By Marianne Beach, GalTime.com
I used to love the bestselling chick lit series "Shopaholic" in which an exuberant English girl has a myriad of adventures in life and love all surrounding her out-of-control spending habits. She was cute and endearing, if not completely financially responsible. And even when she did eventually find her dream man (one who was surprisingly good natured about her "problem") she continued to spend all their money in the most adorable ways possible.
But in real life, having a spouse that overspends is neither cute nor adorable and could leave the both of you in the poor house--especially in this economy. We spoke with Reeta Wolfsohn, CMSW, and founder of the Center for Financial Social Work about how to recognize--and help--your spouse with overspending.
First, how do you know they have a problem? After all, many overspenders try to hide their habit, meaning a spouse could end up out of the loop for years. Wolfsohn suggests paying attention to the following warning signs:
- Screening mail and removing bank statement and credit card statements
- New/different behavior - canceling a trip or planned purchase
- Reluctance/refusal to discuss money
- Resistance to creating or remaining on a budget.
- Expanding a collection (wine, guns, jewelry, etc.)
- Finding hidden receipts
- Finding unaccounted for purchases in the house or in the trunk of the car
- Spouse working extra shifts or looking for a second job
Related: Do You Keep Score in Your Marriage?
Of course, no one wants to admit they have a problem and bringing it up to your spouse can be difficult. "He or she is bound to be defensive, argumentative, overly sensitive and generally struggling with poor sense of self and low self-esteem," says Wolfsohn.
Problem is, the spouse who feels their partner has a problem may be going through their own range of emotions as well. "From confusion, anger and fear to betrayal and insecurity," she says. "These feelings too often lead to confrontation, rather than an environment which allows for listening, discussion and explanation."
So how do you bring it up without sparking a big fight? First, Wolfsohn suggests a non-threatening question rather than an accusation. "Can you help me to understand why there's no money in the checking account?" for example.
And start making your budgeting a team effort with the two of you managing your money together and keeping track of all expenses.
Related: Recession-Proof Your Relationship