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Joel Lapierre
November 30, 2020

‘Til Debt Do Us Part: Tips for Surviving a Shopaholic Spouse

Are you married? Then here’s one huge detail that many people in your situation haven’t considered before they’ve said their “I do’s.”

Their partner’s spending habits!

So many couples just assume they’re on the same page about how they spend money. And so, they choose to tie their lives together based on this assumption. It’s no wonder that financial issues are one of the top reasons for divorce!

Most relationships have a saver and a spender. Opposites attract, after all. But when a couple disagrees on spending, it can lead to tension, misunderstanding, and keeping secrets.

If you’re the saver, it might become too easy to resent your spouse’s shopping habits. This is especially true if you’re also the breadwinner.

On the other hand, if you’re the spender, you may feel like your partner is trying to control you. Or you may feel that you are more in touch with what the household needs — and your spouse is being completely unreasonable.

Does any of this sound familiar?

So how can you — and your partner — live happily ever after if one of you is a shopaholic?

Let’s start with some tough news. If you are the saver in the relationship, it’s up to you to start the conversation. Spenders often don’t notice the problem until it’s too late.

First, broach the topic in a loving, non-accusatory way. Sit down with your partner in a non-stressful setting, perhaps over coffee or wine. The key to a successful money conversation is to start on common ground and look for goals that unite you. Talk about your individual and shared money goals. Find out what each other considers a “need” versus a “want” — you may have very different ideas!

Next, create a budget. It’s not sexy, but it works. Budgeting as a single person is pretty easy. When there are two people with competing ideas or desires, budgeting gets trickier. Make sure that you and your partner have equal input in making your budget. Otherwise, one of you might take excessive ownership of the budget — and the other one will resent it as someone else’s idea of a good time.

Another tip: Consider keeping separate bank accounts for discretionary spending. Perhaps you have one shared account for paying household bills, another shared account for long-term savings. Then each one of you might keep a set of individual accounts for your “spending” money. The deal is, once each person’s spending money is gone, that’s it. No more shopping until next payday!

This can cut some tension in the relationship. How?

The saver won’t feel compelled to track the spender’s every purchase. After all, your shared bills and long-term savings goals are taken care of first. This allows each spouse to balance the needs of the household with their desire for things or activities that are fun.

A serious note to close. If your partner is facing a shopping addiction (compulsive buying disorder is a real thing!), the two of you may have to take a tougher approach to managing your finances. This might include cutting up credit cards, attending financial or marriage counseling together, etc. There are also support groups you or your spouse can join, like Debtors Anonymous or Spenders Anonymous.

No matter what your family’s shopping situation is, an experienced financial planner can help you with budgeting, goal-setting, and more.

Even with the support of a trained professional, the two spouses have to learn to talk about money. Finances will always be a potential source of marital conflict. That’s just how it is. But with patience, respect, and discipline, you and your partner can work through this issue.

If you’ve dealt with a shopaholic spouse, how did you handle it? We’d love to hear what worked and what didn’t. Drops us an e-mail and let us know.

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