Avoid Financial Infidelity

Learning how to avoid financial infidelity is essential. It can lead to other secrets and lies in your marriage. Do you and your spouse argue about money? Does it seem like your spouse is constantly spending money without showing any concern for the actual balance in the bank account? Are you stressed about making monthly payments every month? Do your and your spouse argue over who’s to blame for the credit card bill each month? Most couples find it difficult to talk about money without arguing. Couples therapy can help you find ways to talk about money in productive ways. A couples counselor is able to ask questions that will help you and your spouse uncover the real source of your financial issues. A licensed marital therapist will also provide suggestions that will help you and your spouse stop fighting about money, and start planning more fiscally.

If you feel like your spending and saving habits are vastly different from your spouse’s, you may be vulnerable to financial infidelity. In order to stay open and honest about your family’s spending, you may need to rethink how your family spends money. Below are five suggestions for avoiding financial infidelity.

Avoid financial infidelity by determining your fixed expenses

Sit down with your spouse. Make a list of all of the bills you receive each month. Include their due dates. Place the bills into two categories: fixed expenses and variable expenses. Fixed expenses are things like the mortgage, car payments, utilities, mobile devices, cable and internet, and other monthly recurring charges. Variable expenses are things like gasoline for cars, groceries, entertainment, dining out, clothing, and other discretionary items.

Analyze your spending

Before creating a budget, it’s helpful to figure out how much money you’re spending each month. Use a free web program such as Mint.com. Software such as Quicken can help your family track your spending. Try tracking for several months to see where your money goes. Then, you can break down your discretionary spending and analyze where you might be spending too much.

Own your own habits

If, during the forensic analysis of your marriage’s financial situation, your spouse is aghast at the $500 pair of shoes you purchased, or the $200 pair of jeans, or the $50 you spend on your mani/pedi every two weeks, it’s better to stay objective than defensive. If this kind of spending isn’t in your family’s budget, admit it to yourself and your spouse. Likewise, if your spouse is the one with a $200/week bar tab or has been spending his paycheck on the golf course every week, he will need to take an unbiased look at his own spending in light of the current financial reality. The first step to changing a bad habit is to admit having one in the first place.

Avoid financial infidelity by establishing a budget

Now that you know where the money is going every month, it’s time to establish a budget. Even if you or your spouse doesn’t stick exactly to the budget, having one in place will set expectations for spending. When creating a budget, be sure to consider savings in the calculations. You’ll want to be sure there is wiggle room for emergency household repairs, unexpected expenses, and discretionary spending, as well as 401k and other retirement accounts.

Divide and conquer

Lastly, you and your spouse may want to divide your accounts in order to conquer your money woes. For most couples, having to ask permission every time someone wants to make a purchase will lead to resentment. In some cases, spouses may even start lying to one another about their spending. Jean Dorrell, a certified estate planner who counsels couples about money, says that secret money behaviors often start small . Rather than create a situation where neither spouse has an autonomy of spending, why not divide your accounts between each other? Some couples use a joint account for household expenses, but maintain separate accounts for their own discretionary spending. Jean Chatzky writes for Fortune.com that “Each person should be able to spend a certain amount of money without asking the other for permission, as long as it doesn’t impact the health of the family’s finances.” The key to financial intimacy is full disclosure. However, while it may be smart to maintain some financial independence, hiding accounts from one another or keeping secret credit cards may lead to other acts of infidelity.

If you and your spouse can’t seem to talk about money without arguing, try couples counseling. Lisa Ryan, a couples counselor in Westport, CT, can help. Reeling from the discovery that your spouse has been lying to you about money? Stop financial infidelity before it leads to other secrets and lies. Call Lisa Ryan at 203-226-8800 or click here to reach me by email.

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