How To Budget With An Overspending Spouse

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submitted by Tim Goodwin

Setting a clear, defined budget for your household is critical for keeping expenses in check. But what if your spouse is a big spender? Believe it or not, “shopping addiction” is real, and it’s no joke. When certain behaviors, including shopping, trigger the same neural pathways often effected by narcotics, the behavior can become compulsive. People have even become addicted to online shopping. The formal medical name for this condition is “oniomania.”

However, we should not assume all big spenders have a mental illness. Some people just aren’t good with money, or have poor impulse control, making rash purchases.

Either way, living with an overspending spouse can be incredibly frustrating. So, what can you do when your spouse keeps blowing your budget?

Is Your Spouse Being Honest With You?

When you share finances with anyone, honesty is critical. However, you’d be surprised how many people hide their spending habits from their partner. According to a study from CreditCards.com, nearly 20% of consumers have hidden purchases of $500 or more from their signifiant other. In addition, almost 7.2 million people are hiding a bank account or a credit card.

While most people aren't being sneaky with their finances, it’s still quite common for couples to butt heads over money decisions. Some people are frugal and are concerned with long-term savings. Others take a “devil may care” approach, having no problem with reckless spending.

So, what do you do when you’re financially responsible, but your partner keeps spending all of your money? Not only is this a financial problem potentially leaving you vulnerable to credit card debt and low savings, but it's a relationship dilemma. Whether it is causing strain now or not, you both need to have some hard conversations about money

Here are some suggestions for working together to reign in a habit of overspending.

Have Regular Money Meetings

If you and your partner share finances together, you need to be having regular conversations about money. Talking about your finances may be uncomfortable, but ignoring the problem will not resolve the underlying issues. Money scares people. It's no wonder 47% of couples name financial disagreements as a primary cause of relationship stress.

Without these conversations, the overspending may go unnoticed by one or both of you. Set a monthly date to talk seriously about your income, budget and other financial concerns. While no two people share the exact same philosophy about money, talking through these issues may provide you both with new insight.

Set Aside "Fun" Money

Create a checking account specifically dedicated to “fun money,” which can be spent on anything. When it runs out, it runs out, at least until the next paycheck. This account can allow for spending sprees without risking the budget.

Avoid Financial Power Struggles

In a healthy relationship, both parties are equal partners. However, if one spouse is overspending and damaging the shared finances, the other spouse may need to establish some spending restrictions. This can leave the overspender feeling resentful. If the relational strain from financial discussions reach unhealthy levels, you may want to seek out couple’s therapy.

Don't Hesitate To Seek Help

Shopping addictions are a real phenomenon. When buying things becomes a compulsion, the person may less control over their behavior than they think they do. While not a frequent addiction, it does happen and should be taken seriously. If your significant other has a shopping addiction, cognitive behavioral therapy or other approaches may be viable avenues for help.

Learning To Work Together

If you do have a partner who spends too much and saves too little, it's time to have a conversation. Talk through the consequences of the behavior and work toward a solution both parties can support. Even if professional help becomes necessary, the investment is worth the reward. 

While navigating money decisions together isn’t easy, it's critical for maintaining a healthy and financially sound relationship. The work begins now.