Financial Infidelity

 So, when was the last time you cheated on your spouse?  What?  It’s a fair question, no need to get all bent out of shape.  We all cheat on our spouses from time to time.  Heck, I know I’ve done it twice, at least that I can recall.  Some folks consider it sport or simply a normal way of life.  That’s just how some households roll.

Now to be sure, I am not talking about marital infidelity.  That is a serious and life altering violation.

Rather, I’m referring to infidelity as it relates to the household budget.  How many times or how often have you made significant purchases outside the bounds of spousal approval or review?

I know I’ve done this twice – my wife may well remind me of other times when she reads along. 

I once spent the lion’s share of a tax refund to carpet the basement and another time bought and installed a surround sound unit while she was out of town.  In both instances I felt the purchases were necessary but hindsight does allow validity for my wife’s assertion that we could have used the money in other more pressing ways.

In fairness, my transgressions were minor and directionally aligned with improvements for our shared space, but the execution was poor on my part.  I surely could have, and should have, involved my beloved in the decision making process.  It is a lesson I’ve since learned and we now enjoy more frequent and open communication on the topic of our finances.

On another end of the continuum, I remember a couple years ago listening to Ramsey read a letter from a listener.  In the letter the writer conveyed the story of his wife opening numerous charge cards and racking up tens of thousands of dollars in charges.  The man woke up thinking he was free of all non-mortgage debt and ready to enjoy his life’s diligence only to find that his household was actually buried under nearly forty-thousand dollars worth of credit card debt.  I recall being horrified at the prospect which only begins to approximate how he must have felt. 

Betrayal, damaged trust and respect, and anger so commonly associated with one form of infidelity certainly apply here as well.

So how do we confront or combat this behavior before it gets out of hand.  I can think of 3 easy ways to get started.

Grow-up – Let’s be honest, my purchases were impulsive and rooted in a sense of entitlement.  I am the primary earner in our home and I allowed that fact to direct my actions with only slight regard for the opinions of my wife.  I look back now and recognize my behaviors as silly and childish.  And now with a much more collaborative bent towards our finances, I know the prudence of making these decisions as a team.

Communicate – In a marriage there is no such thing as too much communication.  As a man, I may find there to be instances of too much chatter but open and honest and connected communication represent prized moments.  Sharing from our broad financial plans to our mundane monthly budgets to our ever evolving “list” of next-in-line home projects ensures that we’re both pulling in the same direction.

Allow Wiggle Room – The easiest way to have freedom within the constraints of a budget is to build it into the process.  Matching his and her ‘blow’ money line items allow flexibility for smaller impulse purchases which often scratches the psychological itch enough to empower restraint against the larger budget busting spin outs.

So now you’ve been both warned and equipped, keep your wallet in your pants and the salesman out of your purse – all in the name of enhanced harmony at home.

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Category: Personal Finance

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