personal finance

Money & relationships: What should you do if your spouse spends impulsively?

Are you having frequent arguments with your husband over his impulsive spending on gadgets? Are the erratic and extravagant purchases by your wife throwing your budget out of gear and risking your goals? Poor financial habits, including impulsive buying, are a big cause of discord in a marriage, and can even lead to a split.

As such, these need to be tackled discreetly. The first step, of course, is to try and understand the reason for this behaviour. It could simply be lack of financial discipline or be triggered by more serious issues like anxiety, low self-esteem or insecurities. Here’s how you can approach this problem in order to secure your finances.

1. Do not accuse, be gentle

Despite the potential of financial habits and lack of communication to wreck a relationship, spouses seldom have the ‘money talk’ after marriage. If you, too, haven’t discussed finances and realise later that the spouse is an impulsive spender, what do you do? The first thing is not to panic and overreact.

Do not accuse and blame the partner for being irresponsible. This will reduce it to a personal conflict and lead to bitterness. Whatever the trigger, understand that it has been a long-standing habit and cannot disappear overnight. As such, it will require patience and strategy on your part to get rid of it. Even as you put the finanical checks in place, focus on the fact that it will pose a risk to the financial future of both the partners, not just one. Work as a team to curb the impulsive streak.

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2. Make a budget & financial goals with your spouse

A simple exercise that can act as a deterrent to erratic spends is creation of a budget and formation of financial goals. This should be a detailed, written exercise involving both the partners, not merely a verbal discussion. If you know how much money is coming in and what is left after essential expenses and investments, it will be easier to control the urge to spend recklessly.

Similarly, if you fix a financial goal, says, your child’s education, you will not be tempted to spend at will. It also helps to automate your investments because the money leaves your account as soon as you get the salary, leaving a limited amount for spending.

3. Have joint & individual bank accounts

It is not advisable to impose strict checks on the partner’s spending because it will lead to frustration. This can result in a spurt in spending, instead of controlling it. A good idea is to have two bank accounts for both the partners: joint and individual. While the joint account can be used to pool in the salary for common household expenses, the individual account can be earmarked for the spouse’s personal spends, without remorse or justification.

4. Shop with a list & cash

The advice may be cliched, but it does help to shop with a list and leave the credit cards at home. If the spending is out of control, encourage the partner to cut up the cards altogether. If the spouse goes with a limited amount of cash, only to buy the things on the list, he is unlikely to go overboard. Also, prod the partner to reduce online shopping.

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5. Seek a financial adviser or psychologist

If nothing seems to help, or the spouse is not amenable to your suggestions, go to a financial planner, who can put things in perspective in a better manner. If, on the other hand, spending is a result of anxiety or low self-esteem, it will be a good idea to go to a psychologist or behaviour therapist.

If you have a wealth whine, write to us…

All of us have been in a financial dilemma when it comes to relationships. How do you say no to a friend who wants you to invest in his new business venture? Should you take a loan from your married brother? Are you concerned about your wife’s impulse buying? If you have any such concerns that are hard to resolve, write in to us at with ‘Wealth Whines’ as the subject.

Disclaimer: The advice in this column is not from a licensed healthcare professional and should not be construed as psychological counselling, therapy or medical advice. ET Wealth and the writer will not be responsible for the outcome of the suggestions made in the column.


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