Q: I just got done reading your Living On Less Than $28,000 A Year Series and I have a question. I am working hard to get out of debt and watch where our money goes. I created a budget for our bills, watch for sales, and use coupons, but my husband isn’t as mindful of what he spends. We have conflicts about what we want financially (he seems to want to spend everything and I want to save.)
So my question is, how do you get your partner on board completely? Talking about goals and what we need and want doesn’t seem to help and I am frustrated.
A: I am so sorry that you are frustrated.
Communication in marriage can be difficult. You are basically two very different people trying to become one and finances seem to be the most challenging area to work out.
I am not an expert, but I can tell you what has worked for us.
Build Your Relationship
Disagreements and problems can become the focus of our life, so that we forget about the good parts of our marriage and why we married our spouse in the first place.
We have found it helpful to have weekly date nights during which we avoid talking about problems and just try to have fun. Building your relationship in this way encourages unity and team work in your marriage and enables you to tackle the problems in a more cooperative way.
One date night isn’t going to solve all of your problems, but making a consistent habit of building up your spouse and enjoying fun experiences together can go a long way toward gaining his cooperation. [Click here for ideas for cheap date nights.]
When you have a financial problem and your spouse doesn’t seem to be listening, it is tempting to talk more and more about the issue. It seems counter-intuitive, but talking less often, but more clearly about money issues can help.
In our marriage I am the more detail-oriented partner and my husband is more spontaneous. If I try to talk about the details of our finances too often my husband’s eyes glaze over (not really ).
What works for us is for me to write everything on paper and give my husband a 10 minute update on exactly how much money we have, how much we need and where everything is going. I get his ideas and feedback and make a plan based on what we talk about. I try to do this on a weekly basis on payday and then avoid talking about the money unless we have something specific we have to discuss.
This arrangement works well for us because I am able to communicate on a regular basis about what is going on, but my husband doesn’t feel nagged to death by the details.
If you would like to start a “Money Meeting”, set a regular day and time you can both agree on (right after work isn’t a good time). During your meeting talk together about the big picture of what you want financially and then talk about the details like exactly how much money is available after paying bills for spending and saving. Decide together how you will use your money and agree to the plan. You may even want to sign it.
Consider Your Spouse’s Needs
During your money meetings you will find out quickly that your husband will have different ideas than you do. The key to making the meetings (and the budget) work is to be open to compromise. Really listen to what your husband has to say and consider ways that his needs and wants can be met, as well as yours. You may not be able to save as much as you would like, for example, but you should each have input into how the money will be allocated.
A good idea is to set aside an amount of money for each spouse to spend however they would like. Take the spending money out in cash and agree together not to use debit or credit cards for miscellaneous spending. We have also found it helpful to move all bill money and savings out of the account immediately so it doesn’t look like we have more than we really do. You can read more about our second account here.
Get Outside Help
One of the best things that we have done for our marriage and our finances is to take the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace class (click here to find a class in your area). Attending the weekly class made it okay to talk about money and actually forced us to talk about it because we had homework!
It also helped to be in a group with others who also had financial issues. No one had to share specifics about their budgets, but the support of other people trying to get their financial lives in order was very encouraging.
You may also want to talk with a pastor, trusted friend or a professional counselor. You can click here to find a financial counselor in your area. (Please note that these counselors charge a fee.)
It is really difficult when our spouses are not on the same page with us, and especially with finances. There is not really a simple answer, but by implementing some of the suggestions above hopefully your situation can improve.
What suggestions do you have for this reader? Leave a comment.