Spending Wars

Over the course of three weeks, my husband had spent quite a lot on new shirts, shoes and luxury wristwatches. Can we afford it? I guess so. He paid for the items in cash and it didn’t result in us running into credit debt or any other obligation. But am I happy about it? No, not really. There are a number of reasons why I’m not happy about this development, including that fact that I derive more enjoyment from experiences like spontaneous trips abroad, fine dining or even a few spa dates, rather than from material things. It is unfair that he wastes money on things that will wear out or giveaway in the end.

Right now, all I am thinking about is going on a pure relaxation holiday to Dubai. After all, my husband isn’t the only one who knows how to spend good money! But, of course, this tit-for-tat spending war will get us nowhere in the end, except an express road to financial ruin.

One of the reasons why families start swimming in debt is as a result of “Spending Wars”. It is only fair that one partner gets to spend just as much on his or herself as the other partner. If your husband splurges on a N200, 000 video game, it is only right that you splurge N200, 000 on that new Chanel bag you have been eyeing. However, this sort of behaviour can quickly get out of control. If you are always trying to match your spending with that of your partner, pretty soon you will overrun your budget in the interest of being “fair.”

Instead of retaliating, it’s probably a good idea to look at your financial situation, and then lay some ground rules.

Setting an allowance
Up until now, the idea of setting aside an “allowance” for my husband and myself hasn’t really crossed my mind. I’ve written about the concept in the past, but never put it into practice in my own finances. For the most part, our expenditures have been fairly modest. Buying the occasional book or spending a couple hours at the salon for me, or buying the occasional video game for my husband hasn’t been an issue.
We’re not big on budgets and we prefer to have a spending plan that allows us to meet certain goals (like retirement, charitable giving and debt pay down), and then just sort of use the rest to enjoy life or sock it away for extra emergency fund padding. However, recently my husband has become overly enthusiastic about eBay, and perhaps now is the time to set out an allowance.

If we each had discretionary funds, one that could be rolled over month to month to save up for the major spending, as a family we will be more financially secured going forward. In the long run there will be fewer questions, less disagreements and less resentment.

Planning ahead
When I really think about it, I realize that a lot of my anger comes from lack of planning and possibly bad timing. It’s true my trip to that important conference in Abuja will cost about the same as what my husband spent on a suit last week and in fact, everything probably evens out. The difference, though, is in the planning. After consulting with my husband about this trip, I paid in stages – the conference fee weeks in advance, booked a hotel then set aside money for the next month towards a plane ticket. Now this is how to plan.

Now suppose my partner expressed a desire to buy some of these luxury items ahead of time, we could have planned for the expense, and the cash outlay wouldn’t have come as such a big shock. If you can plan your expenses as a family, especially the significant ones, it will go a long way in managing and securing your finances.