Invisible Cushion

Debtor's Prison Historic Marker

Image by jimmywayne via Flickr

Earlier this year, we experimented with abandoning the strict budget in favor of automating as much as possible on our credit card, and keeping our discretionary spending under control, but on the same card.

We failed.   It was 2 parts lack of communication, 3 parts lack of discipline, and 1 part “we’re dumb”.   Transitioning back to cash hasn’t been that smooth.  The problem is that we went over budget for a couple of months and our renewed budget had to shrink to cover the credit card.

To recap:  Coming off a few months going over budget, we had to tighten our belts even more than we had before…after breaking our good habits.

It didn’t work out well.

If one of us forgot to grab cash, we’d just charge whatever we were buying, which gave the month’s budget a spanking, every time.

Last month, I added a new category to our budget.  It’s just a cushion.   I’ve got $200 whose sole purpose is to make sure we don’t go over budget.

But there’s a secret.

The cushion is a secret.

I’m not a fan of hiding money from my wife, but I’m hiding this.  Generally, I think that money and relationships and secrets don’t mix.


She’s told me that, when she knows there’s extra money, she has an urge to spend it.   If I told her there was an extra $200, she would spend it.   If I tell her that we have $40o to cover our discretionary spending, and she goes over by $50, we’re still $150 to the good, which leaves me room to have lapses in discipline or memory, too.

Then, at the end of the month, any of the invisible cushion that is left over can get applied to our debt payments.

This system should let us keep rolling, with less stress and fewer arguments, while still helping us get rid of our remaining debts.   The biggest flaw is the secret.  I’m bad at keeping secrets from my wife, especially about things that affect both of us, but if i let it slip, the invisible cushion will go away.

What do you think?  Am I a jerk for hiding part of our budget?  Do you hide anything about your finances?

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    1. debt management company says:

      You are definately not a jerk you are trying to stick to your budget. I know exactly how you feel my other half would always dip into the buffer if he knew it was there. The cushion is there for emergencies and if your wife is not strong willed it is up to you to save the day.

    2. So…she doesn’t read your blog? 🙂

      You’re not a jerk for hiding it if there is admission that not hiding it will result in it being wasted.

      I know people who have eating problems. Part of their plan is to simply deny themselves access to problem foods. Control the urge at the store (limited time) and you then don’t have to control it at home. Unfortunately for the house mates, this means they don’t ever get to have such foods. Solution: the ones with impulse control go get their own and keep it secret.

      It sucks, but until the impulses are managed, what are you going to do?

      Yes, I used passive voice a lot intentionally.

    3. I have to admit I have dealt with this too. I am not always the best for sticking with the budget like I should. In the past we have had some major discussions about it. I am better than I used to be but it is a work in progress.

      We have never kept secrets though. We are both working on it together.

      I guess you know your situation and if you think your wife shouldn’t know than that is the right thing for you to do.

    4. I don’t think you are a jerk at all….just realistic. It’s not like you are out spending money behind her back (which WOULD be a bad thing to do).

      But is your wife not going to find out what you did, and what will her reaction be? By that I mean: will she figure out that she went over budget, and then will she not wonder how it didn’t cause problems? If she’s paying attention, that would be the time to ask some questions, I’d think.

      In my household, it’s not necessary to have a hidden cushion, simply because we are very lucky to have enough unhidden cushion to not need to be concerned. I take care of the money and hubby is happy as long as he doesn’t have to think about it (and I make sure he doesn’t!)

      • She’s not paying that close of attention. She’s happy not having to think about it and I’m pretty sure she’s not going to be upset that I built in a little breathing room.

    5. tin foil hat says:

      You’re not being a jerk, you’re helping her deal with a problem that she is aware she needs help with. It’s like if she was chronically late, and you told her the kid’s doctor appointment was at 1:30 when it was really at 2:00, so she would get there on time.

    6. There is no right or wrong. I normally buried it in miscellaneous.

    7. I don’t think you’re a jerk. I handle the finances for us, and if the hubby were a spender, there would definitely be money he didn’t realize was there built in to cover it. As it is, I’m the person with the spending problem, so I can’t hide money from myself, and I have to find other ways to deal with my impulses.

    8. Yeah, I don’t think you’re a jerk either. This is something you are working on together. This money doesn’t have an evil ulterior motive. Your not planning on doing anything mischievousness. It’s something that works, when the time is right you can tell her.

    9. I think it’s a necessary evil, I actually tend to spend more when I know it’s available. I often hide money from myself to trick myself into saving. Nothing wrong with it in my opinion.

    10. I hope it worth it, made. As at the end of the day, whatever you save it is yours and hers…

      You need to visualise your goal and make your wife agree to it. Otherwise it will be always mission impossible…

    11. It sounds like this plan will work for you both. She doesn’t read your blog?

    12. I don’t think you’re a jerk. I’m not sure this is the best plan though. Does you guys share the same financial goals? Getting her to see the value in paying attention would be better, I imagine. (And I think “paying attention” helps immensely with any goal.)

    13. My (now ex-)wife and I used to have a spare credit card as a “cushion”. She worked at the bank so she managed the finances.
      turns out if she wanted stuff she’d just put it on the “cushion card” “because she’s worth it/its a gift/its an emergency eg power bill/it’s not large amount”. Then she’d skim the regular card repayments to cover the spare cards minimum balance. then when the balance was full, refinance with personal loan – and pay the personal loan by skimming the mortgage payments (by using her position at the bank to stretch out the mortgage period). Then roll together any outstanding personal loans with the mortgage when it came off fixed.
      I used to wonder why we never had enough money to cover things like power bills, even using our normal card. Until I sat down and audited our accounts and found I had to work callout and 2 hours overtime every week just to keep up repayments & essentials!
      Never let anyone else manage your finances.


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