The money question you don’t want your spouse to ask

My wife and I have been married almost eleven years, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Nonetheless, even though we’ve been sharing our finances that long, getting it right is still a work in progress.  We’re on board with our personal finance plan and all that, but we are still learning how to work together with our finances.The one question that we don’t want to be asking each other:

You spent HOW much?!

Couple Money talked about the idea of a spending threshold.  Actually, it’s more of a spending discussion threshold.  If the amount to be spent is over the threshold, then the purchase must be discussed before it happens.  When they were first married, their spending threshold was $100.  We had one at one point; it was either $50 or $100.  I can’t remember which.  (Squirrel.)

We should, however, feel free to talk through purchases of any amount.  I know from our standpoint that we can use more discussion about where our money is going, and more monitoring of how we’re doing with regard to our financial goals.  I don’t think our discussions have gotten tedious yet, so we’re probably not doing it too much yet.

I do remember a few weeks ago as I was going through MyPoints emails that I asked my wife about magazines.  The magazines would have cost about $20 — plus there was a special in the MyPoints email — but she really didn’t have any need for the ones I thought she might like.  One of the best deals you can make for yourself is not buying something that you don’t need!  But if I had said to myself, “Eh, it’s only $20; I don’t need to talk to my wife about this!” then I would have wasted $20.

Going back almost ten years, I thought my wife was going to have a conniption when I bid $400 for a one-ounce gold coin at an auction.  To her relief, I was outbid; the coin went for $500.  (It’s worth $1,700 now, but that’s not the point.)

That wasn’t a pleasant experience for either one of us because I threw her a curve ball.  She wasn’t expecting me to put $400 on the line.  We hadn’t discussed it.

Now I know better.  Actually, we both know better.  It’s nice to have transparency with what we’re thinking of buying.

John Wedding

Husband. Father. Web publisher. Musician. John has blogged at Mighty Bargain Hunter since 2005, helping people to recognize life's good deals.

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  1. says

    Being married myself, that is definitely a question that I don’t want to hear. Typically, we talk through any purchase of more than probably $25. That way, we each know what is happening with our finances. By doing this, we avoid all sorts of fights, I’m sure. Afterall, it is “our” money, not mine and hers.

  2. says

    We don’t have a set amount on when we need to talk things over, but my wife and I both sort of know when we need to run something by the other and when we can just go for it. Everyday shopping trips (grocery, Target, etc.) are typically handled without discussion, but I have mentioned to my wife once or twice that the trips have been higher in frequency than normal. That’s about the extent of it, which is pretty good compared to stories I hear from others where money philosophy is completely different between partners.

    • John Wedding says

      We don’t really discuss groceries a whole lot either, but I’ve really curtailed how much I do it (mainly because I see that I tend to spend a bit more than I need to when I go).

  3. says

    I think any large purchase should discussed and perhaps some small ones until you have agreed on a plan. Part of the plan is to understand what is important and necessary to reach your goal. Sometimes frivolous purchases help you get through the rough spots. For example, I have a few subscriptions, but I make sure I pay the least for it. An occasional magazine may help for an article or just relaxation. I shopped my subscriptions online and found 3 or 4 year deals for less than $10.

  4. says

    Love that you’re a MyPoints person. Me too. My husband and I just paid for a weekend in the mountains using the points we’ve racked up over the past two years.

    Like you and your wife, we’ve been married a little while (almost 8 years for us), but our spending “threshold” hasn’t changed all that much. We still consult each other for anything over $50-$100, unless it’s a necessity (ie, groceries, gas).

  5. says

    Hah!.. That question has been asked a few times in my house.. But not lately.. We are always very transparent about money, which I think is a great thing. We are 100% on board with couples sharing accounts and expenses fully.. I think it one of the keys to keep money from being an issue in your marriage, actually.

    • John Wedding says

      There are lots of advantages to sharing everything. I think it’s necessary if there’s one primary breadwinner. It would be a bit too much like giving my wife an allowance if we didn’t do it that way. Besides, I know she works every bit as hard as I do at home.

  6. says

    My fiancee and I are trying hard to save as much money in the next 4 months as we possibly can. With a wedding, grad school, and a possible home purchase on the horizon, our budget has razor thin tolerances. Currently our “threshold” is about $5, although I would probably push it to $25 if we were going to keep this up very long.

    Between this tightness of budget, the newness of the budget, and the stakes at hand, I think we’re both tolerant of the $5 threshold, especially since it’s only temporary.

    • John Wedding says

      Good for you! Continue being open about your money. Getting past that will take away one of the primary things married couples argue about.

  7. says

    Talking about each others expenses is definitely something that everyone needs to engage in. Big purchases are a big deal, discussing it beforehand can help save a potential sticky situation~

  8. timmy says

    lovely post, thanks a bunch for sharing. I had a good laugh about the $400 you bid in the auction, if it was me, my wife would have glared me to my chair. I had a good read! Keep up the good work!

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