NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Are your spouse's spending habits drilling a hole in your wallet? Has your significant other's passion for shopping crushed the concept of budgeting under a world-class clothes collection and bags filled with rare finds from the mall? Curbing your sweetheart's addiction this holiday season without being the Grinch in the relationship can teach you to take control of overall financial and credit health.
If you are unsure how to shift from spending to saving without putting your marriage on the rocks, a democratic approach to dividing up responsibilities might be your best alternative.
"Opposites often attract when it comes to money," says Gerri Detweiler, author of "The Ultimate Credit Handbook" (Plume, 2003) and an expert at Credit.com, a consumer personal finance site. "When one spouse is a saver and the other a spender, the best way to deal with something like that is to appreciate the differences and try to find a middle ground."
Spending the holidays -- and spending smartly through them -- with your partner can be an excellent opportunity to practice financial prudence together that can be useful in the long term. For starters, let one of you keep close watch on the balance in your joint bank account, while the other takes charge of storing the receipts from purchases you both make. With joint bank accounts it's easy to overdraft the balance, so monitoring how it is being spent can save you unnecessary bank fees.
Alternatively, you may choose to get notified by email if your balance drops below a certain amount, say $200. Many banks, credit unions and credit-card companies will let you set up online alerts that will notify both of you when your money is about to run out or if you get close to the limit on your credit card.
Sometimes the cure for overspending may be as simple as showing your spouse where the money goes. Track both your receipts for at least a couple of weeks. "Start keeping a written record of where the money's going and reviewing it together," says Detweiler. "It will help both of you learn how to take control of your financial future."
Here are three more tips Detweiler suggests couples should heed:
If you are having trouble keeping track of who's spending what, it may be wise to have two bank accounts -- one for spending (including bill payments) and one for saving.
Try to find a common ground for your spending differences. This could mean discussing what the two of you think are unnecessary expenses.
Get your money life into one place, using online tools and software like Quicken.
For help with creating and tracking your budget on the Web, visit these free online financial tools: mint.com, clearcheckbook.com and yodlee.com.
By Marshall Loeb