I often hear from men and women who would love to save more money and reach financial independence but they can’t because they’re married to a chronic spender.
Some of these couples have tried so many different ways to get their partners on board with slashing expenses and reigning in spending, but none of their methods have worked.
The truth is, when it comes to transforming a spender into a saver, you often have to start from the ground up. It’s not enough to tell them about the goals you want to reach or try to make them adhere to a budget. It goes much, much deeper than that. According to Forbes, “over 40 percent of American families spend more than they earn,” so if that describes your family, here are some tips on how to help the spenders in your life change their underlying habits, thoughts and feelings that drive their spending behavior.
Understand the Root of Their Spending
Most chronic spenders don’t spend just for the fun of it. There is usually something deeper driving them to spend. Sometimes they enjoy the high of spending but feel sad afterwards.
Spending affects people in a variety of ways. For some, spending makes them feel successful, even if they can’t afford what they’re buying. For others, spending might fill a void from their childhood, especially if they grew up without the things they wanted.
Overspending, much like overeating, comes from an emotional place. It’s an escape, a getaway from life, and a temporary relief from something haunting. The Wall Street Journal recently sourced research on this topic and found that “unhappy people save less, spend more and have a higher propensity to consume.”
So, as the spender’s loving spouse, you have to help determine whether or not your spouse’s spending is at a level where they need help from a counselor, religious leader or physician. Are they depressed or trying to escape from their life? Or, are they just fun loving and enjoy buying nice things without having to delay their spending?
Only you can really decide if their spending levels are at a place whether they might need an extra layer of help; however, understanding the root of the problem as a whole will help you to get a lot further than arguing and trying to impose a budget on your other half.
Give Them Space (and An Allowance)
It might sound counterintuitive, but once you take the time to determine the root cause of your spouse’s spending, it might be time to give them some space. I hate being nagged and I’m sure you do too. The more you press the issue or bring it up, the more your spouse might shut down.
Instead of constantly reminding them to stop spending let them spend (within reason, of course.) See how much money you can allocate toward discretionary spending, whether it’s $50 or $100 or $200 per month or more. Put that amount of money on a pre-paid debit card every month and tell your spouse they can use it to buy whatever they want. The catch is that when the money is out, it’s out until the next month when it is automatically refilled.
An allowance does two things. First, it enables your spouse to spend without feeling guilty or hiding anything from you. They can also spend free from judgement, so if they want to use their entire allowance on just one shirt, that’s for them to decide, not you.
The second benefit is that it teaches them to save their money. If they spend it all in the first week, they have to wait three more weeks before it refills. This, along with counseling or digging deep to understand why they spend, can truly help to change this habit once and for all.
It’s important to note that the process above may take a few months or longer. Working through tough emotional issues when it comes to spending money will take time, acceptance and a willingness to change. Be there for your spouse as hard as it is and don’t give up on them.
Try to be supportive, patient, and work with them to help them see that chronic spending doesn’t help anyone; it only hurts your collective financial future. Luckily, with enough patience and hard work, both you and your spouse can work together to create healthier spending habits for your family.
Are you married to a chronic spender? What have you done to try to help them change? Are you a recovering spender? How did you get to the root of what was driving you to overspend? What did you do to adopt new habits?