Tips to Control Spending When Both Spouses are Spenders

Posted by Adrienne on June 19, 2014

We recently covered 5 Ways to Save Money When Your Spouse is a Spender. However, how do you save money when both spouses are spenders? Let’s tackle another money relationship question on our path to help you manage money in your marriage:

What do you do if both you and your spouse are spenders?


Photo credit: Jason Dean

How to Get Started

Recognize you have a spending problem. First of all it’s great that you realize that the both of you are spenders. One of the hardest things about living with someone who views things the same way you do is that it can be hard to realize there’s a problem. “I spent $500 shopping but he just took 10 people out to dinner so it’s all good.”

Plan to change your behavior. Changing behavior is hard but it can be done. Instead of looking at the negative sides of having two spenders in the family try to look at the positive sides – you’ll have someone with you who knows exactly what you’re going through. If you can support each other through this it can make you both stronger.

Set goals. So how do you get out of the spending cycle you’re both in? It starts with your goals. What do the two of you want out of life? Make a list. Put everything down and then decide what the top 2-3 goals are for you as a family. Maybe you want to change jobs, have more time together, get out of debt, be able to pay your bills on time, vacation in Alaska. Whatever your goals are make sure they are meaningful to you. Don’t just put something down because you think you’re supposed to.

Ask yourself why. Think through the “whys” of your list. Why do you want to get out of debt? If your reason is because you think you’re supposed to I don’t think you’ll get very far. If it’s because the worry makes it hard to sleep at night or that it’s keeping you working overtime that you hate then the reason becomes more personal.

Work together as a couple. It’s important to do this as a couple because you should understand each other’s reasoning. You can have the same goal but different reasons for the goal. This will help you support each other.

Create a budget. Sitting together and drawing up a budget might seem like a miserable exercise but it will help you both align your spending with your goals.

Create Spending Rules

Ask yourself before buying. When either of you is thinking of spending you should ask yourself “Do I want X more than I want to reach my goal?” There is no right answer but it will help you decide in a way that is right for you. Also it gives you back the power. You’re not spending mindlessly but with a choice. You’re not out of money – you decided to spend your money on something that was more important to you than your goal.

Implement joint decision making. Now the important thing to remember is that you’re individuals. You’re not going to answer that question the same way every time. How do you deal with those differences? There are a couple of tactics you can use. One is to decide that any purchase over $X must be a joint decision. Another is to each take a small allowance which you can spend any way you choose. The rest of the money is jointly decided.

Plan for Mistakes

Once you have your goals and your budget and whatever rules you’ve put in place to limit your spending then one or both of you at some point is going to make “a mistake”. Change is hard and chances are that the both of you won’t be perfect from the start. This is the really important part. Here you have a choice. You can get mad and blame and give up or you can support the other person, realize that you’re making progress, and move forward. Know ahead of time that you’ll be in this position and think of how you want to respond to it before it comes up. It’s the response (not the mistake) that will determine your success going forward. Best of luck to you both!

Are you and your spouse both spenders? How do you control spending in your marriage?

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