my husband is financially irresponsible

What to Do When Your Husband or Wife Has a Spending Problem

What do you do when your husband or wife has a spending problem?

No matter how hard you scrimp, if your husband or wife has a spending problem, your family’s financial future could be in jeopardy.

But all isn’t lost if you’re dealing with financial issues in your marriage!

Learning what to do when your husband or wife has a spending problem is the first step toward finding a good resolution for everyone involved.

These simple tips will help you approach the issue and come to a resolution you both can agree upon.

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How to Know if Your Spouse Has a Spending Problem

Before you start accusing your spouse of overspending, it’s a good idea to take a good hard look at the situation.

Typically, there are a few red flags to look out for to help you determine if there’s an issue to address.

These 10 common signs are a good indicator that your husband or wife may have a problem with spending:

1) Hidden purchases

Many spouses with spending problems take measures to hide their spending from their significant other.

If you find new items you didn’t know your spouse purchased, they may be trying to cover up their overspending.

2) Items with the tags still on

If you take a look in your significant other’s closet, will you find several items with the tags still on?

Purchasing items that are never used should put up a red flag that spending money could be an issue for them.

3) Surprise packages

Another sign that your spouse may be overspending is if they show surprise when packages arrive at your home.

They may be purchasing items on a whim, then forgetting about the money they’re spending.

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4) Hiding bills and other mail from you

Another common red flag to look for is hidden mail.

If your partner is intercepting the mail before you have a chance to look at it, there may be some bills in the mail they don’t want you to see.

5) New credit cards or loans you don’t know about

That hidden mail could be covering up debt that you don’t know about.

If you discover new credit cards or personal loans in your spouse’s name, it could be a sign of a bigger spending issue that needs to be addressed.

6) Excessive talk about shopping

Whether your significant other is constantly bragging about a deal they got or showing off their latest purchases to others, excessive talk about the act of shopping could be another indicator of a bigger problem.

7) Frequent large purchases

Finding large purchases, like new electronics or designer handbags, in your home can be another sign your partner has a spending problem – especially if those big purchases weren’t discussed ahead of time.

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8) Rounding down on purchase amounts

While this may seem like an insignificant act, if your partner is constantly rounding down on the amount of money they spend, it could be a sign they’re ashamed of their spending.

9) Avoiding financial discussions

When your spouse has a spending problem, they’ll probably do everything they can to avoid discussing money with you.

So, if they run away every time you bring up the topic of money, your husband or wife could have a spending problem.

10) Taking control of the family finances

Another sign your partner may be overspending is if they want to take total control of the family finances.

If your partner doesn’t loop you into the family budget, they may be attempting to hide their spending from you.

Making a Financial Plan When Your Spouse Has a Spending Problem

If you have identified the fact that your spouse has a spending problem, you may be wondering how to approach the situation without driving a wedge between you and your husband or wife.

The key to addressing the issue is do it lovingly.

Chances are, your spouse is already ashamed or insecure about their spending, which means they’ll be looking for support and compassion.

Avoid accusing your spouse of doing something wrong and instead discuss ways you can work together as a couple to improve your family’s finances.

Then, get together to create a plan to tackle your spouse’s overspending and stay on budget from month to month.

Have a serious talk about your finances

The first step toward addressing the issue is to have a serious discussion about your family’s finances.

That means you’ll both need to sit down with a level head to talk about what you each think about the financial situation your family is currently in.

But having this type of discussion isn’t always easy.

Consider asking these questions to get the discussion started:

  • How do you think our family is doing financially right now?
  • Does discussing money stress you out? Why?
  • What do you think we can do better to manage our money?
  • Where would you like our family to be financially in five years?

Here’s a list of 85 great financial questions to ask your spouse.

Related: If you have a weekly relationship meeting, this is the best time to bring this topic up. If you don’t already have this in place, here’s my ultimate guide to the weekly marriage meeting so you can get started right away!

Keep your emotions in check

Money can quickly make people emotional, which means you’ll both be on edge before you even start your conversation if you aren’t careful.

Start by removing emotions from the equation if you can.

Approaching the situation with a logical mindset will help keep both of you from becoming heated when discussing your family’s spending.

how to get your wife to stop spending money

Be completely honest

Your partner probably hasn’t been completely honest about their spending with you up to this point.

So, encouraging complete honesty during your discussion is the only way to come up with a plan for overcoming the issue together.

That means talking candidly about all the accounts, credit cards, and debt that each of you have.

Once you know about all the bills and money going out, you can start figuring out a way to rein in the spending and get your finances back on track.

Demonstrate the problem

Even if your spouse feels guilty about the money they’re spending, they may not understand the impact it has on the family as a whole.

By showing your spouse the issues that stem from their overspending, you’re more likely to get through to them.

Whether your spouse’s spending has caused your family to go into debt or has prevented you from saving for retirement, showing them concrete proof of the effects their spending is having on the family is a great way to help them see the error of their ways.

Negative effects of an overspending spouse could include:

  • An increase in debt that needs to be repaid
  • No emergency fund
  • A decrease in savings
  • No retirement savings
  • No extra money to spend on fun activities, like a family trip
  • Tension in your marriage

Examine both of your spending habits

Chances are, your spouse has no idea how much money they’re spending each month.

To get control of their spending and work to reducing your family’s debt, you both need to take a look at your spending habits. Lay out all the bills and statements from the past few months to get an idea of the amount of money you both have spent recently.

Then, look for ways you can cut back on your spending to help reduce your debt and increase your savings.

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Create a budget together

The first step to getting your finances back on track is to create a budget that you both can agree upon.

Start by calculating your family’s monthly income.

Then, work together to outline all your expenses. In addition to regular expenses, like your mortgage payment and utilities, it’s also important to consider how you’ll pay off debt when calculating your budget.

First, calculate all the must-pay bills, then work through the remaining budget categories line by line to create a budget that works for both of you.

If you’re new to budgeting, here are budgeting tips to create a simple budget (ideal for beginners).

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If you prefer digital budgets, this is my budget spreadsheet. It has monthly and annual income, expense and savings summaries, trackers and charts. It has 3 different calculators to track your early retirement progress.

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Set financial goals

Once you have a budget in place, creating financial goals for your family is a great incentive for staying on track.

Talk to your spouse about how they would like to use the money you save.

Do you need to start an emergency fund? Should you add money to your retirement accounts? Will you start saving for your kid’s education?

Creating a long-term goal for your family’s finances is a great way to start working together instead of against each other.

I find the key to setting financial goals is to keep them simple and realistic.

Here are examples of easy and attainable financial goals to set to build your wealth.

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Have regular financial check-ins

Taking a day each week to discuss your finances is a great way to help keep your overspending partner in check.

Check-ins will allow you to discuss your spending for the week and track your progress toward financial goals. And it will ensure your partner stays on track with their spending throughout the week.

Tips for Dealing with an Overspending Spouse

Once you have identified the problem and discussed the issue with your spouse, it’s time to put a plan in place for your family’s spending moving forward.

While each situation will be different depending on your family’s finances and budget, these 12 practical tips will help you work together to rein in your spouse’s spending.

1) Discuss big purchases before spending the money

One of the best ways to reduce spending on large items is to discuss the purchase together as a couple before making it.

Decide on a spending limit – anything over $100 for example – then take the time to talk about all purchases that go over that limit.

This will help curb overspending and allow each member of the relationship to have a voice in every large purchase you make.

2) Set aside fun money for each person

Create a category in your family budget for fun money.

This dedicated line item can be used by each partner on anything they want, with no judgement from the other person.

This will allow your spouse to have some freedom in their spending, which will prevent them from feeling like their money is constantly being controlled.

3) Offer to take control of the finances

Whether your spouse has been in control of the finances to hide their spending or you just haven’t taken the reins, offering to take control of the finances could help relieve some of your partner’s stress surrounding money.

Paying the monthly bills, tracking your budget, and controlling the spending from week to week may be a simple way to help your partner tackle their spending issues by taking the temptation to spend away from them entirely.

4) Find budget compromises

When you have a spouse that overspends, you probably have debt to deal with before you can start saving.

That means you’ll need to take a good look at your budget to find areas you can cut back your spending to help cover the extra debt payments.

Finding areas in your budget you can cut without much compromise, like a gym membership you rarely use or getting rid of cable, can get the ball rolling to make bigger budget cuts down the line.

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5) Take a look at your own spending

Instead of pointing the finger solely at your spouse, you might want to take a look in the mirror, too.

There’s a possibility that you have been overspending.

Ask yourself: do you have budgeting areas where you overspend, too?

Taking a critical look at your spending is a great way to show your spouse that you’re in it together.

Related: Here are things I stopped spending money on to save money. Here are other fantastic money saving tips that won’t impact your quality of life.

6) Save before spending

The less money you have coming into your checking account, the less money you’ll have to spend.

That’s why it’s a good idea to dedicate money to your retirement and savings accounts before you have a chance to spend it by…

  1. Having the maximum amount deducted from your paycheck to go into your 401k every time you get paid.
  2. Setting up an automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings account each payday.

These two simple steps will reduce the amount of money in your checking account available to spend each month, making it more difficult to overspend from week to week.

7) Have financial transparency

One of the biggest factors that plays into overspending is secrecy.

To avoid secrets about money, it’s a good idea to have complete financial transparency between you and your partner.

The easiest way to keep your finances transparent is to create joint accounts that are shared by you and your partner.

In addition to a joint checking account, joint savings accounts, credit card accounts, and investment accounts are also important.

This will allow both partners to have access to the accounts to keep track of income and spending on an ongoing basis.

8) Get rid of credit cards

The ease of spending with a credit card may be too tempting for someone who overspends.

To reduce the temptation to make a purchase, consider cutting up all your family’s credit cards. Using a cash system for your family’s finances is a great way to rein in spending because it allows you to easily see exactly how much money you have to spend at any given time.

9) Try working through a financial program together

When your overspending spouse feels like you’re both in it together, they may be more likely to stick to the plan.

One great way to motivate you both to work on getting your family’s finances back in shape is working through a financial program together.

Programs like The Total Money Makeover from Dave Ramsey provide you with a simple framework to follow to help get your finances on track one step at a time.

10) Acknowledge improvements and reward successes

Spending money can be an addiction to some people, which means cutting back on spending can be a difficult process.

Taking the time to acknowledge your partner’s progress and reward them for staying on track is a simple way to let them know that you appreciate their efforts.

11) Get counseling

If all the methods listed above aren’t working, it may be time to seek out professional help.

Counseling can help you and your spouse uncover deeper issues that may be connected to the overspending.

While it would be most beneficial for the overspending member of the relationship to seek help, joint counseling sessions are also a great way to help you both voice your opinions on the matter in a safe and secure space.

12) Protect your own financial future

While it’s great to be optimistic about your financial future as a couple, if you don’t see signs of change from your spouse, it’s a good idea to take steps to safeguard your own finances.

Creating separate bank accounts and removing your spouse from your accounts can help limit their spending to the money they earn on their own.

And a postnuptial agreement can be arranged to help protect your assets in the event of a divorce.

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  1. I can’t imagine how difficult a problem that would be to have. My wife and I were equally frugal with parents that modeled great money behavior. Yet I know that isn’t usually the case and many people have this problem with their spouse so I am glad you offer sound advice on the subject. Being on the same page as your partner is priceless, and its within reach of any couple who are committed to being successful in life but it must be difficult for couples who start out poles apart in their money mindsets.

    1. Thanks for your comment! As a mom, I’m realizing more and more how influential and impactful your parents are in your life. Glad to hear you had frugal parents with great financial habits!

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