Overspending When the Spouse Is Away

Alpine Loop

For the past few months, Johnny’s been traveling for work more often than he usually does. Sally and I miss him while he’s away, but we fare the best we can. We keep very busy and have special outings and activities while he’s gone. But there’s this other thing that also happens when he leaves… I get this overwhelming desire to spend money. I don’t know what it is, but every time Johnny goes out of town, my spending gets a little bit crazy. However, I do have a few theories as to why this happens.

First, I feel like I deserve it. After all, I am taking on single-mom status for several days. Since taking care of Sally is suddenly so much harder (it isn’t) now that Johnny’s across the country instead of working across the street, I feel that Sally and I deserve special privileges. We eat out. We go on special outings. We do crafts. And I know Johnny’s eating every meal on his company’s dime, and so I feel like Sally and I should get to eat extra yummy food, too.

Second, my normal routine is disrupted. Fixing dinner for myself and a toddler is much different than fixing a dinner for the three of us. And so we do something easy, like pizza or some other (non)healthy meal. I also meet up with friends for lunch because I’m bored and Johnny’s not coming home for lunch. And it gives me the opportunity to eat at all the girly restaurants that Johnny hates.

Third, I get an itch to start a project. I have a hard time sitting still, especially when I’m by myself. When Johnny goes on work trips, I have a lot of alone time, which often leads to me trying to start and finish a huge project while he’s away. Sometimes these projects cost money. Sometimes they simply involve totally rearranging our bedroom. When he went on his last trip, I bought two nightstands for our bedroom and hung five different frames in different areas of our house. Johnny tends to be leery of my “Let’s change the office into a playroom and turn our house upside down!” house projects, and when he’s not here, I know I can do it and ask forgiveness later.

Johnny has yet another work trip coming up, and while he’s away, I intend to document anything out of the ordinary that I spend. And I will report back on how I do, good or bad. I’m really gonna try to restrain myself this time around. And now I have to ask… does ANYONE else with a traveling spouse do this? Or am I just crazy? Don’t answer that second question. Any other theories for why my spending goes berserk when he’s away? Maybe instead of eating my feelings, I’m spending them? I don’t know…

p.s. Here are a few pictures from our drive in the mountains this weekend. Fall comes and goes in a flash in Utah, but it sure is purdy while it lasts.

Alpine Loop 2

Alpine Loop 3

Alpine Loop 4

Alpine Loop 5

Alpine Loop 6

Alpine Loop 7

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  • Reply Rebecca October 13, 2014 at 7:11 am

    My fiance is in the military so I know exactly what you are talking about. He is on land 2 months and gone for 2 months- so I have a lot of alone time on my hands to. And I feel like I spend more money when he is gone because shopping gets me out of the lonely, empty house when he isn’t there. Buying new stuff and using it keeps my mind off the fact that he is gone.

    I am trying to do better this time around, which the fact that we now have a new puppy is helping since I feel bad whenever I leave him alone too long.

    But I also feel like I am getting used to it, I guess that’s just what happens when you are going to become a military wife. You should definitely get some girl time lunches in so you are busy with something that isn’t baby related and see your friends- but try to cut back on just going out to be out of the house. I am sure there is plenty to do around there that you keep putting off- I know that is the case with me haha.

    • Reply Joanna October 17, 2014 at 2:26 am

      Yes! I also use shopping as a fun activity for Sally and me. And you can’t leave a store empty handed! No siree.

      And your fiancee is lucky to have such a supportive girl waiting for him when he comes home!

  • Reply Lori October 13, 2014 at 7:45 am

    I TOTALLY do the same thing! Not so much projects, but definitely eating out and activities. My husband isn’t really traveling, but he works really late most nights and most weekends. It’s hard to justify cooking for just me and a three year old and eating out feels like something special when I’m lonely or stressed. I also have our daughter signed up for a lot of activities knowing that I don’t want to be home without him most evenings. What amazed me the most was when he took a whole week off for Christmas. We spent almost nothing! Literally! It is soooo different when I’m not lonely and when I have someone to cook for that doesn’t prefer hummus and pretzels for every meal ;). I think that is important to note when thinking about the costs of working. Work clothes, commuting, childcare, and bored wife ;).

    • Reply Joanna October 17, 2014 at 2:28 am

      If Sally were just a year older, I’m sure I’d have her signed up for all kinds of activities, too! It’s no fun for just the two of us to be stuck at home. And I’m sure our spending will be the same way if and when Johnny ever decides to take some time off from work! Who cares about shopping when you’ve got an actual husband to hang out with?!

  • Reply Gretchen October 13, 2014 at 8:13 am

    I do the same thing! I never know why, but I always start a project (or three) and spend lots of money. Our daughter is my little shopping buddy, and I totally go shopping more when The Big Guy’s not around, because I can’t stay cooped up in the house with no other adults to talk to!
    I really like this plan of documenting what you’re spending. It seems similar to what we’re doing with our budget check-ins!

    • Reply Joanna October 17, 2014 at 2:29 am

      I may regret promising to document it! I’m sure to spend more money than I’d like to share with the interwebs!

  • Reply Liz @ The Lambent Life October 13, 2014 at 8:31 am

    My husband was working out of town for several months and the girls and I stayed in Savannah until our house sold. Holy spending spree. It was so much easier to justify eating out and splurging on activities since I was in “anything to get through the day” mode. Now that our house (painfully) sold, we’re all in NC and trying to break that habit.

    • Reply Joanna October 17, 2014 at 2:30 am

      Yes, exactly. I just want to get through the day, whatever it takes! It always takes a few months after settling into a move before getting our spending in check. You just gotta get your routines back!

  • Reply Mrs. Frugalwoods October 13, 2014 at 8:40 am

    Gorgeous photos! I haven’t experienced the urge to spend more while my husband is out of town, but I do find myself reverting to bad habits like watching too much TV and staying up too late at night :). I think we help keep each other on track and life just feels off balance when he’s not at home.

    • Reply Joanna October 17, 2014 at 2:32 am

      Oh yeah, I didn’t mention that, but I started watching unmentionable amounts of The Good Wife during his last trip. Lots of great habits being made here!

  • Reply Shay October 13, 2014 at 9:14 am

    How about you blog about how many “no spend” days you have while he’s gone. How many fun, free activities you can find to motivate other young mom’s who look to you for inspiration?

    • Reply Joanna October 17, 2014 at 2:33 am

      Oh, I loved this idea as soon as I read it! I will give it a try, but don’t judge me if I fail miserably! 😉

  • Reply Little House October 13, 2014 at 9:46 am

    Wow! Utah looks gorgeous in the fall. Mr. LH works by himself from home and I see a pattern in his spending – when he’s having a slow day and gets a bit bored, he’s more likely to purchase something online. I’m so busy during the day at school, I have no time to shop online! I guess we end up balancing each other out; I don’t buy anything and he buys something. 😉

    • Reply Joanna October 17, 2014 at 2:33 am

      I was the same way when I worked full time. On slow days, I started perusing clothes online without fail!

  • Reply Diane October 13, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    LOL~ Echoing Lori’s comment above, I TOTALLY do the same thing! Mike & I work at home together, so when he’s gone I’m alone all day. By myself. Okay, with a dog & 2 cats, but still. Since Mike does all the cooking, there’s no one to cook for me. So I always go out to eat with 1 or both of my grown sons, my treat for whoever is available.

    And I always start major projects… because I’m alone. And bored. Cleaning, decluttering, painting, cleaning the garage… emptying cabinets all over the floor, or closets all over the bed. Whatever. Keeps me busy & wears me out so I can sleep.

    So go out, eat, have fun, start projects~ whatever keeps you busy & makes you happy! I am not a good influence here…

    • Reply Joanna October 17, 2014 at 2:37 am

      Haha, you’re a great influence! You make me feel empowered to start yet another big project while he’s away now that I have partners in crime!

  • Reply kelsey October 13, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    I do the same thing with eating out! Haha. I get all selfish and think it’s not fair for him to be gone so I need to indulge 🙂

    • Reply Joanna October 17, 2014 at 2:38 am

      Yep… And he travels to NYC, for crying out loud. He has the pick of the litter when it comes to good food, so I feel especially entitled!

  • Reply Aldo @ Million Dollar Ninja October 13, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    It’s okay. whenever my fiancee goes away for a day I order pizza. I could just cook something for myself, but ordering pizza is so much easier… shh don’t tell anybody, but sometimes I don’t even shower when she’s not around. shhhh

    • Reply Joanna October 17, 2014 at 2:39 am

      Oh dear! Let’s hope she doesn’t go away too often… everybody needs a shower once in a while! 😉

  • Reply Kristin October 13, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    Well, if he’s getting fed for free, you may as well re-budget some grocery money for a meal out or special activity! Why not? (Do it the short time you have left before restaurants requires you to purchase Sally her own whole meal!) He’s getting waited on at meals, and your job *is* a little harder meanwhile. I’m not saying go crazy.
    I secretly kind of like it when my husband travels (only about a week out of the month) because there are fewer dishes, less laundry, I get the evening time after the kids go to bed all to myself, and I cook according to my own desires with the extra grocery money (taking the kids out to eat by myself would not be much fun, but that’s probably just me). And then we are very happy to see each other when he comes back.
    This is very different than actually being a single mom, though. Been there, done that.

    • Reply Joanna October 17, 2014 at 2:41 am

      I do enjoy that evening time to myself as well! I failed to mention that I’m quite comfortable being alone, so it’s not all bad!

      And you’re totally right…. not in any way the same as being a single mom.

  • Reply Michelle October 13, 2014 at 10:16 pm

    I am hardly surprised by this! I discovered that I shop more when I feel lonely. The mall has people and a level of person to person interaction. Now I try to redirect that feeling to exercise. Hopefully I will lose some weight!

    • Reply Joanna October 17, 2014 at 2:43 am

      Smart thinking! I never feel like exercising, but I’m always glad I did it!

  • Reply Ray Hyson October 13, 2014 at 10:28 pm

    Yep, I can relate. My wife travels to her hometown in Iowa every once in a while.

    Much of the time I’m working, so I can’t go with her.

    For me, its food, Yesterday, when she left…Ice cream in the form of a Pumpkin Concrete. After the first day or two its rough, but then it gets easier.

    …and we’ve been married 21 years!

    P.S. Love those gorgeous pics!!

    • Reply Joanna October 17, 2014 at 2:43 am

      A pumpkin concrete! I like the way you think!

  • Reply Sarah October 14, 2014 at 10:03 am

    You too? I thought I was the only one. Last time my husband was away I suddenly had the urge to re-decorate our living room. And that’s how $150 disappeared in 2.5 seconds. But….the living room looks awesome now, so……

    • Reply Joanna October 17, 2014 at 2:44 am

      Don’t even get me started. The wheels in my head are already churning with ideas, and I’m so afraid I won’t be able to hold back!

  • Reply Laura October 14, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    Hi Joanna!

    I’m on the road about 80% of the time for my job, and I struggled with spending extra money while I was away. I used similar excuses: Oh, I’m bored. I don’t want to just sit in a hotel room. It’s stressful being gone so I deserve to treat myself.. and on and on. I recently shifted my spending habits (it’s been hard…) but I focus now on how I feel after eating out and I now hit up the grocery store for 90% of my meals, and I’ve made it into a game – how much of my expense reimbursements can I not spend and then pay down my student loans faster?

    The adjustment in my thinking from “I deserve this” to “how will I feel after”, and especially making it into a game, has really helped my spending! I know you don’t have expense reimbursements, but if there’s a way to make it into a game, it might be easier.

    Best of luck!

    • Reply Joanna October 17, 2014 at 2:46 am

      I love your comment, Laura! I really like the “How will I feel after?” question you pose. And way to go on saving up your reimbursements for student loan pay off! That’s awesome.

      I’ll give your tips a try this time around!

  • Reply Sarah October 14, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    Love this!! We’re the opposite, though! When he’s home, we spend. We do things, we go out to eat, we go for walks and stop at the coffee shop, etc. When I’m home with the girls (ages 2 and 1), we do free things like go to the library or the park. A lot of it is their ages, though. It’s HARD getting them both out of the house. Plus it’s almost a guarantee that one of them will cause me trouble when we’re out and about. If my husband’s there I’m more brave and willing to go out! Plus, he can keep track of them while I wonder the aisles of the grocery store and Target!

    • Reply Joanna October 17, 2014 at 2:48 am

      That makes total sense! You are a super mom dealing with a two- and a one-year-old each day! Even with just Sally, Target is practically impossible if she’s in one of her moods. Thank goodness for husbands.

  • Reply J.Mill October 15, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    I totally know how you feel! My husband expenses his lunch and coffee and any other item he buys midday. I feel jipped because any lunches out or coffees come out of my fun budget! He enjoys so many perks! I rarely eat out during the workday, opting to instead play a tiny violin in the corner of my office, sobbing.

    • Reply Joanna October 17, 2014 at 2:49 am

      Totally! My husband gets lunch in the office a few days a week, and sometimes I find myself insanely jealous. Don’t mind me while I scarf down yet another PB&J… 😉

  • Reply Nicole October 17, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    Totally hear you on this one and my husband JUST started traveling for work. He went to Los Angeles and we just couldn’t justify the cost we would incur to fly the Toddler and I out to explore LA while he was at his conference. He gets there, and sure it’s “work” but he was spoiled! The conference vendors gave away huge gifts and they had this lavish dinner/party with big name musicians. He ended up having a beautiful executive suite instead of a standard hotel room…. To say I was a little jealous might be a slight understatement. He was having sushi while I was having mac n cheese. I think it’s less that though and more that I miss him, terribly, when he’s away, which I’m sure is the same for you and Johnny.. It’s really kind of ridiculous how much I miss him–when I think about people who are military families and all and give their time like this for US all the time…. I just can’t even imagine. He was gone all of FOUR days and I was all, “Can you get an earlier flight home?!” LOL. The odd thing…. I found it EASIER to take care of the Toddler while my husband was gone. Certainly, I was tired by the end of the day after doing it all alone, but she slept better while we were on our own and was generally pretty easy-going. I can’t say I even hated the quiet “to myself” time, but I found I was so busy trying to do things for the Toddler that I didn’t get to “enjoy” any alone time myself whatsoever so it didn’t feel like any sort of break that way. Not sure any of that makes sense, but that’s my experience.
    I’m legally blind, so don’t drive, so our time w/out my husband is different too in that we spend more time on neighborhood walks or playing outside in our yard than going places, but when we go places when he’s gone it’s with grandma or friends–also a recipe for extra spending LOL.

  • Reply boredfiance December 2, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    I’m there right now! My fiance is across the country getting his meals and beer comped for and going to ‘work’ parties, and I’m stuck at home because of our debt! He told me to not spend too much money, but I’m usually housebound and never get to do anything fun by myself! Grrr, it’s so tempting. I’ve just splurged a little on things we occasionally and regularly buy, but haven’t treated myself to eating out yet!

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