One of the most common questions I hear from new budgeters is, “How do I convince my husband / wife to use a budget?” When one spouse is on board and the other isn’t, it can be very difficult to get started. People often compare paying off debt or saving money to the process of losing weight, but you can lose weight by yourself. If you’re married, it’s pretty difficult for one spouse to make financial progress without at least partial support from the other spouse. So what do you do?
How to Convince a Reluctant Spouse to Use a Budget
- Share how important this is to you. Have you told your spouse about wanting to budget, but they don’t seem interested? Maybe they just haven’t heard you yet. Life is busy and distracting, and sometimes we just don’t hear what our spouse is really saying. Go out to dinner alone together or find some time to talk face-to-face after the kids are in bed, and express why this is important to you. Keep it judgement-free and stick to using “I statements” to express how you feel.
- Dream BIG together. Big dreams are motivating, because they can light a fire inside of you. It’s a lot easier to make sacrifices for something big and amazing than for something small. What are some things you’d like to do together if your finances were better? Maybe you’d like to have a parent stay home with the kids, take big vacations, start your own business, pay cash for college, or retire early. Have the crazy conversations about what could be and try not to limit yourself! If money was completely unlimited, what would you do? This should be a fun and exciting conversation and the word “budget” probably doesn’t even need to be mentioned.
- Use a budget to track spending only at first. Too often, new budgeters are enthusiastic and want to squeeze their spending right away to make room for the big goals. Especially if you have a reluctant spouse, you should start your budget first as a tracking tool. Just try to figure out where your money is going so you have the information you need for making decisions. For the first month or two, just try to get the numbers in your budget to match the reality of your spending. Don’t worry if you’re moving money around like crazy at first. Online budgeting tools can be a big help with this. Once you’ve gotten a clear picture of your spending, your spouse may be a lot more on board when he/she sees that the spending is not lining up with your goals. At that point, you can try to tighten your belts a bit.
- Demonstrate how a budget can mean FREEDOM. So many people think of a budget being like a strait jacket that cuts out all the freedom in spending. In many ways, it’s actually the opposite. When I have money in my personal “fun money” category, I know that I’m completely free to spend that on anything I want, with no accountability to my husband. When there’s money in the clothing category, I know I can buy myself a new pair of jeans without worrying about having enough to pay the electric bill. If there’s an area that your spouse really wants some freedom, show him/her that it’ll be part of the budget and spending in that category will be guilt-free, as long as it stays within its limit. There can be plenty of room for fun in a budget!
So what do you do if these things don’t work? Do your best to keep things positive and give it some time. If your spouse is not participating, but willing to go with the plan, then you can probably continue that way and hope that they eventually become more enthusiastic. If, instead, they are completely sabotaging the plan and not listening to your side at all, there may be deeper relationship issues going on and you may want to seek counseling.
How about you? Are you and your spouse on the same page with money? Comment below!