Free to spend mental limit
April 26, 2005 2:10 PM   Subscribe

Does a certain amount of money exist in your mind as a mental cut-off when buying that does not require you to report your purchase to your significant other? Does exceeding that limit stop you from impulse buys etc. and make you consult on the expense?

When I had a better income, my mental “free-to-spend” was $18.00. I felt ok to spend this and not report or share information on the purchase with my spouse. Now that my income is significantly less, my cut-off is $6.00. Do you have such a limit, what is it, why? Wondering if I am alone in this.
posted by BrodieShadeTree to Human Relations (17 answers total)
I don't understand this thing with not being able to "report" income to your significant other. Does the other work for the IRS? It's a really bizarre and a slightly saddening notion that people out there have to hide money from their wives or others or whatever.

What gives?
posted by xmutex at 2:13 PM on April 26, 2005

No, to be clear. We share all income etc. I am just talking about, like when you buy a CD for your car and you don't go .." hey honey I bought a CD today, just so you know ok?" But you just buy it knowing it is OK to spend that money.
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 2:15 PM on April 26, 2005

I usually tend to report anything over $40.00. But my partner and I both understand that that's a courtesy to each other, not a financial requirement. Only if each of us failed to mention $40.00 for several days in a row would it really become an issue.

Now, if I'm going to spend $100 (even on shoes), I always call before I make the purchace. I usually get an answer along the lines of, "Why do you keep calling me with this?" But that's just our situation right now. I can see it being very different when neither one of us has a government job in the next couple of months. I see those numbers going down to $10.00 and $40.00, respectively.
posted by Elsbet at 2:26 PM on April 26, 2005

We don't share finances, so no, I don't "report" anything.

In fact, the largely inescapable notion of "community property" (we're in California) is a large factor in our decision not to wed.
posted by trevyn at 2:26 PM on April 26, 2005

Here is a system that my wife and I used briefly. We did not stick with it because we got lazy, but I actually think it is a very good system.

Each spouse gets an allowance for weekly out-of-pocket expenses. You can do you want with that money: buy coffee, lunch, newspapers, expensive restaurant meals, movies, etc. No need to check in or explain anything to the spouse (unless of course you buy something that they have moral objections to, like a gun, but that's another story).

You can also save this money to get yourself a more expensive treat.

In our case, we were trying to adjust to life on a much-reduced income. We each got $50 per week. If I had wanted to go without coffee & etc I could have chosen to save $25 per week to buy myself a new iBook at the end of the year. Or I could have decided that a nice lunch every workday plus one CD per week was my priority.

We got the idea for this from a workshop on budgeting for couples. It strikes me as very much the right thing because it creates very clear boundaries, while also giving each spouse freedom and psychological independence within those boundaries.
posted by alms at 2:35 PM on April 26, 2005

Lots of responses here a while ago.
posted by fionab at 2:37 PM on April 26, 2005

Nearly this exact question was asked last year.
posted by web-goddess at 2:37 PM on April 26, 2005

In our household, joint expenses like groceries, mortgage payments, stuff to fix the house, utilities, etc are paid out of an acount we both dump money into, and both have access to. Groceries and other neccesities we both buy with this money without consulting each other. All other purchases out of this account are agreed upon, usually in an informal way - we tend to go together when shopping at Home Depot or anything like that.

All other purchases - booze, cd's, movies, our cars, clothes etc come out of our own pockets and therefore there is no need to inform each other of these purchases or to negotiate with each other about them.

It's like three piles: my money (my business), his money (his business) and our money (joint responsibility).
posted by raedyn at 2:45 PM on April 26, 2005 [1 favorite]

I don't have a spouse, but I will mention that it's not always the same number both ways, in case it helps you work out what's right for your relationship. My mother will feel perfectly free to spend a couple hundred dollars without telling my father about it. She might tell him what she bought, but only in a 'do you like my new shirt?' kind of conversational way. My father, on the other hand, is unlikely to spend much more than $30-40 for unexpected purchases (where gas and cigarettes, for example, are expected purchases) without specifically informing my mother that he spent the money.

The difference is that she handles the money, keeps the chequing account balanced and the bills paid. She needs to know if he whipped out the Visa for something, or at the end of the month, there might not be enough there to cover it.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:51 PM on April 26, 2005

My fiance do (and will continue to do when we are married) exactly what raedyn's talking about. It works out great.
posted by xmutex at 2:51 PM on April 26, 2005

what raedyn said.
posted by dogmatic at 3:13 PM on April 26, 2005

No. We also have yours, mine and ours. Call us weird, but when I want shiny new bike parts I don't need to ask permission.
posted by fixedgear at 3:37 PM on April 26, 2005

Me and my ex used the one shared account thing. We bought what we wanted and sorted it out later.

That's probably a major reason why we're exs.
posted by Gucky at 4:33 PM on April 26, 2005

Our limit was always our hourly income. If our potential purchase was higher than that, we consulted. This worked nicely in my favor when I was in the private sector and had a shoe jones while my husband toiled in public sector work.
posted by Dreama at 4:34 PM on April 26, 2005

My wife and I instituted aim's allowance suggestion after a big spending fight, and it has been working great since. I'll add one more detail to the idea though -take out your allowances each week in cash. This has several benefits:
  • cash gives you both a physical representation of scarcity
  • you can stash some of it away secretly for a present to yourself or to your spouse
  • you don't ever have to argue about who spent too much when. Sometimes "shared everything" can lead to more strife than it solves.
We each get $60 a week, only because the ATMs only deal in 20s these days.
posted by Popular Ethics at 7:35 PM on April 26, 2005

My girlfriend is friends with a married couple who absolutely insist that all spending must be equal. If he eats out for lunch, then so does she. If she gets a new handbag, he gets a computer game. It's ridiculous. Don't be that way. They've been building their debt for years now, and I am thinking about starting a pool on their bankruptcy declaration date.

Also, $6? Jeez, I don't even have a job and I'd set the limit a little higher than $6.
posted by MrZero at 9:48 PM on April 26, 2005

Shouldn't it be $/month rather than $/purchase? 60x $6 >$300
posted by PurplePorpoise at 10:28 PM on April 26, 2005

« Older Traveling between Omaha and London   |   Learning to use Flash - Suggestions? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.