"I worked so hard this week, I deserve this!"
"I want to enjoy MY money!"
"What's wrong with a little splurge now and then?"
How often have you heard or said these in your own conversations at home or with others? These are justifications of what we feel we deserve since we work so hard. What is wrong with spending some of the money you worked so hard for? Nothing. The problem comes when this turns into an issue of self-entitlement and the spending that begins to damage your financial welfare – not to mention the harmful effects it can have on your marriage. Let's take a look at this behavior, identify if we are self-entitled when it comes to our finances, and review some practical ways to fix it.
1. Eliminate entitlement language from your vocabulary. Lording what you feel you deserve over your partner or, better yet, spending what you feel you deserve without first consulting your spouse creates division and distrust. Being selfish with your money can destroy your budget. Both husband and wife have to be on the same page and it all starts with combining your income into one pot. I’ve talked to several couples that have chosen to not combine their income and rather split the monthly portion of bills. I bring this up not to say that it can’t work because it does work for some couples, but more often than not it causes a lot of frustration, division, and secrecy that can easily be averted if your income is combined.
Statements such as “I deserve this” not only put your needs above your spouse’s but also holds the spouse responsible for you not getting your way. This is absolute selfishness. Think twice before using these types of statements and make a plan to allow for appropriate spending so that you can instead say "I can spend this money because I’ve set it aside for this very purpose!" This creates freedom in your budget to allow you to scratch that itch in a healthy way without going broke, breaking your partner’s trust or putting the blame on them when they are in-fact, not responsible for money that you cannot spend.
2. Include a personal allowance for each partner in the budget. If we spent based on our feelings and not according to our budget, we would quickly be broke. As Dave Ramsey says "Children do what feels good, Adults devise a plan and follow it." Having a budget with appropriate spending amounts for each spouse can create a freedom within boundaries for each spouse to spend what they have been allotted. Each month, you can each be given the same amount and choose to use it how you wish: save it or spend it. This will look different for each couple's budget. Perhaps the wife likes to spend her allowance on going to coffee, treating her friends to a lunch, or doing some shopping. Meanwhile, the husband may purchase more bike parts for that project in the garage. Having allocated amounts for personal spending fosters open communication and transparency. This amount can also change depending on your season in life. In financially strained times the amount may look smaller, while in more abundant times, a little more may be given. Both spouses must agree on how the money is allocated in the budget otherwise one will harbor resentment later on in the marriage. Ultimately the point of sticking to a budget is for you and your spouse to have the freedom to spend YOUR money without sacrificing or jeopardizing your family’s fixed expenses.
3. What about those who say, "But I have no extra room in my budget for a personal spending allowance?" A few suggestions: Sell Something. My wife and I often go through our house and sell things we don't use anymore. That old juicer from the fad you gave into: $50 on Craigslist. The toy my daughter has retired: $10 at a garage sale. That Christmas gift you never used: A friend bought off my Facebook post for $20. Be resourceful! Use what you have. You can also use your own skills: Fix a bike, provide childcare, house sit, pet sit, teach someone how to drive a stick shift. These are all things that we have done to rake in extra cash. Where there's a will, there's a way. Find what you're good at, and make a profit off of it!
As I've pointed out, self-entitlement will slowly but surely derail any couple’s budget. By changing the language you utilize, tightening up your budget and using your resources for extra income, you can make a positive difference in how finances affect your marriage. However, you must be diligent and disciplined to stay on track every step of the way. The stronger you are as a team, the faster you can meet your financial goals and ultimately financial freedom.
Phillip Rosheim is an accountant with Amazon Studios, a division of Amazon.com. He has been married to Lauren for five years and together they have a two-year-old daughter and another one on the way. The Rosheim Family lives in Southern California.