“How do I get my spouse onboard to budget/pay off debt/save more money?”
I hear this question a lot. Typically, one spouse is ready to get cranking and the other doesn’t understand why there is a need for radical change. The spouse that is onboard starts talking about cutting lifestyle, no vacations, and no restaurants. That is a great way to make your spouse run for the hills!
Essentially, when you say those things to your spouse, you make it sound like you are cutting out everything fun for the rest of eternity. Is that something you would willingly sign up for? I didn’t think so. So why are you onboard? You see the goal, the dream. You see what life could be like without payments. I’m with you. I can see it, too. Can your spouse see it? Maybe not.
Don’t just share the how. Share the why. Dream together. Set goals together.
I’ve talked a lot about personally being frugal, but what if your partner is a spender?
I’m very lucky; my husband hates shopping. He doesn’t like fancy cars or clothes. He doesn’t drink lattes. He loves my home cooking. There are really only two things he likes to spend money on: computers and strange history books. We just replaced the two computers in the house we use for gaming. Total cost: $650. The computers we replaced were purchased in 2001. Not bad. Most of the history books we buy are used or bargin books from the book store. We do well there also and we only purchase a few each year.
We talk about money frequently. We discuss what we want in life, look at the bills and the budget together and plan our major spending together. It’s so important to do this. You can’t make this journey alone. If you and your partner aren’t talking about money yet, you better start now. Things cannot get better for you financially if you aren’t on the same page. I’ve worked with some couples who aren’t even in the same book.
I’ve had many clients ask me where they should start. You need to start talking… not yelling, talking. Start the discussion on a positive note. Discuss a vacation you want to take or improvements you want to do on the house. Talk about how you are going to pay for it by trying to save up for it rather than putting it on a credit card. Discuss how you want to retire, where you want to retire. Sit down together and figure out how much you’ll need to save to have that kind of lifestyle. Talk about how you’ll meet those savings goals. Many times those types of discussions will lead to other discussions about money.
If you need to make goals, you’ll eventually get to your current spending habits. Offer to help your partner save money. One way we save is to make sure there are always leftovers for my husband to take to work for lunch. I plan our meals to make sure there are leftovers when we need them. I also make sure we always have coffee in the house so my husband can make himself a pot every morning to bring to work.
Sometimes, this can be a lot of work. Your partner may be open to taking coffee to work but can’t seem to find time to make it in the morning. If you really want to save the money, set the coffee pot to automatically start so it’ll be ready in the morning or make it yourself. Again, it may be extra work for you but it depends on how badly you want to save the money. My husband does actually make our coffee in the morning (he’s way better at it than I am). I figure it saves us at least $850 a year, even factoring in what I spend on coffee and supplies for the two of us.
If your partner doesn’t seem open to discussing the family spending habits, it may be time to tell him/her how you feel. What worries you about your current financial situation? Is it the amount of debt you have or the lack of an emergency fund? Do you want to save more for your future? Sit down and think about this before you start the conversation. Write down your thoughts. Make sure your worries are reasonable. The fact that you want $100,000 in an emergency fund, even though you currently have $25,000 in an emergency fund and you are both fully funding your retirement accounts and have no debt may… notice I said may… may not be reasonable justification for asking your partner to cut back. Make sure you are being fair. Sometimes, maybe, but not very often, we might be a bit too frugal (gasp, could there be such a thing?). After organizing your thoughts on paper, try discussing this with your partner. Sometimes, your partner may not realize what your current situation looks like or how it affects you.
If your partner is still not receptive and you are still worried, it might be time to seek professional help. A therapist can be an objective third party and help both of you work through this. Financial problems can put a huge strain on a relationship. Resentment builds up within one or both partners and it causes problems in all areas of the relationship. Don’t let this happen to you. Start talking.
Does any of this sound like a current or former relationship? Have you had success talking to your partner? Please share your story. I know the readers could benefit from it.
This is something I see far too much in my practice and it needs to stop here.
One spouse pays all the bills and manages the finances. The other spouse is completely in the dark and may or may not be content about their financial situation. The stress this causes on a relationship and on one or both spouses can be a lot to bear. The worst scenario is when the financial spouse dies, leaving the other to track down accounts and insurance, start paying bills and take over the financial responsibility. I find many people in relationships are not talking about money with their partner. I’ve even seen people get married only to find out that their spouse is buried in credit card debt they never knew existed.