Oh dear, the overspending spouse. Few couples consistently avoid money problems, but yours might not be as overwhelming as you think. Even if they are, there's only one way to get on a solid financial path, and that's by taking control. This means both of you working together to take control of your money.
When credit card bills rack up and savings dwindle because of one spouse's spending habits, here's how to get back on track.
Hint: Manage your money, not your spouse!
Be Honest, and for Heaven's Sake Be Nice
Presumably you like your spouse, so don't let money turn you into a mean-spirited ogre. This applies, regardless of how bad the financial situation happens to be. In fact, the more stress you feel, the more you need to think about what you say and how you say it. Some things, you can't take back. And yelling is a no-no.
CNN Money's Jeanne Sahadi says it's easy to point at your overspending spouse and lay blame.
"You probably each think the other spends money on things that aren't necessary. Well, define 'necessary' and look in the mirror while you're doing it."
A family budget centers around "family." You'll get nowhere fast, and you might just make an enemy, if the approach is deliberately unkind. Say what you have to say, but keep emotions in check.
Lay Out the Problem in Clear Terms
Don't beat around the bush. If you're worried about money, say so. And as the famous Max Ehrmann poem Desiderata recommends, "Speak your truth quietly and clearly, and listen to others."
You can't manage a budget if your spouse doesn't know what's wrong, and you can't work together if you do all of the talking. The problem might seem obvious to you, but do yourself a favor and make it obvious to both of you. Be open to discussion; this isn't a lecture, but an opportunity to work together.
Who's the Boss, Anyway?
Be sure that your money worries are real, and not based on an unrealistic idea of who has the right to do what. Some money problems emerge when there's an income imbalance. When one spouse earns significantly more than the other, someone could feel left out. That's no way to manage family finances.
Money Crashers' Casey Slide digs deep into this topic. The high earner in a family might resent every penny that the lower earner spends, and feel empowered to judge what is and isn't frivolous.
Slide says, "Similar to a power struggle issue, but isolated only to issues with power over the money, the spouse earning more sees the money as his or her own, and believes that he or she has the right to spend the money at will."
For a family budget to work, everyone has to be equal, regardless of their respective paychecks.
Sharing Really is Caring
A family budget benefits the family as a whole. It only makes sense that both partners share in its creation and implementation. When one spouse lays out a plan to manage debt and spending, then insists on compliance, there is no partnership; there's only a rule maker, and a rule follower.
Talk with your spouse about what's important to him, and share your own goals. For a budget to work, both sides have to feel equal. Equality also makes it easier for you and your spouse to stick to the plan.
Money problems rank high among reasons why couples fight and even separate. But money is just a thing; and things can be managed. Financial responsibility rests on the shoulders of both spouses, and it doesn't have to be a big, smelly elephant that's always in the room.
With simple financial solutions from Mint.com, the looming problem of an overspending spouse are put into perspective. Money doesn't have to run your life. You can take charge, and get back to remembering all the reasons why your spouse is so awesome.
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