What To Do When Your Partner Is Horrible With Money

Is love “enough” for a healthy and happy relationship, especially when it comes to financial troubles? According to CNBC, in a study done by SunTrust Bank, it was found that money is the leading cause of stress in relationships. 35% of all respondents said that money was the primary cause of friction in their relationship….

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: May 26, 2023

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you decide to make a purchase via my links, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. See my disclosure for more info.

Is love “enough” for a healthy and happy relationship, especially when it comes to financial troubles?

No surprise- money is the leading reason for why marriages lead to divorce. Managing marriage and finances is extremely important for a happy relationship.

According to CNBC, in a study done by SunTrust Bank, it was found that money is the leading cause of stress in relationships. 35% of all respondents said that money was the primary cause of friction in their relationship. And, for those aged 44-54, 44% said money was their relationship’s biggest source of stress.

According to the same survey, 34% of survey takers said they were the saver while their partner is bad with money, and 47% said they and their partner have different saving and spending habits.

And, it’s no surprise that money issues are one of the leading causes of divorce.

Related content on marriage and finances:

Ill be honest with you, I get a lot of questions about marriage and finances. Actually, hardly a day goes by that I don’t receive an email or Facebook comment from a reader with concerns about the bad spending and saving habits of their partner.

Here are a few of the situations I’ve recently been asked about:

  • My husband spends over $1,000 a month on entertainment but we have a lot of debt. How should I approach him about it?
  • My wife is hiding her spending from me and I know she is. How do we work through this?
  • My partner isn’t trying to find a job but we desperately need the money. What should we do?

Now, if you’re in a relationship with someone whose financial beliefs and practices oppose your own, does that mean you’re doomed and should end it all?

Not necessarily.

Fortunately, there are ways you can work towards resolving your financial differences and improving your money and marriage behaviors. Before calling it quits due to financial stress, you should:

  • Be honest, and stop keeping money secrets from your partner.
  • Stop ignoring the problem.
  • Make a budget and start following it.
  • Make money conversations a priority, even if they have been difficult in the past.

Me and my husband have been together for over 11 years, and we are always trying to work at our financial situation as a team. We all have different spending habits, and in a marriage it’s important to come together to see how your behaviors affect your marriage.

Working together is key for a happy relationship, especially when you want to meet your financial goals.

If your relationship is struggling because of financial differences, here are some steps that you may want to take.

Tips for happy marriage and finances:

 

Schedule regular money check ins.

A relationship that has regular money talks and budget meetings is more likely to be financially successful and happier than a relationship that doesn’t.

To be successful with your marriage and finances, it is a MUST to regularly check in and discuss money.

Regularly communicating about money is an important step for every relationship. Being open about your money situation can help prevent any surprises, it will ensure that both people in the relationship are aware of what’s going on, and so on.

Here are some of the ways for these check ins to help you with your marriage and finances:

  • You can work together and succeed. If you are both putting effort towards your financial goals, you can tackle them as a team and are much more likely to have a positive outcome.
  • Knowing your financial situation will help you keep a budget. Understanding your financial situation means you can create and keep a budget that works for the both of you. You will know more about the amount of money you are spending, whether you are living paycheck to paycheck, and more.
  • Being aware may prevent everything from falling on one person. Everyone should be aware of their financial situation. It’s not fair for one person to manage it all, and you would be in for a rude awakening if something were to happen to that person.
  • Being involved can help you with your family’s goals. It would be quite difficult for a person to work towards their family’s financial goals if they weren’t aware of their financial situation. Being involved will keep everyone motivated and aware of what’s going on.
  • Regular money talks can lead to less fighting. When you are open about money in your relationship, you are less likely to have financial surprises and money fights. This is because conducting regular money talks and budget meetings means you will both be aware of what’s going on.

Recommended reading: Family Budget Meetings – Yes, You Need To Have Them

 

Be open about money.

Talking about money is seen as taboo, even among married couples. According to a survey done by Fidelity, 43% of respondents don’t know how much their partner earns, and 36% are unaware of the amount they have invested.

You and your partner should sit down every so often, such as once a week, once a month, or whatever timeframe works best for the two of you.

To be open about your finances, your money meetings should include:

  • Your financial goals, money values, and more.
  • How the two of you are doing financially.
  • What changes may need to be made.
  • Any financial problems, and so on.

The key here is that both of you are up-to-date on what is going on with your marriage and finances so that everyone can work together on your family’s financial goals.

 

Always be honest.

According to an article on Forbes, 20% of those in the U.S. keep financial secrets, and 7% between the ages of 18-49 have a secret bank account or a secret credit card they keep from their partner.

Also, according to a survey taken by the National Endowment for Financial Education, 31% of survey takers admitted lying to their spouse about their finances. These aren’t just little lies either, as most of the 31% stated that if their spouse found out about their lie, then a divorce may be on the horizon.

The problem with financial infidelity is that it can lead to even bigger financial problems (like debt piling up beyond what’s imaginable), stress, unhappiness, it may start impacting other areas of a person’s life (such as work), and it may even lead to divorce.

Unfortunately, it’s possible that you may already be a victim of financial infidelity. Here’s how to recognize the signs of financial infidelity:

  • There are no more bills in the mail. This could be a sign that someone is hiding the bills.
  • There are calls from debt collectors. These may actually be legitimate calls!
  • Your credit cards are being rejected. This could be a sign that someone is overspending without your knowledge.
  • Your partner no longer wants to talk about money. This could be a sign that your partner is too afraid to talk about money with you because they fear that you will uncover the truth.

 

Set spending limits for each other.

Some couples tell each other about every single purchase they make, whether they buy something for $1 or if they buy something for $1,000.

Others only tell their spouse if they reach a certain amount, such as $100.

Whatever you decide, it’s a good idea to sit down with your spouse and determine what kind of limits you should set for your specific situation.

Doing this can help keep the communication lines open with your marriage and finances so there are fewer arguments about money.

Is your partner bad with money? What marriage and finances advice or situations would you like to share?


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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. Ms. Weird Hacks

    My boyfriend makes excellent financial decisions and sticks to budgets. I, on the other hand, needs, helps when it comes to creating a budget, sticking to it and being frugal.

    I have a habit of buying things I do not need simply because it was on ‘sale’
    Occasionally, we get into heated arguements because of my terrible spending habits. I just enrolled me into a budget bootcamp and I am doing my best to get better at money management.

    1. Good job on enrolling in a bootcamp!

  2. Mustard Seed Money

    I thought I was good with money until I met my wife. She is amazing with money. Now the tough part is getting her to loosen up with the finances from time to time to enjoy life a little bit more. But it’s a goo balance otherwise I have a feeling we wouldn’t be in the position we are today.

    1. Sounds like my husband and I. I am tight with money and he tries to get me to enjoy life more.

  3. Generally, my wife and I are good about money together. We could definitely be much better. Our problem has always been eating out. When one of us brings it up, we don’t necessarily fight each on it! We both have a handle on our expenses, so no secrets here!

  4. Ember @ An Intentional Lifestyle

    We have set monthly budget meetings together, where we discuss the previous month and if we stayed on budget and the next months goals. When we started doing that, it was a total change! We also have a pretty low limit, about $20 is the max the other can spend without discussing it together. We have a bit of fun money each though, to spend on what we want. Those 3 things have really helped us work together and stay on budget without arguing or having too many financial issues.

  5. pia

    I agree on this so much. I think above anything else communication is key to make sure that it all works out between both partners. When I first started being serious about saving, investing and being frugal, my partner was not very receptive. He found the money talk to be offputting and distasteful. But through communication and proper explanation, he is much more onboard now and we are slowly working through our financial goals.

  6. I’ve always been the finance “nerd” in my marriage. My wife could not possibly care any less about investments, mutual funds, etc. But that is perfectly fine, because we both acknowledge it and plan around it by division of labor – I handle the savings and investments; she handles the day-to-day budget and bill paying.

    As you suggest, we both agreed on a predetermined threshold which either of us can buy something withing consulting the other. For large-ticket items we discussed in advance and save together with that as our common goal.

    1. A division of labor is great ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. I am very lucky to be able to say that both Mr. Adventure Rich and I are typically on the same page with finances. It didn’t start that way, but we made money a common conversation in our household in order to keep us aligned. We discuss our finances regularly, set mutual goals and work together to achieve them. Finances has been an area that has strengthened our marriage and I am very thankful for that!

  8. Tina @ Growing My Pennies

    I wouldn’t rule out a relationship just because my partner is bad with money. Hubby was definitely more of a spender when we first met. We’ve been together for 7 years now and my money habits have rubbed off on him. The most important thing is to communicate. Your partner is not a mind reader so let him/her know if anything bothers you.

  9. My first thought was to smack them. Smack some sense into them – but it’s probably very bad advice because it never works. Thankfully hubby and I are on the same page about finances. Sometimes, it’s just a deal breaker. I’ve seen breaks over and the frugal party is better off breaking up than not. It’s a hot bed for issues.

  10. Dana

    This is a great article and it is very true! My husband and I were not on the same page when we got married about how to handle money. By year 3/4 of our marriage we hit a rough patch. I started my Blog because of our experiences and how we handle our finances now. We budget $75 of groceries between the two of us a week and it has made a huge impact.

    I have a taken your Affiliate course and still working on building my blog. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and success with others!!

  11. More often than not, the bad-with-money partner is really pleasantly surprised and grateful to learn that the financially-responsible partner has stocked an emergency fund and retirement accounts for them both!

    Thoughts on what to do when both partners are bad with money?

    1. When both partners are bad with money, they should seek expert help.

  12. Heather @ bizewife

    Definitely battling with this as we get married. I have been the more highly compensated individual in our relationship, but I also like to splurge. He’s less spendy, but has less long-term planning and saving prowess than I do. We are trying to work together to increase income, but we really need to focus on greater financial planning overall!

    It is tough!

    1. It can be tough. Having regular money meetings, if you’re not yet, is extremely important.

  13. Sarah

    I’m not married. But from what I’ve observed with other couples, opposites are typically the norm. Most grow together over time and find common ground.

    I concur with you and agree it’s important to face the issue head on. Wishing it away won’t help. Communication is key and I’d also include a large measure of grace and respect. Recklessness never brings out the best in us and the accused often becomes defensive. In the midst of the financial maelstrom, we must keep in mind that we’ve fallen short somewhere.

    This is their albatross. Love them through it if you can.

  14. I am lucky enough to have a husband who is on board with me financially. These are great tips though! I will share this with friends who need that extra little “push” with their spouse.

  15. This article is right on time!!!! Im working on a blog post about this same issue. My godmother got a divorce after 30 years of marriage because she said she woke up on day and realized that if she didnt leave her husband she would end up in the poor house!! Money is such an important factor in marriage.
    Can I link this post for my article?

  16. Mrs. Picky Pincher

    Yeeees. It’s okay to have different financial styles, but it does make harmonious relationships more difficult. I’m more of the saver while Mr. Picky Pincher is the spender. But we’re very, very open about our money and meet often to go over the finances. Any time we want to buy something, we check in with each other. It’s not done out of obligation, but just to keep each other in the loop on our money. If it’s money spent on something silly, we have a chat about it. I do think our relationship is stronger because of our opposite approaches to money.

  17. I’m a lot more detailed about our finances than my husband is. Luckily, he pretty much does what I say when it come to money, haha! ๐Ÿ™‚ We talk about things and are on the same page which I am forever grateful for.

  18. We’re not married but have been living together for a long time and have shared finances from day 1!

    Even though we’re not *always* on board when it comes to money (I’m extremely frugal, while he’s more of a spender), it helps to have an open mind so that you can understand the other one’s point of view!

    What also helps is finding the right arguments to explain why you think one financial decision is better than the other. Money discussions can often get heated up, so it’s important to know how to “present your case” instead of ending a fight with ‘because I said so’.

  19. If I ever get married someday, I’m going to school my spouse about blogging. And when I do get to that point in my life, here’s what I’m going to say…

    “Bloggers have to understand it’s all about the people. Put people before profits. Create long form evergreen content. Blog everyday if possible. Put profits on the back burner because that’s not happening right away. Keep blogging even on days when bloggers don’t make money. Share consistently Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube video descriptions, and stay focused on that side hustle for the next 2 – 3 years. When the blogger least expects…they’ll be in a grand position to earn more than enough after getting organized across the board to work from home full time online.”

    If i can get my spouse to get in the blogging for life mindset and learn to master the internet to the side hustle freelancing advantage, there would be no arguments concerning shortage of finances. It’s a sad truth, but money plays a determining role in relationships and if your mate will stay with you or not.

  20. RMSmithJr

    35 years so far and have yet to squabble over money. We are each fully employed. When we were first married, my bride was a single mom and worked hard to be financially independent. The first several years were separate checking accounts and expenses were divvied up. After about 5 – 7 years, we decided to have separate joint checking accounts.

    Every Saturday morning for the past ten years is the weekly financial review. Debt, cash and investments on one net worth spreadsheet. The one key metric tracked is how much money was spent on interest. It used to be a bunch, and now substantially less.

    We still have the occassional renegotiation on who pays what. After I got the house paid off (in fifteen years), I picked up the RV, my car and cranked up the 401k.

    And for five years, I did have ‘secret’ account. The first purpose of this account was to save money for a yard tractor – mower/snowblower system. Once paid I off I quietly kept the direct deposit active. The money became a 25th anniversary ring upgrade for my bride and a European anniversary trip. It was fun to rock her world.

  21. I’m agree with the entire post. I think that be honest about finances and spending habits is good for a coiple, have money talks help and have financial couple goals can help spender part to became a little bit more savvy…however be honest from the beginning is always a good deal!!!

  22. Talking about finances with someone you care about can be an uncomfortable thing…
    But so is going to the dentist for a checkup!

    Definitely important to air this stuff out rather than let the relationship continue to slowly rot.

    Thanks for the financial/relationship advice ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. Claire – StartACraftBlog

    oh good god! My husband is the worst with money. He wants to buy everything and when I ask him “what with?” he says…. “ahhh… your money??”

    This is such a great read!

    Luckily though, he always consults me before making a purchase and if anything is over ยฃ50 for our business (we have a partnership) I discuss it with him.

  24. Kaitlynn Marie

    I’m single and I live with my older sister and her two teenage kids. She is pretty terrible with money and often asks to “borrow” from me. I put that in quotes because I rarely see the money she “borrows” from me. It also typically has to come from my savings. I’m trying to save to get a cheap car, but every time I make a stride forward something happens and I end up letting her “borrow” some or all of my savings. My questions are, basically, how do I say “no” when the issues affect me too? For example, I had $500 saved for a car a few months ago but her brakes went on hers and needed to be completely redone. I ended up giving her the $500 and she borrowed the rest from another sister. In that situation, if I hadn’t let her borrow the money, I wouldn’t have had a ride to either of my two jobs and I would have been equally screwed. Other situations are when we have no food (which is a problem in itself) and go out to eat, she often demands that I pay half even though I’m only a third or a quarter of the people eating. I feel like my own spending habits aren’t too bad, but with her bad influence I’m having a hard time saving any money. I just feel stuck.