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How to Budget When Your Spouse or Partner is a Spender

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Spenders have been the basis of many jokes in stand-up comedy, television shows and movies – the wife comes home from shopping with several bags “but they were on sale”, or the husband buying more tools for his garage “but I need it”.

Sounds familiar? Maybe it’s happening in your own household, you’re trying to save and make sure everything gets paid and your spouse or partner is blowing the budget. Not to worry, I’ve got 9 different ways how to budget while living with a spender.

1. Communicate

The first step in resolving any money issues in a relationship is to communicate with each other. Plan a quiet, undisturbed moment and share your concerns about the budget, money issues and spending habits. Here are some helpful tips for effective communication:

  • Spend time together talking – The average couple spends only 20 minutes a week talking with each other. Try and spend 20-30 minutes a day catching up with each other.
  • Use more “I” statements and less “You” statements – This decreases the feeling of having to defend oneself. Say, “I wish you would stop going to so many garage sales” instead of “you waste so much money at garage sales!”
  • Be specific – Broad generalizations like, “You do it all the time!” are not helpful.
  • Express negative feelings effectively – You might feel bitterness, resentment, disappointment or disapproval and these feelings need to be shared for change to occur. How you express these feelings is critical. “I’m disappointed that you spent money on an ATV,” is very different from, “You clearly don’t care about me or the kids. If you did, you wouldn’t have spent our money on THAT”
  • Listen without being defensive – Both spouses must be able to hear each other’s complaints without getting defensive. This is hard but doable.

Communicate your money issues, your fears, and your financial goals to each other, it just may be that your spender had no real idea about the state of the family finances. Learning to communicate effectively can help in all aspects of your relationship and not just with finances.

2. Develop a Plan Together

Once you two have discussed your money issues it’s time to develop a plan together. Share each other’s goals, needs, and wants.

Get a family budget planner and work through the money amounts you need to allot for each category together. The planner can be updated daily for either partner to check the daily balance and stay on top of things.

Once in a while have a meeting to update your plan, such as changing budget amounts, changing goals, or just touch base on money matters.

3. Encourage them to Use Shopping Apps

If your spender only overspends a little bit (but still enough to put a strain on the wallet), encourage them to use shopping apps to save.

Some people just like the thrill of shopping and seeing new things they think they “need”. Harness that energy into challenging them to see how much they can save. Make it a monthly challenge and create a savings goal and use a goal thermometer to track it.

I really love using these shopping apps:

  • Ibotta – Get a $10 bonus for signing up and scanning your first receipt – large cash back returns.
  • Ebates – Get $10 for signing up and earn from cash-back offers, coupons, and promo codes.
  • TopCashBack – Get $10 for signing up and is one of the highest cash-back rates (such as 65% back from PeopleFinders).
  • Trunow – Get $2 for signing-up with promo TOF19 and get 1% cash back on all gas receipts that you take a picture of.

Bonus tip: Use the goal thermometer for your financial goals as well – debt payoff, vacation, car, etc.

4. Split Budget Decisions

Many people believe that whoever controls the money has all the power, which may be the core of many people’s resistance to budgeting and curbing their spending.

Create a compromise on which budget categories each person will be responsible for. In my household, I take care of the “inside needs” and my husband takes care of the “outside needs”. Meaning I take care of the grocery budget, the utilities, and other bills, while he takes care of the car, yard & garden, home improvements and such.

Once a partner sets a spending amount for their category that is doable then finances are easier to bear.

5. Use a Cash Envelope System

If your partner or spouse tends to overspend on your budget, using a cash envelope system may help curb that.

The cash envelope system is taught by Dave Ramsey in his Financial Peace Workbook and it’s where you use cash for different categories of your budget, and you keep that cash tucked away in envelopes. You can see exactly how much money you have left in a budget category just by taking a quick peek in your envelope.

So, if you have $150 cash in the Grocery envelope – that is all that can be spent until the next refill (payday). This can really put a restrain on the overspending in your household.

Don’t forget to stock up on extra envelopes too.

6. Have a Budget Category for Splurges

Create a budget category for splurges for the both of you. Designate some money each month for spending on whatever you feel like.

Having this category (and cash envelopes) helps with sticking to a tight budget. Now you can both treat yourselves without blowing the actual budget. There’s no more stress, fear, anger, or worry about meeting the bills this month because you wanted to treat yourself to a manicure.

But, if your partner still has trouble with overspending even with the splurge budget, maybe it’s time to analyze why that is?

7. Reduce the Temptation

If any of the above is still not enough to stay afloat every month, you may need to reduce the temptation to spend.

Here are some ideas:

  • Cut up the credit cards – Consolidate all the cards onto one low interest (or zero interest) card and keep that somewhere safe for emergencies only.
  • Pack their lunches – You may need to pack their work lunches to avoid spending at work. This actually save about $40 a week.
  • Make the Coffee & Breakfast – Get up earlier and make them breakfast and coffee, you can even make a bunch of breakfast burritos ahead of time and freeze them. Doing this will save about $25 a week.
  • Insist they wait 24 hours before buying – Encourage your spender if they like and want something, to wait at least 24 hours before buying it. Chances are the novelty has worn off then and they may not want it then.
  • Assert the use of shopping lists – Create lists and only buy what’s on the list.

Some of these may take more work on your part, but if it means financial peace, it’s worth it. Get 1,001 more ideas on curbing your spending.

8. Have Separate Bank Accounts

You may need to take more drastic action to curb the spending, save your finances and your sanity and have separate bank accounts for the two of you.

Doing this along with the budget category responsibilities mentioned in #4 may be the only solution to saving your household finances and your sanity. Having separate bank accounts offers a little more financial freedom and less resentment of the financial control.

Both you need to discuss several things to see if this is feasible, such as:

  • How will we pay the shared debt? Together or separately?
  • How will we make investments? Have separate retirement funds?
  • How will we handle emergencies? Have one dedicated credit card? Only pay for emergencies in our designated budget category?
  • How do we reach savings goals? Separate goals or shared input?

You may decide to have a joint account for shared financial responsibility such as the mortgage payments and shared savings account for you both to reach financial goals together.

9. Seek Counseling

Money problems rank high among the reasons why couples fight and even separate or divorce. If none of the resolutions I mentioned earlier are working out, or the spender refuses to cooperate, maybe it’s time to seek counseling.

There are two types of counseling you two can seek – Financial counseling and Marriage counseling. How do you know which counselor you two need? Let’s look at some scenarios:

  • Your partner won’t work on a budget with you – You need a financial counselor. Hearing how bad your money situation is and how to solve them may be better received from a stranger.
  • Your partner has hidden bank accounts and hides their spending – You need a marriage counselor. This is a huge break of trust and will need counseling to solve.
  • Your partner is addicted to spending (shopping, gambling, etc.) – You need a marriage counselor. You two need to work through the addiction first before working on the finances.
  • You both constantly fight about money and being broke – You need to work with both counselors. Work with a financial counselor to solve the financial issues and a working budget you’re both comfortable with. Work with a marriage counselor to work on effective communication (remember step #1?) as well as any other issues impacting the marriage.

That said, if you’re in an abusive or controlling relationship, do not put yourself or your children in danger and seek help by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233.

Just remember that money is just a “thing”, and things can be managed. Financial responsibility should be shared by both spouses, and finding a resolution is simple if you communicate and plan together.

For other financial solutions to work on together you can read these great posts:

One last piece of advice, if you two constantly fight about finances, get this book and learn about financial compatibility and how to work with each other’s personality type.

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