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!
I did a post today around this same topic of a husband and wife need to meet, talk and agree on money. Great stuff!
Mike Young says
Thanks Brad. I checked out your post and you’re right, very similar topic. My wife and I were very fortunate to start this stuff about 3-4 months into our marriage and it has really been a blessing!
This is a very good article. I’m the super careful tightwad in our family, and my husband tends to spend without consideration. Over the years by using conversations and techniques similar to what’s in this post, we’ve worked out a really great budget that I have no problem sticking to and still gives him some free cash to spend as he wants. He’s also gotten much better about being careful with his spending, and at the same time I’ve gotten better about loosening up and being a little more spontaneous. The cash is one thing that I think made a difference for him – it’s only a little bit but we agreed it was easier for him to just have cash on hand so I didn’t have to try to account for little debit card purchases here and there.
I especially like how you put the ATTITUDE part – it is so crucial to not have an angry or attacking attitude. I think people tend to forget they are in a partnership, and their spouse is not the enemy!
Mike Young says
Thanks Bethany. That’s the great thing about marriage, you will both tend to grow toward each other. He caused you to loosen up, you caused him to be more careful. That is how marriage is supposed to work!
Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager says
Be accountable to someone, your husband or wife. Or another couple you trust with your spending in an open and honest kind of way.
Mike Young says
Very good point! If you surround yourself with people who tend to be big spenders, chances are you will be too. But, if you have friends who know your spending habits and have similar beliefs about it, you can hold each other accountable. Very true!
Ok, tried this with and without counselors. we are close. but in the past, and not too far past, he’s gotten credit cards without telling me. how can i stop him from getting more – he hasnt worked in 15 years, and so i assume they are checking my credit to give him some. how do i stop this?
Mike Young says
First of all, you can’t stop him from getting a credit card. If he is going to do that behind your back, there are more serious problems. Also, you can check out: http://mikeyoungcoach.com/handling-financial-infidelity-in-your-marriage/ for some more advice about handling financial infidelity.
I’m going through this now and I’m at my wits end. I’ve done step one and two and as soon as it is time for step three he has all these excuses as to “why” he had to spend the money or just comes home with what we’ve mutually deemed unnecessary and he will act like it isn’t there. Like he didn’t go against what we both agreed on. I’m here clipping coupons, bargain shopping, thrift store shopping, etc in the hopes to get us out the hole and he does whatever he wants. Over it. I never use accusatory words in conversation. I’m always saying what “we” need to do for our future, and suggesting ways that “we” can get out of debt. He agrees with me(on the surface), nods a lot and lasts about a week before he goes back to the same selfish behavior. Is there a step 4 I’m missing? lol
Mike Young says
Thanks Danni. I know how frustrating your situation can be. I work with couples who are going through this all the time. If you really sit down and come up with a plan and both agree on it, then it is a MAJOR problem if he doesn’t follow it. This plan must be on paper (or computer). If you just “talk about it” it is easy for him to either forget or claim to forget. If it is in written (or typed) form, it is a contract between the two of you. If he still goes against you, then I honestly suggest marital counseling. There is more of a financial problem at that point. So, I guess that is #4: go to a good marriage counselor. I hope that helps!
I will definitely try your way the next time and get it in writing(sad we even have to do that smh). After that, hopefully we won’t need step #4.