Budgeting for Couples: Get Your Spouse On Board With Budgeting

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Learning budgeting for couples can be a daunting task, especially if there’s a reluctant spouse. In fact, getting a spouse on board with anything that takes them out of their comfort zone can be difficult.

Unfortunately, at one point, I was the spouse that wasn’t on board.

My husband saw that we needed to change our spending habits. Correction: I needed to change MY spending habits! He was frugal – I was not. In fact, I distinctly remember when he initially approached me with the idea of spending less, I dismissed him. At the time, I wasn’t ready to admit that I had a spending problem and that we needed to start budgeting.

It took some time for me to come around and decide that we should free ourselves of the debt that was holding us back.

If you have a spouse or partner who is not on board with making a budget, try the tactics below on budgeting for couples and see if you can nudge them in your direction. They worked on me, and I have full faith that they will work with your spouse!

How To Discuss Budgeting With A Spouse

Finances is one of the key areas in a relationship that need open communication. That includes budgeting! Get your spouse to talk about all things budgeting with these not-so-scary conversation openers centered around budgeting for couples.

1. Discuss your dreams and goals.

Sit down and talk with your spouse about each of your dreams and goals for the future. These don’t have to be “safe” dreams, which is one that is easily attainable. People share safe dreams so that there is no disappointment or insecurity if they don’t reach that dream. Instead, talk about what you would like to do if money was not an issue.

What would you do if you didn’t have anything holding you back?

When people start speaking out loud and declaring their dream, something happens in their brains. There is a shift from the dream being a far-off possibility to something that’s actually attainable. Write your family’s dreams and goals out on paper and post them in a place where you both can see them often!

2. Allow room for fun.

Have you ever been told you couldn’t have something, and that made you want it even more? When my husband and I first started budgeting, we ran a tight ship and lived off barely anything. There was no money set aside for fun or clothes. Within months I was itching to buy a new outfit, but it felt forbidden.

So what did I do? I went straight out and bought not one but TWO outfits to prove that I could have what I wanted. We quickly realized that we needed room in our budget for me to feel like I could spend money on myself.

Just because you are on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t have fun or buy the things you want. Instead, keep a section in your budget labeled “Fun Money.” This can be spent on anything you or your spouse wants. Each person can have their own separate amount, or you can join it together into one amount.

When your spouse knows that they have a set amount of money that they can spend, they might be less likely to resist the idea of a monthly budget.

An labeled envelope and a 100 dollar bill

3. Focus on the benefits.

We all know that there are pros and cons to almost everything we do in life. The same goes for taking the time to plan out where your money will go each month. Now I’m a pretty positive person in general, but six years ago, when we started budgeting, I had to train myself to stay positive when it came to the budget.

It’s so easy to focus on what you’re not getting in the moment. Whining and complaining come naturally. It’s much harder to delay gratification and live on less than you make. The good news is that you CAN do hard things.

What is it that you and your spouse hope to gain by being on a budget?

Are you two hoping to gain financial freedom from debt?

What about the ability to buy a big-ticket item such as a new car?

Or maybe it’s a down payment on your dream home?

Whatever it is, remind yourself and your spouse to stay positive even when budgeting is difficult. Remember to focus on what you are building together for the future, not on what you may be missing out on in the present. The goal here is to change your mindset when it comes to managing your money.

4. Provide concrete examples.

It’s easier to get someone on board with a budget if they can see exactly what it will look like. Take some time to draft a sample budget and bring that with you when you discuss the idea of living on a budget. Sometimes people dismiss an idea when they cannot see the details involved.

Don’t just say, “Hey, I think we need to get on a budget. We spend way too much money on (insert item here).” Instead, approach your spouse with the problem (you two are not in control of your money) AND the solution (the sample budget).

Think about the way your spouse learns best. If they learn well through technology, make the budget on an excel spreadsheet or use EveryDollar. Or, grab my Budget Life Planner to keep all your finances organized and in one place! Figuring out the best tool for you as a team is one of the first things I recommend when I’m asked about budgeting for couples.

5. Be willing to compromise.

My son is going through this lovely stage where he throws a tantrum when he doesn’t get his way. It’s the best (said with sarcasm)! Don’t be surprised if you have to compromise with your spouse on the monthly budget. In fact, EXPECT that you will have to compromise.

Don’t throw a fit like a child and have an “all or nothing” attitude. Instead, go into this conversation prepared to create a solution that works for you and your spouse.

For instance, your spouse may not be ready to give up that morning coffee stop on the way to work. Or perhaps you don’t need to buy only no-name brands from the store. Every budget needs some wiggle room to accommodate everyone’s needs in the family.

As you budget more and more, you’ll find more areas to cut spending and others to add spending to. It’s always changing!

Cash and a journal

6. Be respectful and timely.

Timing is everything! Don’t try to get your spouse on board with a budget in the middle of a sports game. Instead, think about when your spouse is more open-minded and willing to have long discussions. I know not to bother my husband with important conversations before 9:00 am. He is more likely to discuss finances with me in the evening.

Basically, know your audience. And when you approach your spouse, be respectful. Don’t nag or whine. Use a respectful tone, and your spouse won’t put up a wall right away.

Budgeting for Couples When Your Spouse Won’t

Sometimes, your spouse just may not grasp the concept of budgeting! The first thing you want to do is look at the way you approached the discussion with your spouse on how to budget,

Even if it feels like all the overspending is on your spouse, don’t frame it that way. No one likes to be accused of anything in any kind of situation. Rather than placing the blame on them, it’s better to focus on what can be done to make it better.

If you need to point out specific money anxiety, express how it affects you and makes you feel. By focusing on yourself rather than them, it doesn’t feel like they are all to blame. Ultimately, marriage means that your financial situation is a joint effort. There are two people in the equation!

If your spouse is up for it, suggest that you handle the budgeting on your own. At the end of the month, you can review statements together and show how your spending has changed. Once your spouse sees the positives of budgeting, they may feel more excited to be involved in helping handle the money.

Together, you can also try to limit overspending. Avoid using credit cards and consider sticking to a cash-only budget. Seeing money physically disappear may help them realize how easy it is to spend it.

Learning how to budget with a spouse will take a few months and multiple budgets to figure out. The core thing to remember when learning the ins and outs of budgeting for couples is that you and your spouse are a team. A successful team works together, communicates, and makes a plan. Teamwork can be hard and frustrating at times, but with effort and diligence, you are able to reach your dreams.

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    Meet Allison

    Allison Baggerly is a blogger, author, influencer, speaker, podcaster, and founder of Inspired Budget, which is proudly a Latinx and women-owned business. A former teacher, Allison blends her talents for teaching with her passion for personal finances to help others learn how to start budgeting and build a life they love.

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