How to Introduce Budgeting to Your Spouse
Get your spouse on the same financial page as you
You’re enthusiastic about creating a budget and managing your money carefully. Your spouse groans at the idea. What can you do?
Many people find themselves in this exact predicament every day. One spouse or partner tends to be fiscally-minded, while the other pays no attention to money and scoffs at the idea of drastically cutting back.
How can the two of you reach financial harmony? Here are a few tips that might help get your spouse or partner on board with the idea of budgeting.
1. Set a Common Goal
Don’t open the conversation by saying, “Honey, I think you need to cut back on X.” A statement like this frames the idea of budgeting and saving in negative terms. This makes financial management look like a string of orders and deprivations.
Instead, open the conversation by saying, “Honey, let’s talk about some of the goals we want to accomplish within the next 5 to 10 years. What would we like to do?”
The two of you should have a long conversation about what your ideal life looks like together. Don’t discuss money at this point - just talk about the vision. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Would you like to spend one month traveling through Europe together?
- Would you like to buy a sailboat and spend a few months in the Caribbean?
- Would you like to make a down payment on a house, or trade up from your current starter home to a nicer forever home?
- Would you like to pay off your mortgage entirely, or pay cash for your next vehicle?
- Would you like your child’s college funds to be $25,000 fuller?
- Would you like to retire by age 55, start your own business, or create a new non-profit organization in your community?
Discuss your goals without touching on the financial aspect. Find out what visions and goals you two share for the future.
2. Attach Monetary Values to Your Goals
Once you’ve agreed on your goals for the future, introduce the concept of money and phrase it in realistic estimations.
A 20% down payment on a $200,000 home, for example, comes to $40,000. A one-month trip around Europe for two people might come to $4,000 - $10,000, depending on the level of luxury you seek.
Paying cash for your next vehicle might cost between $8,000 and $20,000, depending on what type of vehicle you want.
Retiring early might hinge upon maxing out your 401(k) every year.
At this point, you have numbers and you have a time frame. Simple division can help you understand how much money you need to set aside every month in order to reach your goal.
Saving $40,000 over the next five years, for example, requires saving $8,000 per year, or $665 per month. If you want to save this amount for the down payment on a home, you now know how much you'll need to set aside every month.
3. Talk About Saving
Now that you have a specific monthly savings target, you should discuss how to find this money. Suggest cutting back on a few expenses, earning extra money on the side, or a combination of both in order to hit your monthly savings goal.
Your spouse may be a bit more on board now because the conversation isn’t framed in terms of cutting back. The conversation is framed in terms of trading one expense for another. You can either spend $600 per month dining out at restaurants, or you can have enough money to make a down payment on a home within five years. At your current level of income, you can’t necessarily have both, so which would you prefer?
By framing the conversation in terms of trade-offs rather than sacrifices, your spouse is far more likely to be receptive -- especially if you work towards the goals your spouse is excited about.
If the two of you haven’t decided on which goal to focus on, let your spouse talk about what he or she envisions. You’ll be able to tell what they’re most excited about by the goal they bring up most often. That goal is likely the one they’ll be most happy to save for.