Got a Spouse Who’s Bad with Money? Here's the One Thing You Should Never Say to Them

phrase not to say to a spouse who s bad with money cat

Couples who chat regularly about finances are typically one step ahead of the rest…but you should still tread carefully when asking your partner about their spending habits, particularly when you consider yourself the more fiscally responsible one.

In fact, according to Priya Malani, founder and CEO of Stash Wealth, a financial planning service for young professionals that recently launched a program geared directly to couples, there’s one phrase you should totally ban from your lexicon: Do you *really* need that? Here’s why, and what to say instead.

The problem? It’s passive aggressive. Per Malani, the phrase do you really need that is fair—and maybe even warranted. But if you’re genuinely concerned about what your partner is spending money on, it can seem like beating around the bush, or insinuating that you don’t trust them, without having all the facts. Instead…

Use specifics. Contextualize the purchase(s) that are bothering you within the bigger picture of your joint financial goals: “Do you need that Xbox video game more than we need to save for those post-pandemic plane flights to see your family?” In other words, you’re asking: Would you be comfortable if this purchase derails the other goal we’ve collectively said is important?

Yes, small purchases add up. But if you have a budget and are on track with your big picture spending goals (meaning all bills are paid on time, you’re contributing to savings, etc.), you should each have the freedom to spend money on the items you want. In other words, a single (ridiculous) purchase of $16 cheese probably doesn’t need to be called out. But if your partner makes the $16 cheese a weekly habit, you could address how this extravagance does or doesn’t fit into your overall financial plan. (we are down with any financial plan that involves cheese.)

Try a side-stash. Malani says a side stash is basically a personal checking account—you have one and your partner has one. You fund it monthly with money from your joint account as part of your budget and the cash in it can be used on non-essential purchases like video games or too-frequent manicures. Bottom line: It’s a judgment-free zone that you can share with your spouse or not, but again, is part of the budget, so it’s not blowing up any long-term shared financial goals.

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