I am very newly married and now that we are sharing a bank account, I see for the first time that my husband is really spending more money than he should be. He freelances so his income is certainly not consistent, but he buys things as if he has endless resources. I always thought he could afford his more lavish lifestyle but now I see that his credit card debt is mounting and I am worried that it could get out of control. He spends a lot of money on me which I neither want nor need but he always says he buys me things because he loves me and wants to make me happy. It is not that I don’t like nice things, but with today’s economic situation I just don’t think it is practical to spend like this. He tells me I worry too much, yet I feel he is not being responsible. Any advice?
Dear Concerned Newlywed,
It sounds like there are a few different dynamics going on here. Leaving aside the current financial situation for a moment, it appears that for whatever reason he feels that spending money, both on himself and on you, is something he should be doing. Perhaps he is concerned that if he doesn’t keep a certain standard that you will be angry or upset. Maybe he sees that his friends are always buying things for their wives and he either doesn’t want you to be jealous or he is trying to keep up with them. Or perhaps this is simply the lifestyle that he enjoys. But if so, it doesn’t sound like he can afford it!
Often people buy things to make themselves feel better. Shopping can give someone a feeling of control, of newness in their lives, of being able to create the kind of image that they want to have. If his shopping is related to insecurities, the best thing you can do is to try to reassure him and make him feel secure, so that he will not resort to shopping as an outlet. Try to be conscious of how you talk about material things. Sometimes we are not even aware of what we mention. Perhaps you talk about how beautiful a particular huge home is or what you would do for a certain pair of earrings or outfit. Often we make these comments with no real intention of ever having such things, but more as passing comments. But if your husband hears you talk about things he can’t afford, he could be feeling pressured that he is not providing for you in the way that you would like.
If his money spending is not really unhealthy but more impractical in today’s market, then think about ways you can help your overall spending lessen. Look at the things you do in your relationship and where the money is spent. One big money pit often is eating out. Going to a nice restaurant can be romantic, a little get away, relaxing…yet it can also be quite expensive. If you see that he spends a lot of money taking you to dinner, try to create another experience that is just as enjoyable and less expensive. Surprise him and cook a nice dinner for the two of you or make a picnic. Pack him great lunches (and for yourself as well) when you go out for the day so that you don’t stop to pick up food. You can suggest taking turns making meals and trying new foods. This can be something both fun and financially wise. You will end up spending more time together (as it will include preparation and cleanup time as well as the time spent eating) and it will be both healthier and less expensive.
If you take a good look at the extravagances in your lives and where the money is being spent, there are often much less expensive alternatives. Instead of taking a week-long vacation go away for day trips. Instead of hotels, look into swapping homes or staying in places with kitchenettes so you can bring food along and even do some cooking.
You say you are recently married. More important than anything else, remind your husband both directly and indirectly that you didn’t marry him for his money, and you do not love him for the things he buys you. While he may know this intellectually, emotionally he might feel that he has a standard he needs or wants to keep. He wants to take care of you and make you feel secure and maybe he feels that by providing for you materially he is accomplishing this. Remind him that what you need is for him to be healthy and happy, not for him to buy things for you.
If over time you see that there is no way for the two of you together to bring your (or his) spending under control, you may want to consider seeking the advice of a financial planner or even a therapist. Spending can unfortunately become an addiction, in which case professional help is needed to curb it.
There is a beautiful tradition that under the chupah, under the marriage canopy, that a man empties his pockets and a woman removes all her jewelry. The reason for this tradition is to show that the bride is not marrying this man for his material wealth, for anything that he has in his pockets. She is marrying him for who he is on the inside. And likewise, he is not marrying her for her jewels or her riches or anything external. He is marrying her for who she is, not what she wears. So make sure that this is a message that stays in your marriage and becomes your foundation.
May you be blessed in your marriage and lives to have an abundance of wealth, in the spiritual, emotional and material sense, and may you always know how to use it wisely!
“Dear Rachel” is a bi-weekly column that is answered by a rotating group of experts. This question was answered by Sara Esther Crispe.Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the Co-Director of Interinclusion, a non-profit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of TheJewishWoman.org and wrote the popular weekly blog, Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.