Often one spouse accuses the other of being an over-spender. But what exactly is “overspending”? This definition changes from family to family; for one, going out to eat on a weekly basis may be within their means, while even a periodic coffee may be stretching the resources of another couple. So how does a family determine whether they can afford to eat out?
One cannot “overspend” if there isn’t a budget that defines spending limits. A budget can help reduce friction between spouses who have different spending patterns. If both partners agree to create and abide by a budget, then the one spouse is no longer the “bad cop” that regulates his or her partner’s spending habits.
Spending as an emotional issue
People spend money for a variety of reasons. Some expenses, like groceries and utilities, are a necessity, while others are discretionary. However, even within fixed expenses there is usually room to cut back. Does Shabbat dinner need to be an expensive cut of meat accompanied by costly wine, or will chicken and grape juice suffice?
Examine your fiscal habits. Do you have an idea of how much your monthly expenses are? Where do you spend money? Do you charge or pay in cash? Do you have financial goals that are important to you, and if so, are you actively working to achieve them? How would you feel if your spending habits changed? How would that change affect your spouse/family?
Consider the doctor who tells an overweight patient that unless he lost a considerable amount of weight, he would face serious illness. Chances are, the patient would diet and exercise. So why is there a discrepancy when a financial adviser recommends a fiscal diet and an exercise program of spending within a budget?
Very often, financial issues mask other problems within a relationship. Therefore, creating a budget is not only a good tool to monitor spending, but it can also help improve family harmony.Doug Goldstein, CFP®