Money and Relationships: Treats

Last week we talked about opening the finance lines of communication to cut back on unnecessary items. As you went through your budget with your spouse, there were certainly some areas that were not integral to living well, and you probably cut out the extras.

However, there may have been (and should be!) some treats that you were not willing to part with. Everyone needs to treat themselves occasionally, no matter how “useless” the items may be, and this is true for both sides. Today, let’s take a look at these treats with a Zen feeling of all-encompassing love and understanding (to help you remain cool when your husband buys a $20 bobble-head to add to his collection).

Realize You Both Work Hard for Your Money

The first step toward Wasteful-Spending Zen is to acknowledge that you both work hard and deserve to treat yourselves. This goes across the board for each person, no matter how much cash they bring to the table (or the budget).

For example, a doctor who brings in $200k per year is equal to her husband who stays home with the children. Both are contributing to the family and the budget. The husband may not be contributing to the bottom line of the family income in traditional ways, but he is keeping expenses down – no daycare, no lunches out, no after-work drinks with office buddies, etc. He is also investing in the children – which cannot be measured in dollars. Also remember that a penny saved is usually worth more than a penny earned, so those kinds of savings are important.

Setting the Wasteful-Spending Allowance

That being said, it is important to realize that allowing for some treats in the budget does not mean spending willy-nilly but rather indulging in a few unnecessary items per month. Sometimes this allowance is simply a free pass for your partner to buy an occasional treat with no boundaries. Other times, an actual dollar-amount allocation must be set. Let’s look at some ways to accomplish this:

  • Set a dollar amount limit – By setting a limit for monthly spending (say $50), you afford each other more freedom in purchasing power. This can be great for those people who do not treat themselves to the same thing every month, however, it can be difficult to control spending this way -- $50 could rapidly become $100 in very little time.
  • Work the average monthly treat spending into your joint budget – This technique can be great for those who buy the same treats month in and month out (like in the coffee/lunch example).
  • Set up separate allowance accounts – Separate accounts are excellent for those with large allowance accounts, but for smaller dollar amounts, these accounts may be more trouble than they are worth. However, a husband or wife who is a super-saver may like to contribute the allowance to their very own account rather than spend it – making a separate savings account an excellent option.
  • Dole out each other’s treat money in cash -- For smaller allowances, cash may come in handy. For me, this idea is a lost cause – cash burns a whole in my pocket. But for those who are more cash-conscious, this technique can be helpful – when the cash is gone, the cash is gone.

There are many more techniques out there that will allow you and your spouse to treat yourselves without going overboard, but all of these ideas are linked to the same basic concept: Understanding that your spouse needs an occasional fuzzy slipper or video game purchase is one of the tricks to a happy financial partnership.

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Anonymous's picture

Newlyweds on a Budget wrote:

Wed, 03/23/2011 - 23:01 Comment #: 1

I agree that both partners should have "free" money. However, what do you do when one partner is just a flat our spender with no regard to budget whatsoever? And when you've both agreed to the budget, and that partner still doesn't stick to it??

I'm seriously at my wit's end some times. And I'm constantly denying myself anything because the other partner overspends every month...

must figure this out tonight, i guess. if it's not clear by my frustration, i just budgeted last night, haha. I'm sure we'll figure it out and it will be fine, I'm just ARGH sometimes : )

Christa Palm's picture

Christa Palm wrote:

Thu, 03/24/2011 - 16:26 Comment #: 2

Erika, I read some of your blog, and I think the two of you are doing outstanding! Paying off $5150 in credit cards in seven months AND saving $2800 in three months are two things very much worth celebrating -- congrats to you both! To solve your dilemma, I think you could both sit down and calmly talk about what each person really, truly wants in the finance relationship (I get the feeling Eric may wish to spend more than he's agreed to if he keeps overspending). Be patient, too -- it takes time to break down that super-spender into a decent saver. Good luck!!

Anonymous's picture

Carnival of Personal Finance | Funny about Money wrote:

Mon, 04/04/2011 - 12:54 Comment #: 3

[...] at MomVesting, Jessica discusses money and relationships: treats, remarking on the importance of the occasional [...]

Anonymous's picture

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

Sat, 01/21/2012 - 18:00 Comment #: 4

[...] important to budget some spending money and consider the needs of both spouses in order to have some "fun money" to play [...]

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