How to Manage a Spend-Happy Spouse

Personal finance expert Carmen Wong Ulrich tells us how to keep your hubby from overspending during the holidays (and year round)

My husband once called me from the dressing room of our favorite luxury discount store excitedly, “This jacket…it’s like $1,000 off!” My response, “So how much does it cost?” Him, “Well, it’s $500. But, it’s $1,000 off!”

Um, no.

Until we win the lotto, there will be no $500 jackets in our closets. Now, before the men out there start crying foul, know that my husband defers to me on money-stuff only because I keep him informed of our needs (and limits!) and he trusts that when I say ‘no’ it’s for a real reason.

A man (or woman) can dream, and some of us during the holidays may see so many sales that it seems like everything’s screaming to be bought. But, if you’re holding the household budget, it may be in everyone’s best interest that you also know how to hold the reins.

Here’s how to make it all a bit easier:

Keep Him/Her Informed
“Because I said so,” doesn’t fly. If you’re nixing a purchase or setting a solid spending budget, it’s also your job to fill in your partner as to where your financial priorities are. For example, “We need to stick to a $500 budget because we have a tax bill coming up plus higher monthly healthcare costs.”

Share and Build Financial Goals
A spend-happy spouse needs to have goals to visualize when tempted by potential purchases. Annual vacation? Pay off debt? Re-do the kitchen? Emergency fund? Share goals and even write up fun countdown memos on your family memo-board: “$200 to go for new stove! Almost there!”

Keep Calm
When you two talk about money, do you get prickly, tight chested or agitated? Walk away if you can and promise to revisit once you’ve calmed down. It helps to mentally disassociate from what’s at hand by thinking of yourself as the family CFO or accountant. It’s math, not drama.

Carmen Wong Ulrich is the author of "The Real Cost of Living" and the former host of CNBC's "On the Money."

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