Money Temptation: Spending Retaliation

by Miranda Marquit · 9 comments

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.

Retaliation Spending

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.

Planning Ahead

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?

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

KM August 9, 2011 at 8:45 am

The biggest financial problem I have with my husband now is that he also likes to spend on little things that he likes that I think are too much. I am a huge fan of plain water, so a drink at the gas station or an entire case of sparkling water and giant bottles of juice that disappear in a few days seem like needless spending to me. Sure, sparkling water is nice and I love it too, but I don’t think those quantities are really healthy for a budget. Juice, the way it is sold in this country, is just a ton of empty sugar-loaded calories that also affect the body, as well as the budget, when they are consumed by a half-gallon bottle per day. The problem is that those gripes I have are food related, so I also feel bad trying to control it since I don’t want to deprive him. My way of “retaliation,” however, is to actually spend less myself and keep pointing out how expensive things are, in (perhaps unattainable) hopes that one day he sees how wasteful his purchases are.

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Miranda Marquit August 9, 2011 at 11:28 am

I tried that once. All I got from my DH was that should spend more on myself. ;)

Maybe you could approach the juice issue from a health standpoint and talk about other options, or make a shopping list together, based on a weekly food budget. Maybe that visual, and the fact you’re doing it together, would sink in more than nagging would. I know when I can actually get my husband to look at where the money is going, he is more willing to make some changes.

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KM August 9, 2011 at 1:59 pm

I tried the health standpoint, but I like your idea of making a weekly budget. I think I will try to keep a log of where our money is going for a while and maybe he will see that the “food” category eats up more than half of the mortgage and maybe that will help. Thanks for the advice!

By the way, I’ve been wondering for a while – what does DH mean?

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Miranda Marquit August 9, 2011 at 2:02 pm

:D DH = Dear Husband. Others use SO for Significant Other.

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Tangurena August 10, 2011 at 7:02 am

I guess I watched too much baseball this year, because I was reading it as “designated husband”. :/

Doug August 11, 2011 at 9:34 am

Like you, I cannot see spending a buck or two on a half gallon of carbonated water, however, for me tap water needs flavoring. For some time Ive brewed my own Green tea and drink Walmart’s house brand of Crystal Light. The costs for both are minimal, in the 25 – 30 cents per half gallon for both, plus, a variety of flavors are offered. Suggest these to your husband. Too, when stopped a a convenience store, keep a large cup in he car — most c-sores offer refill prices on sodas on tap at a decent savings.

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Ginger August 9, 2011 at 10:29 am

My DH and I have allowances, it really does help. I don’t get annoyed at the video games and I get to spend my money the way I want. I would recommend it for any couple.

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Miranda Marquit August 9, 2011 at 11:29 am

Thanks for your input. I may give the allowance thing a little more thought. It seems like it really might help matters.

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PC August 9, 2011 at 2:09 pm

For years I felt that my husband spent much more than I did on discretionary purchases. He plays golf, he likes photography, both of which are very expensive. Several years ago, I started keeping track in Quicken of Discretionary Spending in separate categories for each of us. At the end of the year, the one who spent less gets the difference deposited in their savings account. Now I don’t have any resentment because it will be ‘fair’ over the course of a year.

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