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How Would You Feel if Your Spouse/Partner Broke Your Budget?


Suppose that your spouse or partner broke your budget with a big and unexpected purchase. How would you feel?

Betrayed? Miffed? Disappointed? Shocked? Sad? Ok? Whatever?

Yesterday, I mentioned that when Micah was getting an oil change, they tried to upsell him some tires. I was at work at the time, incommunicado. If he had gone ahead with it, I would have understood but I also would have been a bit disappointed that he hadn’t waited to hear back from me first.

After all, tires are pricey.

We do have an understanding that if one of us needed towing, had a tire blow, whatnot, it would be ok to do what was necessary. And we also have an understanding that most non-budget purchases need to be discussed. This works fine.

It’s just the fine lines which we hadn’t discussed. So now there’s one more thing to be discussed. In the situation, Micah decided that it wasn’t critically urgent and did comparison shopping. Now we have more experience with evaluating situations based on urgency. Right away urgent falls under urgent but not “soon urgent.” You can always go back.

How have you and your spouse or partner decide this? Or are you single and feeling very grateful that you have more control over your money?

Around the blogosphere, Him and Her of Make Love, Not Debt just wrote about ten financial considerations for newlyweds.

photo by clairity


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CatherineL January 9, 2008 at 6:13 am

Mrs M – I used to be married to someone who broke our budget; bought worthless junk whilst he was abroad with the forces and expected me to foot the bill; borrowed from me and never paid me back; and even stole from me.

The first few times it happened – I tried to ignore it. And when I found hundreds of pounds in his drawer that he’d stolen from my purse, over several weeks – I even pretended to believe that he was trying to help me save for Christmas!

But in the end – enough was enough. And if I ever found myself in that situation again, I’d be far quicker at showing the offending individual the door.

mrsmicah January 9, 2008 at 7:31 am

I can imagine it would have been hard to take it all to the level of saying “Ok, we’re finished.” The first time, anyway.

Fabulously Broke January 9, 2008 at 8:30 am

When Ex bought a car, I went extremely quiet and didn’t say a word for a week.

He knew I was very very angry he blew our yearly budget without consulting me because it was a “good deal” for a WANT, not a need.

He talked me around, saying that he’d work to pay off the car gradually, but let me tell you… it was one of the straws that broke the camel’s back 😛

plonkee January 9, 2008 at 8:38 am

I’m single, and thinking that this is one of the ways in which separated finances would have the advantage. And yes, I’m happy that all my finances are my own decision.

Saving Freak January 9, 2008 at 10:15 am

I am married and my wife and I working as a team has helped us do wonderful things with our finances. In our first month of marriage we went to financial counseling so that we were on the same page. From there on out we have had no arguments about money in three years of marriage. We do not make any purchases more than $20 without consulting the other spouse unless it comes out of our allowances (usually a gift for one another). Our marriage is stronger because of the way we manage our money together.

Fiscal Musings January 9, 2008 at 10:49 am

We’re pretty transparent about the things we want and what we spend our money on. We haven’t really had any arguments about money and I don’t really see it happening. Having open communication has really helped out a lot.

Hunter Nuttall January 9, 2008 at 11:04 am

This is definitely something that has to be worked out with one’s spouse, considering how much stress money matters can put on a marriage.

Just a heads up that your “ten financial considerations for newlyweds” link has the wrong URL.

mrsmicah January 9, 2008 at 11:06 am

Thanks Hunter!

Early Retirement Extreme January 9, 2008 at 11:54 am

Big and unexpected? Comparable to cheating. Actually worse, since it not just a betrayal but because it would compromise me financially as well as emotionally.

Coupon Fetcher January 9, 2008 at 12:16 pm

My spouse and I will talk to each other before making a big purchase ($75 or more), unless it is an emergency type thing. I think it is good policy in a relationship. Like a commenter said, open communication is so key when it comes to money and marriage.

mrsmoneymaker January 9, 2008 at 1:05 pm

My spouse will not talk to me about money. its very very frustrating. He is afraid of it. it is getting better – in that he doesnt shout and leave the house if I tell him he needs to complete his tax return. but I am attempting to budget on my own and its hard. I am worried because friends of mine have split up over money differences. I dont know how to get him to the table and talk about it. everything else is good.

RacerX January 9, 2008 at 1:12 pm

Once is an accident; 3 times is a pattern.

If someone just isn’t going to be responsible at the very least have different checking accounts , so you will be OK. If it continues and they won’t get help, like an alcoholic that won’t stop drinking, then you are enabling them. You must consider your life and the well being of you children if they are involved.

Addiction can be beat, but unless someone wants to be helped they can’t be and will drag you down.

Kari January 9, 2008 at 1:14 pm

My husband and I have been together for 6 years and only in the last few months have we been able to have real conversations about our personal finances. We have a mountain of debt, 2 car payments, and a new mortgage. I handle our finances and had struck out over and over trying to discuss it with him. Finally though, I’ve found a working method of bringing the subject up without alienating him and we have since found a budget we can stick with, a weekly allowance we can stick with, and have agreed that we will offer each other full disclosure when requested (we have separate checking accounts). We discuss all large purchases or non-budgeted ones and have agreed that if they are “semi-urgent” we will figure out a way to budget for it since we have a new (since 11/1/07) cash only policy. We agreed not to carry our credit cards anymore although we’ve also agreed that there are certain dire emergencies that might require their use. The only sore spot right now is lunch! I brown bag it and have for months but I can’t convince him to do the same. We’ve finally hit on a compromise where he will take his lunch with him at least “a few” times a week. I’d prefer if he would do it every day (buying lunch out is insanely expensive if you really think about it) but the more I nag him, the less often he’ll pack a lunch! So, I’m letting that one go….

deepali January 9, 2008 at 2:05 pm

If one partner breaks the budget, the problem isn’t in finances, it’s in communication. Money issues actually rank on the lower end of marital problems – the fundamental flaw is usually on the communication side (money just becomes the cover).
So for those of you with agreements and plans with your spouses – good job! You’re getting to the heart of the issue (beyond money).

CatherineL January 9, 2008 at 2:08 pm

Hi Mrs M – Unfortunately it wasn’t a case of the first few times – I was a total doormat and waited far too many years.

And he couldn’t have been saved because he didn’t want to be – he just wanted everyone else to bail him out. I got rid of him over three years ago, and he went bankrupt after that.

I hope I don’t sound too cruel, and I have to add in my defence that the spending wasn’t his only problem.

Anitra January 9, 2008 at 2:34 pm

If it happened on something non-essential, I would be upset. But my hubby checks with me on pretty much everything, so I am confident it won’t happen. Anything that’s not coming out of his or my “allowance” we discuss and decide how to rework the budget if it makes sense.

In fact, I’ve broken the budget worse than he has… we were newly married, and I needed (well, really, REALLY wanted) to replace my junker car. We were planning on spending $6-7k, but I found a newer car and fell in love with it, to the point that I did not negotiate well with the dealer, and walked away spending $11k instead. He was irritated, and still brings it up to this day. It’s not the money that really bothered him (we paid off the loan almost 2 years early), but it was the fact that I explicitly did things he had asked me not to do (buy my first test drive, not be ready to go elsewhere, look too excited, etc.)

It was a learning experience. Our next car will be bought with cash, so at least I’ll have a more firm constraint to avoid spending too much.

Melissa January 9, 2008 at 4:19 pm

We tend to discuss anything over $25 or sometimes less if it’s a completely non-essential purchase. Big purchases or financial decisions are always discussed beforehand.

20somethingmoney January 10, 2008 at 1:46 am

My husband has really got on board with the budgeting part of life. We have set amounts of “spending money” and he is pretty good about sticking to the allotted amount.

Our friends used to make fun of the fact that we would call each other if we wanted to buy something that was more than like $10. But, now, I think that they actually respect how it has impacted our relationship. We know that the other one isn’t going to go behind the other ones back and spend money.

fathersez January 10, 2008 at 6:00 am

This is a great question. We have been married a long time, 23 years. Only now have we done a budget and actually seen where our money was going.

Now dicussions on money are a lot more productive then before.

Still, all the years of marriage, we have always discussed major expenditure before committing.

In Debt January 10, 2008 at 1:39 pm

Young and I are just beginning to figure out these sorts of issues with money. Since I tend to be overly relaxed about money issues, I’d probably be fine with whatever she thought best at the time.

On the other hand, because Young tends to be more sensitive to money issues, I’d avoid spending money on something unplanned without discussing it with her first. (Assuming that it was more than just a few dollars.)

Moneymonk January 14, 2008 at 2:29 pm

@mrsmoneymaker- maybe he wants you to take care of it.

Most men was not told how to budget, handle bills, etc. Most women just take the responsibility, it’s not until later to become stressed out over it.

Find out his goals and ambitions and then use that as a goal. If “we” do this now then you will get [ his dreams ] later”

He may not feel apart of the money because he does not see what he gets out of it. Give him a reason

Amanda @ Me vs Debt January 15, 2008 at 6:29 am

Good morning, Mrs. Micah. I’m single with total control over my money, but I am in a relationship where we openly discuss purchases and money spent. I feel like we’re on track for a healthy financial relationship. When we do consolidate our finances I imagine we’ll maintain a degree of individual spending freedom outside of what we decide to spend and save together.

Jenni January 21, 2008 at 5:36 pm

I think that most couples should have separate bank accounts – my hubby and I have had this for years and so did my ex-husband and I. If you want to buy your spouse a gift – they always know what it costs if you have a joint account – no way!

Sillyolme October 14, 2008 at 11:32 am

We are married almost 7 years. Second marriage. We had discussions about pooling money and being a team, how we would save. Then he got laid off, started a business. There were issues, but we managed to over come them. We both made some mistakes with it, but now he can’t pay himself and we can’t pay our personal bills. I have asked him for over a year to declare bankruptcy, instead he refied some equipment and signed a personal guarantee, after I asked him not too (consulted with business attorney first) He wants another 1 to 5 years to get the money we have spent back out of it, but we are sinking fast…..and college for my oldest is just a few months away. He told me to get a part time job. I told him it makes no sense that he works 80 hrs a week and can’t pay himself, and I need to work 2 jobs, take care of the house and kids, so he can keep his business. He bounces checks every week – I have given him spreadsheets and done some financial anaylsis….he refuses to look at the numbers, he said I am making them up, even though they come right from bills and bank statements. I am about to leave after 1 year of begging him to give this up. Help

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