Money and relationships: How to get on the same page
Today’s post is about one of the most dreaded financial conversations that a lot of couples tend to avoid, understandably. Grab your favorite drink, put on comfy pants, turn on some smooth jazz (hey, no judgments!), and breathe deep. You good? Ok.
Let’s talk about getting your spouse on board with the family finances.
Yeah, I know – don’t panic. Deep breaths, remember? Getting on the same page as a spouse is one of THE most talked about topics in my many Facebook finance groups. There’s a reason why disagreements about money are one of the most significant factors in divorce, right?
Two people to seeing eye-to-eye about anything is difficult enough, but to add money into the mix? Yowza.
So what can you do? And how do you not only start the conversation but keep it civil?
Lay the Groundwork.
Take a shot of whiskey. (Just kidding! Kinda.)
Seriously though – it’s a conversation that can bring up a lot of emotion. Whether it’s about money history or money mindset, it can be a loaded conversation. Don’t try and discuss it while loaded (no matter how tempting!), or if there’s kids running around screaming and you can’t hear each other.
Timing is everything in this instance. I’ve learned this the hard way. Wait until you can both give your full attention and can reasonably discuss finances. Don’t wait until they’re hunkered in front of the TV after a bad workday and watching their favorite show. It’s just a setup for failure, right?
Be open to speaking AND listening.
Who enjoys being bossed around by their significant other? No one? Yup, that’s what I thought. Remember that you’re equals, so act like it. That means not only getting your say, but listening openly as well.
If you constantly diss their ideas, they’ll shut down on you. Consider this a team sport and the only way you’ll win is if every member participates, ok? No criticizing, no cutting them off. Let them speak and truly listen, even if you don’t agree. Nothing says you don’t value someone like shutting down their ideas before they can even express them.
If they’re resistant to budgeting or talking about finances, ask why. Dig deep and really listen. There’s a history or a story there, find out what it is and what it’ll take to work through together.
Learn how to express yourself.
If you value something and it’s important, say so. Be clear with your needs and vocalize them. Learn to have confidence in your dreams and goals. If you want them to be open about their thoughts and beliefs, you need to do the same. You might just find you have the same perspective on a lot of things!
Tell them your “why”. Why you want to become debt-free, or invest in a retirement fund, or whatever your financial goal is. You have to clearly communicate why you want this so badly, and why it’s so important to you. They’re not mind readers, so make sure to let them know what you’re thinking.
Let go of old slights.
Trust me when I say, I’m the queen of remembering every single slight that’s ever been done to me. I mean, every. Single. One. OK? Now, is that healthy? Heck no. And it’s not healthy for your relationship or finances either. (Or mine!)
Give them (and yourself) some grace. No one is mistake-free. We’ve all done some stupid stuff with finances. We’ve all been young and living for the moment and not thinking long-term. It’s ok. Let it go.
Consider today a clean slate and everyone’s putting their best foot forward. It works best if you are the one extending the olive branch, capeesh? Even if they don’t apologize, or think they’ve done wrong, it’s ok. You can take the first step, give them some grace, and move on for the sake of your family and finances.
Now that you have the basics down, it’s time to work on the next step:
Get Your Spouse on Board with Talking Finances, Regularly
Getting Started with Discussing Budgeting
Now that you’ve opened up the communication and shown that you want this to be a team effort, actually do it.
There’s a whole section on this in Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover that’s great. It discusses spenders versus savers and what to expect from each type of person.
If you’re the one broaching the subject of finances, it’s safe to say you’re the saver and they’re the spender. Great, we have roles established!
Next, realize that they obviously don’t eat this stuff for breakfast. So keep it simple. Involve them in reviewing the budget, but you do all the geeky fun work of actually budgeting (that you love, ya money nerd!).
Keep budget meetings short and to the point. Even if you could talk about it for hours or days, please don’t. You’ve probably got about a 10 minute window before their attention span veers, so use it to your advantage.
Next, assume they know nothing about where the money goes. Because, guess what? They don’t. And that’s ok. At the beginning of the month, show them where everything went last month. They can’t change bad habits if they can’t see proof of them, right?
Set Your First Financial Goal
Now that you both know where you want to go, the next step is to set your first goal. And I have the perfect recommendation for you:
Agree to create and follow your budget for just 2 months.
Why just two? Because it’s enough to be able to see some change. It’s enough for them to see cause and effect in your finances. The before and after. No matter how small the change, seeing it on paper, in black and white, helps them to connect the dots.
And when they connect the dots, and see the positive outcome, they’ll want to do it more.
My husband was always resistant to budgeting. It bored him and he just didn’t have any interest. Once he began to see the changes, and how the everyday choices we made in spending added up quickly towards paying off our debts, he became hooked.
Now he’s a bigger money saving monster than me. He came home the other day, so proud that he got two pounds of lunchmeat for free from Krogers (they comped him for a long wait at the deli counter. Crazy, huh?).
The Next Financial Steps to Take
Now that the line of communication is open, and everyone’s (slowly) working to get on board, just keep at it. Everything worth doing takes time, right? Give it time, allow for bumps in the road, and keep these pointers in mind.
How to Set Up Your Team for Financial Success:
- Decide what your goals are for your family. Talk about how you can achieve them and create a game plan together.
- Set goals for this month as well as long term.
- Make budgeting fun by scheduling a date night a family night. Make talking budgets a family event where everyone can give ideas and feel valued. It’s the perfect time to educate your kids (assuming they aren’t screaming and can sit still and listen!)
- Meet weekly at first.
- Don’t drag the discussion out. Keep it simple.
- Expect it to take time for them to come around. Give them some grace (and yourself as well). Try the 2 month budget goal mentioned above.
- Start by keeping goals small.
- Reward yourselves when you meet goals. Celebrate every victory!
- Compromise. It’s about everyone being happy – not just you or them.
- Involve your significant other in financial decisions, big and small. You’re a team, act like it.
- Hold yourself to the exact same standards as your spouse!
- Communicate openly and honestly, no matter how hard.
- Set up ground rules on spending that you both agree with. Agree that if someone steps out of line, the other is going to GENTLY remind them about your goals.
- Anything over $100 (or any predetermined amount) must be agreed upon by both parties before being spent.
- Share the work. Otherwise you’ll resentment them and you’ll be all “I have to do everything around here!”
- They might not like to budget, but ask them if they can help research pricing on utilities or other services, for example.
- Switch to a cash only system and put away cards so neither of you can use them. Or, set up a side account for each of you for your own spending money. Once it’s gone, it’s gone!
- Make sure both of you get fun money to blow on whatever you want. DO NOT comment on how they spend it – it’s theirs to do what they want with!
Now that we’ve covered the essentials of getting your spouse on the same financial wavelength, remember that you know them best. You’re the one dating/married to them, and you know all their quirks. If you know something specific will trigger them into a Hulk-like rage, maybe don’t try that tactic, right? However, no matter which approach you take, it’s important to have these conversations and continue to have them. You can’t get on the same page if you don’t communicate and aren’t open to hearing each other’s needs. Now go get ‘em!
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Have any tips to add? Have you struggled with getting your significant other onto the same page? What has worked for you? Leave your comments below, I’d love to hear your feedback!
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A forty-ish web designer/developer by day, a budget & financial fanatic by night. I’m a mom, wife, avid reader, and DIY enthusiast who’s tracking our journey to debt freedom. Read More