Spending When the Spouse Was Away

Away 1

A couple of weeks ago, I shared my problem with overspending while Johnny’s away on business trips. I become someone else entirely, and I suddenly have to eat out and go buy supplies for some major home improvement project. Confessing my spending addiction on here was the best thing I could have done. You guys totally get where I’m coming from, and a few of you are fellow absent-spouse-spenders, too. I’m coining that right here and now. Actually, the acronym is rather unfortunate so scratch that.

Johnny went on yet another business trip last week, and I promised to document my spending and report back to all of you. And so I shall. Knowing I would have to publicly share all of my spending deviances really helped me stay on track this time around. And now, my spending journal while Johnny was away:

Day One


On the first day, Sal and I hunkered down and had a meal at home. Money spent that day: $0. I decided to whip together a salad for myself, which I should never do. It looks yummy, but I chose the wrong dressing and ruined it! Sally’s meal was a success, if you focus on her chicken stacking skills. That night, I had too much time alone and decided our kitchen needed a remodel. I texted Johnny pictures of new chairs I wanted to buy and listed our current chairs on Craigslist.

Day Two

Away 3

On day two, we had lunch at home and went to the park, both free activities! But I started to get the itch to do something more. IKEA suddenly became a must-visit place so I could redecorate our upstairs bathroom. But I knew if I went there, I’d spend way more than I intended. I kept imagining Sally throwing a tantrum in IKEA, which helped quell my urge to go there. That night, we splurged on Chick-fil-a (including a kid’s meal, which Sally barely touched) and spent $9.

Day Three

Away 2

By day three, I was getting super antsy to SPEND!! I was bored, lonely, and ready for some excitement in my life. My sisters and I put together a last-minute fondue night at my house. I spent $20 on the cheese sauce, chicken, and bread, and my sisters provided the rest. It was a perfect evening and a perfect way to forget my husband was away.

Day Four

I had planned to spend the morning at IKEA, but I barely resisted and spent the morning letting Sally play with a friend (free!), and then we went and picked Johnny up in the afternoon. We celebrated his homecoming with In-N-Out, which cost $8.

In total, because of Johnny’s trip, I spent $37, and $8 of that was after he got home. I still haven’t gone to IKEA… once Johnny got home, the urge to go somehow disappeared! As far as the kitchen chairs go, I did end up selling them, and the new ones are on the way. Eeep! But that didn’t happen while he was gone, so it’s not worth counting, right?

Obviously, I still have some work to do, but all your words of support helped me reign in my spending while Johnny was away. So thank you! Anyone else have the same kinds of absent-spouse spending demons I do? What is it with deciding our house needs to be redecorated when Johnny’s away?

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  • Reply Jordann October 29, 2014 at 7:19 am

    My husband does this same thing! We used to joke that every time I went away, he’d buy something. Now I travel so much, that he’s a little immune, but you definitely aren’t the only one who does this!

  • Reply Mrs. Frugalwoods October 29, 2014 at 7:30 am

    That fondue looks so tasty! And, sounds like you didn’t spend too much at all! I don’t really get an urge to spend, but, I do get the urge to re-organize everything when my husband is out of town. I usually don’t carry through on it all (I probably should), but he does sometimes come home and accuse me of “hiding” his stuff 🙂

  • Reply Miranda October 29, 2014 at 10:45 am

    Have you ever read the blog Small Notebook? I don’t think it’s updated regularly anymore, but Rachel, the author, used to do a ‘no spend’ month, where she and her family of four set a really small spending budget for the month for everything that wasn’t a bill/savings, including gas and groceries. She documented everything and I was always amazed at how she did it. I’ve always wanted to give it a try but I don’t know if the ol’ spouse would be up for it. Thoughts? (http://smallnotebook.org/2012/07/01/no-spend-month-start-here/)

    • Reply Joanna November 24, 2014 at 12:24 am

      Woah! Major kudos to her! I’m definitely intrigued, but I don’t know that I’d ever try it unless we had to out of necessity. We have had times in our marriage where we’ve had to freeze our spending, aside from absolute necessities, and it’s not very fun! If you can get your spouse on board, it might be a cool challenge, just to see if you can do it… and if you do, I say you reward yourselves at the end!!

  • Reply Kasey @ Debt Perception October 29, 2014 at 10:57 am

    My spouse tends to spend more when he’s away, not me! He’s on deployment now and he uses the vending machines on the ship so much and spends a lot when he’s in ports. He also likes to purchase things online for me, usually without consulting me first. I was all excited about paying off his credit card debt when he was on deployment but it just never goes down because he spends and spends!

  • Reply Jen October 29, 2014 at 12:09 pm

    My big spending problem is going out to eat with friends. When I was on my own, I went out all the time. I could have paid my debt off so much sooner if I had that pesky budget in place earlier! Thankfully, I live nowhere near a Target or Ikea, so spending on redecorating is not a big issue for me!

    • Reply Joanna November 24, 2014 at 12:25 am

      Tell me about it! Target and IKEA are my kryptonite. And agreed on eating out… it’s so much easier to fix a meal for two at home than a meal for one!

  • Reply Melanie October 29, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    Like Jen says above, and about being alone, her big spending problem is going out to eat with friends. Me too! I wonder if living alone makes one want to spend more to go and be social??

  • Reply Rob October 30, 2014 at 10:58 pm

    Seems to me, Joanna, that you get bored when Johnny is away and so, in wishing to relieve that boredom, you get tempted to spend in pursuing various activities (eg., shopping, eating, decorating, etc.). Add to that the fact that you probably get a tad lonely for some adult company (in addition to just looking after Sally).

    So my suggestion is to think up some cheap activities that you can do with other adults (along with their kids, if applicable), stuff like:
    attending a neighborhood book club with other moms (and/or your sibs) to discuss / read books found at the library, or
    sharing coffee over at each other’s houses, or
    de-cluttering various rooms around the house, or
    going on cheap bus / car trips with other moms / kids to visit various places of interest, or
    whatever else you and your friends / sibs can dream up from time to time.

    • Reply Joanna November 24, 2014 at 12:26 am

      Great tips, Rob! You hit the nail on the head… I’m sure my spending when Johnny’s away is a combination of boredom and loneliness. If I can plan ahead, hopefully I can nip this overspending in the bud the next time he has a trip!

  • Reply Kelsey @ Ramblings of Change October 31, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    I think I go through the ‘woe is me’ when Matt has to work weekends when I’m off…or when I get paid and just want to spend all the money… but I’m definitely improving my spending! November I’m really going to cut back and focus on getting Christmas presents put together.

  • Reply Kristin November 1, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    Don’t forget to deduct the selling price of your old chairs from the total spent, since you listed them in his absence! 🙂
    Gorgeous salad, and great idea to do fondue night in. Think of what a night out at The Melting Pot would cost – yikes!
    I follow another blog (Memories on Clover Lane) where the woman says every time her husband travels, she paints a room and buys something new. I think it is only like a once a year thing for them, though!
    I don’t know A. S. S. (lol) is necessarily a demon… in your case, you’re not spending *tons* of money that you *don’t* have… a change in routine is bound to give your creative side the opportunity to shine through.

    • Reply Joanna November 24, 2014 at 12:28 am

      I like the way you think! When I read this comment back when you first posted it, I felt a lot better about purchasing our new chairs!

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