Holiday Finances

What is the best way to talk to your spouse about holiday overspending? Each holiday season it's the same old story: You endure a year-long battle of meticulously balancing and budgeting your funds, only to have your budget blown at the first sign of a holiday sale on Black Friday. If this form of holiday gluttony sounds familiar, you're not alone.

According to a recent Crucial Conversations Online Survey, 60 percent of people either overspend or have a spouse or partner who overspends during the holiday season, and 78 percent say it is difficult to discuss holiday spending with their spouse or partner. The majority either put it off for months or avoid bringing up their concerns altogether.

Why do couples avoid discussing overspending?

Joseph Grenny, coauthor of the national bestseller Crucial Conversations (McGraw-Hill), says people fear budget conversations because they feel ill-equipped to hold these sensitive discussions.

"If not approached skillfully, criticism of spending habits can come off as a personal attack," says Grenny. "People will become particularly defensive when their intentions are to please others with gifts and someone tells them they're out of control. The problem is that most don't know how to hold these conversations with the offender without damaging the relationship or acting like a Scrooge."

The survey revealed that people fear budget discussions so much that they will employ just about any tactic to avoid an unpleasant conversation on holiday spending.

Top 6 tactics used to avoid discussions on holiday overspending

  1. Change or avoid the subject - 24 percent
  2.  Hide price tags or receipts - 23 percent
  3.  Hide recent purchases - 17 percent
  4.  Walk away from the conversation - 10 percent
  5.  Tell your spouse/partner it's your money - 9 percent
  6. Change the subject to areas where the other person is "less than perfect" - 8 percent

Grenny says if people apply a few simple skills for holding these crucial conversations, the discussion will be more pleasant and will result in a better outcome.

Tips for discussing holiday spending without being a scrooge


  • Talk early. Don't wait until your spouse springs for a Harley to talk about limits. Find a time to talk early about how you'll deal with this year's holiday spending.
  • Solve the right problem. Many couples don't reach resolution because they discuss the wrong problem. For example, if you discover that your loved one has rented storage units in neighboring states stuffed with hidden binge gifts, the issue now is trust, not spending.
  • Communicate with love and respect. The most important key to solving problems with loved ones is to ensure they know that you respect and love them. When they know you support and respect them, their defenses drop and they begin to listen.
  • Be willing to be wrong. Approach the conversation with an open mind. For example, it could be that the source of your conflict is not a real budget limitation, but that you don't value holiday gift giving to the same degree as your partner.
  • Hold each other accountable. Once you reach an agreement, find a way to routinely keep track of spending.
  • More holiday budgeting tips:

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