Cathy was surprised when her husband, Jack, walked in with a big smile and the latest touch-screen computer tablet under his arm. He’d commented about upgrading to a new electronic device but never said that he was going to pull the trigger. When she saw Joe’s expensive new toy, she wondered how it would affect their budget. She had no problem enjoying new purchases, but not at the expense of her peace of mind. Jack’s habit of bringing home expensive toys made Cathy wonder how they would save for their kid’s college tuition or fund their retirement accounts.
What to Say:
Cathy: Wow, that’s a cool gadget. But, we didn’t have money set aside for it. It upset me that you made such a big purchase without talking it over first. I feel like you are spending money that we don’t have on expensive things that we don’t need.
Jack: What am I supposed to do? If I ask you before I buy something, you’ll just say “no.”
Cathy: That’s not true. We recently agreed to get new cell phones.
Jack: But, I worked hard to earn this device. I need some kind of reward. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
Cathy: When you bring home an expensive purchase without telling me, I feel nervous that we’re not using our money wisely. Plus, it makes me not trust you. I need to know that you’ll keep me in the loop before buying a high-priced goodie.
Jack: Okay, I’ll tell you ahead of time as long as you don’t act like the financial police.
Cathy: As long as we have a plan to maintain our financial peace of mind, I’ll enjoy your goodies with you.
Why This Works:
Couples should plan ahead and agree on a budget for their hobbies. Arguing over money is an emotional sign that the husband and wife aren’t on the same page. In that situation, it’s beneficial to establish some spending guidelines. Those agreements will vary from couple to couple. For example, some couples will agree not to question each other’s purchases if they fall under a certain dollar amount. Other couples will have a budgeted amount for free spending.
What Doesn’t Work:
When discussing a sensitive issue, it’s counterproductive to use all-encompassing words, such as “always” and “never.” For instance, don’t say, “You always spend too much money.” Using those types of words can make the other person feel like you’re being unfair and invalidating. Marriage shouldn’t feel like a battle. When you disagree, show your spouse that you’re still on their side by using words or phrases, such as “sometimes,” “in this situation,” or “I feel like this.”
Try This Activity:
In order to prevent sudden surprises with expensive purchases, talk with your spouse about your budget for “fun money.” Determine the level that makes you both feel comfortable. Consider these questions:
- What level of freedom are you comfortable establishing for miscellaneous purchases?
- Is there a certain expenditure amount that should always be discussed beforehand?
- Do either of you feel like current spending limits should be raised or lowered?
- Can you avoid putting one another on a guilt trip if expenditures are kept within the agreed amounts?