What if you and your spouse/partner have different spending habits?

Why is there no place on an online dating profile to describe your spending habits? Why do we fall in love with people who are so different than we are about money? I can’t answer these questions, but I can give you a few tips on what to do if you marry someone with vastly different spending habits than you have.

Although this subject deserves a book not a blog post, if you’re the thrifty one, here are things NOT TO DO:

  • Do not try to change your spouse’s spending habits (yes, I know how hard it is)
  • Do not question every purchase your spouse makes (“are those new?”)
  • Do not obsessively check MINT or your online account, it won’t change anything
  • Do not buy less trying to compensate for his/her over buying (yes, you know you do it)
  • Do not get irritable, passive aggressive or resentful and blow up about the dishwasher not being unloaded when really you’re worried about money
  • Do not try to make your spouse keep a line by line budget, count purchases or report to you in any other way.
  • If you’re the spender, do not tell your spouse to relax, back-off, or leave you alone

None of this will change his/her habits. It will just breed resentment and anger, and ALL you really want (or should want) is to know you’re spending less than you earn each month and saving for the future.

Instead of trying to change your spouse, work with their money habits. Here’s what you should do if you’re in either role (spender or thrifty):

  • Figure out the hotspots in your monthly spending where you/your spouse seems to spend or micromange a lot. It’s rarely the electric bill. It’s usually groceries, kid’s activities, clothes, take-out, entertainment or vacations.
  • Together, agree monthly (or annual) budgets for those hotspot categories ONLY and divide the budget between you based on who is more involved, i.e. if you go grocery shopping mostly, you should have more of the grocery budget.
  • DO NOT ASK HOW THE MONEY IS BEING SPENT as long as both of you are keeping to your allotted amounts for that particular hotspot each month or each year.
  • Together, AGREE an amount you want to save each month or put toward debt pay-down or any other goal. Make sure you keep this number in mind when you agree budgets for hotspot categories.
  • Do an auto-transfer of the amount you want to save on the first of the month into a savings account, so you know that money is being saved regardless of how spending goes on the rest of the money.
  • Let go of worrying about every little expense and think only about what you want to save and making sure you keep to your OVERALL budget for your hotspots.