Reining in a Big Spender

During periods of economic woes, such as the current recession, a significant others' out-of-whack spending habits can cause ulcers. This is especially true if a couple shares a bank account and the big spender's habits affect two credit reports, not one.

One Big Purchase or Irresponsible Spending?
There's a big difference between the occasional lavish purchase and chronic overspending. Reflect on you and your partner's past exchanges about money. If you didn't approve of one of your partner's big purchases, but you haven't noticed any other disturbing amounts in bank accounts or credit card statements, then your partner was just probably unable to resist an item and splurged.

If you live together, being able to see your bank and credit card statements is a major step to checking your financial health as a couple. You already know your partner spends too much on occasion, but who handles finances in the house? Does your partner hide statements from you or decline to elaborate on your current situation? Make clear to your partner that you have a right to know what is going on in your bank account because it is your money, too.

If you don't live together but are thinking of moving in together or marrying, consider keeping your own bank accounts and credit cards if your partner's spending habits make you nervous. After all, you are not required to merge bank accounts if you make an emotional commitment to each other. While pooling your resources simplifies paperwork, having access to your own finances is always a smart idea and keeps you in the habit of monitoring your money. In the event that you do decide to pool resources, keep a bank account and a credit card for yourself.

If You See Money Differently
Perhaps the two of you were raised in households that treated money differently. Combining a person from a saving family and someone from a spending family can result in problems. In general, you and your partner should be able to speak honestly about your money concerns.

Take a moment to reflect on your past exchanges involving money. Money often leads to major blow-ups in relationships and marriages, so the occasional fight is normal, but, if the smallest question about how your partner paid for an item escalates into an argument, you need to get your views on spending into alignment.

Even if you and your partner get along beautifully on all matters except money, both of you should look into counseling. In that environment, you can share how you were raised to look at money and why it concerns you now. A good counselor can give advice that doesn't favor one side and can give you tips on discussing money in the future.

During counseling, both of you should evaluate your money habits. Do both of you balance your checkbooks? Do you pay for everything in cash, or do you whip out the credit card? Do you take a look at your bank and credit card statements each month before filing them away? Do you even have a filing system? If you or your partner don't have a habit of keeping track of your money, you should study up or take classes on personal finance.

Getting this counseling earlier rather than later can help save your relationship. Different money philosophies can haunt couples if they can't find common ground.

If Your Partner Has a Spending Problem
Anyone who worries that her significant other is devoting less time to their relationship and more time to compulsive spending these days is probably not imagining it. The Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery (IIAR) suggests that impairment in relationships can occur as a result of excessive spending and attempts to cover up the resulting debt or purchases. Your partner's preoccupation with spending can snowball into serious financial problems that can hurt you, and you may be responsible for paying off your partner's debt if your name is tied to any of the accounts.

Sometimes the extent of damage to your credit rating or finances is uncovered only after the big spender has accumulated such a huge debt that the entire family must make drastic lifestyle changes. When this happens, the family may need to sell cars and homes and raid long-term savings accounts.

If you are suspicious that your partner has a spending problem and your finances are tied together, you need to either open your own bank account or keep your accounts separate, and protect your own credit rating. Having separate bank accounts and credit cards is an important first step. Getting back on track will be much easier if one of you has stable finances and good credit.

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