Married couples don’t always see eye to eye. If you’re married, you didn’t need me to tell you that :).
When I started writing about making a budget and answering budgeting related questions, I found that people often struggle with a spouse who won’t get on board with the finances.
The usual response is a full frontal attack. One partner digs his or her heals in and pushes, and pushes, and pushes until they get their desired results – the spouse to start budgeting. Not only is this approach extremely damaging for a marriage, it is also highly ineffective. You might get your spouse on board, but they may mentally distance themselves from you.
Instead, a better approach is to subtly try and come alongside your spouse and gently lead them in the right direction.
4 Effective Steps for Getting Your Spouse to Start Budgeting
1. Dream together.
Dreaming about your future is the best way to motivate a spouse to start budgeting. Block off an evening and have a nice dinner together. After dinner, take time to walk and ask each other – where do you picture us in 10 years? What will we be doing?
Most dreams have financial implications. Leave those implications for another time. Enjoy the evening.
Later, follow up with your spouse by proceeding to step two.
2. Introduce the benefits.
Nagging and critiquing never helps improve someone’s willingness or attitude, but kind affirmative words always provide the right structure for having a financial discussion.
Don’t say – I’ve asked you a hundred times to keep your receipts and track your spending.
The problem: It is accusatory and will automatically make the other person feel defensive.
Try: I think I’ve found a way for us to afford that Europe vacation we talked about the other night. It’s going to require us to change our spending, but I really think we can do it.
3. Search for middle ground.
Most married couples consist of one free spirit and one geek. The geek typically takes the lead when it comes to budgeting. The geek then sets up an elaborate budgeting system with 457 budget categories. As the geek explains the new budgeting process, the free spirit feels more and more overwhelmed. Nothing in this plan sounds like any fun. Can geeks and free spirits ever find middle ground?
Don’t say – I’ve already set up the budget on the computer so you need to enter your expenses.
The problem: There is no discussion about budgeting preferences and systems that work. One party has made a decision without including the other, and they expect the other to follow ‘their’ pattern.
Try: I’ve done a little research and found that there are five good ways that we could budget. Perhaps we could find some time this week to choose the budgeting system that works best for our personalities?
4. Share victories.
This is similar to introducing the benefits, but now you’ll actually share positive results. Let’s say that your spouse is still hesitant about budgeting. Implement some of the changes yourself and share those positive results.
Say: Guess what, sweetie? I started to keep a grocery budget this month and I was able to save $50 on groceries. I’ve opened up a new bank account and we now have $50 towards our Europe vacation.
Remember, direct confrontation in marriage is rarely effective. Instead, try and come alongside your spouse and gently lead them in the right direction.
What suggestions do you have for getting a spouse on board? Have any of you ever experienced this struggle?
A gradual approach to budgeting and focusing on the bigger picture of our dreams were two things that definitely helped us bring our ideas of what money means to us closer together.
Another was the use of personal fun money so neither party felt too constrained.
I absolutely agree that taking an accusatory tone is the wrong way to go about it, no matter how “easy” it might feel at the time for the accuser.
Khaleef @ KNS Financial says
These are all great tips. Too many times we are worried about standing our ground and asserting ourselves in these matters. We need to always consider our spouse before ourselves, and form our words appropriately. Sometimes we lose sight of the big picture – this is a great article to remind us of that (not just in budgeting, but in all areas).
excellent points! I turned my ex-girlfriend into a much more financially aware consumer. I really think I helped her out financially. How did I do it, I simply explained to her the benefits of certain things over many different little situations. Why buy this when we could buy that… and so! It worked!
I have no pearls of wisdom here—other than to say if you have differing views on money and spending with your spouse, whether to decide to budget or whatever, you’d better addrss them. They can destroy a marriage, even if you’re willing to compromise.
Making sure you have a couple of money conversations before you get married is also helpful.