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I am married for 15+ years and working at an Indian technology company.

These days, layoffs have been so frequent in my industry; for instance at my company they happened twice in the last three years. Thus, I've always been worrying for the last 4-5 years if I can secure my job until retirement.

I come from a middle class background and my wife is from a poor family; she struggled for good food in her childhood. She is not working; my salary is the only source of income.

Every 2-4 weeks, she comes up with shopping plans for mostly high-end items, such as variety of dresses, cosmetics, fancy restaurants, gold jewelry, etc.

She never talks about savings, budget plans, taking care of the two kids' future, etc.

I used to refuse at first, and after a long argument, I'm eventually forced to buy what she asks for.

What I've tried already (throughout our entire marriage):

  • (when we both are in a good mood) Calmly explaining to her the importance of savings and approximate amount needed for kids' study, their marriage, our retirement life, unexpected health issues, etc.
  • (when I'm in a bad mood) Arguing and shouting at her
  • Whenever hearing about people struggling for money, pointing to her and saying to the effect of, "we should not suffer like this in the future, please take care"
  • Giving her a fixed budget when going out for that day shopping. She usually agrees at home, but most of the time she goes on to ask for items that exceed the budget and nags me to buy it. This makes me feel cheated and sometimes I shout at her at either home or the shop itself.
  • Allocating a monthly budget. Most of the time she comes back around the 20th of each month demanding 25-30% extra. Raising the budget every six months also didn't help.

("most of the time" above refers to 70% of the time)

Her usual reply is that this spending is "important" or that it's a fundamental part of life.

I've tried each of these approaches dozens of times. I'm tired of continuously having to repeat myself and very stressed out and irritable these days. Even after I've explained this fact to her multiple times, things are not improving.

I already shared her about my layoff fear, but even it doesn't help.

We went to family counseling for about a year in 2012, but things got worse once we stopped it.

How can I improve my communication with her, in the hope that she understands my points and makes an effort to stop being spendthrift?


Update: Due to various reasons, divorce is not an option.

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    The answers may vary depending on how the payments are made. By cash? Card? Credit? She pays? You pay? – ooOOooK May 20 at 0:23
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    @ooOOooK Middle class family person in an IT company, I think debit card (high end items) and cash for smaller ones, groceries or maybe low-end shoes, slippers, necessary (not luxury) clothings. Also " nags me to buy it" means he is paying. That's what most Indian couples do when especially when wives are not working and the couple goes for shopping. – ankiiiiiii May 24 at 4:51
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    @ankiiiiiii, Yes, I am paying always and she is not working. – NiceGuy May 24 at 13:17
16

How can I improve my communication with her in the hope that she understands my points and makes an effort to stop being spendthrift?

Going back to family counseling. You've already tried everything else from what I can see : having a budget, having big picture talks about why you need a budget, trying to accomodate the budget for her spending,... So either your wife truly doesn't care, or there's some miscommunication somewhere and a couples counselor should be able to help with that (and we can't do that here).

From my point of view, there are two possibilities here (well, three, but the last one isn't hopeful) :

1. She doesn't think about money and the future like you do

Some people when they've grown up poor just can't think long term. All they know is that money doesn't last, so you better enjoy it while you have it. They've never thought about the future, about retirement plans, savings... So you might be saying all the right things, but your wife just isn't able to see and understand these things the way you do. If this is the case, couples counseling should help in bridging that gap between your two ways of thinking/living.

2. You have been having the wrong discussion

Dave Ramsey has several videos on his youtube channel of people like you, calling him about their spouse who don't follow the budget and spend without a care. What he always discovers is that often, one spouse has all the facts in their heads, tell them to their spouse and set the rules, and think the other spouse will just obey because it just makes sense. They forget to have an actual conversation with their spouse.

"Calmly explaining to her", "Giving her a fixed budget", "Allocating a monthly budget",... Those all sound like you talked to your wife several times and decided what she can do, but you didn't have an actual conversation with her. Did you have a conversation with her about what you want your future to be ? What you want to give to your kids ? How retirement looks like for the both of you ? Do you involve her in the budget and money decisions besides giving her an allowance ? Do you know what is actually important to your wife and does your budget make room for that ?

Me and my partner have very different spending styles. We overcame those by talking with each other, talking about what we need to be happy and fulfilled in our everyday lives and what we want for the future. Some compromises were made, because we can't have everything, but we are happy with what we decided to do with our money. And we regularly go through the budget to tweak it, or have talks about the future (short term and long term) and how it impacts our budget.

3. She just doesn't care

It's not that she doesn't understand, or that she feels you don't hear her and take her needs into account. You're the cash cow, she "trusts" you to always provide for the family and doesn't want to make any compromise on her end. She figures if she nags you enough, you'll always give in and she'll live the way she wants. In this case there's nothing you can do, except not budging on the budget and/or divorcing.

  • Thanks for this good answer, Due to various reasons, divorce is not the option. – NiceGuy May 21 at 20:16
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    @NiceGuy If you end up discovering that your wife falls in category n°3 and has no desire to start following a budget, going to see a counselor yourself might be useful to create some tactics to make this more livable for you and save something. Hopefully it doesn't come to that. – MlleMei May 22 at 7:46
8

I know this answer is a subset of MilleMies answer but I thought my personal anecdote of being the spendthrift partner was a useful addition.

When I was 17 I went out with a 26 year old, he was in full time employment in a good job. I was constantly asking to do stuff which he would "claim" he couldn't afford, I called him tight, I knew roughly what he was on and to me that seemed like an endless amount of money (I was on £10 a week he was on £20,000 a year).

He never actually sat me down and showed me a cashflow
mortgage X,
rates Y,
food Z,
money left each month - very little.

It wasn't until I got my first job after Uni that I understood all of this, that I understood he salary wasn't that much in the adult world we were living in.

Have you actually sat down with your wife discussed your cashflow, discussed how much uni will cost for your kids, how are you going to pay for this?


I remember reading somewhere the difference between the working and middle classes is planning for the future. This was obvious between myself and my boyfriend, it is between your wife and yourself.

I was always a social climbing kid so decided to adopt this change. Maybe your wife will want to as well.

2

You've explained in your question why you feel your financial situation is precarious. But you haven't indicated that you told your wife that part. Your situation sounds very much like a Pakistani couple I knew years ago.

The husband felt like his job wasn't secure, because he received a lot of negative comments at work. The wife was confident that he had job security because she knew how smart he was, and didn't even think about how there might be racism to worry about. She knew a couple of his coworkers, and neither of us seemed at all racist to her. She was, at least, buying things that were durable and would be useful once they had a house... but they didn't have a house yet, or any savings for a down payment.

After a year or so of working together, the company started talking about having layoffs, which she didn't take too seriously. But after a bit, he asked us for help, explaining that she continued to buy things for their future home. I tried to talk sense into her much like he had, but the other guy cut straight to,

You don't think you have a problem, because your husband has two good friends from work, and we're good people. But your husband's a friendly guy. If everything were fine at our company, he'd have a dozen friends or more.

They're talking about doing layoffs now. I don't know how long it will take them to figure out what they're doing with that. But I know one guy who's going to be included. Your husband does great work, but our boss is looking for any way he can come up with to get rid of him, because he doesn't want to risk working for a Pakistani.

He convinced her. She stopped spending money on anything that wasn't immediately needed. Just knowing that situation could exist seemed to be enough to keep her from spending excessive money even after her husband found a new job at another company. However, I did not keep in touch, so I don't know how things turned out more than a few months later.

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