up again), and make single monthly payments to clear the debt entirely. Personal loans typically come with smaller interest rates and a set payment schedule making them far easier to manage. This will boost your credit rating as well.
- Use a financial app that automatically syncs your credit cards and bank activity in real time. You’ll be able to see your purchases, see your budget categories and stay right on track with all of your spending just by clicking on the app.
- Use direct deposit and automatic transfers. Want to save $200 per month? Get it automatically transferred out of your account the moment you get paid. You don’t see it? It’s easy to save it.
A marriage is a partnership. Both partners must be committed to a plan of action to see it through. Focus on the plan and get help if you need it to get started on the right foot, and hopefully stay there.