Solutions to a common problem: a spouse who won't stop spending money

Stop That Overspending Spouse

TDS Reader Solutions

My Husband Won"t Stop Spending Money!

Does anyone have ideas on how to get a husband to stop spending? He thinks nothing of stopping at a store for lunch, coffee, donuts, soda, etc. daily. His response is "I only spent $7." He will not get involved in paying bills and planning is not in his vocabulary, yet he wants it all now. We paid cash for a small camper (camping is cheap and loads of fun) last summer and decided to keep it for two to three years, but now he needs a bigger and better camper or he just won't have fun. We have discussed buying a newer, larger camper next spring. If the spending stops, we would be able to pay cash and buy a camper for about $3,000, which could last us many years.

We have discussed paying off our debt, which is one credit card at $1,500, a vehicle payment, mortgage of $65,000 and a small home improvement loan. I want these paid off within 5 years as we are considering private school for our two children in about 4 years. Can anyone offer advice for getting my husband to stop spending money?

Motivational Reading

After my husband read the first half of Dominguez's book Your Money or Your Life, he was cured! It's in paperback and most libraries have it as well.

Goal Oriented

Unless he has financial goals, it's unlikely that he'll get with the financial plan. You're clear on what you want, but what does he want? Once you find out what he wants, prepare a budget that will allow him to meet his goals. Then, ask him if he'd agree to lock up the credit and bank cards and go to a "cash only" system.

Don't be too tight with the budget or he won't "buy in." While you're very clear on what you want for the future, he may perceive your plans as controlling. The reason that he's digging in his heels may have more to do with his feeling that you've planned your family's future without considering what he wants.

Related: Successfully Setting Monetary Goals

Budget Reinforcement

The most important method I used to 'convert' a spender was to set specific goals for our money. It was very hard for my wife to save money just for fun. However, once we set goals, it was much easier.

We wanted to have a house and for her to stay at home with our son. We established a budget with flexibility where she wanted it (some dinners out, trips to family, etc.) She had full input into the goals and budget. Then we tracked the budget over two months. We saw where our $7 lunch here and there really added up. I was very supportive of my wife. I didn't look over her shoulder nor second guess her decisions. I just kept our goal in front of her and showed our progress. This worked for us.

I would sit down with your husband in a non-threatening setting. Talk to him about your short and long term goals (not just financial...importance of private schools, improving the house, vacations, etc...) Let him talk about his goals. Ask open and closed ended questions to help him explore the future he wants. Write all this down. Create a list with your goals combined and set $$ for each. This will shape your budget. Involve your husband in the monthly budget summary. Show him the successes.

Is your family heading for debt trouble? Many families are and don't even know it. This simple checklist can help you determine if you are and what you can do to avoid it.

All Cash

We have gone to an all-cash system in the last 2 years and it has cut down on our incidental spending so much. We have taken a class through our church that taught us the logistics, but basically, all you do is allot a certain amount a week for your husband's daily stuff. When that allowance is gone, he doesn't buy anything else. Take the gas cards away except for the days you know he needs gas, and that won't be a problem either.
Shelley D.

Related: 10 Reasons to Use a Cash-Only Spending Plan

Save It Yourself!

When my husband wanted to upgrade his computer, I told him to save his lunch money. We agreed on a $10 a day allowance for lunch. Whatever was left over at the end of the day went into his "computer" jar. He soon became creative with leftovers and sack lunches. The $10 included any drink purchases. If he bought a soda, he had less to put in his jar. He had a goal, an incentive, but the guidelines weren't so rigid that he felt deprived and he was working for his own reward. Tell your husband to save his lunch money, and when he has enough, he can get his new camper.

Related: Could You Be Causing Your Spouse to Overspend?

Quicken Helps

My hubby is a reformed spend-thrift. I got Quicken several years ago and have been tracking the finances that way ever since. The latest version has a debt reduction calculator and it takes you step-by-step through the ways to get out of debt. At the end, it calculates how much interest you will save by paying off your debts sooner, rather than later. That is what got his attention. We can be debt-free in 5 years. We've been doing this for 2 years already covertly, of course, since I manage the money! We will save $84,000 in interest! That's more than what we owe on our house, and it really got his attention.

Not sure where to start with making a budget? The affordable Home Budget Spreadsheet from makes budgeting simple.

Starter Help

If you have a spendthrift spouse who cannot see the benefit of saving small amounts of money, you may have to do the work for them at first. Try sending him to work with a small cooler filled with cold drinks and his favorite snacks. Even 'pricey' snacks are cheaper at the grocery than from a vending machine or convenience store. If he has an office or locker at work, it's even easier to keep him stocked with a variety of goodies - - my husband always has snacks plus items such as canned soups and instant oatmeal at work.

The laziness factor may be enough to get him to grab one of your snacks instead of stopping at the store. This will not cure him right away, but if it prevents two out five expensive snack stops at first, it's a help!

Two other quick ideas:

  1. Do the math for him. If you don't spend your usual $7 for just half the working days this month, that's $70 to $80! That's more than $800 if you do that all year! Try to show how this gets him closer to his goal of a new camper. Some people honestly have never thought of it this way.
  2. Use rewards. Let him spend half the money he saves in a month by not eating pricey snacks on something totally fun, frivolous, and guilt-free. It can be a slow process, but don't give up. Reformed spendthrifts are like reformed smokers. They are the most dedicated to the cause.


Third Party Reinforcement

I had the same type of problem with my hubby. Despite my persistent pleading he kept charging things and kept saying that the balance on our credit card was "not that bad."

I signed us up for a get out of debt class at our community college. It cost about $50 for both of us. It was worth a hundred times that amount. We paid off our credit cards within a year and started a savings plan. I got out of some bad habits too. It was easy for him to see that we were really throwing away money on interest, lunches and meals out.

Hearing from an "expert" third party on the subject was just what he needed. After the class he became quite aware of spending. In fact sometimes it gets annoying. Remember: there is no one more critical than a reformed spendthrift.

Reviewed January 2018

Take the Next Step:

  • Wouldn't you like to know why people spend too much? Here are the top 10 reasons people over-spend.
  • Is your overspending spouse retired? Take a look at these suggestions on how to get your retired spouse to stop spending like they are still working.
  • Don't allow debt to prevent you from providing for your family the way you would like. Find out how to conquer your debt by creating a plan personalized to your family's budget and lifestyle. Start today so you can give your family a better tomorrow.
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