How to Convince Your Spouse You Need a Budget

by Neal Frankle, CFP ®

You might realize that you need a budget …but how do you convince your spouse that you need a budget? And once you convince him, how do you get him to stick to it? This is the foundation of family financial planning.

I could be wrong (it happens once in a while) but in my opinion, this is the number one issue facing couples with financial problems.

I recently wrote a post for the Consumerist where I detailed how to get on the same page with your partner. In case you missed that post, I’m going to summarize the steps here and go a bit further.

 

you need a budget

 

Why is your budget the epicenter of your relationship?

Because your budget is the manifestation of all you value. Words are cheap, but your budget is really your values in action. Where you spend your money demonstrates what you hold most dear in life. Period.

Let’s say you spend your money paying off debt, saving for retirement and putting something away for your kids. Additionally, let’s say you track your spending and budget for the future. That tells me something about your values.

If, on the other hand, your spouse doesn’t track spending but somehow blows it all at the track or on fancy vacations and other toys, that tells us something about his values too.

If you can’t agree on how to spend money, your relationship is probably in jeopardy. That’s why your budget is the epicenter of your relationship and that’s why I keep hammering away at this subject.

So now the question is, how do you get your spouse to take part in the process and implement the budget? How do you have The Money Talk? In my piece over at Consumerism Commentary, I detailed a step-by-step method to have an open honest conversation about money.

In it, I suggest that you:

a. Talk about your motives and fears.

b. Be honest about what money means to you both.

c. Admit the mistakes you’ve made and where you have to clean up your financial act.

d. Work out a plan.

e. Appoint a third-party accountability partner.

I think you have to take these steps in the order presented if you want your spouse to embrace the idea of working on and sticking to a budget.

But I have two more very important steps to add to the list above:

1. Provide the tools.

I recently wrote an extensive piece on a software package called You Need A Budget. I like that software because it’s very easy to use and intuitive. It doesn’t matter if you use YNAB or another product, but make sure your spouse takes on the responsibility of keeping your budget up to date. You can’t do it…he’s got to.

This will give him ownership of the process as well as insights into the meaning and power of a budget. This is actually another reason why I love the YNAB program – it’s so easy for a non-interested spouse to use and have fun using. So, I want you to set it up and then get your spouse to commit to keeping it up to date each week.

2. Schedule time.

It’s not enough to hand over the responsibility – you’ve got to be part of the process too. Set aside some time each week where you go through the reports. If your spouse needs you to spend that time with him helping him download the data…that’s fine. If he needs you to spend that time updating budgets or analyzing what needs to change…fine too. Over time, he’ll take on more as his comfort levels grows.

The important thing is that it’s a scheduled time where you both are together working on the budget. While he may be ultimately responsible, it doesn’t mean he can’t get your help with the process.

I believe these two extra steps are crucial.

What was your experience? How did you get your spouse involved with the budget? Or did you try everything and find that nothing worked?

 

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