Money is one of the hardest things about marriage. Money problems are cited as a leading cause of divorce. I know, because I was this close to leaving my husband, ultimately over finances. So if you and your spouse are butting heads, financially, you’re probably looking for some tips to work it out.
Disclaimer – I am not, in any way shape or form, a counselor. Or a certified financial advisor. I just want to share tips and advise from my own personal experience.
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Getting Started Together
If you are just jumping on the personal finance boat, set the tone for your spouse to be included from the beginning. Let them know “Hey I’m looking at our finances so that we can _____(take a vacation, buy a house, retire early).” Then dive all in. Read a million blog posts, grab a book or two (Recommendations – The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness or Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! to change your money mindset). Work up your budget and set your goals. If your spouse is interested, keep them updated, steer them to great articles, etc.
If not, don’t worry. Most couples consist of a ‘nerd’ and a ‘freespirit.’ This is a good thing, I promise. You balance each other.
How To Actually Get Your Partner Involved
So you’ve done all the legwork. You’ve created a budget, you’re excited about the things you’ll be able to do once you start controlling your money, you’re pumped about saving money, you’re ready to change your lives!!
Your spouse gets short-tempered whenever you bring it up.
This is where you can make or break a marriage.
Set a date to talk about the budget.
You’ve seen this advise everywhere. But, honestly for us, a set date usually backfires for me. My husband has to much time to think about it and plan to be short-tempered (ok, honestly that’s probably not what he does.) But if I spring it on him, he tends to participate a little more.
If you want to “spring it” on your spouse, you still need to give them a little warning. A few days to a week before, casually mention it, and the day of let them know you want to go ahead a look over the budget that evening. You know your partner better than I do, so do what would make them the most comfortable!
Grab a few beers, some snacks, whatever will make you both feel casual and not like you’re in a board meeting.
Don’t start with the budget. Talk about your goals first. Let your spouse know that you are doing this because you want to work from home, buy a house, retire in 10 years, buy a car, pay for the kids college, whatever.
Don’t forget to talk about short-term goals. They generally seem more attainable and therefore more attractive. “I want to start a blog this year; I want to pay off all our debt; I want to pay our bills on time; etc.”
Then sit down and listen, make notes if you have to. What does your partner want? Do they have different big goals? Or short term goals? My husband’s current short term goal is to build a gun himself. Does this in anyway contribute to our financial well-being?? Nope. But it doesn’t necessarily hurt our financial well-being, so why not? Plus, incorporating their short-term goals can help you stay in budget. Now when we are discussing ordering pizza vs. cooking, I can simply say “That’s gun-money.” Or “That’s moving money” (we are looking to buy a house soon.)
Review the budget together. Ask your spouse to help you check over it. Did you miss anything? Have they caught the finance bug and think you should lower the grocery budget? Do they think you each have enough “fun money”?
Continue the conversation.
Some couples have weekly ‘check-ins’, some have a ‘budget date’ once a month, some let the ‘nerd’ take the reigns for day-to-day budgeting and meeting goals and have a quarterly update. Again you know best what would work for your spouse. However, no matter how often you decide to have a sit-down discussion, keep your spouse updated on things that impact your finances. Like paying off a loan, getting a bill caught up, having a short pay-check, etc.
Weekly check-ins are especially great if you are living pay-check to pay-check. Also if you have irregular income. However they can be overwhelming for people who don’t like talking about finances. Sometimes it’s best to just have weekly check-ins with yourself. If your partner seems to be expressing more interest in the budget, you can try having weekly updates. Don’t push it though.
A monthly budget review is a great middle ground. Usually often enough that your partner feels like they know whats going on, but usually not overwhelming. This also opens the door for input on the budget. You want your free-spirited spouse to feel like they are part of what’s going on. No one likes the feeling of being controlled!
Some couples work just fine on a quarterly update. The free-spirit is ok letting the nerd handle the grunt-work and just wants to let it happen. The only time this is a problem is if your spouse is not really on board. They won’t actually stick to the budget and they don’t want to talk about adjusting it. This can easily be an avoidance tactic. Don’t let that happen, because avoidance by one usually breeds resentment in the other.
More On Marriage And Money
Ya’ll…..I made so many mistakes with my husband and discovering personal finance. It is so important that you don’t alienate your partner in the beginning. Even if they don’t want anything to do with it. It is also important not to push them to far so they shut down. Sometimes you have to just give them time to come around.
Like, I seriously have no clue what my husband’s long-term goals are. Other than the aforementioned gun and the fact that he suddenly wants to be a homeowner (after years of not wanting to) I have no clue. So we don’t really have long-term family goals. I have long term goals, and I’m just taking him along for the ride. But for whatever reason he doesn’t want to discuss us in a twenty-year or ten-year or five-year plan.
I try not to read anything into it. But it’s hard.
It’s easy to get frustrated with a partner who want nothing to do with the finances. If you are seriously at the point where you don’t think you can take it, please seek a marriage counselor. Don’t become another divorce statistic.
What else would you like to know about marriage and money? We really don’t have it all figured out, but I’d love to share what has, and hasn’t, worked for us.