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My wife and I both slouched lower into the couch and tried avoiding eye contact with each other.

Neither of us wanted to take the dog outside. “If you take her now, I will take her the rest of the night.” I said.

“You always say that, but then you try to find ways out.”

“But you don't let me find a way out.”

“Its just a pain having to hear you try and talk your way out of it.”

Sophie, our Shetland Sheepdog, was not amused at the length of this conversation.

Bartering With Your Significant Other

My wife and I often try to barter. When it comes to our personal finances, this can sometimes get us into trouble.

“You can buy that new ‘mineral' makeup set if I can buy the Social Network on Blue Ray.”

“You can go out to dinner with your friends if I can go golfing with mine.”

In a perfect world we would not have to worry about such purchases at all, but we have a combined six-figure student loan debt.

The last thing we need to do is fall into any sort of credit card debt as well. The first thing we need to do is start paying off those student loans.

Knowing that we always feel guilty about making just about any purchase, big or small.

That $50.00 golf game just means I am $50.00 further away from paying off my servitude to Fannie or Freddie and whoever else! I can use that logic even when making the smallest of purchases. “Oh great, Tic Tacs! Now I'm 99 cents further away from paying off my loans. Mrs. Broke Professional (as we blog together) has a similar mindset.

Since we have so little wiggle room with our finances, we often find ourselves “asking for permission” of each other with most purchases. The problem is that we will then start to barter.

For example, I will ask: “Can I go out with my friends?” But then guilt will creep in, so before Mrs. BP will even have a chance to respond I will continue to say: “And while I am out you and your friends should totally go grab dinner or something too.” I know Mrs. BP says the same sort of thing to me when she wants to go out.

The problem, of course, is that our “bartering” often leads to twice the expenses.

But It's Not Just Us

Now if I thought this sort of thing was endemic only to our relationship, then I would not even write a post about it. However, I find a similar scenario often plays out with most of our friends and their significant others.

Sometimes people will even buy a “gift” for their significant other, to try and soften the blow of their own mall splurge.

“Hey Jim! I just spent $200.00 we did not have to spend on clothes. (quickly) But here's that first season of Arrested Development on DVD like you have been saying you wanted.”

What occurs of course is a compounding expenditure problem. The more stressed or guilty we feel about our own purchases, the more we compound the problem by offering a similar ill-conceived purchase to our significant other.

Here are some tips/methods to solve the bartering away money problem from your relationship.

How to Avoid Bartering Yourself into Debt

  1. Buy Things You Absolutely Need/Truly Want- If you truly believe in the purchase you are about to make then you should be able to express that to your significant other, and there should be no reason to have to “barter” or “trade.”
  2. Have a Big Picture Mentality – If you realize that there will be times when one party gets to splurge/purchase and other times when you do, and vice versa, then there should be no issue about one party in a relationship not receiving something just because the other did.
  3. Keep an Open Mind – Realize what your goals are. Try your best not to compound any expenditure issues by insisting upon spending equality. Try to think globally and you will be much better off in the long run.
  4. Provide a Spending “Allowance” to Each Party – This way each party can spend up to a certain amount each month and so can you. No worries.
Thoughts on Bartering as a Couple

Has your wallet or checkbook ever been hurt by “bartering” with your significant other? What do you recommend to keep such problems from bringing down your financial health?

I look forward to reading and responding to your comments.

Broke Professionals is a personal finance blog aimed at overeducated and underpaid. Join the husband/wife blogging team of Broke Professionals as they attempt to dig themselves out of a combined six figures in student loan debt, and avoid bartering themselves into financial oblivion.

Photo Credit: bitmask

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5 comments add your comment

  1. I can completely understand how this can lead to trouble 🙂

    I guess it’s all about negotiating, and this is negotiating for the ‘worse’ in terms of the wallet.

  2. I loved this guest post because so many couples do this. I don’t think bartering with your spouse is bad, but it can be a way for you to hurt your joint finances.

  3. I understand why it’s tempting to do this but I find I can’t with my husband. If we both do something, we wind up short of cash. So he gets his thing, I go without, and guess what happens? Slow building resentment on my part! But I’d rather deal with that than being in debt.

  4. We’re on a fairly tight budget, too, but we haven’t had the guilt/barter problem. If something comes up that he wants to do, he’ll check with me, but it’s never been a problem, and the same the other way around. It’s OK if he goes out and I don’t. Just lucky that we’re not bothered that way.