Help, My Spouse is Out Of Financial Control!

by Tim on February 9, 2011

We don’t need a statistic to tell us that money can be a sensitive subject in marriages.  How many of you married couples can attest to the stress that financial matters can bring on a marriage?

The good news is that you can overcome financial difficulties and learn to manage your finances over time.  The hard news is that sometimes your spouse isn’t on the same level when it comes to finances and may lack the ability to responsibly manage money.  In some cases, they may be outright out of control.

How Should You Handle Financial Irresponsibility

An out of control spouse may actually be suffering from an addiction to spending.  Yes, you can actually be addicted to spending and acknowledging that your spouse may be suffering from this will help you to understand how to handle the situation better.

Address the Issue with Humility

This is the most difficult part of reining in an out of control spouse.  Just like addressing any issue in your home, you should be careful not to lead with blaming statements or suggestions to improve.  Most addiction problems aren’t solved with the initial acknowledgement, so don’t expect to resolve it immediately.  Instead, show your concern for what’s been happening with the finances and share your fears about how you feel the finances are suffering.  Try to calmly suggest that both of you (not just the spender) might benefit from financial counsel and meeting with a marriage specialist.

Seek Counsel of the Wise

Proverbs 12:15 says “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But he who heeds counsel is wise“.

Your spouse must acknowledge the need to pursue counseling or else your efforts to implement financial strategies will most likely fail.  Making suggestions to seek counsel should never be condemning or make your spouse feel like you’re trying to fix them.  If you approach it as a team (and you are a team) the pressure your spouse feels about the financial shape up will most likely ease with your support.

Support and Encourage

The blame game doesn’t work.  If you want to help your spouse to overcome their addiction to spend, your support and encouragement is crucial.  One of the best ways to support and encourage your spouse is to pray for them and with them.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 says “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken“.

I’m confident that you and your spouse can overcome financial difficulties, and I’m even more confident that your marriage will become even stronger when you pray and make Christ that third strand.

Growing Financially Responsible

The areas addressed above can be applied towards any issue, not just financial.  Once you’ve addressed the situation and have committed to supporting each other through the process, you can successfully implement these specific financial strategies.

Set Financial Goals Together

When you share a common goal or dream big together, it helps you to think twice about falling back into the financial trap of overspending.  Try to set short, mid, and long-term goals that give you something to look forward to.  For example:

  • Short term – Save for that vacation you’ve been wanting
  • Mid Term – Make a goal to control spending so you can save for a new home or car
  • Long Term – Talk about saving for retirement and dream about goals you want to achieve later in life.

Set Your Numbers

Your financial counselor should have suggested a budget by now – and if you need stronger support for having a budget, look at this series on budgeting.  To help manage the temptation to spend beyond the budget, set a “Talk To Me” number.  This simply means that if an item costs over X amount, you need to check in with your spouse about it.  Some set this number at $10 or $20, while others may set it at $40 or more – it all depends on how dire your financial situation is.

Give Some Flexibility

No one likes to feel completely restricted.  That’s why it’s good to designate some money for spending that is exempt from the “Talk To Me” clause.  Even a small amount like $25-40 a month for using any way you’d like will help to control spending and teach each spouse the importance of watching where the money goes.

By no means is this article an end-all to every financial issue that comes with marriage.  If anything, consider it a start to your journey to reach financial freedom with your spouse.  No matter the magnitude of the financial issue, make it a goal to get on the same page with your spouse before they become out of control.

How do you handle the sensitive issue of finances with your spouse?  What tips do you have for someone dealing with a spouse who is out of control financially?

Tim is a personal finance writer at Faith and Finance a Christian financial help blog that provides financial insights for individuals, businesses, and churches. Outside of finance, Tim enjoys spending time with his wife, playing the saxophone, reading economics books, and a good game of RISK or Catan. Find him on Twitter and Facebook and subscribe to the Faith and Finance RSS feed.


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Invest It Wisely February 9, 2011 at 2:53 pm

“That’s why it’s good to designate some money for spending that is exempt from the “Talk To Me” clause”

Agreed, especially if both partners are working. I recently posted about financial balance in a relationship. I think if both partners are working there will be less opportunities for conflict, but there still needs to be consensus on the biggest items. Education and leading by example can help, and I think it’s probably important to inform and educate and not try to control outright because control can lead to resentment.


Dave@50plusfinance February 9, 2011 at 10:39 pm

Nice post, Tim. a lot of useful tips. I especially like the approach of humility. Some of us financial no it alls like to beat our spouses over head with helpful advice. The approach is key to success. Think of how you would like to be treated when offering help. A kind word goes along way.


Tim @ Faith and Finance February 11, 2011 at 9:11 am

@Kevin – You’re right – if you have a controlling or bossy attitude, you’re setting yourself up for a battle that you can’t win. It can very well lead to resentment.

@ Dave – Thanks! I think humility is one of those words that’s easy to say…but tough to implement. BUT – you have to start somewhere and being humble in the small things will help you in the major situations.


Meeler February 17, 2011 at 5:30 am

My husband would let me know if we had extra money when I grocery shopped, or if I had to be careful that week. He was better in math than I am, and I am a stay at home mom, so when he got paid, he paid the bills right then. Then if were grocery day, he’d give me the checkbook and off I’d go. No problem! I respected him and his math ability, and he trusted my common sense in shopping.


personal finance help February 24, 2011 at 3:36 am

I do the budget but my husband is the one who wants to save what we can. I don’t, especially, when I want to eat out. I feel bad, but I still concede to his decisions. Among other things, he trusts me not to go over budget. I admire my husband for understanding and being a good provider.


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