My husband and I have very different ideas about spending money. Though I have tried to explain my position many times, he continues to make extravagant purchases. I am beginning to despair that we will ever see eye to eye on this issue. In my opinion, just because we can afford it, doesn't mean we should buy it. Yet he thinks I'm too stingy, and need to learn how to relax and enjoy what we have. Please help.


Dear Frugal,

Welcome to real married life. The type of issue you describe, in which you despair of ever seeing eye-to eye with your husband, is what is known to couple's therapists as an unsolvable issue, an issue in which a husband and a wife have vastly different approaches which do not lessen with time. All marriages have unsolvable issues, and what distinguishes happy marriages from conflict-ridden marriages is the couple's ability to accept the other's point of view, and negotiate a respectful compromise. The challenge in these cases is to learn how to live respectfully and amicably with a person who truly doesn't share your point of view.

I would like to make several recommendations that I believe will help you in the attempt to negotiate a compromise with your husband.

1. Discuss your financial vision with your husband.

Where are you at present in this vision? Are you saving up for a house, a car, or a vacation? Or are you putting aside for a pension fund or a rainy day? How do you see the ideal division of spending to saving? How does he?

2. Agree upon a certain amount of money, be it $100, or $1000, beyond which neither of you will spend without first consulting the other, and reaching a mutual agreement.

Recognize that below this amount, your husband will continue to spend according to his individual discretion, but he won't go beyond that amount. This should give you a measure of security, while allowing him a necessary amount of freedom.

3. Remind yourself that every couple faces an insolvable issue, and if it wouldn't be about money, it would be about something else, such as religion, education, or running a house. Acknowledge how difficult it would be for you if he was straddling the other side of the fence, and you had to justify every purchase you made, from toothpaste to deodorant. Recognize what you personally gain from his relaxed approach to money.

4. Contain the issue. Do not allow your different perspectives on spending to overshadow the positive aspects of your relationship or sully special occasions such as going out to dinner or on a holiday together.

Choose a calm time to talk about your differences. Recognize that there is no right or wrong way to spend money, just as there is no right or wrong way to enjoy life. Your relationship is more valuable than any purchase you will make individually or together, and a stable marriage will give you more security than any amount of money tucked away in the bank.

Good Luck,

Tzippora Price, M.Sc.