We all know that money issues are one of the top causes of divorce. Whether you are married or not, dealing with shared finances as a couple can be extremely challenging. Couples are made up of two different people with two different backgrounds. We all have different money stories, so it’s normal to have differences in how we approach debt, credit and budgets.
But the most minor money disagreements can be magnified when you’re trying to reach a major goal, like becoming debt free or saving up to buy a home. If you are feeling discouraged because your spouse is not on board when it comes to your financial goals and dreams, I understand. The financial plan I created at the beginning of this year was destined to fail. Why? Because I created it all by myself! It takes two to tango – and to budget, plan, and save money!
Here are my best tips for dealing with a spouse who is not on board with your financial goals and dreams …
When Your Spouse Is Not On Board (Financially)
1 Know Your Why
You may have done this already. Sit your spouse down and explain the WHY of your goal. Why is it important to pay off your student loans, increase your savings account, or pay off your mortgage early? For example, I have a strong need for a feeling of security that I believe will come with being debt free. The lack of that feeling of security in my life is very unsettling.
Know and express your why, but also ask your partner what their why is. Or perhaps it’s a why not? What are the core beliefs that affect them financially? You don’t have to agree with each other at all during this conversation. Just listen. Hopefully some understanding and compassion will be found.
2 Make Sure Needs Are Met
Is money one of your biggest stresses in life? Do you lie awake thinking about your financial goals? Are your money goals your top priority and at the forefront of your mind every day? Reaching your financial goals is a need you have in your life, and it might hurt deeply when your spouse is not fully on board with helping you to reach them.
Setting and reaching personal finance goals is so important, but it’s not all there is in life. There are relationships, intimacy, children, hobbies, health and fitness goals, home projects, work and business goals, and so much more to think about, worry about, and achieve. What is the number one worry in your spouse’s life right now? If you believe it’s not money, what is it? If you don’t know, ASK!
Ask if all of their needs are being met. If they are feeling neglected by you in a particular area, resentment can begin to build. A resentful spouse is much less likely to get excited and get on board with your financial goals and dreams.
3 Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Is taking about money easy? No. Should you still do it? Yes. How often? VERY!
I strive for weekly budget meetings, as I mention in my monthly debt updates. During the months that we talk about money matters frequently, we do great! During the months that our money talks are few and far between – we lose motivation, lose focus, and generally struggle. Communication is key. Have the talks. I promise they get easier the more often you do them.
4 No Sneak Attacks!
There are so many amazing resources out there to inspire and motivate you to reach your financial goals. You are probably excited when you find one you love and want to share them with your partner. They might not be ready for the information at this time. If your spouse is not ready to read a book, or listen to a podcast, or attend a class – proceed with caution. Especially if they have given you a firm “no.” Continue to enjoy the resources yourself, and let your partner know you’d love to share them sometime in the future if they change their mind. Pushiness isn’t helpful.
Worse than pushiness though? Sneak attacks! And yes, I am guilty of this one … Do not under any circumstances try to casually play a financial podcast episode while out running errands together. I speak from experience and it didn’t go over well!
5 Speak for Yourself
This goes along with the above tip. You’re soaking in all the great financial information and have developed crushes on all of your favorite experts. You can quote their most famous lines of advice and know exactly how they would answer a particular money question. It’s okay to bring them up occasionally and share the parts of their work that resonates with you most.
Just don’t let the experts speak for you. I found a lot of financial inspiration throughout this year via books, podcasts, and blogs. I have loved and been super excited about Dave Ramsey, Farnoosh Torabi, The His & Her Money Show, and many more. Sometimes you need to bring that excitement down a notch, and make sure you put things into your own words. The last thing you want to hear your spouse say is “Well if you love Dave Ramsey so much, why don’t you go marry him!”
6 Are You Being Fair?
You have decided you have goals to reach and changes need to be made in the family finances. You have a plan and you just need your spouse to get on board. You believe 110% that you are right and you know how to help your family get to a better place financially. But are you being fair? Are you making cuts to the budget that affect everyone evenly? Or is your new plan going to impact your spouse more than anyone else? I am not suggesting you become a martyr and only reduce your own spending, but I do think we all need to be honest with ourselves and the impact of our decisions.
I’ll tell on myself again here … In the beginning of my journey to get out of debt I came up with many things we should sell, or services we should cut. My husband was not always on board. However, last winter, I decided that my boys needed matching Christmas pajamas. Not one pair, but two. I went out and purchased them without giving it a second thought! I had considered it as part of my budget, so I wasn’t overspending or creating new debt. My husband definitely disagreed! He saw it as a frivolous expense and was not happy that it was part of our budget that I had not discussed with him. I had to take an honest look at myself and our budget, to see if I was truly being fair.
7 Acknowledge The Tiniest Efforts
Acknowledge their attempts to follow your plan … no matter how small! What looks like a very minor amount of effort might feel like a huge step to your partner. Do not let their attempt be be on board with your financial plan go unnoticed! Sure, you might want them to do much more! You might still feel stressed and overwhelmed by how deep you are in debt or how far you are from your goals. Set those feelings aside and praise them! Acknowledge the fact that they brown bagged a lunch, or skipped a trip to Starbucks. Even if it only happened once, it still happened! They tried and you need to acknowledge that effort.
8 Do It Together
When at all possible, do “money stuff” together! Budget together, set goals together, celebrate together when you make positive strides! This is hard at first when you are not on the same page, but it will get easier in time with consistent effort and patience. If you typically handle the bulk of the financial stuff, you might even consider sitting down and paying a few bills together. I have found that when your spouse is not on board with your financial goals, things are only made worse if they feel left out of the financial loop in any way.
Finally, be patient. If your spouse is not on board with your goals today, it doesn’t mean they will never be. Don’t give up. Continue your positive efforts and steps forward. Find friends and family members who can encourage you on your bad days. Keep working toward your goals. Progress may be slower than you’d like but you will get there someday!
Readers – what’s your best advice to encourage someone in this position?
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