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Have you ever been surprised by your spouse's purchases?

Let me be more specific – have you ever been surprised by how much your spouse spent on something and NOT tell you first?

I'm not talking about sneaking around and hiding something but making a purchase from the joint account without consulting you.

I ask because I was doing was reviewing all of our transactions from the joint account last year for the 2012 net worth review and I noticed some things have a changed over the last few years. 

Counting. Every. Penny. (And Then Some)

When we first got married we had an agreement that if something was more than $100, we'd call the other before buying.

Part of it was because we were on a very tight budget – I was still in college and my husband was working his first post graduation job.

We weren't sure how long my internship was going to be, so we figured it would be smart to just count his income for the monthly budget and my income was used to save and pay down debts.

That meant pretty much every household purchase we made that first year was by both of us. Trips to the store to pick up things had both of us going.

Learn how you two can build up your savings and communicate better about your money!

It worked well and we were able to save money even on a limited income and we even managed to pay off our car loan.

Breathing Room…Maybe Too Much?

Now 6 years later, we kind of drifted away from that system of having a spending threshold.

It's kind of unofficially there, but we don't have an amount. Instead, we look at our Mint updates to have an idea of the wiggle room we have with family purchases.

For some of our household goods like diapers, cat food/litter, and linens I use Amazon.

I've also picked up things during trips to the stores for projects like painting the house or organizing our space.

I tend to buy things as the need comes up or if I see a deal on something we've been wanting.

Honestly, we haven't broken our budget, but I wonder if having a second opinion for these purchases can help us save a bit more every month.

Not so much to keep tabs on one another, but to get a second opinion before we buy. Maybe we should get something else or maybe we can wait a bit longer. It can be helpful to have that instant feedback.

To see if that's the case for the next couple of months, I'll review non-regular household purchases. (Things like diapers and cat stuff are on a subscription basis with Amazon to take advantage of the discount, so those will be excluded.)

Thoughts on Spending Thresholds

I'd like to hear how you guys handle your money. How have the two of your worked out your spending?

Do you have a spending threshold between the two of you (officially or unofficially)? Do you call or give a heads up before you buy?

About Elle Martinez

Elle Martinez helps families at Couple Money achieve financial freedom by sharing tips for reducing debt, increase income, and building net worth. Learn how to live on one income and have fun with the second..

24 comments add your comment

  1. This can always be a touchy subject. My wife and I only discuss the money that is in our joint account. We know how much we are supposed to put in there and how much we can spend out of it. If we want to make a purchase on our own, then it comes out of our own accounts. This makes talking about money easy for us.

    • Thanks Grayson for sharing your take on it. Hopefully doing a review on purchases will lower some of our spending, which we can then use for the student loan.

  2. Whether spouse or partner, you both have to be on the same page! Establishing a budget helps each person know their limits.

  3. Great post. This is one thing my wife and I are pretty good at. I don’t even think our threshold (for letting each other know about spending money) is even $100 anymore. It’s probably less than that.

  4. Elle, I also have a join account with my wife. We purchase household things together. I use credit card while my wife use net banking for that particular account. Sometimes we buy individually if it is very necessary but intimate to each other and make a record of it.

  5. I do almost ALL the spending for our household and the budgeting, so unfortunately I have no check. Fortunately, I’m fairly frugal, so I keep myself in check. πŸ™‚ My poor husband hands his paycheck over to me every two weeks and never sees it again. Mwuhahahaha

    • I hear Lena! I also take care of most of the day to day purchases and I automate the bill payments. Being frugal helps as we have kept within our monthly budget, but I’m hoping that I can do better.

  6. Tracking expenses is tedious and difficult. We have a general idea in our family and it works. It leads to less fights and stress if we’re not tracking. I think every penny is insurance for making couples OCD about money.

    • Yep, if we tracked all of our expenses and income manually every day we would go crazy. Glad we use a service like Mint which keeps tabs for us and helps pull data when we do our monthly reviews.

  7. My wife and are fortunate that we both are frugalistas for the most part. In fact, over the years the main thing I spend money on is her, and the main thing she spend money on is me. We like each other a lot, so it ends up neither feels deprived and neither has any grounds to complain about the other’s spending. πŸ™‚

  8. We have a ‘work horse’ account that neither of us touches…our pay is deposited into that account and all bills are automatically withdrawn from the same and all of our long term savings are pulled in the same way (we treat RRSPs and the like as bills).

    The account ‘pays us’ a set amount into a joint day-to-day spending account – this is what we use for gas, groceries, entertainment, beer ect – so when it runs out, it runs out – that account is paid every week and the deal is that gas and groceries are always purchased first. We carpool – so 95% of the shopping is done on the way home from work as it is – and so we’re together for this shopping.

    We also have personal allowance accounts that the ‘work horse’ pays us – so we each have fun money that we’re not accountable to the other for.

    • I really like how you guys organized your accounts. We pay our regular, irregular, and variable bills all from one account.

  9. My husband and I usually are very good about discussing any purchase, even just a coffee before we buy it. We live on an extremely tight budget, so these little purchases need to be discussed. Sometimes he talks to me about a purchase and even though I may not think it’s the best, I respect what he decides ultimately. He is the one working, and so sometimes I have a hard time believing I really have a say even though he wants me to.

    • i’m glad you discuss and support one another. Glad that he wants to get your feedback. Just trust your husband when he says that you too have a say. Marriage is a partnership and it takes two to make it work.

  10. For us, most of our finances are combined. The tough part is if we wish to buy the other a gift. A few years ago, my wife wanted to buy me a piece of art, and while it wasn’t cheap, we had to discuss it because I’d notice that much money missing.
    More recently, she threw me a 50th birthday bash. She had friends and family charge everything so I’d not have a clue. She and my daughter managed to do it, I had no clue.

    • Gifts can be a bit tricky sometimes – we have separate accounts, but we still can keep tabs on them. Kudos to your wife and daughter for getting the party organized! That can be extremely tough πŸ™‚

  11. We used to have a limit as well when we first started budgeting. We have since become more lenient on that limit, but I think it was really helpful for when we were getting out of debt. Perhaps we should implement it again? πŸ™‚

    • It’s something we think about – should we tighten our budget or keep things as they are since we’re still on track? i think having a buddy system with purchases can help us reach our student loan goal faster.

  12. Our threshold is $0. We share a car, though, so we go almost everywhere together – it would be difficult to make a purchase WITHOUT informing my husband first because if he isn’t with me I’ve told him where I’m taking the car!