What to do when you can't get them to stop spending
How to Stop an Overspending Spouse
by Pam Hutzler
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Stop the Spending
You drive a beat up car from a different decade. Your spouse drives a shiny new SUV. You shop the clearance racks and second hand stores. Your spouse pays full retail at all times. You want to save, but your spouse wants to spend, spend, spend. Does this sound familiar? If so, you're probably married to an overspending spouse. And, according to Divorce.com, one of the most common causes of divorce is money. When couples fail to agree on how money is handled, it can cause serious problems in a relationship that is often hard to repair.
So how do you deal with a spouse that spends money like it grows on trees? Here are a few tips that will help you deal with an overspending spouse while keeping the peace and improving the situation.
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Be Loving in Your Approach
The absolute worst thing you can do is begin this discussion with accusations and anger. If you don't want your spouse to shut down and tune you out, then you need to avoid inflammatory remarks that will only drive a wedge between the two of you. The better approach is to be open and honest in a very loving manner.
For example, explain that you want to start watching spending habits as a couple and then start a discussion from there. Or discuss ways to save up for something really important like retirement or a dream vacation. It's probably a good reminder to avoid statements that begin something like "You never..." or "I always..." Never and always are extremes to avoid. It's best to find ways to meet in the middle and work together as a team.
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Set Up or Revisit Your Budget
If you do not have a budget in place, now is a good time to work on one together. If you do have one, maybe it's time to revisit or revise it to make it fit your current situation better. Work with your spouse to figure out your total income and total expenditures. The ultimate goal is for your overspending spouse to begin to see without any nagging from you that his/her frivolous spending is causing you to go into debt or preventing you from saving and reaching goals.
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How to Control Spending
You've completed the budget step and your spouse has seen the error of his/her ways. Now, it's time to figure out how to control the spending. One good way is to utilize a cash-only system. For instance, maybe you allow $200 per week for food, which needs to include three daily meals and snacks for the week. Once the $200 is spent, there is no more cash available. Suddenly, a $30 weekday lunch at a favorite bistro doesn't seem quite as attractive or affordable. Let's face it... It's more painful in the short term to spend cash than it is to whip out the plastic. Therefore, a cash-only system will go a long way towards cutting the spending.
Another smart tip is to combine a reward with a possible expenditure. For instance, maybe your spouse wants a new laptop. Suggest that he use his leftover lunch money to buy his new computer. Maybe he has a $10 a day allowance for lunch. Whatever is left at the end of the day can go into his "laptop jar." You'll soon see creativity with leftovers and sack lunches as your spouse quickly understands that less money spent on lunch equates to a new laptop sooner rather than later. Have a goal and an incentive, but make sure that your spouse doesn't feel deprived or manipulated.
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Set Realistic Long-Term Goals
You've talked to your spouse, set up a workable budget, and figured out how to control spending. Now, as a couple, you need something that you're mutually working towards. In other words, you need goals. Maybe you dream about home ownership or a cushy retirement in a tropical area. Or maybe you want to send your kids to the best of schools or wish that you had an emergency fund in place that would carry your family through even the hardest of times. Do you need to get out of debt? Here's an important goal to consider. This is where you come together as a team with your mutual eyes on the prize.
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Stay on Top of It
Reaching financial goals is a process. It's not going to happen overnight. Also, if you have one spouse that has bad money habits to break, it may take more time as better habits need to be established. Therefore, make it a point to have regular discussions about your progress and make adjustments as necessary. Also, use this time to recognize and praise positive steps towards your mutual goals.
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When You Need a Little Extra Help
Maybe you've gone through all these steps and you still don't see a change. Don't lose hope. There are plenty of resources available to you. Get your hands on a copy of Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin, Joe Dominguez, and Monique Tilford or Dave Ramsey's The Total Money Makeover.
Possibly you need third party reinforcement. If this is the case, call your local community college to see if they offer classes on debt management. You may also want to look into classes being offered at local churches. Many recognize that financial differences cause marital issues and want to help by offering such classes to the public. Hearing from an "expert" third party may be just what's needed.
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Until Death, Not Debt, Do Us Part...
Remember that it's a journey. There will be good financial days when all the right things are done. And, unfortunately, there will be bad financial days. What's important is that you don't give up on your team effort. Try to put the bad behind you and stay focused on and true to your marriage and your long-term financial goals.
Take the Next Step:
- Consider whether you might be the reason your spouse overspends.
- Learn how you both can break bad financial habits.
- Discover more ways to improve your finances without hurting your marriage by visiting the Dollar Stretcher Library.
- Stop allowing debt to prevent you from doing the things you want. These 6 steps to getting out of debt can solve that problem. Get started today!
- Get control of your financial life. Subscribe to Financial Independence, a free daily email that provides you with the tools to help you gain that control and achieve financial independence. Subscribers get a copy of Are You Heading for Debt Trouble? A Simple Checklist for FREE!
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