The Dual Expenditure Phenomenon

Personal finance

Duel Splurges With Your Significant Other

When it comes to personal finances, duel splurging tradeoffs between you and your significant other can be a huge mistake. But what do I mean by making “tradeoffs” with your significant other? I mean this:

“You can buy X if I can buy Y.” As in, “you can buy the new Adele CD if I can buy the Lincoln Lawyer on DVD.” What would have been one expense, at its worse, has now become 2 separate and generally equal expenses.

How many times has this occurred in your relationship? Your girlfriend wants to go out to dinner with her friends so, with your night now open, you decide to go out to the bar with your friends? Combined, it’s now going to be a very pricey night for you and your significant other–provided of course that you’re commingling funds.

Of course, if you have a ton of disposable income, then perhaps it’s not an issue. For the majority of people, myself most certainly included, however, it is a big deal. This type of relationship financial trade-off can actually be quite damaging over a period of time. My wife and I have a combined six-figure student loan debt. In other words, the absolute last thing in the world we need is “entertainment” costs eating up money that would be better spent paying off our debt or being saved.

The night out at the bar and the dinner for your significant other can end up costing hundreds of dollars that could have been used in a much more productive manner.

When you have very little disposable income, you’re more likely to be extremely frugal. In that situation, it actually makes you more likely to barter. The reason being that if you actually want to do something–you’ll feel really guilty about doing so without your significant other being able to enjoy in the process as well.

For example, if I say I’m going out to the bar with my friends, I’ll almost always next say: “and you should go out with your friends that night, too.” And although my wife likely wasn’t even thinking of going out with her friends, she’ll then likely say “yes,” because we don’t get out that often and it beats sitting around doing nothing on a weekend. But with the double expenses (and of course, this all works both ways), it is now 2x as bad a personal finance decision for a couple with the limited financial means that we possess.

The problem, of course, is that our “bartering” often leads to twice the expenses.

I am writing about this issue, because I also see it all the time with my friends. Even growing up, I would notice my parents “barter” their way to incurring 2x expenses. On at least one prior occasion, I have witnessed a friend purchase a present for their significant other while out splurging on themselves–perhaps to make himself feel better about how much money he had spent on himself that day.

This problem of compounding expenditures deals more with psychology, perhaps, than anything else. The feelings of guilt and fairness that enter into the decisions are not always practical or sensible. On the contrary, they are often ill-advised.

By addressing this phenomenon with your significant other, then perhaps you can both work towards limiting its deleterious affects.

That’s not to say that it’s wholly unacceptable to engage in such behavior, but rather that acknowledging the action as a true phenomenon in your relationship can help your relationship, and your bottom line.


Have you ever noticed this phenomenon in your relationship? How have you coped with the double expenditure phenomenon in your marriage/relationship?


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