Revenge Spending and Other Married Money Tricks

The author of Kiplinger article ‘How Money Is Used as a Weapon in Relationships‘ says:

“Money is among the most powerful weapons of control in a relationship.”

Money and control in a relationship is a complex and powerful topic. Yet newlyweds as well as long time married folks may not even be aware of some of the money tricks they or their spouse could be using.

Believe me, I know, I’ve been married for 45 years and am still finding some of those tricks. Here are a couple to watch for and deal with.

Revenge spending

One of the potentially less obnoxious one is being called Revenge Spending.

I personally have indulged in a bit of this and believe that my spouse may well have (subconsciously) as well.

Lets say you are having a difficult time. Your spouse does something that really ticks you off, but for some reason you don’t want a confrontation about it. In order to feel better and ‘exact revenge’ on your spouse, you decide to go buy something for yourself – maybe that new piece of camping equipment you’ve been wanting or perhaps that day at the spa you’ve been dreaming of. Revenge spending is based on the idea that you are getting back at your spouse and the thing that you spend on is going to be something just for you (or at least something your spouse can’t ever enjoy). It even might be something your spouse heartily disapproves of.

A few real life examples of revenge spending:

English rock star Liam Gallagher (of bands Oasis and Beady Eye) had an affair with an American Journalist and fathered a child by her. During the divorce proceedings he claimed his soon to be ex-wife indulged in revenge spending when she found out about the affair.

The New York Daily news reported that wife of Yankee ball player Alex Rodriguez’s wife ran up credit card debt of $100,000 when she found out about a dalliance between he and Madonna.

My own examples are a bit more mundane. When hubby gets on a collectible kick and buys expensive WWII artifacts, I get myself a new electronic toy, for instance.

If he indulges in his penchant for gifting HIS favorite cause, I send equal amounts to my struggling brother.

Revenge spending seems like a fairly innocent way to make up for a real or perceived hurt, but if it goes unchecked can cause financial and relationship issues.

Better to talk through the whys and wheretofors of your revenge spends to get to the bottom of the cause than to drain your bank accounts or wreck your credit with the spends.

Watch for these other money tricks.

Grabbing control

In an ideal marriage, both parties are cognizant of the assets, liabilities and cash flows in their lives. When one partner starts assuming control over the financial life of the other, it can be an indication of pending abuse. Taken to the extreme, one party will eventually prevent the other from having access to any type of funding – making them dependent in the extreme. It can start simply with an offer to balance the checkbook or simplify the finances by consolidating everything (into their account).

Make sure that you have access to and a chance to review all financial records, including check books, bank statements, other financial institution statements, insurance policies, mortgage documents, and etc if your partner is the one managing the books at home. Take turns at money management as well. In our early marriage years, I would pay the bills, but over the years we have alternated the task. Unfortunately, he has no interest in checkbook or account balancing but we have divided up tracking/managing the stock and bond market accounts.

Insisting only one partner has the ‘right’ to decide how money is spent.

If there is only one wage earner in the marriage, he or she may feel it is their right to decide how his or her money is spent. In fact, the non-working spouse may have an inclination to yield to this as well. I know that when I was home with the kids, not earning a salary, I felt inhibited in saying how his salary should be spent. When he would go buy expensive hunting equipment, yet complain loudly about how poor we were if I spent similar amounts on things I wanted, I was somewhat goaded into feeling this inhibition. I solved my issue with this by getting a job that paid more (much more) than my spouse’s.

Because of that, I urged my daughters-in-law to develop their own earning power.

Asset hiding

Infamous in divorce cases, one spouse hides assets from the other. Spouses used to use secret overseas bank accounts to hide money from each other prior to a divorce split up.

I once wanted to surprise my spouse with a really nice anniversary present. At the time, I was working part time for about 8 hours a weekend, earning minimum wage. I wanted to buy a nice TV so I had to save up for it. To do so, I opened a joint savings account with my Mom and made sure hubby never saw the statements. He suspected something was wrong when he didn’t see any money coming out of my part time job. He was pretty angry about that. But he was really surprised when the TV was delivered on our anniversary.

Many married folks indulge in one or more dirty money marriage tricks, especially revenge spending. How about you?


Revenge Spending and Other Married Money Tricks — 4 Comments

  1. Asset hiding is THE WORST! Obviously, for your reasoning it was sweet, but when done in shady negative ways it is a huge betrayal. I remember when I was purchasing one of my condos. I put the offer in shortly before leaving on a international trip. When the offer was accepted I realized I wouldn’t be able to transfer my online funds to my regular bank in time for it to clear and send them the earnest money. I reached out to my Dad to see if he could loan me the money (5k) until I got back from my trip a month later. He did…with one caveat. He told me not to pay him back until I decided to sell the property and then I could pay him back with interest. I thought he was trying to do me a favor (which I didn’t really need…interest? Really?) until the next line – “Things are going well between me and Jan*. I may need that money later”. Really? He was asking me to hide money for him. Well, joke was on him. My sister wanted braces around that time and needed money. I gave her 5k and told her to pay Dad back directly. I wanted no part in the loan or the asset shell game. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I have to dive deeper into revenge spending. I don’t think that my husband and I are doing it, but we may be doing it subconsciously. We are in year 2 of our marriage and doing all we can to prevent major issues from arising. Thanks for the insight.

  3. I plan to keep my own accounts plus a joint account should I get married. That seems like it would prevent some of these problems. Revenge spending out of my account doesn’t hurt the other, it decreases my savings…or I can treat myself to a spa day out of my money. Issues of feeling in or out of control are non existent if we each control some of our own money. I would be transparent about my funds, not hiding money/ assets, but it also provides flexibility to surprise my spouse with a gift.
    I’ve been independent for a long time now, and don’t think I would want to give that up.

    P.s. Are you human? Or are we dancers??

  4. Love this article – you touch on a ton of good points – avoiding the issues you warn about is so important for having a happy marriage when it comes to money.

    Our (me and my husband) approach has been to combine all of our money into a joint bank account from day 1. We’ve tracked our money so we know how much we need to pay our bills, and we jointly agree on how much to save, how much we each get per months as “mad money” (i.e. money to waste on frivolous fun stuff like buying lunch at work, going out with friends, buying a CD etc.), and so on. Because we have agreed in advance on clear financial goals and how to get there, money is a non-issue in our relationship. What we do with our money is always decided with the good of our financial well-being as a couple in mind, and the assumption that we’re in this “until death do us part” so we might as well cooperate ๐Ÿ™‚

    Aside from “mad money”, we base our spending on need and being reasonable in choices – need a new pair of jeans because one of your old pairs wore out? Go ahead and get yourself another pair – just don’t go nuts and buy a $200 pair when a more moderately priced pair will look great and get the job done. We agree to check with the other person before splurging on something costly… talk it out etc.

    What’s mine is his and what’s his is mine… been working well for over 15 years now. Personally, I think having separate bank accounts would be too much work – easier to keep track of a joint account. Plus, if one person earns more than the other, you don’t want the lesser earning spouse feeling like a second class citizen due to not being able to afford the same perks as the higher earning spouse. Obviously this only works if both parties in the relationship are putting in their fair share of work time (or in other cases, the stay-at-home-and-take-care-of-kids time). ๐Ÿ™‚

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