When Your Partner Spends More Than You Think They Should (Your Advice)

Your Advice - help answer readers' questionsOne of the most difficult situations that any couple can come across in is money issues if they look at finances in a very different light. Most people don’t realize this until after they have married, but it is certainly something that should be discussed well before that time. In doing so you can save both and your partner a lot of stress and grief. Today’s question comes from someone who is facing that situation and he’s not sure how to proceed:

I have a very difficult question that I’m hoping you can help me with. I have been going out with my girlfriend for a little over two years and we are very serious. I can’t think of another person who is so perfect for me except for one major problem: money. She already has close to $10,000 in credit card debt and this doesn’t seem to worry her in the least bit. She often goes shopping with her friends and comes back with him hundreds of dollars in clothes and shoes without giving it a second thought. I have tried to talk to her about this a number of times, but every time that I do I get brushed off. She says that she’s working and she will earn the money to pay for it eventually.

I’m wondering what is the best way to approach her to let her know that I think that this is a serious issue that we need to resolve if we are going to get married. I grew up in a family where we never had a whole lot of money and I consider every expenditure with a great deal of thought. I know that if we don’t come to some type of agreement, this will be a constant battle between us in the future.

The biggest problem I see with this is that she has no desire to change (at least that is my impression at this point) and if somebody doesn’t have the desire to change, then I don’t think that they’re likely to do so. I’m afraid that if I say that I’m not willing to get married until she changes her spending habits, she will change, but only because she wants to get married. I don’t want her to hold it against me because it wasn’t in her decision to change.

I’m really distraught about this whole situation and need advice on the best way to approach it.

If you were in the same situation, how would you broach the subject and what do you think you should expect when talking about this?

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7 Responses to When Your Partner Spends More Than You Think They Should (Your Advice)

  1. Alex says:

    I don’t think people really change. If she is careless about money, she will continue to be so until and unless she experiences some sort of life changing event, like bankruptcy. The problem might be that she might never realize the errors of her ways, never save, get further into debt, and only realize far too late how deeply in trouble she is.

    You might try nurturing a sense of frugality in her, without engendering a defensive brush off. Try to make saving “fun” or see if you can make paying off credit card debt a game, where she feels a sense of accomplishment for every step made.

  2. davis says:

    sorry, there no change to come anytime soon. i have the very exact problem with my wife of two years. and no matter how much i talk, preach, beg & plead.. it will stop for a while, and will restart when she thinks you forgot about it….(about two weeks)

  3. Joey says:

    I was in the same boat with the gf before meeting my wife. It actually took her losing her job and finally going into bankruptcy to realize the error in her ways. Sounds like your gf might be the same type of person. Something extreme will have to happen for her to realize she isn’t going down the right path. Oooooooor you are big daddy pimpin’ and she knows you are gonna take of her pesky debt. 😉

  4. Debbie says:

    You could try talking more about yourself when you bring up this issue with her and less about her.

    For example, you could talk about how you grew up without a lot of money and how that affected you. Tell her specific stories about things that happened to you, and how that affected you. Talk about how you decided you don’t want certain things ever to happen again or how you don’t ever want to have to worry about certain things. Talk about your plans to make these wishes come true. Ask her if she has additional ideas about how to make these wishes come true.

    She may try to give you advice about lightening up. Tell her about some scary stories and about how having some savings is what will make it easier for you to lighten up.

    Then tell her about how distraught her spending is making you feel. Admit that this could be a weakness of your own, but that you can’t help feeling this way. By now she should at least understand how you could feel like that. Let her help you figure out ways to where you don’t have to feel so horrible.

    She may also be afraid of having to watch every penny and not be able to have fun with her friends any more. Try to work with her to come up with strategies where she doesn’t have to worry about this. These could mean inviting her friends out for cheaper excursions or turning them on to thrift stores. It could mean going shopping and hanging out and trying things on but not buying anything unless it’s fulfilling a specific need. It could mean acting just the same but then returning her purchases after her friends leave, but before she comes home. (And if her friends ask about a particular purchase later, she can have an excuse ready about not looking as good in the light at home or not going with her other clothes or finding a little tear and there weren’t more in her size, etc.)

    Or maybe she just can’t stand the idea of penny pinching and having to think long and hard about every purchase the way you do. It might help to bring up how much interest she is paying. Just figure out what her feelings are and address those, too.

    Another tactic is to discuss your and her long-range financial goals and work together on ways to achieve those. She may not even realize that goals more important to her are actually possible, such as a trip to Paris. She may think that spending freely with friends is the best she can do on her income.

    My philosophy is that I can afford ANYTHING I want, but not EVERYTHING I want. I find that very freeing. Anything I really want, I can have. But not everything I could ever imagine wanting.

    Or you may not be suited to be married to each other. That would really suck, but it would be better to find out now and escape before bankruptcy.

    Best of luck.

  5. Heidi says:

    It’s kind of similar to my situation. My husband used to spend money like there’s no tomorrow. It doesn’t matter how hard you try to explain to him, the thought of “savings” never register his mind. Finally, I set up an online savings account. Every time he gets paid, he pays himself first. It turns out pretty good. We’ve been saving a LOT more since it started. Recently he even told me to take more money from his pay check! I guess this type of person simply loves spending every penny in the account. It’s not about shopping, buying clothes, eat out or whatever, they LOVE to spend money, period. Make the auto savings as an expense to them. You keep the account information and the password, do not give him/her a chance to touch it (you can’t take back what you spend!). I hope it works for you~

  6. Gail says:

    One of the biggest, if not the biggest, causes of divorce is money and the failure of couples to see eye to eye and communicate on how to spend it. This needs to be on an even keel prior to marriage otherwise there will only be heartache and bitterness. The minute you marry this lady, assuming you live in a community property state, her debts become your debts. And what is her attitdue about what kind of car she needs to drive, what kind of housing, furniture, vacations etc. does she expect? You either need to make the decision to marry her without any changes on her part–never go into marriage expecting to change the other–or to forego the opportunity to marry her and trust that someday the real right one will come along.

    $10K is a lot of debt for a single girl (or anyone for that matter) to be carrying. If she is willing to work with you on eliminating this debt and not go into more for a wedding, etc. Then wait until she has proved to herself and you that she has changed because she wants to and the debt is paid of before setting a wedding date.

    Her brushing you off on this matter shows that she isn’t interested in your feelings about this matter, which is of huge concern.

    When I got married, my fiance had assured me that all his finances were in good order, blah blah. The day after our wedding, he opened his books to me and I found out that I had gone $20K into debt overnight! 5 years later I’d had enough and we were over $40K in credit card debt, plus mortgage, car payments, etc. I said enough was enough. Within months after our seperation prior to our divorce he managed to rack up at least another $60K in debt!!! These thing happen. It is much nicer where you are money compatible as I found with my new hubby.

  7. DJ says:

    I actually saw this topic area full of readers comments and felt the need to post, catharsis I guess.

    This has been a huge struggle for my wife and myself. While we are a double income family, I find that we spending more then we make. Along with a new house (probably more then what we should have) and a toddler, and a baby possibly on the way. We both enjoy spending money, however I feel like I am the only one with a big picture mentality or realistic one. I become very stressed when I am attempting to discuss money with my wife and she calls me an asshole. Money should be discussed before marriage, it doesn’t get any easier once you have the instant debt from your new spouse. I had 5k in savings before we got married and my wife had 5k in debt 5 years ago. After the wedding that her parents paid for we still ended up in 3k of debt. This does not go away and if you are the savings person your role will also become the “makings” person. I am beginning to think I should keep all knowledge of any cash surplus to myself anymore. Tried the budgeting. tried the goal setting. Personally right now I am too tired trying to make the money to care about how it is spent anymore. Our relationship is shot.

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