Couple's Approach to Managing Money

Updated on August 03, 2012
L.E. asks from Buena Park, CA
10 answers

Hi All,

I am concerned about my husband's spending habits. For the last several years, I have been a graduate student earning a small stipend. I am about to start a job search under less than ideal circumstances. My husband, who is self-employed in the entertainment business, recently lost his primary client and has earned virtually no money this year. He is thinking about changing careers but does not know what else to do (and believes he will hate all other career fields). We are middle-aged parents of two young children. We have saved some money but do not own a home.

Since getting married several years ago, I have always asked my husband if it was OK for me to spend money on an item or service that cost more than a few hundred dollars. (I view spouses as business partners, so I feel that it's my duty to inform my partner of my proposed expenditures.) My husband has not behaved in kind. A few years ago, he bought a used SUV for over $30K without negotiating with the dealer. I didn't know about the transaction until I saw the vehicle in our parking spot. We could neither return the SUV nor renegotiate the sale. Hence, we lost thousands of dollars.

One of my children wanted to throw a birthday party last month. He told us that he wanted to hold his party in our community center, which is free. Knowing that we (both parents) were facing unemployment, I reserved the room at our apartment complex. After the reservation was made, my son told us that he wanted to hold the party at a place that charged almost a thousand dollars. My husband acquiesced. I felt undermined.

In addition, my husband generally does business (provides services) without first creating written contracts. He's been gouged more than once. Moreover, he sometimes gives contractors 100% of the requested fee before receiving the product or service. He's been gouged that way, too!

Further, he invests in funds without reviewing their prospectuses or reading books or articles about investing. (He does not have a finance background.)

I had hoped to spend a relatively small amount of money on a parent-child therapy as my children sometimes express anger in unhealthy ways (esp. toward their father) who is often angry at them and me. As he is not interested in participating, I had hoped to participate in this training so that I could help our kids become calmer. However, he is opposed to me spending money for this purpose. In short, my husband and I have different priorities.

My husband is good to our kids and me in many ways, but I no longer feel financially secure. Any suggestions?

What can I do next?

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answers from St. Louis on

Ignoring all of the rubbish the biggest thing is look at how much is coming in and budget. If you have no mad money then you have no mad money, end of discussion. If you have a hundred dollars of mad money then he either saves that for something big or except he can never get something big, end of discussion.

I really think you will be better off sticking to the facts rather than dragging baggage into the discussion.

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answers from Chicago on

Separate your money, and keep it that way.
DH and I do this. MANY couples I know do this.

For us, I have things that I pay for each month, and he has things he pays for. Outside of that, we are not accountable to each other.

Then you don't have to worry about something being a "silly" expense, and if he runs out of money and needs you to pay for something, you can say no.
If you have joint accounts, split them up, now. You take 1/2 of what's there, and he takes 1/2, so no one gets slighted. Go from there.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Oh my goodness - I know what your feeling and going through. My husband and I grew up very differently in regards to making/respecting money, etc. We never lived together prior to getting married and we lived 4 hours away from one another so the situation hit me hard when I figured out what was going on with finances. A few years ago, after regularly getting overdraft notices, because he wouldn't pay attention to what he was spending and just assumed $ would be there, etc. I told him I was openning my own checking account.......for days he hardly spoke to me and was so offended. I told him we needed to ensure we had a roof over our heads and that the kids were taken care of - my checks go into my checking account and I make sure that the mortage is paid and the childcare is paid. He takes care of the rest.......cable, phone, etc. I haven't seen an overdraft notice in the mail in more than a year - I guess doing this made him realize without the cushion of my checks coming in he must be responsible for his own spending.

I've tried talking in many ways and had different 'presentations' etc. regarding budgets - I may as well have been talking to a wall.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Not that it helps, but these are the conversations that should happen PRIOR to saying "I do". I doubt this is a new pattern. It sounds like your husband is disorganized in every aspect of his life, including in the way he interacts with you and your children. This is likely the reason he lost his biggest client.

What would I do? Take his name off of EVERY account! He would officially be on a "cash only" allowance. He would also need to find a salaried job in whatever field for at least the next two years to ensure income and benefits. Home Depot, Lowe's, Sears, Starbucks... whatever. Something that is steady and stable.

Good luck with this situation. I hope you are able to find something in your field that will support your family because you may be the only one with a stable income.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Cleveland on

I wish i had an answer for you. This is a huge source of anxiety for me.

My first though when reading your post, and I do feel the "baggage" is relavant to what you are explaining to us.-- is that he might be bi-polar. i might not have thought that but buying an SUV impulsively like that sounds mentally unstable. that might be hard but getting him in for a physical might be a good start and hippa laws allow you to call ahead and speak privately to the dr and just say hey DH has had alot of impulsive behaviours I'm concerned about the highs and lows and then the dr can take it from there. Dr won't call you back and can't discuss what dh tells him but can certainly listen to your perspective.

I have ZERO control over our finances, and to be honest, i'm not good with math or money and would probably make a mess of it. we've tried to sit down and review our finances together but my Dh is self employed so it's never a set amount and I seriously do not understand when he starts talking about projecting our bills out a year ahead, I need to take it one month at a time. If he could just say here is the money i brought in and here is the money we paid out, this is what is left, I could get that, Bs about his untaxed income and his taxed income and his escrow to pay taxes and this other account here that we can't touch but count's as income is just designed to start him yelling and me cringing. I am better off just lettign him handle it, But i say all of that because it is very very hard to save up in a secret account. It is a great suggestion though and if you can do it, start now.

Would he be willing to see someone like a career counselor ???
when men are unemployed they can get depressed and need meds too. and not knowing what he wants can be hard.

ugg, I feel for you. I hate the idea of my kids having to bounce back and forth between 2 houses and having to still deal with an ex that i have even less control over, but my dh isn't about to bankrupt us either. tough touch situation for you.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Could you use your current and changed situation as a way to leverage him going with you to speak with a financial counselor? Maybe you could tell your husband it is an investment professional if the word counselor scares him off.

It does sound like the current changed situation in your finances would warrant a heart-to-heart about your family spending habits. Regardless, there may be the need for you, as possible primary bread winner, to take over the finances and financial decisions for you family and give your hubby a 'rest' where he doesn't really have access to the bulk of the family accounts.

Best of luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Erie on

The only way we solved problems similar to yours is to have me be in charge of the money. All spending has to be approved by me (regardless of how much I make vs. how much he makes, it all goes into one account) all business negotiations are done by me, all bills are my responsibility. It works for us, but I know it doesn't work for everyone.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I too would be concerned about the impulsiveness and the reckless financial spending. It can be scary when both parents do not have stable incomes. To me, it is scary with one income. I think this is the reason that I have never wanted to be a stay-at-home mom (with a working husband) because the thought of our family having to depend on that "ONE" salary/insurance is frightening. If you lose that ONE, then you have nothing. A second income is back up, security - that is for me. We could make it on my husband's salary if we had too and there is security in knowing that. And with the economy now.......nothing is guaranteed. But I would never consider a major purchase without running it by him. Just showing up with a car is way out. Did he say "surprise" or something to soften the blow? A thousand dollar rental facility for a kid's b-day is great, if you can afford it.

You may need to manage the finances simply to keep things transparent and avoid surprises (late notices, etc.) and ask him to say NO to anything that he is expected to contribute money too because you do not have it to spare. It doesn't appear that your husband is able to think these things through, so it is a great time for you to step in and do some quick damage control before things really get out of control. You will need to show him, this is what we have coming in and these are the bills.....

I know a couple that splits everything 50/50. Another, doesn't trust her husband to make the payments he's responsible for, so she asks him for payment receipts for everything each month. You have to do what works for you and your household. No one way is right.

Not everyone is good with managing money and some are just terrible at it.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Go see a financial advisor. Not for the money that you have lost but for the money that you still have and the third party, respected and experienced advice. You, yourself have great ideas but they are yours and you, yourself mentioned you are partners. Partners are 50/50 not the same person. That is what makes it difficult at times but intersting and stimulating at others. Try to make an appointment and in that appointment I would refrain from saying, "well, this is what I do and this is what he does"...or when the advisor has a great idea, try not to say "well, I thought of that as well but..." you want this to be an partnership journey without someone "being right" or "better than".

Best of luck to you but finances as we all know can destroy marriages...not only for the frustrated responsible one but also for the free spirit. Keep it even and blameless (even though there is definite blame when a veh is purchased and can't be returned :(



answers from Los Angeles on

Think about doing the Dave Ramsey course together. It helped us.

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