You know you’ve thought it. Maybe you’ve even said it out loud. “My spouse spends too much!” There is a cure, but it is not as simple as having them take a pill (stop it, I know what you’re thinking!) There is actually a three step method to stop the spending insanity.
1) Have a conversation with your spouse.
This does not mean that you nag your spouse. It does not mean that you berate, belittle, or criticize your spouse. In fact, I will guarantee that will not work. Your spouse may stop their spending for a short time (like a day or an hour), but not long term. You are in a partnership, not a parent/child relationship. Instead, try sitting down together face to face. Make sure the tv, computer, cell phone, etc are all turned off. If you have kids, make sure they are in bed. Basically, get rid of distractions and don’t have this conversation while getting the kids ready for bed. Hold your spouse’s hand in yours and explain to them how you want to do better with money. Here is the important part: tell them WHY you want to do better with money. Do not start with the how or what they “need to start doing”. Explain to them all of your dreams and goals and how you see your financial future TOGETHER. This will set the right tone, put your spouse in a non-defensive mindset, and help you identify and overcome any money anxiety that might exist.
2) Do a written budget.
The only way to truly control spending for both of you is to get on a written plan. You may think that you have a budget in your head, but it is not the same as writing it down. If you sit down together and put a plan on paper before each month begins, it gives you both power over your money. Even if your spouse is not a budgeter, they must have a say in the plan. If your spouse is the type who wants nothing to do with putting a bunch of numbers together, then I suggest you make a plan for the first month. Then, you show your spouse the plan and let them have input. For example, your spouse may say that there needs to be more money for gas. Ask them what category they would suggest lowering in order to increase the gas budget. Once you get the discussion going, it should come to life. WARNING: Attitude is critical in this. There are two ways to say “what category should we lower, honey, in order to increase the gas budget.” You know which is the correct tone, use it. The last thing you want to be is sarcastic or condescending: that will get you the opposite results of what you are aiming for with this process.
3) Put it into action.
Believe it or not, this often is the hardest step of all. You may think that once you have gotten through the first two steps, the hard work is behind you. Wrong! A budget on paper or in your computer is completely worthless if you don’t live by it. That may mean packing a sack lunch when all your friends are going out to eat. Or putting the doughnuts back at the grocery store because you already spent your grocery budget. This is where the true test comes. You may even find out in the process that you spent more than you thought, it wasn’t just your spouse! The key is to stick to the plan and the easiest way to stick to your plan is to know the why you’re doing it. Being debt free, saving for a vacation, or giving money like you’ve never given before can be huge motivators. Find what motivates you and your spouse (you know, the spender) and start putting that plan into action!