Money and Relationships: How to Cut Back on Spending Together

Continuing on our journey through relationships and finance, we come to discussing spending habits and the willingness to cut back on unnecessary items. This can be one of the trickier subjects to discuss because you both work hard for your money, and you both deserve to treat yourselves.

However, now that this is a joint venture, it is important to discuss spending habits jointly. We will begin by identifying the habits that can be pared back, then we will look into how you can agree on what makes the cut.

Identifying Unnecessary Spending

We all have them: Points where we will spend money on the most unnecessary items. Sometimes we know right off the bat when we are spending money we could be saving, but other times it takes a little digging.

Many folks can identify these habits, but if you can't, take a look at your spending more closely to help figure out where your most “hidden” expenses lie. Keeping a financial journal is a great way to flush habits into the open: When you see on paper that you have spent $100 on coffee in a month, for example, it is easy to see where you can cut back.

My unnecessary spending used to be shoes and purses, but recently I have been dropping cash on jackets and coats. I know I do not need another coat — I’m trying to pawn off a nice buttercream suede on a friend — yet I bought one at the store recently (in addition to the Fall jacket I bought whileChristmas shopping). I need to commit to cutting back — let’s take a look at ways to do that.

Cutting the Fat

Now that you and your spouse have each kept a financial journal, you can go over the journals with a fine-toothed comb together. Deciding together what needs to be different can help you both identify what splurges you each are willing to give up and which you wish to keep.

In discussing the ways to cut back, being open to each others' wants and needs will help you understand why your wife needs to spend $20 on lipstick per month or why your husband needs to stop for beef jerky at the convenience store once a week. These splurges may not be necessary in your eyes, but they make your spouse content.

However, while allowing your spouse the splurge identified as necessary, you both must give up a few items that really may not be necessary or even truly desired. A husband’s habit of buying a tool once per month may not be needed, or a wife’s monthly purchase of a $20 wine may be habit rather than a true desire.

I, for example, am willing to stop buying all clothes, including jackets, coats, sweaters and jeans — my four most common splurges. However, I am not willing to give up buying new walking shoes when needed. My husband is willing to cut back on our cable package, but he needs to go out to lunch occasionally.

Whatever you and your spouse decide to cut out, the important thing is to work together — to discuss your habits — in order to make your financial dreams come true. As you cut your spending fat, you will see great rewards, and you will have a partner on your side to keep you accountable, making it much easier to stay on track.

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Anonymous's picture

Jane wrote:

Wed, 03/16/2011 - 18:19 Comment #: 1

My partner and I have really cut back on our Starbucks/Chapters trips. Instead we go to the local library and take our own snacks. Still have the same fun experience at no cost. I'm on a "no new clothes for a year" challenge and it's going better than expected - I only caved at Christmas when my 20 yr old daughter and I spent a weekend in Toronto. We've become REALLY selective in what we spend our discretionary income on and because of it I've been able to make extra payments on my line of credit every month!

Anonymous's picture

MoneyCone wrote:

Wed, 03/16/2011 - 19:29 Comment #: 2

I'm a gadget addict! The way I restrain myself is I don't buy a later version till I sell my older one!

I do not know if this will work for women's shoes though!

Anonymous's picture

retirebyforty wrote:

Wed, 03/16/2011 - 20:08 Comment #: 3

Working together is the key to cutting the fat. If I cut back and the Mrs. keeps buying shoes, I'd feel like she is not doing her part and I would slack off too.

Christa Palm's picture

Christa Palm wrote:

Wed, 03/16/2011 - 23:30 Comment #: 4

Awesome job, Jane! Keep up the great work!

MoneyCone, I don't know if anyone would want to buy my stinky shoes ;) Great tip on the gadgets, though. I just sold some old phones to Nextworth, and the $50 Target gift card was an awesome bonus. And no, I did not spend it on shoes!

Great point, retirebyforty! The joint effort isn't so joint if one partner slacks, huh?

Anonymous's picture

Finances and Relationships - Taking on Tough Topics | MomVes wrote:

Sat, 01/21/2012 - 18:00 Comment #: 5

[...] Maybe the problem is that both of you are breaking the budget. Here are tips for cutting back on spending together. [...]

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