When I asked Anthony about the holidays last week he said he felt nervous. I asked why and he told me that finances are really tight. He's worried they'll overspend again and it will push his marriage to the breaking point. He said that every year he and Sue agree on an amount they'll spend for Christmas but always spend 2-3 times more.
I told him that this is a common problem in a lot of marriages, but unfortunately it rarely gets talked about or resolved.I congratulated him for at least talking about a plan for spending, since most couples stick their heads in the sand until the credit card bills arrive in January, and then it's too late.
Anthony said he really wanted their spending to be different this year. "I want to save my marriage," he reminded me. I asked him how they buy gifts and, like most of us, he told me they use their credit cards. We talked about how easy it is to overspend when we make purchases with credit cards.
I shared what's worked for other couples and we put an action plan together to make this year different. Here's the plan we came up with; maybe you can use it too.
- Make an agreement with your spouse to purchase gifts using only cash -- no credit or debit cards.
- Discuss a total amount you're both comfortable spending for the holidays. This could be just for gifts; or it could also include other holiday spending like parties and dining out; or it could include all holiday spending, even house decorations.
- Decide on a reward for yourselves if you keep this agreement. It could be something simple like pizza or seeing a new movie. Pick something fun and enjoyable, but not expensive.
- Take the amount you've agreed to spend, get it in cash and put it in a jar or envelope. Getting actual cash to spend may be a challenge try putting in a little from each paycheck this month, or if you have to, use a cash advance on a credit card. (Remember the goal is not to overspend, so even though a cash advance isn't the best, it's better than spending too much)
- Sit down together and make a list of the people you want to buy a gift for and how much you'll spend on each. Total up the amounts and make adjustments to make it all fit into the agreed on total. If you have to eliminate some people, or reduce the amount, that's okay a lot of us are doing that this year.
- Take your cash and do the shopping together. Practice being teammates and help each other keep to the agreement. Make it a game -- it actually can be a fun challenge to find gifts when there's a spending limit.
- Only buy gifts using the cash in your jar. When it's gone, you're done shopping.
- In January enjoy your reward for keeping the agreement. While most other couples are wrestling with how they're going to handle their new debt, you won't have to and you'll have a better marriage to show for it too.
What do you think? Do you have a strategy that works? Please share.
Looking for More? Check Out These Articles
- Counseling Secrets To Marriage & Money Happiness
- Marriage Problems Become Easy To Spot At Back To School Night
- I'm Realizing That I'm Out Of Love With My Partner
- Get More Help with Marriage Problems