Teamwork, healthy communications and a solid plan are all you need.

Have a partner that spends impulsively? Here’s how to handle it

Do you have frequent tiffs with your partner over their impulse to spend on gadgets or go out on a shopping spree just because they see the word ‘sale’ somewhere? Financial imprudence and impulsive buying habits can cause stress in a relationship. But like most relationship issues, the problem can be easily resolved when appropriately addressed. 

The key is to be gentle and loving while being assertive about the changes you wish to see. Be compassionate and patient while explaining why over-spending can be a harmful habit and can consequently hamper the relationship and future goals.

Here are some steps to consider when communicating with a partner who overspends so that you can maintain your relationship.

Assess the reason

There could be many reasons for lack of financial discipline. Your partner may want to emulate the lifestyle of the rich and famous, have deep-seated insecurities, low self-esteem, anxiety - seeking solace in guilty pleasures. Getting to the root cause of the habit is the first step in assessing the approach for resolution.

Avoid judgement

Try to approach the issue from a position of understanding rather than criticism. Pointing out faults could drive a wedge between you and your partner, closing the line of communication further. Start a discussion about reining the expenditure in as a couple and working towards savings for a long-term goal like retirement planning.

Illustrate the problem

While some people may splurge on expensive items like smartphones and jewellery, others may be oblivious to the overspending a daily basis. Help them understand the problem by quantifying the impact of their decisions. Use examples of spending behaviour patterns and spreadsheets to illustrate the problem clearly. Explaining the opportunity cost of those decisions may help your partner understand your concerns.

Set realistic goals

The pattern is not going to change overnight; hence, it is recommended that small gradual changes that are easy to keep up with, be made first. If you want to limit spending, just keep one credit card (for emergency use) and put the rest aside. Maintain an ‘envelope’ spending pattern for both partners. A physical envelope which would be available for discretionary spending every month. This strategy helps in avoiding conflicts while allowing either partner the freedom to spend within their limited means.

Design a budget

Work together with your partner and design a budget that he/she feels equally responsible towards. While controlling the impulse to spend is one aspect, it is equally important to utilise the resources meaningfully. You may want to reduce your debt, plan to buy a house or go on a nice vacation. A realistic goal makes it easy for either partner to stick to the budget. It is a good idea to pool your resources in a joint bank account for long-term goals and investments. This will leave your individual accounts free for personal expenditure.

Seek professional help

If your spouse is not open to these suggestions, you may want to employ the skills of a financial planner who could offer a clear perspective as an outsider and help you draw up a sustainable plan. Alternatively, if anxiety or self-esteem issues cause the spending, you may want to seek the expertise of a behavioural therapist or psychologist.

In conclusion

It is essential for you to re-iterate that the two of you are a team. You will handle the challenges and changes together. Maintain good spending habits yourself to set a good example for your partner. Support your partner through the transition and remember to have fun. Don’t skimp out on fun times and date nights. Money is only a means to an end. Your togetherness and happiness are priceless. Have a look at how to run a business with your spouse to understand the complexities of blending in your personal and professional lives.

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