budgeting Finances & Money

What Happens When Couples Disagree About How To Spend Their Money?

couples advice, couples tips, couples issues

My wife and I reviewed our budget before the weekend to get on the same page with bills that were to be paid and how much we had left in discretionary funds. After crunching the numbers I felt great about where we were at. Bills paid, money in savings, and a good roll available to enjoy life. We didn’t have anything going on, so I envisioned a low key weekend maybe throwing a brisket on the smoker, enjoying a movie with the family and watching football all day on Sunday. It wouldn’t cost much, and we could put the extra into boosting our emergency fund.

Apparently my wife had different ideas.

She mentioned she had a few things in mind that she wanted to do with our money:

  1. Hair coloring: It had been awhile and those grays were misbehaving
  2. Makeup: Much of her makeup was either gone, or past the point of how long makeup should last.
  3. Clothes: Some of the shirts she wears to work were getting faded and in need of replacement.

The sum of which would exceed the amount of money we had available for the weekend. It took me by surprise when she stated that she been thinking of these items for awhile, but was trying to make them last as long as possible.

To me this was a breakdown in communication between my wife and I. During each budget discussion we ask ourselves if there are any upcoming expenses that we should plan for and these were never mentioned. While I admire her for trying to hold off as long as possible for these expenditures, it would have been better if she would have mentioned these items during our budget discussions so we could have discussed and planned for them. Instead, now we were faced with expenses that my wife wanted immediately.  While none of them are absolute life necessities, they are items that make life more enjoyable for both of us.

Happy wife, happy life, right?

We decided to take some  actions as a result of this learning experience:

  • We agreed to make an effort to mention during budget discussions expenditures for items that we would like to have in the near future. This will allow us to plan for them in our weekly spending plan or save up for them if necessary.
  • We agreed to add a “Household Items” fund to our budget that we would put some funds into each budget period if we can. This will be the method by which we can do things that do cost a significant amount of money (like a hair cut and color for someone that has very long and thick hair) without putting a large dent in our weekly entertainment budget.
  • Finally, we agreed to mention during our budget discussions future wants that we would definitely need to save up for. For example, I have my eye on a new charcoal grill next spring but have not mentioned that to my wife.

In this specific instance we had the ability to fulfil most of my wife’s wants (the clothes had to wait another week or two) because we didn’t have any other activities or items in our weekly spending plan. We would have had to have a more serious discussion and a potential argument could have occurred if we both had items we wanted or needed to purchase at the same time with the same pot of money. With the changes we agreed to, we will hopefully avoid that situation.

Have you ever had a conflict with your spouse because you disagreed on how to spend your discretionary spending? How did you resolve it?

Brought to you courtesy of Brock

About the author

Brock Kernin


  • We have significantly different ideas of how to spend our money when it comes to discretionary purchases so we just have a small monthly allowance from which we deduct things that are solely for ourselves. This is the first year we’ve done this so it’s a work in progress but so far it helps since PiC is a much more frequent spender than I am and it would irritate me to no end seeing the rest of our combined budget going toward things that weren’t already budgeted for.

  • @revanche – Great idea, Revanche – we may have to look at doing something like that. Although I would guess there are still some larger items that we’d have to negotiate and plan for together. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Having money disagreements is common. But, when they do happen couples need to be open and communicate with each other. This is the only way that you will be able to overcome your issues and get your budget and financial goals back on track.

  • We both have ‘our’ money and also the ‘common’ money, so no one has to give up any wants just to make room in the budget. It’s indeed good to talk about all plans and what to purchase, since both spouses can get a clear idea and no one would feel left out.

  • @InsuranceHunter – I think it has to be more than open and honest….there also has to be the willingness to compromise, and even delay your own wants at times. thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • @dojo – I’m lovin’ the idea of having some amount of personal money for my wife and I. I’ve read some other posts on this subject recently too, and some couples also attach the “no questions asked” tag to the personal money – which means they can spend it on whatever they want (within reason, I would expect…..)

  • @James – Hmm, his and hers budgets….I don’t know that would work very well as I contribute quite a larger percentage of our overall income. Of course, if we assigned bills proportionally to the income generated…hmm…..something to think about!

  • Statistics prove that finances is one of the major reasons of divorce in America. I think that finances between a couple should be handled and managed by a financial professional so that each party clear knows the effects of spending the money.

  • @Donny – Hmmm, I’m not sure I agree that a professional needs to be involved. In our case, we have a pretty good handle on paying our bills and putting some away for retirement and an emergency. Our disagreements come when we discuss what to do with our discretionary funds. We both have our “want list,” but only we cannot purchase everything we want with what we have available. This is all about the normal give and take between a husband and wife being able to figure out how to use the available funds to satisfy both people. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • I think Donny is right to be honest. My marriage broke up due to financials because the wife didn’t declare that she had been using a credit card without me knowing about it. We always kept separate bank accounts apart from a joint one to pay bills. It wasn’t the only reason we separated but her debt mounted so much that we were not in a position to do anything about it. I think financial management should be taught in school from a young age to prepare people at a later date of what can happen if you want to secure your retirement.

  • @Leigh – I absolutely agree that financial management should be taught in schools. If our public school system is supposed to get our kids ready for their adult lives, then financial skills HAS to be part of that process! I’m sorry to hear your marriage didn’t work out……sounds like trust was broken and just couldn’t be repaired. Money certainly can drive a wedge…

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