This question is similar to this question: I can make a budget, but how can I get myself to consistently follow my budget? except from the point of view of a married couple.

In our family I earn the money and my wife spends it. For various reason it isn't feasible for us both to work, nor is it feasible for me to be in charge of spending the money, aside from having already automated all the recurring expenses such as mortgage and utilities. However, this still leaves the "general" category of everything else that doesn't fit, including things food, household goods and supplies, and fuel.

We both agree that we need a budget, and we have even sat down on multiple occasions and have agreed on a dollar amount for our general expenses. We have various tools to try to keep under budget such as Mint and an expense tracker, but it never happens. My wife admits that it is her fault, and that she is "bad at money" but I am struggling to find a solution that will both keep us solvent and keep her happy at the same time.

At first I thought maybe it was just poor planning: you have everything in mind you are going to get for the month, but then something unexpected comes up and it blows your budget. But after reading some of the comments on my previous draft, I guess there is some game theory involved here. If the budget isn't kept, then we both feel bad but at least she gets all the things she feels that the kids and us need. Even though she feels bad and wants to do better, I feel like she wins and I lose, so there isn't sufficient incentive for her to really do better.

So my question is, how can I find a scenario in which, if she doesn't stick with the budget, she loses?

Also, regarding the comment by @Question3CPO to make it so that "neither you nor her have access to the money the plan says to save. In that case, neither of you can go over." That sounds good, but how do you achieve this in practice? I don't know of a practical way of making a hard limit on funds that doesn't either cause potential safety issues (what if you need funds in an emergency) or increase costs and inconvenience (e.g. can't buy things online).

edit: Ok, I cleaned up the question but apparently it was still closed anyway. Not sure where to go from here...

  • 1
    Is this a blog post?
    – littleadv
    Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 7:22
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    Frame your question more appropriately or else people would vote it to be closed.
    – DumbCoder
    Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 9:11
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    You know what TLDR stands for? "too long, didn't read." Your question might have validity, but the title says much of it. You literally wrote 1026 words to ask a question. Take it down to 200-250 tops, and you'll get some good comments, I think. Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 12:39
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    @Question3CPO - Are you married? There's a saying "If you're not happy, but your wife is happy, you are still far happier than if you were happy but your wife's not happy." Your proposal is lose-lose. Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 15:15
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    @JoeTaxpayer Ok, it's shorter now. Was 1000 words, now 400. I am not sure I can get it to 250, much less only 100 and still hit all the points I feel are relevant.
    – Andy
    Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 18:14

1 Answer 1


There's no easy solution to this. Unfortunately I think you need a different approach, as you say, using software to track expenses to visualise the percentages and such hasn't helped and in my own experience this sort of money management does not work with all people. Maybe you need to look at the expenses and decide what you can cut out. Somehow we all need to make a distinction between what we need (milk, bread) and what we don't need (magazines, dvds) but still purchase every now and then. Sadly buying things for the second category quickly builds up a bill just as big as the one for the weekly shop only that it contains nothing of actual value and it just seems too easy for some to spend and equal amount of money on "wants" as on "needs" and if a substantial amount of your outgoings are in this category that's where you need to focus the discussion. If you can't find any purchases like that I suspect you need to buy less expensive food.

  • The problem is, he knows this and, I'd bet, she knows this from the sound and wording of the question. The problem isn't knowledge or what they're spending money on, it's what do they have to lose if they miss their goals? What does each have to lose if they miss their goals? Read the question again - he ends up being frustrated (he loses), she loses nothing. That's a huge problem. Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 15:05
  • Trust me I understand the problem - I've had it myself. To some (i.e the spouse) , it is not a problem going over the budget all the time as long as they have what they crave because this is their goal.
    – Constanta
    Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 15:56

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