Q: Hi, so I have been trying to talk to my husband about his spending. We are newlyweds and I am starting to realize we never talked about finances. I am very organized with my money, and my husband doesn’t seem to keep track of his. We have separate accounts, and I’m glad it’s that way. It’s just that my husband keeps spending his money and ends up asking me for money and says, “What’s yours is mine now that we’re married.” I understand that we now share money, but I feel that it’s not right for him to just spend his money so carelessly and then rely on me to bail him out and give him money when he needs it. Before marriage, I never knew he had issues with spending money, I thought he had good savings since he would spoil me on occasion with surprise vacations. I have spent a long time trying to make my savings grow, and the money I have on a weekly basis to spend has all been allotted for certain things like bills, groceries, etc. His asking me for money is affecting my financial responsibilities. How do I even broach the topic of money with him without him getting upset or turning it around on me?
A: Money and finances are always one of those issues that many newlyweds figure out is something they didn’t end up talking about prior to marriage. I am similar to you in that I am organized with money, and want savings to build. I understand your struggle. Honestly, your husband saying, “What’s yours is mine now” seems borderline controlling if there wasn’t any sarcasm when he said that. It’s true in marriage two people come together and now share assets, but still, he has a responsibility to be financially responsible and not lean on you as if you’re his fallback bank.
I think setting financial boundaries would be a good step. Agree that given you have separate accounts that even though you’re married, you each work hard for what you get. In emergencies you should always try to help each other out, but on a day to day basis, you should be responsible with money. Also, you could set an agreement to check in with each other before purchasing anything over $X amount to be accountable. Print out statements from the past couple months, and compare each other’s statements. See how each of you spend money, what you spend money on, and figure out where the unnecessary spending is. Of course, your husband would have to be willing to sit down for this. Maybe try talking about this when you two are both in a good mood, and he is relaxed. Try saying, “Hey, honey, I was thinking, now that we are married, we should be more financially accountable, how about we sit down without bank statements and see where we are spending money wisely and what areas we could improve upon.” The key to that sentence is we. That way he doesn’t feel attacked. Using “we” implies you are in it together so he hopefully won’t be so defensive when you want to go over your statements.
Once you guys know where the spending issues are, agree to cut those out. If credit cards are the problem, agree to leave credit cards at the house and only use debit cards or cash. Most people when carrying cash are more conscious about their money and don’t want to part ways, whereas using a card, they are psychologically distanced since it’s a plastic card, and not hard cash.
My husband and I did a cash box, where we would put in all of our extra change, and put some small bills in the cash box, and after a month we would deposit that into our savings. It may seem small, but it worked. I was once able to save $500 that way after a couple months. The things I’ve learned about money is if it’s out of sight it’s out of mind. With the cash box, it was never in view, and honestly I forgot about it most days unless I was putting in money. It was a nice surprise after a couple months of trying to save to realize I’d saved that much. So you and your husband could try something like that. Agree that whatever enters the cashbox isn’t allowed to be taken out (unless it’s a medical emergency or something like that) and then check the box after a month, two months, or so, and then whatever is in the cashbox gets put away into savings. If you and him have separate accounts, then you could each have an envolope with your name (and if you feel your husband would take from your envelope keep count of the amount you put in) so you know who has saved what.
- Make sure you use “we” when talking about finances to make the conversation safe. Also set boundaries about money and borrowing each other’s money.
- Go over statements, see where the spending issues are and then come up with a plan to overcome them (whether a cash box, not using credit cards, using cash only -keep receipts, etc.)
- After one month of change, check back to see what money was spent on and see if you two were able to save money. If not, go back to the drawing board and try a new strategy!
Hope this helps!