Over the course of three weeks, my husband spent quite a lot on Lord of the Rings collectibles. Can we afford it? I guess so. We didn’t need credit cards to pay for any of the stuff, and it didn’t result in us needing to use debt to pay any of our other obligations. But am I happy about it? Not really. There are a number of reasons that I’m not happy about this development, including that fact that I derive more enjoyment from experiences than from things.
To tell the truth, the main temptation I’m having right now is to spend a large chunk of change on something. But, of course, this tit for tat money thinking goes nowhere in the end — and it can be a short road to financial ruin.
One of the reasons that families start seeing a build up of debt is due to retaliation spending. It seems only “fair” that one partner get to spend just as much on him or herself as another partner. If your husband splurges on a $50 video game, it seems only fair that you splurge $50 on having a pedicure. However, this sort of thing can quickly get out of control. If you are always trying to match spending, pretty soon you will overrun your budget in the interest of being “fair.” Instead of retaliating, it’s probably a good idea to look at your financial situation, and then lay some ground rules.
Setting an Allowance
Up until now, the idea of setting aside an “allowance” for myself and my husband hasn’t really crossed my mind. I’ve written about the concept in the past, but never put it into practice in my own finances. For the most part, our expenditures have been fairly modest. Buying the occasional book or spending a couple hours at the salon for me, or buying the occasional collectible action figure or video game for my husband hasn’t been an issue.
We’re not big on budgets; we prefer to have a spending plan that allows us to meet certain goals (like retirement, charitable giving and student debt pay down), and then just sort of use the rest to enjoy life or sock it away for extra emergency fund padding. However, those fateful three weeks, in which my husband became overly enthusiastic about eBay, have me thinking that perhaps it’s time for an allowance.
If we each had a discretionary fund — one that could be rolled over month to month to save up for the big things — I might feel a little bit better going forward. There would be fewer questions and disagreements, and less resentment.
When I really think about it, though, I realize that a lot of my resentment comes from the lack of planning. It’s true; my trip to the PF Blogger Conference in October will cost about the same as what my husband spent on eBay in such a short period of time. Really, over time, everything probably evens out. The difference, though, is in the planning. I basically paid in stages, paying the conference fee a couple weeks before getting the hotel room. Then I set aside money for the next three months to save up for the plane ticket.
Perhaps my real issue is that this came out of nowhere; I wasn’t expecting to pay such a large amount of money all at once. If he had expressed a desire to buy some of these items ahead of time, we could have planned for expense, and the cash outlay wouldn’t have come as such a big shock. It was an even bigger shock because my husband normally consults me on larger purchases, especially since he has no interest in handling the family finances. Perhaps, because this amounted to several smaller purchases, the large end result just didn’t sink in.
We did talk about planning such shopping sprees after, and, for now, we’re going to an approach that involves more communication and planning. So, no allowance yet. But if more of these surprises happen in the future, it might be something to consider.
What do you think? How do you handle spending controversies?