Getting Both Spouses to Follow a Budget
One of the more difficult aspects of family finances is getting both spouses to agree to a budget. Some feel a budget is restrictive and it is telling them what they can’t do with money. Others may find an envelope system or zero-sum budget calming because everything is planned out and organized. This article is intended to help both spouses open the lines of communication about their money and to provide ideas on how to start working on a budget together.
Lead by Example
Let’s start with what not to do: don’t tell your spouse how they should manage money. Nobody wants to be told what to do.
Instead, start by looking inward and focus on the things you can control.Consider the areas you can improve or what you want to achieve. It could be little habits like packing a lunch for yourself for work, increasing the percentage going into your 401(k), or buying less online.
By focusing on yourself, you can start making improvements immediately without having to convince someone else to make changes. You will be leading by example, which will hopefully do some of the convincing for you later on.
Ask for Help
Your spouse appreciates it when you work together on small things around the house or on a larger project. This allows you to spend time together, share an experience, and have a deeper understanding of your spouse. This can be applied to working together on your finances as well.
Each person has their own unique experience with money. It is important to communicate our past issues and accomplishments with money to help educate our spouse. Verbalizing may also help you discover issues quicker and should help limit financial conflicts between spouses. Just remember, feelings about money are intimate and deep. Each person should listen and not try to solve the problem right then.
Asking for help like this has some big benefits:
- They know you best and will likely help you with something you’re struggling with.
- They will appreciate and be flattered that you are asking for their help.
- It opens the lines of communication between the two of you in a positive, constructive way.
- It’s likely to encourage positive feelings towards you and your efforts.
- By helping you through your own issues, it may stir some thoughts from your spouse about things he or she could improve.
Set a Regular Time to Talk
More than anything else, this is the habit that will keep the two of you on the same page and working towards the same goals. Consider planning a “Money Date” where you do something fun and at the same time discuss finances. My wife and I have found that talking about our finances once a month is frequent enough.
Having frequent meetings helps keep each other stay connected, up-to-date and stay focused on your goals. It also helps to avoid problems before they get too big and out of control.
Be Willing to Compromise
Even if you are the one in the relationship who handles the finances, you won’t make nearly as much progress on your financial goals without getting your spouse on board. Sometimes, that means being willing to compromise.
The concept of an “allowance” or “freedom” money may be something that will help you both use and stay on budget. It allows both spouses to preserve some independence, as this money has no restrictions. It doesn't have to be a lot of money but it is just enough that both of you are happy and don’t feel limited with your budget.
Budgeting and financial stewardship is an important part of every marriage. See this as an opportunity to come closer build a stronger marriage. Don’t let family finances be a point of contention that makes the rest of your marriage suffer.
Be patient and pray that God will guide you, give you wisdom, and free you of anxiety when managing your finances.
Give it Time
Bringing two different views on money and how to handle finances may not be easy but you will look back over the decades and say to each other, “I am happy we worked together to control our finances instead of letting our finances control us.”
Between now and then it will take some time to get organized and develop a system that works for your family. Understand that each of you may come to realize the importance of managing your money at different times. That is ok. Be consistent and focus on what you can control.
I look at my own situation and it took some failures to realize what I was doing wasn’t going to work. I needed to reflect on my financial behavior and develop a system that worked for me. Bringing another person with different ideas and perspectives about money into the system was difficult at times and we argued. But, over time we adjusted and created a new joint system that is working for us.
When you or your spouse has a misstep or is reluctant to follow a budget, be patient. Go back to the steps above, and start by focusing on yourself. Involve them by asking for help, pray, and try to let it grow naturally from there.
Each year you will refine and improve your personal finances and create a budget that works best for both of you.