A couple of weeks ago, I was approached by a friend who wanted some advice on how he could get his wife interested – and more importantly involved – in the household budget.
While they were doing okay financially, my friend knew they could be doing a whole lot better. Sure – they paid the bills on time and paid off their credit card every month, but despite a healthy income there was never a lot left over.
With the prospect of starting a family on the horizon, my friend was keen to establish a budget and to start managing their money in a purposeful way. But to his great disappointment, his enthusiasm to establish a budget wasn’t exactly shared by his wife.
As a budget coach this wasn’t a surprise to me; not because I know his wife, but because this is a very common issue! It is rare in a relationship that both partners share the same enthusiasm for budgeting. But that doesn’t mean you can make it work.
So here are three strategies I recommend using to help get your spouse or partner on board with the household budget:
Discuss your Joint Lifestyle Goals
Other than the occasional ‘Budget Geek’ like me, very few people choose to budget for the sake of budgeting; a budget should have a motivating purpose. So, the first step to getting your spouse or partner involved is to be clear on what your joint life goals are. Go out to dinner or dessert and discuss where you would like to be and what you would like to achieve over the next 5 to 10 years and then discuss how living to a budget is central to making those goals and dreams a reality.
Involve Your Spouse in the Budget Process
The second step is to make sure you involve your spouse or partner in the process of setting up the spending boundaries. Actively seek their input into what is reasonable and realistic to allocate to each expense category – and be willing to negotiate. So often a spouse will be resistant to the idea of budgeting because they are worried they will lose the freedom to spend in a specific area: maybe it’s the grooming, the nights out with the boys or kitting out the 4WD. Have the discussion – what is reasonable to allocate to these areas? This way they are far more likely to get involved.
Take the Lead With Your Household Budget
The most important thing you can do to get your spouse on board is to take the lead. You commit to doing most of the work and be clear on what you need them to do to help. We are all different – for some people the detail required to keep a budget is a mild form of torture, while others break out in hives at the mere thought of numbers! In most relationships, one person tends to take the lead to make the budget work.
I have plenty of couples where one person enters all the transactions each month and keeps the budget up to date. In this situation, all their spouse does is keep their receipts and consult with their phone app before spending to make sure the money is in the budget beforehand. And most importantly, provide constant feedback as to where the budget is up to; they may glaze over initially but once the savings start to come they will take an interest.
It can be really hard sometimes to involve a reluctant spouse or partner in the budget process but this doesn’t mean you can’t make it work. Try to understand your spouse’s concerns and find ways to work around them. Link the purpose of having a budget to goals that are important to you both, make sure your spouse has input into the spending boundaries you establish and be willing to do most of the work. By doing these three things you can overcome most, if not all, of your spouse’s fears and objections.