Who Is the Accountability Partner for What?

I had an interesting conversation with a couple of my FPU students a couple weeks ago.  I was telling them about how much I like Republic Wireless and they asked if I am planning to upgrade my phone when they release the new one.  I said that Kyle has been pushing me to upgrade but that I didn’t see the need – to me upgrading a functional smartphone after only one year of use seems like lifestyle inflation.


Previously in the class we have discussed how spouses keeping joint finances act as accountability partners for one another’s spending choices.  In FPU spouses are encouraged to each be allocated a little bit of “blow money” for totally discretionary use, and in discussions about that point with my table I have said that we keep all of our money completely joint and don’t have separate discretionary spending each month.  If we can’t convince the other person that what we want to buy is justified (given that each of us is reasonable and loving, which we are), then it’s really not a good purchase.


One of the people at my table said, regarding the potential phone upgrade, that since my “accountability partner” is for the purchase that mean it’s a go-ahead, right?  I replied that Kyle does not get to be the accountability partner for electronics purchases.  Whether it’s for me or for him, he needs me to slow down this one area where he is a “spender.”


man in cafe with gadgetsPiece of Evidence #1 (last month over dinner)


me: We have too much cash on hand.  We should do something with it.

Kyle: OK, great.  I have a list of things I want to buy: 1) a tablet, 2) a router, 3) a desktop, and 4) a new laptop.

me: Sheesh! I was thinking more like making a lump sum contribution to our IRAs…


Piece of Evidence #2 (while re-evaluating our budget)

me: In your ideal world, how much money would you want to be saving into our Electronics account?  Right now we’re saving $50 per month.

Kyle: Definitely more than that.

me: How about $100?

Kyle: No, that’s not enough.

me: $150??

Kyle: No, more than that.

me: How much, then?  $200???

Kyle: I think $300.

me: You want to be saving $300 per month just to spend on electronics!?  That’s almost as much as we spend on food!


I’m not saying that Kyle should never spend money on electronics (we increased our savings rate to $100/month, in fact).  He likely wouldn’t buy all the stuff on his list even if he were still a bachelor because he is very good with keeping spending in check.  My point is that there are certain areas in our life that Kyle is more likely to overspend in and certain areas that I am more likely to overspend in, and in those areas the accountability should shift to the spouse less likely to be tempted.  I need to be the accountability partner for electronics purchases, whether they are for me or Kyle.  I definitely need Kyle to be an accountability partner for food and clothing purchases.  Left to my own devices, I would buy local organic almost everything and completely bust up our budget – not to mention ALL THE DRESSES!


I wonder if other married couples work the way we do – not that one of us is always the spender and the other always the saver, but alternating those roles depending on the type of purchase.


What are your biggest areas of spending temptation?  Does your spouse help you temper your spending inclinations in those areas and vice versa?  If you are single, do you have someone who serves as an accountability partner for your budget and spending (this is encouraged in FPU)?


photo from Free Digital Photos


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27 Responses to "Who Is the Accountability Partner for What?"

  1. I am a big spender on food and could go crazy if not kept in check. My husband is good at telling me “we don’t need it” if I’m contemplating buying. His weakness is collecting intellectual property, in the form of comic books and movies/TV show sets. I’ve gotten him to embrace Netflix and streaming and to not buy as many DVDs that sit on our shelves never to be watched again. He’s still into his indie comics but we all must have the occasional vice. 🙂
    Tara @ Streets Ahead Living recently posted..You only have how much for retirement?

    1. Emily says:

      That’s an interesting change that’s happened in recent years. I used to collect books – until I had to pay for them myself and that’s when I started using the library frequently. It’s a real mindset change to go from wanting to own content vs. being okay with renting the access to it.

  2. What an interesting way of diving into the budget, Emily. I hadn’t really thought of it before but I am a weird over-spender in the area of groceries. I really don’t know why, but left to my own devices I’ll just line the refrigerator and the pantry. It’s like I want to invest in food.

    Mrs. Done by Forty needs the brakes put on when it comes to travel. There is not a place on this earth that she doesn’t want to see and she’ll happily trade money for those experiences. It’s still a better trade off than the can of beans I’m pushing for.
    Done by Forty recently posted..They Want to Help You…

    1. E 2 says:

      I’m that way with food, too! I think it’s a security thing, honestly. I’m trying to be more conscious about what we need vs what makes me feel safe – I’m probably not going to be unemployed next week, and even if I were, we could still go to the grocery store, so stocking up on everything is not actually necessary.

      1. Emily says:

        Very interesting. Do you want to overbuy perishables or only non-perishables? And do you have the storage space to keep a buffer of food around?

    2. Emily says:

      Haha food is definitely a depreciating asset so you shouldn’t invest in it… your health on the other hand…

      I’m glad that you have a marriage in which you can help one another keep your spending in line and your eye on the bigger goal!

  3. Looking at that dialogue, I would totally give the same type of responses you would. Whether electronics or something else, clearly there are needs and wants, and $300 per month is hard to fathom.

    That being said, I’m sure there is something I spend on that’s hard to fathom too. Thus, it does take the other person to keep the spender in line, and it can be either person depending on the circumstances. Also, for better or worse, we all have to compromise sometimes, even if the expenses seem to be a waste to us personally. Good post!
    Tie the Money Knot recently posted..Spending Money to Impress Friends: Is There Ever a Benefit?

    1. Emily says:

      In these budget discussions within a marriage, it’s interesting to remember that there is no inertial observer – one of you isn’t right for sure, it’s just about compromising between your two desired positions. Considering that we might each buy a new laptop once every three years for $1,000 on average, we should be saving $55/month just for that!

  4. Mrs. PoP says:

    I’m an overspender on warranties a lot of the time. So I need Mr PoP to sanity check them with me before I buy an extended warranty for every appliance we purchase. =)

    Mr PoP is more of an overspender when it comes to eating out or gas spending. He will happily drive around all day guzzling gas for the hell of it without a thought in the world… and he’ll stop for coffee a few times, as well as a couple other meals out.
    Mrs. PoP recently posted..He Said She Said – The Best Worst Present You’ve Ever Received

    1. Emily says:

      Oh, good one about the warranties… I’m sure a lot of people are like you!

  5. I’m a scholastic junkie. Luckily that isn’t too expensive.
    Nicoleandmaggie recently posted..How to write a good personal statement for grad school in our social science fields

    1. Emily says:

      Is that for professional development or personal enjoyment?

      1. Neither! They’re inexpensive children’s books for the kids. Remember getting the fliers in elementary school?
        Nicoleandmaggie recently posted..Fun books that our parents read as young adults

  6. E 2 says:

    Actually I think I’m usually the big spender! But I’m also the one who’s very conscious about saving, perhaps because I know I need to in order to avoid thinking I’m mrs. moneybags and can just spend it all, whereas my husband is fine to leave it just sitting in the checking account. Basically I’m the accountability partner for myself 😛

    Probably the only exceptions are travel and food/beverage consumption – spending on experiences is definitely our biggest luxury, but we both value them, so it can be hard for us to keep each other accountable. It usually boils down to me being like, “hey we saved enough money to hit a certain goal, and we still have some, so we can finally go to that restaurant/cocktail bar/b&b we’ve been talking about for months or a year!” Once I’m willing to let loose the reins for something we’ve been waiting for, that’s pretty much it.

    1. Emily says:

      I’m like you in this respect – I have a heightened awareness of our money because I know I would be tempted to spend, whereas my husband will ignore money and let it pile up.

      That’s a different challenge, to keep accountable in areas you’re both tempted in.

  7. Matt Becker says:

    Very interesting. We’ve never split things up quite like this but I like the concept. We have enough cushion in our budget that we don’t sweat small purchases too much, and we usually just discuss the bigger ones together. Neither one of us is much of a spender, so I’m not sure how we would divvy this up. The thing I would worry about here is becoming resentful of one another because everything is always being checked by the other in a kind of formal way. If you can handle it then I think it can be a very useful approach, but I think there’s value in having some totally free money as well.
    Matt Becker recently posted..Keeping a Budget vs. Tracking Your Spending

    1. Emily says:

      It’s not formal for us – as evidence by me never thinking of it this way before now! It’s just kind of natural. And $300/month is not chump change for us so that’s not going to be covered by a blow money category even if we had one! I’m sure that this kind of accountability wouldn’t work in many relationships, but Kyle and I are so similar and we are reasonable and loving as I stated in the article so it’s working out okay.

  8. dojo says:

    We’re both on the same page when it comes to money and saving, even if hubs is not really into budgets. But he does bring the money home or pays for the stuff that I’d have to pay (car maintenance, utilities etc.)
    dojo recently posted..Blogging: The pros and cons of accepting guest posts on your blog

    1. Emily says:

      That’s great that your goals are so in line even if one of you doesn’t care for budgeting as much!

  9. Honestly, my biggest area of spending temptation is usually healthy food. I always want to try new things and this is extremely tempting when shopping at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. I find that not going to the store hungry and keeping a shopping list really helps me stay within my grocery spending plan. Also, if I go to the store during a crowded time, I’m more likely to want to make it a quick trip than browse:)
    Turning 30 Coach recently posted..Is Myth #5 Sabotaging Your Ability to Get What You Want?

  10. […] Becker from Mom and Dad Money had a great point about spouses being accountability partners: “Neither one of us is much of a spender, so I’m not sure how we would divvy this up. The […]

  11. […] presents Who Is the Accountability Partner for What? posted at Evolving Personal Finance, saying, “My husband can’t be my accountability […]

  12. […] Who Is the Accountability Partner for What? was included in the Carnival of Money #8. […]

  13. […] a waste of time for us.  We could easily spend everything we make between having a low income and each of our areas of preferred spending (Kyle on electronics, me on food and clothes).  We also have rather aggressive savings goals for […]

  14. […] paid more for way less capability, and over time the Republic Wireless gets ever cheaper because I won’t upgrade my hardware again for at least two years (I swear, this […]

  15. […] we do encounter friction from time to time – we have different definitions of frugality and are prone to overspending in different areas.  This means that we agree most of the time, and when we don’t agree we still […]

  16. […] Kyle finally convinced me to upgrade to the Moto X on my Republic Wireless service.  We upgraded my plan to the unlimited talk/text/date with 3G for $25/month so the ongoing monthly costs will be a couple dollars higher than they have been before.  We’re going to experiment with the different plans pretty soon and we’ll keep you in the loop. […]

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