Are you a Spite Spender?

As parents of young children, Grace and I were recently discussing the negotiation tactics between spouses for time away from the family.  This can be something as simple as heading out for a yoga class or having dinner with a friend, but unless you’re on the same page about child care responsibilities, family time, and pursuing your individual passions, trouble can quickly arise.  We see this in the financial realm as well which can manifest itself in what I call spite spending.  Since everything can be related back to an episode of Seinfeld this can easily compare to Jerry attempting to return a jacket for spite:


While spite may not be an acceptable return reason, it can influence how couples spend their money.  A few examples I have seen of this destructive behavior in action are:

“He got a new set of golf clubs, so I really should treat myself to that new dress.”

“She spent $400 on shoes!  She can’t say anything to me about this new watch.”

As income rises the stakes can get even higher:

“I was planning to buy a Honda Accord, but she just got a new Infinity SUV and now I’m thinking it’s only fair if I buy a BMW or other luxury car.”

“He went on a weekend away with his friends to Las Vegas.  I really deserve that girls weekend in the Bahamas we have been talking about all these years.”

This type of competitive spending behavior between spouses can be damaging not only to your relationship, it’s also hazardous to your wealth.  While you both deserve to engage in activities you enjoy and spend money on things that bring you happiness, it’s important to always consider your mutual goals as a couple and make spending decisions in the context of your long term financial plan.  Spite spending can limit your ability to spend money on things that would truly bring joy and derail the long-term goals you are working toward.

If you find you are having trouble seeing eye to eye on big purchases, sitting down with a fee only financial planner can help you evaluate the big picture, clarify your goals, and create a plan that is mutually beneficial.  For further reading on creating a financially successful marriage you can also check out these posts:

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