the four spending habits of the financial apocalypse

Some apocalyptic weather… yesterday!

I was on the train to work the other day and I overheard a conversation which turned to personal finances so my ears naturally pricked up. The conversation betrayed a particular spending habit which I think is rife throughout couples personal finances. It got me thinking about spending habits in general and what ones we should all try to avoid if we can. Acknowledging these habits is the first step to reduce or eliminate them so even if you think you are a frugal wizard it’s good to have a recap every so often! I decided to turn this into a series of short posts for ease of consumption (and, let’s be honest, writing 🙂 )

First up we have….


tit-for-tat spending

This was indeed the spending habit that was portrayed in the overheard conversation on the train. It went something like this 1:

Woman A: “I came home the other night and he’d spent £200 on a new pair of sunglasses!”

Woman B 2: “Oh no babe!”

Woman A: “Well… I don’t mind that much as he has done some overtime recently, as long as it’s fair”

Woman B “I know, right?”

Woman A: “As long as I get to buy something too then it’s alright isn’t it?”

Woman B: “Yea babe”


I see this sort of spending behaviour in many couples I know and it has also been rife in previous years at the TFS household as well 3.

Why do we do this? Just because one half of your financial team decides they deserve a treat, say because they have a bonus or have done some overtime, does the other half also have to decide they need want one as well?


spending wars

Left unchecked the tit-for-tat spending actually turns into some kind of childish game where both parties think each successive purchase by their opposite number is unfair and so they must purchase even more stuff to balance up the books. It does not take a nobel winning economist to work out that this spells certain disaster for the personal finances of that couple.

Here is an alternative framework to avoid tit for tat purchases that escalate into spending wars:

  • Only buy things when you actually need them. If you want a treat when you come into some extra money hold off on a purchase that you genuinely “need” to buy, but that is not majorly urgent, and buy that when you come into your money. You will still get the buzz of the purchase but won’t end up with any useless tat.
  • If your other half does decide to treat themselves take the stoic or rational approach to the situation and just let it go. If you both adopt this approach then over time the “fairness” of purchases will no doubt even itself out, and again you will just end up with far less shit that you didn’t really want in the first place
  • If you know you are coming into some money and decide you both do deserve a treat, spend money on an experience you will both enjoy. If you must purchase some “stuff” then set a sensible limit on what you will both spend, like £50 (not £200)

That’s it for today! I said I would keep it short and sweet 😉

Tune in tomorrow for the second “spending habit of the financial apocalypse!”

Have you ever or do you still fall foul of this financially damaging spending habit? Have you got any tricks to avoid it? Let us know, down below!


  1. I was half asleep so this is nowhere near a direct quotation!
  2. Further admission: Woman B’s part in this is entirely fictitious in an attempt to inject some mild humour into the otherwise dry and one sided conversation
  3. And no doubt we do still do it, but it is normally far more planned nowadays, e.g. if I get my bonus, we’ll both go away for a weekend or something like that, so it is inherently “fair” right up front.