Dear Barb—Spouse Spending

Dear Barb:

Hi, I am writing about my wife.  I think she has a problem with spending money. 

We are a middle-class family with two young children.  My wife works part time and I work full time.  While I make a decent living, we don’t have much extra money.

Over the last few years, my wife has started to spend a lot of money on personal items, like getting her nails done every week, or her hair colored every six weeks.  She buys expensive clothes and shoes.  She never did this previously.  It seems since she joined the gym she is spending more money on herself.  There are activities the kids would like to join, like hockey and baseball, but we don’t have the money because my wife is spending so much. 

I have discussed this with her, but she seems to believe that she should be able to have her hair and nails done regularly like her friends do.  Most of her friends are doctor’s wives and other professionals.  I’m afraid I just can’t keep up with the Jones, but I really don’t have a desire to do so, either.  This is definitely causing major problems in our marriage, and I have no idea what to do.  I don’t want my marriage to end, but I don’t feel I have any control over what will happen. 

I was hoping you would have some advice for us. 

Thanks, James.

Hey James:

Financial problems are one of the most significant problems you can have in a marriage and can lead to divorce if not managed early.  It is important that you and your wife work together to find a solution.

Have you and your wife worked out a budget?  If not, then perhaps she needs to see where the money is going, as she might not realize how much of the budget her activities are using up.  Once she knows she might work on reducing her spending, or looking for ways to add to the household income as it is important to live within your means.

You said your wife’s friends are in a different income bracket than you, therefore they can do many things that she cannot.  Lifestyle jealousy can also lead to serious problems in a marriage.  It is very difficult to be happy if you continue to compare your lifestyle to that of your friends, and that does seem to be what your wife is doing.

My suggestion is to look into seeing a counselor that is familiar with financial issues within a marriage.  A google search for marriage counselors in your area that deal with financial issues should provide a list of names for you to contact.  Hope this information is helpful.  Best of luck James.