Chances are if your partner lets the cash flow freely, his or her spending habits didn’t sneak up on you. There may have been warning signs—that Michelin-starred dinner, that weekend in wine country, those Valentino slides—it all seemed like grand romantic gestures back when you were more focused on your chemistry than your checking account. But now that you share a credit card as well as black truffle small plates, it’s time to help your luxury-loving S.O. get serious. Here, expert tips on how to inspire your spouse to rein in expenses without ruining a good thing.
Manage Your Money, Not Your Partner
Your intention is to address your wallet; but the conversation escalates because your spouse feels you're trying to fix them. To keep things as calm as possible, approach your S.O. to have “the money talk” when the kids are in bed and there are no other fires to put out. Start with explanations (“I’m worried about money…”) not accusations (“You are out of touch with reality!”). To avoid an unproductive power struggle, view yourselves as collaborators, not adversaries—regardless of whose paycheck is bigger. Write down a list of high-priority family expenses together, as well as earmarking items that can be cut. Cello lessons for your eight-year-old? Keep. That gym membership you never use? Cut.
Stash Away Your Savings
“Don’t let the money come home,” suggests financial columnist Dan Rafter. “Send more of the money you're earning into a retirement account and less of it into your savings account. Your overspending spouse can't spend the money you've stashed in a 401(k).” Just be up front and clear with your partner about your plan to create a nest egg that’s off-limits to you both, and make sure they’re on board. There’s nothing less sexy than being married to a secretive, controlling squirrel.
Create a ‘Fun Money’ Fund
Personal finance expert Dave Ramsey writes: “[H]ere’s what happens if you don’t budget some ‘me’ money: you’ll spend it anyway…So even if you have the discipline of a monk and vow not to spend on small luxuries, trust us, you or your spouse will eventually buy something just for fun… So do your budget a favor and factor in some fun before the month begins. Because the more realistic your plan is, the more likely it is to actually work.” So make an indulgence allowance (manicures, lunches out, driving range funds). Fill it every month with whatever you can spare—even small amounts. Then, give both yourself and your spouse permission to have at it. When it’s empty, you’ll both have to wait until it gets refilled the following month.