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How to teach spending spouse self-control?

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    How to teach spending spouse self-control?

    I'm a saver, investor, and generally frugal, and as seems to happen, I married a spender. Though we talked about money and seemed to understand each other, the reality has been that while we are otherwise pretty happily married, financially we are still single. Whenever we have had a joint account or assets, she eventually spent it all. Setting limits or budgets did not work.
    She has worked corporate jobs, high-end consulting, and now a "fill-in" retail job, yet somehow when the job is over, she's broke with nothing to show for it. We had joint stocks as a wedding gift, but I had to sell them to pay off a tumbling house of credit cards.

    Every year at Christmas my parents give each of us the max tax-free cash gift to reduce their estate. With my gift, I fund my Roth and put the rest into home improvement and repair. This year I got my wife to budget her gift, she opened a Roth, paid for interior house painting, and supposedly set aside money for expensive dental work and a dream trip to Italy.

    I thought we had turned a corner on money problems. Now I find out her store manager boss is trying to fire her, she spent the money for our vacation, and has been spending 25% of her income on clothes at her store.

    I pay all our joint expenses, bills, mortgage, etc. and feel like a chump, that rather than helping her get it together I'm enabling further irresponsibility. We're not kids, either- she's 50! I am afraid she is going to lose this job before finally finding another professional one, and I will be stuck paying for all her bills, too.

    Does anyone have any constructive ideas on how to deal with this?

    #2
    It use to be that my husband and I both worked. ( I have now retired) I always handled all the money in the family. I cashed his pay check and gave him an allowance each week. If he needed something that he could not pay for with his allowance (tools, for example), we discussed it and decided if we could afford it or not.
    Could you handle all the money and just give your wife an allowance each week?

    Comment


      #3
      Does she want to change? Is she willing to only use cash and no credit? She has to see the wrong in her ways or she won't change.

      Comment


        #4
        She is on a cash or debit card basis only now, no credit cards. She recognizes the damage she does after the fact- eventually. Like now we have no vacation planned. The ideas of "No" or "Wait" or "I can't afford it" don't occur to her if she has money in the bank or a paycheck. When I've tried to check-in with her on how she's handling things, I get evasions, lies, and counter-attacks.

        She has suggested I handle everything- but I know that is a prescription for huge conflict and just takes more responsibility away from her. I want a wife, not a teenager.

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          #5
          Originally posted by EEinNJ View Post
          She is on a cash or debit card basis only now
          I would NOT let her anywhere near a debit card. Having a debit card allows her to drain every last cent out of the account it is attached to. She needs to be cash only in an amount that you control 100%. If she doesn't like it, that's too damn bad. She's proven that she is incapable of controlling her spending.

          I would make sure all of your money is in your name alone and that she has access to none of it. You need to protect yourself so that she doesn't suck you dry.
          Steve

          * Despite the high cost of living, it remains very popular.
          * Why should I pay for my daughter's education when she already knows everything?
          * There are no shortcuts to anywhere worth going.

          Comment


            #6
            What is driving your wife to be so spendy? What are spending categories? If the $$$ went to dental work it presumably was necessary. If spending was retail, who benefited? Is her spending upgrading the value of your home? Does she hide purchases?

            Does your wife understand you can't afford her spending? Does she believe you are being stingy? Does she want to 'get back at you?' Are you upset that she is spending your inheritance from your parents which is being doled-out for tax reasons?

            I'd be pretty angry If I were 50 y/o and DH tried to control 100% of spending as has been suggested. It's not unusual for one to be a saver and the other partner to be a spender. If you have been married for a significant period of time, what is your negotiating procedure? If you feel this is ingrained, you would likey benefit from attending some [free] financial seminars together so she hears about financial planning from an uninvolved 3rd party.

            If that doesn't work, I'd invest in one or two counselling sessions. If she won't go, you go to learn how to explain so you are heard. If the stuff isn't being used or loved, you can organize a yard sale to recover a bit.

            Comment


              #7
              Well, I have been married for 32 years and I don't feel like my dh is acting like a teenager. He just prefers for me to handle the money and pay the bills. However, he is not really into shopping for anything other than tools which he needs because he is a hands on builder. (does it all)
              I think you should give your wife an allowance.

              Comment


                #8
                Have you suggested to your parents that they stop gifting her money?

                It does sound like this could be a psychological problem, not a financial one. Compulsive spenders usually have deeper issues behind their spending. I think snafu's suggestion of counseling is a very good one.
                Steve

                * Despite the high cost of living, it remains very popular.
                * Why should I pay for my daughter's education when she already knows everything?
                * There are no shortcuts to anywhere worth going.

                Comment


                  #9
                  The money she spends now is hers alone, not mine or joint. She was either given it, or from her paycheck. She is significantly underemployed as an assistant retail manager and in a personality conflict with the manager.

                  She has always had expensive tastes, has spent over $300/month on clothes (at a store discount) at her job. Gardening is a big hobby, new plants are constantly showing up in the yard. 10 yards of mulch shows , 270 bucks (she lied, said it was only 200). Buys things like outside lights with no discussion and no plans on how to install them. Trips to Florida and the shore to visit her family. But it's her money, while I do the heavy lifting.

                  She respects and admires that I save money and am able to pay for stuff like truck & home repairs (just had a very bad week with that) and knows what she "should" be doing. I am beginning to realize she simply doesn't grasp what to do. For example, she funded her Roth in Jan., but just told me it's still sitting in cash and doesn't know what to do. She has other accounts & funds, and we talk about this stuff, so I assumed she knew what she wanted to invest in. Spending is another issue, and in the moment can't seem to control herself.

                  She's the kind of person who needs hand-holding, but also bristles when guidance feels like control. Discussion and plans end up meaning nothing, she changes direction after the fact ("flighty"). And yes, I am upset she is spending part of an inheritance while we tread water financially.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    I just looked it up and the max tax-free gift is 12k per person. That's a lot of money to be burning through on "stuff" and lifestyle expenses.

                    I agree with the counseling session, but if you haven't already have you had a stern/serious talk about how her spending is damaging the relationship? Seems silly to build so much tension and resentment over tops and shoes, etc

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Originally posted by disneysteve View Post
                      Have you suggested to your parents that they stop gifting her money?

                      It does sound like this could be a psychological problem, not a financial one. Compulsive spenders usually have deeper issues behind their spending. I think snafu's suggestion of counseling is a very good one.
                      I have considered that, but I think that would backfire. Part of that money is paying for expensive periodontic work, and if not for that, I'd probably end up paying. Instead i had a heart-to-heart with her about how important it was not to take this for granted, and that I couldn't allow her to squander my family's legacy. I thought that stuck.

                      And yes, you are correct, it is more of a psychological problem, and she (and we) have been to therapy. She is on anti-depressants. Seems like almost every 50-something woman is these days.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        I'd tell your parents to cut off her share of the inheritance until she learns how to be more responsible. Them doing something financially responsible by reducing their taxable estate shouldn't be a tool for her to blow their hard earned money.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally posted by EEinNJ View Post
                          I have considered that, but I think that would backfire. Part of that money is paying for expensive periodontic work, and if not for that, I'd probably end up paying.
                          That is easily solved. Instead of having them give her money outright, have them pay the medical bills directly. That way she gets money for reasonable and necessary spending but not for frivolous nonsense, like $300/month on clothing or mulch or lighting fixtures you don't have any use for.

                          There is a bigger problem here than spending, as we've said. The fact that she needs pre-inheritance money from your parents to pay for her dental work is a problem. The fact that she is lying about her spending is a big problem. I'd be concerned about any hidden spending. I hate to read too much into this, but I've seen this kind of story over and over. If you haven't done so recently, I'd urge you to pull her credit report (with her permission, of course) and see if there are any accounts you didn't know about. Pull your report also and do the same. Many times, a spouse with a spending problem opens accounts without their spouse knowing about it until it is way too late.
                          Steve

                          * Despite the high cost of living, it remains very popular.
                          * Why should I pay for my daughter's education when she already knows everything?
                          * There are no shortcuts to anywhere worth going.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            The spending described and the fact that a lot of information has been withheld or lied about does indicate a personal need not being met through this behavior( in my non-professional opinion). Is the buying to meet a percieved inadequacy? The lying really seems concerning. That's almost like an alcoholic or compulsive gambler hiding what they're doing with their money.
                            "Those who can't remember the past are condemmed to repeat it".- George Santayana.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by disneysteve View Post
                              I would NOT let her anywhere near a debit card. Having a debit card allows her to drain every last cent out of the account it is attached to. She needs to be cash only in an amount that you control 100%. If she doesn't like it, that's too damn bad. She's proven that she is incapable of controlling her spending.

                              I would make sure all of your money is in your name alone and that she has access to none of it. You need to protect yourself so that she doesn't suck you dry.
                              I think if the debit card is attached to an account with limited funds where xx is deposited monthly or per pay check, that might work too. When the cash is gone and the debit card in maxed, then that is it for the month. Weekly funding is probably the best bet so she doesn't empty the account the first week of the month.

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