Today I’m going to do something a bit different that I’ve wanted to do for a while – start a series where I answer questions on money, work, frugal family fun, or financial freedom and ask readers to chip in with their advice.
I’m going to pick the best responses from the comments and feature them next week with the next question. Also if you’d like to submit a question for consideration, stay tuned to the end of the post!
Today I’m going to tackle a question I see a lot online that I think a lot of people could benefit from – and one that I have some personal experience with. What do you do when you and your spouse are on different financial pages?
The Question: How Do I Convert A Spendthrift Spouse?
“My husband is a spendthrift, and I’ve always been a saver. Back when we didn’t earn much, this was a small issue-but as our careers have grown, so has the problem. He’s even talking about buying a boat! I, on the other hand, have been reading all about the FIRE movement and am hooked on the idea of being able to have options, and live out my dreams, without waiting until I’m 70+. How do I get a spendthrift spouse on board with an ultra frugal dream? Help! ~ Saver in Seattle”
Dear Saver: Ah, the age old question. He spends, she saves-or vice versa. Each drives the other crazy and it seems there can’t be any meeting in the middle. I’ve been through this-I’ll tell you a bit about this later.
First thought – money is never actually about money. There’s always something deeper at play. Whether you fear running out of money because of scarcity in your past, or your husband making up for all the toys he never got as a kid, or one person thinking the external trappings of conventional success are important than the other, a number of closely held personal values are tied up with our approach to money.
So when you both have different money stories, and spend at different levels, how do you find compromise?
Here Are My Top Tips
- Don’t talk about money-talk about your future. What are your top five dreams? What’s your spouses? We often focus on everyday life and spending decisions, and don’t take the time to talk about our long term dreams. Talk about whether your spending today is going to get you there.
- Get to know each other’s priorities. What are the things most important to you, and them? Near term and long term priorities? Talk about them. You don’t need to change each other’s mind, but understand them. Talk about how you can support each other’s priorities.
- Focus on yourself-and share! Lecturing other people doesn’t lead to change. BUT-People need to hear a message at least seven times before they’re receptive. So if you feel like you’re repeating yourself all the time-you have to! When talking about how you spend money, and what you prioritize, and what’s important to you – you’ll get a lot farther if you focus on yourself and how you feel rather than what the other person is doing “wrong”. Stick to the facts of the situation, and your own feelings, during discussions.
- Compromise. You’re different people. You’re going to have different priorities, and different wants. Maybe you always like to get the latest in technology, while your husband enjoys collecting rare comics. Set a limit on your wants that work for both of you.
- Revisit often. Your individual and collective priorities will change as life goes on. Revisit at least once a year to talk about your current priorities, any changes in your dreams, and what you should adjust to get you there
- Be patient. Change takes time. Deep seated money beliefs don’t change overnight. Don’t give up if the first few conversations don’t make a difference.
- Recognize when it’s a problem. Lying, sneaking around, going back on agreements you’ve made as a team-not acceptable. Same if one spouse is so controlling of the money that everyone is miserable. Controlling money can also be a sign of domestic abuse. If your money discussions are falling into these patterns- seek help. But even when there’s no abuse or bad behavior involved, you may not be able to agree. If that’s the case, and you just can’t compromise, getting an objective third party to help you work things out could be helpful.
Our Story – My Husband The Spender
When my husband and I first got together, I was a teenage cashier and he worked in the meat department of the grocery store. I was saving much of my grocery store cashier paycheck-and he was bouncing checks. Yes, I was the saver and he was the spender.
That’s still true today. But over the course of our seventeen years together, our perspectives and attitudes have shifted. He’s become appreciative of things like emergency funds, our investment strategy, and the fact that investing let us do things like take cool trips to Japan. And I’ve come to appreciate that yes, you do need to loosen up with money sometimes to live a fun life today.
How did we get from there to here? Time, patience, compromise, lots of different financial approaches to see what works for both of us, and plenty of discussions.
Readers, what other tips do you have (or have you seen around) for getting a reluctant spouse on board? Let us know in the comments and yours might be selected to appear in the next “ask the readers” article.
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