Dear Mary: My wife has always insisted on balancing our joint checkbook, and recently, I found out why. The bank statement came yesterday while I was home, so I decided to open it.
I was shocked to see a check to her brother for $350. I went through a couple of prior statements and found the same thing. I figure she’s been doing this since her parents died several years ago. We’re not exactly rolling in dough.
We have three kids and a big mortgage, and money is tight. If she’d asked or at least discussed this with me, I would not have refused to help him, but this is way out of line, in my opinion. How should I broach the subject with her? — Jason
Dear Jason: Skimming money is a real problem for any partnership, especially a marriage. But money problems in a marriage are rarely only about the money. There’s usually an underlying issue.
If she’d asked me, I would have told your wife that as noble as her intentions might be to help her brother, her commitment to you and your marriage trumps everything. It’s wrong to do this behind your back.
Since you wrote, let me ask you: Why do you think she felt compelled to deceive you in this way? Maybe she believed you’d hit the roof if she brought it up.
I suggest that you go to her as a loving husband and partner, not a raging foe. Tell her how hurt you are that she couldn’t talk to you about this. Assure her that you are willing to talk now. Tell her that if you are going to enjoy financial harmony in your marriage, everything has to be on the table — her spending and yours. Talk it out. I’m sure you can negotiate a compromise you can both live with.
Dear Mary: I am new to Costco, having dragged my feet to join because our budget really doesn’t allow for anything past our normal grocery bill. My friends go WILD and shop at rates that take my breath away. I believe I can save on particular items, especially paper products. Do you have any suggestions on how I can navigate such an overwhelming shopping experience? — Carrie
Dear Carrie: I’m not convinced you will save on paper products at Costco. You’ll get high quality and huge quantities, but I’m confident you can beat Costco’s prices if you buy your paper products on sale at the supermarket, discount department store such as Target or Walmart or dollar store. Some things are cheaper at the warehouse clubs (milk, cheese, frozen chicken breasts, for example).
The challenge with Costco or any warehouse club is that you have to buy a lot in a year’s time to break even on your membership fee in actual money saved.
If you are determined that you can, I suggest you never arrive at Costco planning to pay with a credit card. Take only a written list and the amount of cash you intend to spend.
It’s not easy, but if you follow that guideline, you will not be so tempted to buy things you didn’t even know you needed until you wandered up and down the aisles. Like 50 pounds of onions or a 4K high-definition television that suddenly you simply cannot live without!
Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, “Ask Mary.” Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com/. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog and the author of the book Debt-Proof Living.