Financial Infidelity: Cheating On Your Partner With Dollars

The following post is from Neal of WealthPilgrim.com. After reading the article, be sure to sign up for free at Wealth Pilgrim to receive more from Neal.

Last week I wrote about a newlywed couple that had to deal with the issue of “financial infidelity.” To make a long story short, Karin bought a laptop (with her own money) without telling her husband Jim about it first.  He flew into a rage and started throwing temper tantrums, accusing his wife of “financial infidelity.”

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Photo by Ed Yourdon

I personally think the husband is out of his mind, but the situation does bring up an important question; what constitutes financial infidelity and how do you deal with it?

While I am no expert in infidelity (thankfully), it occurs to me that other forms of cheating are a bit more-clear cut.

When you break an implicit or explicit promise – that’s cheating.

But money is tricky.

Where do you draw the line?

If I come home to find that my wife put the house up for sale without discussing it with me first, I’m going to feel cheated.

If, on the other hand, I bring home Honey Nut Cheerios rather than Corn Flakes because the Cheerios are on sale – it’s no problem.

So do you draw the line simply based on the dollar amount? Do I have discretion up to $10 and after that, I have to consult with my wife?

In my household, we both work.  I happen to make more money than she does.  Does that mean I have more discretion than she does?  If that’s the case, she’d be guilty of “financial infidelity” at a lower number than I would.  Does that make sense?

I believe there is no “global solution”.  Each couple has to make their own agreement, be crystal clear where the boundary is and communicate about it often.

So what do you do when your spouse breaks that boundary?

Here’s an approach I’ve come to rely on:

1.   Communicate what you feel and why.

Rather than blame your spouse from the get-go, just tell him/her you are upset, scared, afraid, whatever…and tell them why. You may find out that they did what they did for a perfectly justifiable reason – even though they failed to talk with you about it first.

2.   Get agreement on how to handle similar situations in the future.

Communicate how you would like to handle the situation going forward and find out if your partner agrees. Don’t try to force them into agreeing.  Just ask them how they would like you to handle it if the situation were reversed.

3.   Don’t expect perfection.

Your wife is probably a great person – but she’s not perfect.  Neither are you.  There may be some area where she continually lets you down in the financial world.  Can you accept it?  Has your wife accepted your imperfections?

Some battles are just not worth fighting.  Make sure you pick your battles well.

How have you dealt with issues like this in the past?

A Giveaway for Frugal Dad Readers

As an extra incentive to pick your brains, Jason has twisted my arm and convinced me to give away 3 copies of my course, “Money School for Couples”. It’s a course I created to help couples stop arguing about money. It’s made up of 10 short videos, some exercises and a few whitepapers.  Basically, it’s everything I’ve learned over the last 25 years. The course teaches you how to fix a marriage by fixing the finances. I’m going to use Random.org to pick the lucky winners.

All you have to do to have a chance at snagging your free copy is:

a.   Enter a comment with your answer to one of the three questions below.

b.   Agree to give me your honest feedback about what you like and dislike about the program.

1.   Have you ever had to deal with “financial infidelity”?

2.   Have you ever crossed the line when it comes to cash?

3.   What system do you use that has helped you and your spouse avoid these kinds of battles?

Comments

  1. The system that we use to maintain our “financial fidelity” is to have separate checking accounts and one joint savings account (which we both contribute to from our income). We have agreed to discuss any money that needs to be pulled from this account. Since we both maintain an independent budget for our checking accounts, we are free to spend whatever we want from our “own” money.

  2. My husband and I have had to address this issue due to the accumulation of his fast food spending. He wasn’t meaning to be harmful to our account (or hurtful to me) but after time this one vice added up to a large amount.

  3. Have you ever had to deal with “financial infidelity”?
    If you ask most couples this question, they most likely will point out something their spouse/significant other did that is considered financial infidelity. I tend to commit it on a small scale, a few bucks spent here, a few there. My SO will do it on a large scale but less often. He came home with a motor scooter. To this day he points out that when he asked me if it would be nice to save on gas by buying a motor scooter, I said yes. There for we “discussed” it. At least he can still make me laugh. I think it would be nice to have a maid to but I’ve yet to see her pull up in my driveway. I’ll keep looking, she must be running late.
    What I’ve learned over the years is that it’s not about the money. If you make an agreement with your spouse then you need to respect that. Both parties need to actually agree, not one informing the other that this is how it is. Money represents security and the agreement trust. That’s not something to take lightly.

  4. My husband and I have gone through this problem where I’ve felt financially cheated on. We’re trying to resolve it right now actually. We have a single income home where I work and he stays at home with our son. On numerous occasions now I go to pay on our credit card to find that he’s bought things online and many of the times when this happens it’ll be numerous small transactions in a single day that add up to $100 . I consider it something akin to financial infidelity because we’d agree on a budgeted amount he gets to spend per month on anything. In our problem he not only goes way over it but uses the credit card I’ve been diligently attempting to pay off. We haven’t reached a definitive solution yet but I’m trying to communicate without getting angry or resentful along with trying to understand why.

  5. My husband sometimes has trouble with spending. I feel like I am the victim of financial infidelity when he overspends, knowing that I work two jobs while he goes to school full time. For the longest time, we had an allowance for him, but not for me. He decided that we needed to budget an allowance for me as well. I like that a lot, though he sometimes goes well above his allotment and then I feel betrayed all over again. In general though, the allowance works well.

  6. I think the most important thing about handling money as a couple is making clear decisions about “yours, mine and ours”.

    No matter how you organize your money (totally separate accounts, totally joint or in between), or who earns it, some of it belongs to both of you as soon as it comes home. Some of it, on the other hand, can/should be controlled independently so that you each have some freedom.

    If you’ve agreed beforehand which monies you each control independently, then there really shouldn’t be a question of “cheating” no matter what you do with “your” money.

  7. When hubby and I were engaged he helped me consolidate my credit cards into one lower interest payment so that I could pay them off quicker. As part of that I agreed to stop using my credit cards. Well, I would up buying a thing here and a thing there and had a balance on the card that I couldn’t pay off. I didn’t come clean right away so when he found out he was understandably upset. We managed to work through it and I leared a valuable lesson. Now if I make a financial mistake I come clean right away, he isn’t happy about it, but we both make mistakes and work together to improve and not make the smae mistake again.

    We’ve also switched over to using cash. Now all of our money is budgeted and we each get spending money each week that we are free to do whatever we want with. We can spend it all each week or save it up and buy something big. No permission is EVER needed from the other on how to spend that money. That system works well for us.

    We do still each carry a credit card for emergencies, but we still let each other know if we need to use it. For example, he had a flat tire and wound up having to buy two tires. It went on the credit card, but since I knew about it I had already adjusted our budget so that the money was there to pay for it when the bill came in. I think communication and having a good budget are the keys.

  8. I don’t think we’ve had to deal with financial infidelity since we got married, but we kind of did before. I graduated two years before my husband, so I was bringing in money while he was in school (still the same, just graduate school now!). Anyway, he had about $2000 on his credit card from school expenses, rent, etc. I paid it off for him because I didn’t want that debt coming into the marriage, and also, in the long run, it’s better to just be done with it.
    About a year later, he bought a laptop…or I thought he bought it. He’d put it on his credit card, and one day we were talking about what we owed (still not married yet) and that’s when he told me about the credit card. He saw how much it upset me, and after that we had a very good conversation about how the budget would work once we were married, and how we wouldn’t let him have a credit card anymore (he still doesn’t use one, three years later). It all worked out in the end.

  9. I earn significantly more than my husband. But how we divide up the bills have always been base on a ratio of our total income. So we both have about the same amount of spending money. He can buy whatever he wants with his spending money; same for me.

    However, we have a habit of giving the other a “heads up” a few days prior by mentioning the item we want to purchase (weeks if it is an expensive item). So my husband will not be surprise when I come home with a new laptop. Why should he care as long as I am not accummulating debt and it does not come out of our household funds?

  10. Sometimes the best intentions can lead to awful consequences – we went through a 2 year period where DH’s work was sporadic – a layoff followed by a big downturn in contracting (he was an electrician). I was the primary finances person and I hid the details of how we were doing, because I thought he didn’t need the additional stress on top of his existing depressions about work and feelings of inadequacy…What I did was cause more problems, DEBTS and his feeling of betrayal when it all came unglued (which every such infidelity situation will eventually). We worked through it – with couples and financial counselling, and now we have ‘budget meetings’ monthly to establish our expectations for finances and re-affirm our common goals (pay down the debt & save for the possibility of another downturn). Bad times!

  11. My husband and I avoid financial fights by discussing any “fun” purchases over $20 before they’re made. We each get $75 a month to spend how we wish, but we still talk about what we’re spending it on so there are no surprises…plus bouncing ideas off each other usually leads to saving money. Sometimes I can find what my husband is about to buy on sale online. My husband has saved me from buying bad brands…things that would have broken in less than a year. BUT, we are definitely not the “normal” couple since we love talking about our money and are usually on the same page when it comes to saving…for us, it’s fun!

  12. Money has always been an issue for me and I brought that to the marriage.My family had alot and spent wildly my husband’s family worked hard but did not have alot.We have never shared a checking account,we actually never combined money even during dating and it has worked for us.We do how ever sit down and discuss bills/money issues each saturday morning over coffee when we are relaxed.We have navigated college/wedding/house the usual money issues.We are currently mortgage free working towards paying off car loan and aggressively saving towards retirement that is 5yrs off for my husband and 10yrs for me.That retirement will however be a blend, both of us will work at something in retirement- a second career at reduced commitment and hours.

  13. DH and I have a set amount that each of us can spend each month without having to talk to each other about it. That works for us so we don’t have to call each other and ask if it’s okay to go out to lunch or rent a movie or whatever we want to do.

    After that, we discuss everything from stopping at the grocery store for a few things on up. Yes, it can be a little inconvenient to call up DH and ask him if it’s okay for me to make a bread run at the store, but it keeps our spending in line and we always know what our spending looks like.

  14. Thought provoking post. We’ve had to deal with financial infidelity over and over. My husband works hard, and refuses to look at the bills. But since he works hard, he can’t see why he can’t spend 10 or 20 dollars when he feels like it.

    Our solution is to have one debit card- mine- that accesses the main account. And one debit card- his- that accesses only a seperate account. What ever can be put in his account is, and he’s free to use it up. (Which he does, quickly, every payday.)
    I use the bulk of the money to pay the bills. I have to do so quickly, or else my husband will try to wheedle more money into his account.

    It’s an imperfect system, to be sure. With only one of us interested in financial responsibility, getting out of debt and trying to save even a little, it feels like one step forward and two back.
    But at least he can’t dip into the bill money without me knowing. (He was in agreement with getting a seperate account for himself, by the way.)

  15. Have I ever dealt with financial infidelity?

    YES! My ex-husband ran his own business, made his own decisions, told me that my input was invalid because I was ‘just a housewife’ (I was a SAM at the time).

    He ran his business recklessly, took out loans which I did not sign for, and when the business failed refused to file bankruptcy or file taxes.

    We ended up divorced & I filed bankruptcy for the $700K because in a community property state I was responsible for the debt.

    It is extremely important that a married couple be on the same page about financial issues, particularly if you live in a community property state~!

  16. I dealt with this issue in an early relationship. My boyfriend was constantly losing jobs and I supported us with my income. I found out soon after we broke up that the real issue was a drug habit. Not only had he been fired for stealing on the job (not the story I heard from him, of course), but had stolen important items from me. Unfortunately my sense of betrayal from this behavior has carried forward. I’m very interested to see the responses on how other couples handle their money, especially as my current partner was laid off last year and I am again supporting the household. We talk over financial issues, but I struggle with my feelings surrounding the situation.

  17. My husband and I are constantly dealing with money “fairness issues”. We make drastically different sums, but decided to share the “joint expenses” based on our gross salary. We decided this based on the fact that alone, we would both choose drastically different lifestyles based on our individual finances, but that together we decided to buy a house, car, etc. Everything else is our own private money. We keep separate accounts for that money and can use it however we like, but we track everything together. Being accountable to someone else, even with my own money, makes me think twice about buying a book or a piece of clothing or that fancy new cell phone with the more expensive calling/data plan. I think it has helped us both become more responsible with discretionary spending.

  18. The Hubs and I have a $50 limit. Generally we try to tell each other about everything we buy, but when seeking approval it’s anything over $50.

    That being said this $50 limit came out of a situation where my husband purchased a $2000 laptop. There were some good reasons to make this purchase – and though I was given a “heads up” – I felt like my opinion was factored out of the equation. This probably is a bit of the male/female communication disconnect.

  19. Appreciated reading everyone else’s comments first — some great ideas here! Unfortunately have faced the issue in my marriage as well. I’m the saver, hubby is the spender. Financial infidelity used to be a much bigger issue for us early in our marriage (10 years now). The most glaring example was when he owned EIGHT! motorcyles, and went so far as to store them in a storage garage I never accessed. I knew about maybe 4 of them.

    He was often paid in cash, and very used to having it on hand for whatever “toys” he wanted. Caused some strain, as I saw that as money he COULD be contributing to “us” and instead used for himself alone. Then he developed several physical issues from a lifetime of labor, and is now on disability. So I’m the primary breadwinner, which has caused new tensions over money control. Mixed blessing, as we now discuss money like never before, and obviously spending on what I see as luxury items is way down (he’s a spender, not a fool!).

  20. We are a young couple (mid 20s) living on the margins of just barely making enough to fully cover our expenses, avoid consumer debt, and leave our emergency fund whole. In recent months since making the significant commitment of purchasing our first home those margins have narrowed [as expected]. As a result we have had to become incredibly diligent about sticking to our budget. However, my wife has the tendency to stray from the budget on clothes, shoes, and shopping, which inevitably infuriates me as I shuffle money around to pay all of our bills.

    To address my wife’s “need” for flexibility and my demand that we remain [non-mortgage] debt free, we are currently in the process of implementing a cash-based discretionary fund for each of us. If this doesn’t work, I am just going to take away her credit & debit cards and checkbook – just kidding, kinda.

    We would love to win a copy of your program.

    Thanks for all of the great posts Frugal Dad and Wealth Pilgrim!

  21. @ Julie

    Fairness is a great word to use! My (now) husband and I had those issues before we were married. He makes more than double what I do and we live in a style that, even when we divvy the expenses proportionately by salary left me with very little at the end of the month, but him with hundreds of dollars. I didn’t think that was fair, but he didn’t think it was fair for him to pay all of the bills either.

    What we ended up doing was putting everything into the communal pot to begin with. We’d then pay the bills and debts, decide on our joint savings goals (our wedding at the time) and put that away too.

    Whatever was left for discretionary spending, we split up proportionately by salary. So he still felt like he got more “allowance” to reward his bigger paycheque, and I actually got some allowance! It worked very well.

  22. My loving wife and I have been trying to climb our way out of debt after being married over 4 years. With a car loan, student loan, and credit card debt at our time of marriage, we have never felt we were in a good place financially. Although we have really tightened up our spending in the last year as well as tweaking our budget and furiously paying down debt, we have both been guilty of “financial infidelity” from time to time.

    We both work and have a joint checking account that we pay bills and live from – no “big” money is private.

    On the other hand, we both have hobbies that make us a little “side hustle” money (me more than she) and I usually find a way to put the money I make back into my hobby or spend it somewhere else, whereas my wife usually puts her money into our household budget.

    Here is a recent example of “financial infidelity” where I am the guilty one.
    We usually communicate if we spend anything over $25 for ourselves, but recently I bought a new subwoofer system for my car with my side money. She doesn’t know since I installed it myself, hasn’t heard or seen it, and the guilt builds a little more everyday. I need to get this monkey off my back soon and suffer whatever looks or verbal consequences I deserve!

    Your program looks promising – keep up the good work Neal!

  23. We have been married for 19 years now and are still going strong. Our rule has always been anything over $100.00 we discuss before the person purchases it. As with any rule, there is an exception…groceries and household needs like toilet paper, etc. It has always worked for us.

  24. I’ve alway been a SAHM, and at 54 yrs old feel somewhat at the financial mercy of my husband.
    When we were first married, he totally handled the finances, after all, it was his paycheck. We did grocery shopping together and the only way for me to get any ‘treat’ for myself was at the supermarket or basically beg. A few months into this, I found stacks of unpaid bills stuffed in his drawers…the phone and electric were going to be shut off and the only reason the oil delivery kept coming was the man who ran the company liked me.
    Loooong story short, I have handled the finances for 35 years now. I have a tiny side business to use THAT money for my little extras, cat food and hobbies, he gets $50 a week allowance from his paycheck (which is a good percentage of his earnings). We’re working on paying off what was originally $33,000 in credit card debt-after 4 years it’s at $27,000, plus, of course, all the bills are always on time. We had talked about cutting up credit cards and after some debate, we did.

    Oh yes, I also have charities I regularly give to out of my meager earnings, my husband never donates to anything, except maybe $1 for a sick workmate collection.
    So, we don’t ‘talk’ about money, lest we have what he calls “one of those reactions” from me.
    Sounds worse than it is or maybe I’m just used to it after all these years….aaaaaah!

  25. My spouse and I do this to each other all the time with little purchases, a lunch out here, cash back there, etc. I am generally the accuser, but I am sure I have been the offender at times. Right now we just ignore the problem, but we are trying to change that and learn to better handle our finances. It would be great to have a couples approach and I am sure we would both provide feedback.

  26. I was deeply affected by this post. In my home, I am like the ant, and my husband is like 10 grasshoppers (remember the parable of the ant and the grasshopper).

    We have been married for over 20 years, with constant financial infidelity on his part. I have tried reasoning with him to no avail. His attitude is “they’ll get their money when they get it”. He feels entitled to material things because he works, and gambles our money away too. He then criticizes me for making donations to my church and to charitable organizations.

    I am at my wits end, living as frugally as I can, while he goes along as he pleases.

    We now have totally separate bank accounts. I have closed all joint accounts where he can access funds to protect myself. Sadly, the next step may have to be divorce. I can’t live out my life this way, and he won’t seek help or counseling.

    At least I have a name now for what’s going on. I never thought of it that way.

  27. Buying something with your own money doesn’t constitute financial infidelity. I doubt he consults her every time he buys a new video game or upgrades his cell phone.

    I was friends with a couple where the wife had racked up $25k in credit card debt unbeknownst to her husband. THAT’S financial infidelity!

  28. My partner and I have our paychecks deposited into what we call our “bill pay” account, which is a checking account that we pay our bills out of. Out of that money, we each take a weekly allowance which is to cover our gas, fast food, snacks, and other miscellaneous expenses. Since we typically prepare meals at home and take left-overs for lunch, our allowances don’t need to be much. We also purchase snacks with our weekly grocery shopping. However, we allow each other to have money for those things we didn’t think of or didn’t want when we were in the store.

  29. I feel blessed to have my husband as my partner. We both made financial mistakes early on in life and thus are now CASH people. We don’t like making purchases on credit. We talk often about things we might need, expenses that are going to be coming up. We really work with each other strengths. I’m really good at keeping us organized and knowing when bills are coming in, when they are due, and forecasting expenses to come. He is great at paying things. We find this works because both of us see what funds come in and what funds are going out. Both of us are reasonable about our purchases and we don’t really look for a reason to be offended when it comes to money. We have a solid respect for each other’s feelings and for our relationship so if there is ever a question, we check in with each other. We remember that the other person is our PARTNER and not someone looking to do us in. Communication and the maturity to not have ostridge syndrome is important.

  30. The amount of heartache caused by money is rather staggering. I read of a suicide case where the person hid her spending from her mate and ended up so deep in shame when the collectors came that she couldn’t bear it.

  31. We have learned to communicate clearly and often about the finances. Otherwise the ugly conversations are much more likely. When we both sit down and review the budget together, we find that we are much calmer than if we base a discussion on assumptions!

  32. My husband and I maintain fairly separate banking and it’s worked so far with us (but only 7 months). We’ve been discussing ways to combine our finances and haven’t quite figured everything out yet.

    Recently, he booked a vacation (for himself, one he takes every year) without telling me beforehand. I knew he was searching for a deal and I knew he was going but I was disappointed when he went ahead and booked a flight without letting me know first. Am I being unreasonable? I have no idea. It doesn’t bother me at all that he’s travelling without me because I’m unable to go. I guess I just wanted him to acknowledge me before he made the commitment on a flight and hotel. We didn’t fight about it. I was just a little bit disappointed. I think the term financial infidelity is

    Long story short, we’re still working on combining our finances. We have the same goals and are very open with one another, we just don’t have a joint account yet. I think that “system” will be forever evolving.

  33. @RLS, I would mention that I felt a little left out of the process and maybe he’ll be more thoughtful in the future.

    @Rebecca, I’m sorry your marriage doesn’t sound very happy. I hope your future years will be better. Good luck.

    PS I’d leave him, but I’m not forgiving when it comes to money…

  34. Thankfully I have never had to deal with financial infidelity – neither on my part, nor by my husband.

    I’m a SAHM, and I don’t bring in any money because it just wouldn’t work right now for me to do much. But my husband never makes me feel like he can just go around spending “his” money however he wants. In fact, he tells me that it’s more my money than his because I’m the one who crunches the numbers and does the physical paying of the bills every month. He just brings home the bacon :) Of course he has a say in the budget as well.

    I think for me it depends on the intent behind the “secrecy.” (i.e. the secrecy of it not being in the budget). For example, if my husband came home with a $200 kitchen appliance or piece of furniture for me to surprise me, I might be a little less offended than if he gambled away $200, or spent it on some gaming system or “toy” for himself (without it being in the budget). Even though the $200 wasn’t in the budget either way it seems like it is a lot less offensive if the secrecy was for the element of surprise rather than because he didn’t want me to get on him for not spending.

    I think we avoid any situations like this at all (us spending money in secret) by budgeting together and being completely open to talking about purchases. I tell him that if there is something he wants, just bring it up, and we’ll put it in the budget. I try to be respectful, too, and not laugh if he says he wants to spend $50 on a talking bass. I don’t think he would ever do that, but if he really wanted a $50 talking bass I wouldn’t make him feel stupid for wanting it. We would just talk about it and put it in the budget (honestly though, I might try to convince him that he didn’t want it… not for the monetary reasons… more for the “Where on earth would we put a talking bass” reasons)

    I feel like there is nothing we cannot do if we budget, and I think that helps him feel like he isn’t being deprived or told what to do.

  35. I’m learning a lot in here.. But guess what?. We’ve together as couple for 2 years now and everything seems going great. we both work and our earning are almost the same. I have bills to pay and so he has. what we actually do is we pay our own bills, then set a budget for the of us (which includes our daily expenses and recreations) and the rest to our own savings. Each has to give own own share. It’s probably easy for the two of us since we both are working.

  36. My husband and I went from making about 165k a year to about 30k a year when we went into business for ourselves. I used to be the primary breadwinner and still feel the stress of not being able to get him the things he wants. So I occassionally blow our budget badly to get him what he wants instead of being super frugal. Like this week a $500 washing machine (right on the credit card) instead of the used $100 one or borrowing our friends washer on Wednesday’s at her house for 2.5 months to buy a used $100 one in cash without dipping into our very small emergency fund.

  37. It’s interesting that a few couples divide their spending money proportionately by income.

    In that agreement, you accept the marketplace value placed on your contribution to the union, rather than what it means to the 2 of you.

    By that logic, a mom working part time, and knocking herself out cleaning and taking care of kids after work, would have significantly less financial reward than her full-time husband, even though her contribution to the union is undoubtedly just as important.

    My husband and I spend very little, but we always clear 20 dollar purchases with each other. It’s really just a courtesy, as we have separate accounts. We pay certain bills out of his account, and the myriad of smaller budget items out of mine. I like budgeting- he does not, so 2 checks a month are just right for his interest in things financial.

  38. 3. What system do you use that has helped you and your spouse avoid these kinds of battles?

    It turns out that between my husband and I, I’m better at keeping track of our budget and what bills are due, so we put all our paychecks into one checking account that we use for bills & other purchases. Basically, I’m the grand master of Can We Afford This Or Not – If my husband wants anything, he checks with me to see if we can afford it. Even though I am in charge (& he’s OK with that!), if I want something, I do keep him in the loop if I consider making a purchase myself. It’s only fair :)

    I certainly agree to offer feedback on the book! I have a feeling it’d be great for us!

  39. My husband makes significantly more than me and *neither* of us feels that this entitles him to more weight in decision-making. When we got married, we both agreed to share everything. What’s mine is his and what’s his is mine and that means money too. I totally agree that the “market” (i.e. what you can command in salary) should have nothing to do with the weight you can throw around in financial discussions at home. To be perfectly frank, that idea is offensive to me.

    We discuss “big” purchases – generally somewhere between $100 and $200 but not clearly defined. We’ve segmented our spending so that, for instance, I am responsible for monitoring our spending at the grocery store while he is responsible for monitoring our spending at restaurants and bars.

  40. My wife and I have a personal account for each of us and a joint account. We set this up when we were having money issues before we were married, but were living together. It has worked really well. We agreed on a percentage of our paychecks that we would each contribute to the joint account. All bills and joint expenses were paid out of this account. Descretional spending came out of our personal accounts. If I wanted to go out to eat, I treated. If she wanted to go out to eat, she treated. If there was a big expense that for the house that exceeded what we had in our joint account, appliance purchase, etc, we would agree to the purchase, and then each contribute an extra x percentage of our salaries to the joint account. Currently it is a little different because she is home with our children, and we are living on my income, but we do our best to be fair to each other.

  41. As frugally as possible….

    We had a year’s worth of my wife’s salary (gross) saved up before our first child was born, and in five years we’ve used a little more than half of it. (We both put in a portion of our salary, just like our joint account, every month.) It’s getting ready to take another hit to cover some of the child birth expenses that are outstanding for our second child. We both understand that when that savings runs out, it will be very hard for us to make it on one income alone. We both try not to spend on frivolous things.

    We make no big purchases, unless they are necessary, right now. And we discuss any big purchase with each other. At this point the same thing that makes a marriage work, makes our money situation work. We communicate.

  42. Any one have suggestion-advice for couples who make very different salaries? What is out is a combined checking to pay bills, not looking for the standard pooling of money ideas.Really looking for out of the box livable ideas? I make dramatically more than my husband, always have.He is very happy in his career so no chance of him increasing his salary.I have always worked more than 1 job long story but I am a workaholic really enjoy what I do.We are mortgage free,paying off cars and home equity(roof).I feel responsible for everything, all our needs.Any way would love to hear from others on the uneven teeter tauter???

  43. I have had to deal with this issue almost my entire life. I met someone when I was 15 we married at 20. I had $10K he had 280.00 to his name. I worked he went to school, we lived extremely frugally due to his mandate of it! He would beat if he felt you spent too much on any one thing. We mananaged to save 500K maybe more I really don’t know as he never really showed me the books / we got divorced I got zero he got all the money. I still feel cheated on this matter.
    Remember I worked he went to school.

  44. Money may not be the root issue in alot of these cases. I think if you have good communication, money communication will follow. We’ve learned some things the rough way since we are total temperment opposites. We try to take the strengths of both perspectives and use them in the budgeting process. (He’s a fun person. I’m a saver.) But we’ve always consolidated our finances no matter who worked or worked more. Two things have helped alot. A written budget that we hash out together and stick to, and a small bit of personal mad money.

  45. Question 3. What system do you use that has helped you and your spouse avoid these kinds of battles?

    My wife and I have been married for almost eight months now and we haven’t had a single fight about money. We avoid such conflict by doing the following:

    1. At the beginning of the month, we review the results of last month and establish our budget for the next month.

    2. On a weekly basis, we review where we are in our spending categories and see what we have left for the month. If adjustments are needed, we discuss them first and then adjust as necessary.

    3. We live by the motto: If it’s not in the budget, then we’ll have to do without. If it’s something we really want and need, then we’ll save up for it (see #4)

    4. We save for large purchases over several months/years, rather than buy them on impulse.

    5. We plan for $100 to $200 in “flex” money every month. Any unspent flex money goes back into savings or becomes flex money for the next month.

    6. We use YNAB and follow the methodology behind it (live off of last month’s income).

    7. Before we got married, my wife and I realized that we wanted her to stay home with the kids when they started coming. That said, since we got married, we’ve been budgeting as if her income doesn’t exist (we put it all into savings over and above what we put into savings from from my income).

    8. We do all of the above TOGETHER, rather than one person making all the decisions. Being completely open and honest with eachother is a must.

    Regards,
    -Thomas

  46. I can relate to Rebecca. I was married for 15 years to a great guy. But I had an underlying feeling, he wasnt always 100% honest with me. I found out by opening up a new account at a new bank (Patriot Act) requires them to run you credit. Since I was putting it in both mine and my husbands name, the credit report showed all accounts. I happened to say, can I take a look at that? And at that moment the rug was pulled out from under me. My husband had over $60,000 in debts that I had no idea about. He had all his mail going to his company PO box and lines of credit maxed out. I was completely devastated and could not understand how he could ruin our future in this way. At first he was very defensive and angry, he considered this HIS problem and it was related to his self employed business. It really tarnished my trust and respect in him. But I knew I could forgive him and we could get beyond it. I have learned three years later, that would only work if he would be completely honest and open about it with me and have no more secrets. He wasnt willing. He refused to talk to me about the debt and our marriage deteriorated to a point of no return. We are divorced now and I finally dont feel so alone with this issue. Who knew it was soo common?! It is complete breach of trust and without both partners willing to work on it and change the secrecy – I am afraid there is not much hope. This is my best example of when love is not enough.

  47. Have you ever had to deal with “financial infidelity”?
    I’m living it. The thing that pisses my off the most is that by law I have to have a joint account in order for me to cash my income tax return. I have the money direct deposited and I can’t trust her.

  48. Thank you for all of your advice. I found it very helpful. I agree you should draw the line based on the amount of money spent. However $10 is a little low, what if there’s like a $15 thing that is a really good idea. I think the line should be drawn after $50.00.

  49. I’ll tell you when its crossed the line: FINES and not being told about them. My husband earns a decent income, but I never see it for some reason.

    The worst is when you find bills, for something stupid like speeding. Or hes paying off something ridiculous like a consultation fee that should never have been charged to him in the first place.

    He hides everything like that from me, I left him 2 months ago.

    Love does not fix financial infidelity.

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