Inside His Head: Husband turns into Scrooge at Christmastime

Dear Inside His Head guys,

This might sound rude, but my husband is obsessed with not spending money. With Christmas coming up, I can already feel my blood pressure going up. I’ll want to spend a reasonable amount of money on presents for the kids, family and friends and he’ll freak out that it’s “too much”. Do you have any advice for us? It makes both of us nuts every year and is NO FUN.

Thank you!

GRAY: So shoving a cup of egg nog under his nose and encouraging him to get in the Christmas spirit isn’t working, eh? Not to worry, the financial side of the holidays can bring out the Grinch in the best of us.

My suggestion is not to poke or prod the Grinch because it only makes him angry. Instead, use strategy. Getting hit with the bill all at once can make anyone’s heart shrink a few more sizes, but if you divide it up throughout the year it makes it easier to swallow. Set aside money each month or try to buy gifts as early in the year as you’re able.

Appeal to his strength. Ask if he’ll set up an account for just this sort of thing. Maybe it’s not just for Christmas, but birthdays and other special occasions as well.

If he feels more in control over the amount and understands what it’s going to be spent on right out of the gate it may melt a few of those icicles.

Make sure your idea of reasonable is reasonable. Those Jing Tinglers, Flu Floopers and Tar Tinkers can add up to more than you may realize. If he’s not just a miser, but genuinely worried about making sure the mortgage is paid then it might be a good idea to scale back some.

And the best advice I could pass along is to remember how the Whos in Whoville were still happy for Christmas even without the presents. If all your fun is centered squarely on getting and giving things then maybe you ought to shift your focus.

After all, the gift that made the Grinch’s heart grow three sizes didn’t come in wrapping paper.

MAVERICK: I’m assuming an average person would consider his stance stingy at best. Basically, you can afford to spend a “reasonable” amount but for some reason he can’t seem to ease up?

Is he just a cheapo in general? Does he hesitate to spend any money?

It’s hard to battle something like that. It’s likely deeply ingrained.

But you can work on him.

Be specific. Don’t say, “Let’s spend $200 on Billy’s big present this year.” Instead, try something like: “Billy has really stepped up with his chores and school work this year, let’s get him that tablet he’s been wanting. He’s earned it.”

Then his only argument is – that’s too much money. To which you can reply, “We have it. It won’t kill us to spend it. And he deserves it.”

Be firm but don’t start a fight. If you can afford the expense, in the end, he really doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

Just don’t attack him for being cheap. Just point out that his assessment you can’t afford it, is simply not the case. Remember though, that if he really is a deeply, cheap person, it will likely be hard for him to agree.

In the end, though there’s money involved, make sure the focus isn’t the spending but that the presents are what the kids want and deserve.

If he does loosen up some, be supportive. Let him know how happy it makes you that he’s willing to relent and get the kids a proper gift. Let him know his decision to open the purse strings has made the season a little more fun for everyone.

Eventually, he’ll see the light.

MICHAEL: This is tough. It’s apparent you two have different ideas about what “reasonable” is. I know we have somewhat similar issues in our house. It’s more philosophical than financial. I’ve always wanted to minimize the gifts so as not to make it too commercial. I prefer to get the kids things throughout the year instead.

You don’t say what your husband’s reasoning is. It sounds like its just that he’s tight with his money. Perhaps you could shorten your list of recipients and spend more per person. Most people have enough stuff laying around their house, another $20 trinket isn’t going to help things.

Instead, for those not in your immediate family, you could do something different like a more personal note in their card. Or send them some baked goods. I know I’d rather have that than something from the $20 gift table at Kohl’s.

If you are intent on spending more total money then you’ve got to start planning ahead. You’re going to have to save during the year or take a part time job to supplement the funding. Just remember the lesson that you are teaching your kids is that you can’t have a nice Christmas without spending lots of cash. Plus most of the the things they get are forgotten by January.

Differences of opinion about money are difficult to get past. It sounds like you have underlying issues around the subject. If this is something that is going to happen every year I’d recommend seeing a counselor to help work through your differences, because these subjects can cause a lot of underlying tension in the relationship that will show up in other areas.