Handling A Spouse Spending Too Much Money

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

When a spouse spends too much money, it can put the family finances into turmoil.

Find out how to discuss finances and budget happily as a couple.

When Your Spouse Spends Too Much Money
How to handle a spouse who spends too much money.

When Money Becomes A Problem For Couples

Money can quickly become an issue when a spouse spends more than the couple earns.

Whether you are married or live together but aren’t connecting with your money, then you will run into financial problems.

Often, when a money issue blows up, lying about missing money or where it was spent becomes an even more significant relationship issue.

Whether the spending habit existed before the union or occurred as the marriage progresses, it must be addressed before it spirals out of control.

What do you call a person who spends too much money?

These types of people aren’t tuned into their finances and, in some cases, are greedy.

  • I think my husband spends too much money.
  • My wife spends too much money.

The above statements have been in my inbox from frantic blog readers who feel they have lost control of their financial situation.

Where do money problems begin? Every person is different, and that’s where communication comes into play.

Your Spouse Starts Money Arguments

As I walked to my car the other day, leaving a grocery store, I saw a woman walking back toward her car.

Her husband was waiting at the car as she was throwing her hands up, obviously annoyed, as she approached their vehicles.

I heard her say, ‘I thought we had money on that credit card?’

She was unsuccessful in paying the grocery bill, which brought up issues with her spouse.

The first one was frustration and anger, which she did NOT hide from the public.

With an irritated look, her husband got out of the car and proceeded to head back into the store with her.

Not knowing their story and why the funds were unavailable, I assume there was a lack of communication or oversight of their finances.

I don’t know how their story ended and continued to get into my car, but it reminded me of friends who had money issues in their relationship.

Unfortunately, this is also the case for couples in marriage or a common-law relationship.

When A Spouse Won’t Change

Money fights and problems over finances are all too common in relationships and, sadly, one of the top reasons many marriages end up divorced.

While I can say that fixing the money problems would not have saved my marriage, I think about how I could have dealt with our money problems more effectively.

We commonly hear the phrase ‘my wife spends too much money‘ though the husband is guilty in many situations too.

Secret shopping in a relationship could easily cause a rift in the marriage if spending gets out of control.

For example, one spouse opens credit cards without the other knowing and maxes them out.

Trust is the basis of any relationship; when you break trust, expect problems along the way.

Spouse Spending Habits

It is often advised to have the money talk with your partner before you get married so that you know what you are getting yourself into.

The last thing you want is to get married and discover that your spouse is swimming in debt.

Oddly enough, many people are ashamed of their debt and say nothing, but this is the worst thing you can do and not a great start to a relationship.

While this is an excellent conversation before walking down the aisle, spending habits often change for various reasons.

You may eventually find yourself with a spouse who spends too much money.

Nothing in life is guaranteed, so talking about money with your partner is a must, not something you wait to do until the time is right.

Excessive shopping can be a ‘drug‘ used as a therapy to combat stressful situations or other underlying issues.

Relationship Communication Between Each Spouse

Money should always concern couples, and when problems arise, frustrations take over your rational thinking.

What happens after this is the blame game which can be very dangerous or even fatal for some relationships. 

Sadly, relationships have ended in murder over money, so it’s unrealistic to sweep it under the rug.

It’s always the other person’s fault that the bank account is drained or the credit cards are maxed out.

Financial Marriage Counselling

No, you don’t have to hire a counsellor to help you communicate unless your marriage needs the help.

While one partner knows their spouse’s spending habits are destroying their finances, how they approach the situation may also affect the outcome.

Nobody likes to feel attacked, whether they cause a problem or not.

Knowing your tone of voice and approach to the conversation will start you off on a better foot than blaming your spouse for causing the money problems.

Instead of saying, ‘You are spending too much money, and it’s making us ‘broke,’ consider saying, ‘I have noticed we are struggling to pay our bills lately; what can we do together to ‘improve this?

Avoid ‘you‘ statements, and you may get a less defensive response and a more open mind to fixing the problem rather than putting up their guard because you attacked them.

How can you help someone who is spending too much money?

You can’t change someone who doesn’t want to be helped with money problems.

However, if you are both committed to change, there are ways to get back on track.

Creating a Simple Budgeting System For Couples

If budgeting is something that you already do, you may consider a different approach to it.

Perhaps your understanding of budgeting is not where it is, and a mini refresher course on budgeting is all you both need.

While a budget is a very effective tool for managing money in a relationship, both sides must be on board for it to work.

Set your goals together, decide as a couple where you both want to be financially in 5 or 10 years and make a plan.

Review your budget together often, and discuss where you need to improve.

Help each other stay on track by looking at how you are sticking to your budget.

If you are not meeting your goals due to overspending, this is an excellent time to address how this overspending affects your budget and long-term goals.

Budgeting for Beginners from A to Z

Controlling Your Access to Money

If your spouse is willing to work towards a solution, you must decide what steps you will take.

Understanding what kind of spender you are will go a long way in designing a budgeting plan that will work for both of you.

If you are a reserved spender, consider coming up with a weekly dollar amount as a cash allowance that includes all money required for necessary expenses.

Leave wiggle room for miscellaneous spending; once that money is gone, it’s gone.

Take complete control of your money if you have to use a jar budgeting system to see the money physically.

A friend often complains about their financial situation to me, although she’s not interested in fixing it. 

She’s a stay-at-home mom, and when I offer advice, she responds with, “well, it’s his money” he can do whatever he wants.”

I try to tell her that her job as a full-time mother at home is just as challenging, if not more.

When you get married, I believe that my money is yours, and yours is mine.

Maybe that’s old-fashioned, but it has worked wonders for our marriage.

Take Away The Money

If your spouse’s overspending is affecting the quality of life for your family, then consider taking away all debit and credit cards.

Moving forward, you can be the one in charge of distributing your money between everyday living expenses, bills, and cash allowance.

While you want to avoid making them feel like a kid, that may be what you think you are doing, but so be it.

If your spouse cares for the well-being of your relationship and family, they should be willing to take responsibility and be accountable for their actions.

It will be hard to convince them that they need to change until they can understand the problems and how they affect their lives.

Again consider your tone and choice of words when having these discussions.

Relationship Problems Over Money

Is it worth staying in the relationship?

You need to decide where to draw the line in the relationship.

While everyone makes mistakes, sometimes they need to be taken as a learning experience.

How many chances should one get when a problem has been identified, and they refuse to be part of the solution?

Ending A Relationship Over Money Problems

At what point do you call it quits on your relationship or marriage?

  • Is it a healthy relationship?
  • Is it worth destroying your credit/future?
  • Are you jeopardizing your happiness?

Be happy!

You deserve it; money shouldn’t have to be a problem in a relationship, though it can be all too often.

While no one likes to talk about money, the more you communicate about it and share financial responsibilities, the better off you will be.

Unfortunately, divorce may be the only answer for some couples when they try to fix the problem without finding a solution.

If your spouse fails to acknowledge the impact their careless spending is having on your relationship, then it maybe it’s time to go your separate ways.

Discussion: What advice can you offer to someone with a spouse who spends too much money?

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  1. Great article, Katrina!
    But what happens when one of the partner THINKS the other spend too much, even if they are doing ok overall? And the other THINKS his/her expenses are justified?
    The way you put it, one of the partners is the money gatekeeper, and only his/her view is the right one. This can be configured as an abusive relationship.
    I know some couples where the husband is this money gatekeeper and they tell the wifes how much she is supposed to spend. No matter the couple or the value they make or the size of this “allowance”, they are ALWAYS complaining.

    1. Dan,
      At the end of the day if the couple is not communicating about their finances where they know how much they can afford to spend then that’s the big issue. There will always be back and forth bickering about who is right or wrong BUT the numbers never lie.

  2. This is certainly not a topic I hope to ever have struggles with. I’m incredibly transparent when it comes to money and I hope that if I ever end up getting married my spouse would not only be open to discuss finances but comfortable with the topic. Then again, I wouldn’t marry someone who I couldn’t openly discuss finances with ahead of time. But I’m a PF nerd so it’s a bit different than the majority.

  3. Ah. I’ve always taken on the thinking, “It’s his money; let him do whatever he wants with it” and then I do whatever I want with mine as well. Maybe because we’re still not married and I feel like I’m yet to have any authority on his spending. Well, this article has certainly got me thinking twice about retaining that line of thinking. It’s definitely so much better to cooperate, plan and budget things together.

  4. In a relationship, it is extremely important to set the expectations and have an open, continuous communication. One of the leading reasons for divorce is money problems. Always have both parties involved in the budgeting process, and share your feelings towards overspending with your spouse when it happens

  5. Another great article Katrina! I usually manage to have a few bucks stashed in my wallet that hubby doesn’t know about. Right now not so much as Christmas is just past. This is money that I can use if I see something that somebody in the family would love or has been asking for and it’s on sale for a good price without it showing up in the bank book. Like the leather tool belt one year hubby got for Christmas because I saw it on sale almost half price in July!! He’d figure it out of he actually stopped to think about it, but he doesn’t. The stash gets built up a couple of bucks at a time usually but it does add up with time. There’s Canadian Tire money too that I hang onto as well as any points cards I can use.
    Hubby is one that if he knows he has money coming in, as a tax refund or overtime pay/holiday pay, chances are it’s been spent before he gets it. It’s OK for him to buy what ever as he has this money coming in to pay for it ……. Yea….right. He can’t understand for the life of him why I get so ticked off with this…. I don’t trust him to get groceries by himself as he will get anything that he sees he likes. Sending him with a list doesn’t work either because if he can’t find something he doesn’t get it…he won’t try actually looking for it. Unless it jumps out at him he can’t find it. Having him with me doesn’t work much better as he will keep adding things to the cart whether it’s on the list or not. He wants his treats budget be damned.
    He tends to think he is wonderful with money and you will have a hard time convincing him otherwise. You cannot argue with him….he is right and he will argue until the cows come home to ‘prove’ he is right. I have learned to say my piece and walk away, this leaves him having to actually think about what I just said. I have been known to put my foot down occasionally, I do it rarely so he knows I mean business when I do. If I do it too often it will lose effectiveness.
    Our older boy is a different affair. He has depression and has been diagnosed with Asperger’s. He tends to be very impulsive. He now gets CPP-D and I know I will have to keep an eye on him. A lot of his money will roll over our way to help pay bills and he is OK with that. He knows he isn’t good with money, but his impulse control doesn’t work well. So long as he has enough for his smokes and some art supplies and maybe this or that he’s happy. He knows he needs the help.

    1. I am with you on pretty much everything you said. We set a budget- down to the dime. We agreed on a spending amount for the month for each of us. Then he wanted to take over paying the bills. Now I find out it’s because he’s got a new credit card that he’s filled 3/4 of the way up in a month. I took money out of my “baby” IVF money to pay off his credit cards so we could start putting back and since then, he’s filled up 2 3/4 additional credit cards. I am at my witts end. I’ve been unable to repay the IVF fund and I’m really frustrated. I’ve voiced my opinion, nicely, with no finger pointing. I’ve sat down with him and put together a budget, at his request.
      He complains about unhealthy food in the house, but instead of coming home for lunch or eating the one I packed for him, he always comes up with some excuse he had to eat out… “I was in a hurry,”.. “I’m gonna eat out if I want to. I’m a grown man.” We live closer to his work than the fast food joint. Then he’s sick with migraines for a week from eating crappy food all week. It’s a viscous cycle.
      When I approach him, he gives me his resume. “I used to be a financial advisor, I did this for a job..” Then he tries to make me feel bad by raising his voice and saying I didn’t tell him all the bills I paid. But I did. And I told him EXACLTY what was left afterwords. He spends that, as well as charging whatever the minimum payment due was that I paid. He is drowning us in debt. What do I do?

      1. I hope you got out. This is narcissistic abuse and it will only get worse. Much, much worse. He’s not willing to talk or make changes, but raises his voice instead, and proclaims himself an authority. He’s also trivializing your attempts at financial responsibility.
        Been there, done that, got the shirt.

  6. If you involve your spouse in choosing goals, perhaps they will get on board with the budget. If they really have a problem after that, I’d go to an all cash allowance for them. Take away the credit cards. Some places have self-help groups like AA, but for overspending. Overspenders Anonymous? Not sure what the name is. Could be worth a try because they can vent with others and start to understand their own behavior.

  7. Communication really is key. I’m really glad to have a wife that’s on the same page as me in regard to our finances. We all set many of the same goals with our partners, and it makes it that much easier, when you work together to achieve them. Good post!

  8. We worked SO hard to get ourselves a month ahead. At the end of each month I bring the budget to my husband and say “we have this much money for next month. Here are the fixed bills we HAVE to pay. We have this amount leftover. Are there any things coming up we need to worry about? Any things that we need to get or get fixed? Are there any things that we want?” He provides input and we put it all down on paper. I go about paying everything that needs to be paid and dole out the cash envelopes. It NEVER fails that he will spend money outside the budget. I ask him about it and he says “it was only $8 (or whatever)”. It’s never like he spends a ginormous amount but he can’t grasp the principal. We are trying to payoff debt and this is what WE agreed to. It’s going back on our agreement! Same thing happens when he does the grocery shopping! Here’s a list based on our meal plan and what we have going on and he comes home with $20 of extra crap. Then he will whine that we have to eat ramen the last week of every month bc he wasted our budget!!!

  9. One thing my wife and I try to do every week is take a little time to discuss our finances even if it’s for 15 or 20 minutes while I’m reviewing our budget. Doing this keeps us on the same page and lets both of us understand what each of our goals are, because a lot times what I feel it comes down when we don’t agree is that one of us may have a different agenda of what we wanted to do and that sparks the miscommunication which can lead into other things.

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