Talking to a spouse about spending can be one of the most uncomfortable conversations you will ever have to have. Money is a touchy subject in many households, and people have the right to look at their money as their hard earned ticket to what they want. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for one spouse to bleed the family budget dry while the other spouse desperately tries to cover the bills that were left behind.
Approaching the subject is usually best done in calm moments they aren’t on either end of an important event. Bringing up the subject in the car on the way over to see the in laws might not create the best response. There may be some arguing, however you both have a valid right to help determine where money is spent.
The first suggested rule is to discuss the issue in a manner that doesn’t accuse and doesn’t place the other one the defensive. Saying things like ‘you’re drowning us,’ or ‘we’re going to end up bankrupt because of you,’ is really opening the door to a wicked argument. Suggesting that the two of you begin to implement a budget simply because you’re obviously not on the same financial page can be received well in most cases. Explaining that the bills aren’t getting paid on time or that you’re having to scrimp in other areas should bring home at the very least the idea that perhaps too much money is being spent and it should be discussed. On the other hand, money that is siphoning out of the checking account and being poured into a passionate hobby is not going to be easily forfeited.
Presenting an honest but firm assessment of the situation is important. Understanding that money is typically a shared arrangement in most marriages it is not uncommon for one spouse to be a little more responsible with money than the other spouse. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the irresponsible spouse has a free ticket to destroy the household finances, either. Starting from the beginning, some form of basic agreement should be in place to help ease these conversations into a familiar place. If a basic agreement was never put into place, then it is time to ask for one, something you can both live with. Some couples open a separate checking account that allows extra money to be deposited into it when appropriate for the frivolous spending of a spouse. Other couples can simply come up with a monthly ‘frivolous budget’ in order to protect the family bills from late notices and shut off dates.
How well the conversation goes depends in part on how well the two of you communicate as well as the level of respect you both have for each other. If the spending spouse doesn’t respect the other spouse’s opinion, little can be said outside of pointing out the lack of respect, and in severe cases, suggesting therapy.
Once the topic has been approached, it is up to the two of you to determine how to agreeably solve the problem. In many cases it is vital that you come to the table of discussion with an alternative plan already in mind, but remain open to possible ideas the spending spouse may offer. Negotiation and reasonable respect of the other’s feelings is part of the conversation, even when the spending habits are significantly out of control. Naturally, a financial crisis is going to take an immediate plan with immediate implementation.
Sometimes a spouse simply is unaware of the amount of money they have been spending and simply bringing up the topic for open conversation can clue them into the fact that the money tree stopped growing when they weren’t looking. In these cases, the conversation will be easy and smooth and the problem will resolve quickly and in some cases it will even improve your communication habits. In other cases, a spouse may actually be handling serious emotional stress with the joy of whipping out the credit card and not be overly concerned with what it is doing to the monthly bank statement. These conversations are going to be much more difficult and lead to rocky agreements and probably a few hurt feeling. While money is not the most argued about subject between American couples, it is certainly up on the top five portion of the list.
Talking to a spouse about spending should not have to be a tragic event for either of you. Sometimes opening up the conversation can lead to a previously unrecognized problem, such as a spouse’s feelings of inadequacy when compared with the neighbors or the fear of not providing well enough for the family’s needs. In other cases it may be a brewing addiction.
it’s not necessary to leap straight to the extreme of addiction, however for some people spending is an addiction. The introduction of the internet and the ability to spend large amounts of money within a short period of time has led to an increase in spending addictions. However, this is not the first stop on the list of possibilities and jumping the gun can be offensive to a significant other. Addiction becomes a possibility when the issue has been addressed numerous times and there is no change in the behavior, or the behavior increases during times of stress which can naturally be created by overspending.
When talking to a spouse about spending the main ingredient is keeping calm. No matter how or when you approach it, remaining calm and factual can take a lot of the emotional stress related to money right out of the picture, or at least encourage it to leave the picture.