How to Get Your Spouse to Use the "B" Word

“HOW DID YOU GET YOUR SPOUSE TO BUDGET WITH YOU?”

It’s a question I get all the time, and one that I understand deeply and personally. How to get your spouse to budget does not have an easy answer.

I haven’t always been on-board with a household budget. For many years, I figured we were fine. Just fine. We were living our life the same way that everyone else did – how could that be wrong?! Oh, yes, younger me… I see your naivete (or is that delusion?) even from here. 

Since I turned away from that limiting view, and made the choice to be aware and active in our family’s finances while also using my vision and values as the measure rather than the story that is peddled to me every day and every way, I feel a bit like the saying “only Nixon could go to China” – who better to talk about how to get your spouse to budget?!

And, now, when you’re working so hard to be more mindful of our spending and our budgets, is The. Perfect. Time.

Lots of people try to do it alone. Some think it will just be easier if they could just handle it by themselves. Or maybe they don’t want to work through the conflict and tension that has accumulated. Some just don’t like disagreements. They’ll just make it happen alone.

The thing is, you cannot shoulder the burden of an entire family’s financial future by yourself. It will lead to resentment and frustration – especially if things don’t go as planned. Which, in the financial world, is ALWAYS the case.

So, let’s work to get your spouse to budget with you, shall we? Let’s go to China.

These are the 3 easy (or not so easy) strategies that helped me switch my mindset from the resistance of “we’re fine!” to the openness of “I really want to do this with you!”

CREATE A FAMILY MANIFESTO.

I’ve talked about this before, but I believe every family needs a vision. A big picture dream of where you’re hoping to be in 10 years – or 20 years, even. Now, this isn’t strictly financial planning, but it’s clear how financial planning will ultimately play into this vision.

Part of your manifesto will include “Defining Your Values.” It’s important to know what you both want individually and as a family. This will help you decide where it’s important to spend your money right now and where you might save some in order to reach those larger goals!

This is something fun and wild; a no-holds-barred exploration of dreams and hopes and callings. And, it is often a side door into the heart of your partner’s resistance – instead of bashing again and again and again into the brick wall of NO, creating a vision can provide you both with powerful awareness of fears and insecurities and needs, and give you a field to begin to question them.

STOP BEING DEFENSIVE & REMEMBER YOUR SHARED AFFECTION.

If you have a healthy relationship with your spouse – one that can handle the energy of conflict and tension with compassion, grace and empathy – a good place to start is to talk about how and whyliving within a budget is important to YOU.

You two chose each other for a reason and trust and respect each other enough to share a life. Often, this tactic – built on a clear naming of your deepest needs – will begin to soften any resistances your spouse has, and will get the conversation moving. In that softness is the space to connect and start to define your values and vision from there. Appeal to the tender affection you share for each other and sidestep the defensive patterns and postures.

It’s beautiful.

There’s a chance, though, that you may not be in a healthy season in your relationship. It happens. To all of us. In and out we move through this dance. Sometimes close and in sync, sometimes clumsy and awkward, sometimes separate and longing, sometimes just down right badly. We are not static things – we change and shift and shimmer.

CAPS LOCKS is not loud enough for me to convey my support of you in all the changing ways your show up in life and in your relationship. These seasons of distance and separation can break you, or they can transform you. Get some help to move toward the latter. Be vulnerable and find a therapist or counselor who will help you both accept the changes and find the inherent beauty in the shimmer.

MAKE GOALS TOGETHER.

With your big picture vision – your money manifesto – in hand, you have a roadmap for the way you want your family to live in the world, and and framework for understanding how money plays into that vision.

Using that framework to establish clear, actionable, SHARED goals is another critical step to working through resistance. Write them down, print them out, frame them, tatoo them – put your goals in sight and in mind. That sort of clarity is what gives the work meaning.

Budgeting can be hard, but if we make it meaningful to us, and even, fun (gasp!) than your spouse will be much more inclined to keep going!

A short term goal could be to pay off a credit card to give you all some breathing room in your budget. Or it could be to go on that camping trip this spring without debt. Or maybe it’s just to save $100 this month.

Whatever it is, it has to be meaningful to both of you. If you do this, and work together, you’ll notice a shift in your relationship. One leaning towards respect and trust – and moving away from anxiety and frustration.

The goal that turned me, when I started this whole personal finance journey so many years ago, was to have freedom. Freedom to stay home with my kids during their baby years. But also freedom to live any way that we choose.

For example, let’s say I wanted to start a business (just hypothetical). I wanted to have the freedom to do this without the constant strain of debt and limited finances weighing us down. OK, so not hypothetical. This is real friends. These choices you’re making now to work together, will give you freedom in the future. Just like I have freedom right now to quit my job and start a blog! Crazytown!

I am SO very thankful for those changes I made years ago, to allow my current self some freedom.

If you and your spouse find your “whys” you’ll be so grateful, too.

It’s only NOW, after you’ve completed the three big picture steps above, that you can start the nuts and bolts of budgeting together. The strain comes in when we try to switch these two steps. We go straight to working with the numbers and forget about the work of connection and love. Do the connection first and the budgeting will come easy. At least…easi-er.

Good luck friends!

I hope this helps to get your spouse to want to budget with you. It’s a time that I now really treasure with Sam. A set weekly time to refocus on our vision. It’s not just about money friends, it’s about your freedom and your future.

Totally rooting for you!

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MarriageOlivia Zurawski