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The following post comes from Gary Foreman at partner site The Dollar Stretcher.
Reader Alexie asks…
My husband’s spending is starting to drive a wedge between us. I want to put money away for a vacation and our son’s college fund. But there’s never any money left at the end of the month. My husband does outside sales, so he’s in a car all day. By the end of the day, he’s spent $8 or $9 on Starbucks, candybars, sodas, etc. That’s nearly $200 per month! When I ask him about it, we quickly get into a fight. I know that he wants to save for college, etc., but he doesn’t seem to be able to stop or even cut back on the spending. What can I do that won’t destroy my marriage?
You face a common problem, Alexie. In most couples, one is more concerned with the finances than the other. So disputes over money are all too common. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here’s what you can do…
1. Get a second opinion
Begin by recognizing that you might not be the best person to talk to your husband about his spending habits. Sometimes it’s hard to recognize the truth when it comes from someone close to us. We’re more likely to see it if we read it in a book or hear it from an expert. You might have more success if he hears it from an investment adviser.
2. Set good goals
Most of us like to achieve goals. If you can connect a goal (say a vacation that hubby wants) to the behavior needed (one less Starbucks each day), you can cause a change in habits. If hubby buys into the goal and method for achieving it, you’ll have a powerful ally.
Make sure that you place reminders in strategic places. For instance, hubby might find it helpful to keep a vacation travel brochure or two in the car.
3. Take credit
You may find your husband is spending money without thinking about it. Studies show that people spend more when they use plastic. It might be helpful to set up a cash allowance during the week. Ask hubby to agree to put away the cards and switch to cash. He’ll be more aware of his expenses when he handles greenbacks.
4. Be forgiving
Allow for some flexibility. Don’t insist that he can never stop at a 7-11 for a candy bar. Rather, ask him to limit it to once or twice a week. Or perhaps as a reward for sales calls that end up in a commission for him.
Don’t badger and don’t threaten. You’re trying to pull toward a common goal, not win a power struggle. If he enjoys a candy bar in the afternoon, buy some at the grocery store and make sure that one is sitting by his car keys in the morning. It may take a bit of a sacrifice on your part. But making coffee in the morning might be enough to prevent him from buying it later.
5. Be specific
Have specific dollar amounts and dates in mind. “We’ll save $1,500 by next June.” Planning on “saving some money” in the future is a hope, not a goal.
Keep track of your success and celebrate it. Ideally, you’ll be able to move the money saved to a separate account(s) meant for your vacation or college fund. You’ll find that each time you make a deposit, you’ll be re-energized to save even more. Make sure that you talk about your progress. The victory is best shared.
6. Turn the tables
Be willing to listen to his comments about your spending. He may well see places that you should consider cutting back. You owe it to him to give it some thought. You owe it to yourself too.
Ultimately it’s important to recognize that you cannot change your husband’s behavior. Only he can do that. And, he’s much more likely to want to make changes if he sees how he will personally benefit.
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