Hi Tash. My husband is always whinging about my spending. I pay for all groceries and bills, and we have a joint account so he can see this on our bank app. But then I’m having coffee, grabbing a quick lunch on the run or just buying rubbish. I need to stop as its making him angry, but then he smokes and drinks and I don’t, so why should I? How do I stop having to justify what I buy, or am in the wrong?
Let me start by telling you a story about a couple, Jenny and Tom.
Tom and Jenny are in their 30s, have been together since high school and see eye-to-eye on just about everything. Everything except money, that is.
One day Tom was on his lunch break and saw that JB Hi-Fi was having a sale on TVs. Knowing that their existing TV was getting a bit outdated he ended up buying a “kick arse TV for a steal at $1,000” – his words, not mine.
Tom was proud as punch that he had bought (in his mind) a necessary household item and managed to save them money in the process. Much to his shock though, when he got home and showed Jenny, she was less than impressed. In fact, she was furious. How could he spend such a huge sum without discussing it with her first? What was wrong with their existing TV anyway? And so the argument went.
Jenny decided to teach him a lesson. If Tom could spend a $1,000 on a something that she thought was more a gadget for him than a household necessity, she could go and spend a $1,000 on clothes. Which is exactly what she did.
Regardless of who was in the wrong, Tom and Jenny were $2,000 worse off than they were a week earlier, when instead they could have:
a) Capped the spend at $1,000, keeping the TV but also working through their differences so this kind of fight wouldn’t happen again, or
b) Discussed it and possibly returned the TV.
Instead, each of them decided to dig their heels in, at a significant cost to both of them.
My point here is that individuals value different things. What one perceives to be a necessity, the other might view as a frivolous indulgence!
Here’s how to avoid Jenny and Tom’s conundrum:
1. Have open conversations
Regardless of whether you keep your money in separate or joint bank accounts, it is crucial that you are both on the same page about money. How much you both earn and how much debt you each have too often goes unsaid. Its important to be open with each other and talk more about money.
2. Set some joint goals
Most couples tend not to have clear financial goals either. For example, everyone I meet wants to retire early, yet very few people have actually mapped out a plan for getting there. Setting some joint short and long term goals will help you work together on how best to manage your finances and give you a common goal to work towards!
3. Discuss how you will share the bills
If either of you feels the situation is unfair or they are doing something they don’t want to, it is only natural for resentment to eventually build.
4. Allocate a splurge amount for each of you
Yes, I’m talking about pocket money for adults. This is money each of you can do with as you please, without needing to inform the other. It will save you a number of future arguments!
5. Set ground rules about the rest
It is a good idea to agree on a spending limit and discuss any purchases over a certain amount with each other. If you have an emergency savings account make sure you have agreed to the rules of what constitutes an “emergency”.
6. Keep each other in the loop
It is not unusual in a couple for one person to be in charge of paying the bills and looking after the finances. Regardless of who is doing it, it is important that you both remain involved and informed about what is going on.
Relationships are complicated, and money often adds to the complication! We can all use a helping hand every now and then so it might help to reach out to a relationship counsellor (see Relationships Australia).
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