It’s no secret that finances are a touchy subject in relationships, and I’ve talked about this before here on Suburban Finance. But, one of the best ways to prevent issues is to be very open and honest about money in the household. How do you do that, though, if you have a hard time getting your spouse on board with a budget?
When my beau and I moved in together four years ago, we had to talk about all the unexciting (but important!) stuff like who is going to handle what bills, how we would split the rent and so on. As our relationship and lives have evolved, we have had to revisit this conversation over the years.
Ryan made the decision to go to medical school, a decision of which I am very proud and supportive; however, this means our spending habits have to change. Between the two of us, I am typically the one always thinking of ways to save. I had to get him on the frugal life bandwagon as well so that we will have less to worry about once he is in school full-time.
He may not be my official spouse yet, but here are a few do’s and don’ts on how to keep the money conversation from turning into a war:
Don’t be controlling
Household decisions need to be made together, not forced upon one another. Everything Ryan and I do, we try to make it a team effort. Money decisions are no different. Over the last seven and a half years, we’ve learned that the way we view money and saving do differ. So, try to pick ways to save that work for each other instead of against each other. Ultimately, you only have control over yourself. You can encourage change, but the more you push, the more resistance (or resentment) you may get. Realizing this first is the initial step.
Do set aside time for the conversation
Conversations involving finances in the home should not be rushed. Set aside time with your wife or husband to discuss one another’s financial goals. Be understanding of your spouse and their point of view as you try to explain your own.
For me, I mentioned wanting to use money we would have spent on ordering food three weeks in a row on a nice (much needed) date night out. Ryan agreed, and so he is much more conscious of this before dialing the phone for take out. This is just one real-life example of many, but I began my own conversation with bringing up this point as well as the amount spent and how it could be better used in our lives.
What might work for you is trying to find that common ground of things you may want to do together but can’t due to other financial obligations. Working together to find ways to accomplish those things is so rewarding in so many ways. Perhaps your matching goals are as simple as wanting to pay off your credit card debt within the year. This is a great starting point in developing a savings plan together.
Don’t judge your spouse’s spending habits
Ryan has a lot of outdoor hobbies, so he often likes to spend his extra cash on items for his mountain bike or new running shoes. My current spending habits are very focused on my business as well as updating our home. If either of us judged the other for how we spend our money, it would put an extra strain on our relationship.
If you want to make changes, start with yourself. Then, you can bring this up in casual conversations as follow-ups from your previous money discussion, such as:
- “So, I decided not to buy all those new clothes and put that money in my retirement fund instead.”
- “I’m doing this thing where any time I want to buy coffee out, I put that money into our travel savings instead. I was hoping we might be able to do that weekend getaway in the mountains we’ve been talking about.”
As mentioned in point number one, don’t try to force actions; encourage them.
Do be open and honest
If you are finding that you still have a hard time getting your spouse on board, it’s time to get a little more straight forward. Bring up the household expenses and income and go over the numbers in more detail together. Show your husband or wife why you are concerned and ask for his or her input on suggestions for change. Of course, you can discuss your own ideas, but again, finances should be a team effort; therefore, you really need to focus on gaining their insight on the situation as well. Find out their concerns and work it out together.
This may be a good time to call on an expert. Your expert of choice does not have to be a therapist. You can simply look to a financial professional and/or purchase a well-received book regarding money saving tips and building wealth. Ask your significant other to read it as well. When you are on the road together, you can download an Audible version to ensure you are both absorbing the information together. Personally, I recommend Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki.
Usually, what I have found works best (and what seems to also work best for my friends and family) is simply showing the numbers. There are a lot of great apps out there to help calculate where you are spending your money the most, like Mint.com, but I typically just refer to my online banking account, which does this for me as well. Choose what works best for you.
Household budgeting is no easy task, and it can take just as much as work as your relationship, I have found. It seems the biggest issues is just not knowing how much money is being wasted. But, realizing one another’s goals and expressing interest in achieving them together has proven successful for me and my relationship. If your spouse knows how important it is for you to not only see your own savings goals met but his or hers, you’ll find saving to actually be pretty fun and exciting.
Is this a challenge you have faced? What has worked for you?
Jenn Clark is a writer, PR specialist, entrepreneur, blogger and coffee enthusiast. A lover of laughter, traveling and cheese, she’s written about her life experiences here at suburbanfinance while at the same time growing other young professionals. You can find more of her work at Jennblogs.co.