It’s a new year, and you may be ready for a new you: Someone who saves money to build for a more secure future.
Unfortunately, if you’re a wannabe saver who is married to a spendthrift, you face an uphill battle. Here’s how to bridge the divide and get your spouse on board when it comes to putting money aside for the future.
1. Stop nagging
Recognize that no amount of cajoling, rationalizing and pleading with your spouse is going to make him or her come around to your line of reasoning. In fact, feeling pressured to do something might make him or her dig in and do the opposite.
So lay off. If you’ve been lobbying heavily for your spouse to save more, take a break from the subject and don’t mention it for a month or two. Give your spouse space to let any lingering resentment from your heavy-handed tactics dissipate. Then, try to strike up the conversation again — only this time, in more positive terms.
2. Tune in to his or her personality
It helps if you understand why your spouse is so committed to spending. Perhaps it’s true that your spouse:
- Grew up in a low-income household and bristles at the idea of living frugally as an adult.
- Works hard for the family’s money and feels entitled to spend it.
- Had parents who modeled bad financial behavior.
- Has an underlying problem — such as an addiction or mental health concern — that is leading to overspending.
Getting to the root of your spouse’s reluctance to save is key to successfully tackling this issue. Address any underlying issue before you worry about saving money.
3. Focus on shared goals
Once you are ready to have a conversation, focus on your spouse’s personality. Will asking to schedule a money meeting be most effective? Or should you bring up the topic spontaneously when the moment seems right?
Don’t lead off by telling them to save more. Instead, talk about how you were thinking it would be nice to do “X” in the future. Once you’ve outlined some shared dreams, bring up the idea of reworking the budget to make those dreams possible.
4. Bring in a third party
Some spouses will shut down at the mere mention of money. In that case, back off and look for a third party who can help mediate the discussion.
Some spendthrifts resist talking about money, fearing they’ll just be told how wrong they are. So, frame the request in a way that makes them feel they are helping someone else out.
Ask your spouse to attend a financial planning seminar or meeting as a birthday or holiday gift to you. Or, simply be straightforward about how important it is for you to visit with a financial adviser.
Even if your spouse agrees to go to the meeting, there’s a good chance there will be grumbling. But don’t let that discourage you.
My late husband and I attended Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University after I asked for it as a Christmas present. He was an unhappy camper throughout the course, but the lessons sank in and ended up making a profound difference in our family finances.
Sometimes, you need to give the message time to percolate.
5. Make it automatic
Making savings automatic might instantly eliminate many of the money fights in your house. If cash isn’t in the checking account, you can’t argue about whether it should be spent or saved.
One of the easiest ways to save money is through a direct deposit into a separate account. When I worked a 9-to-5 job, I had an amount direct-deposited in savings to an online bank that wasn’t linked to our other accounts. It was accessible if we needed it an emergency, but far enough out of our minds that we didn’t dip into it for any reason.
Even better, contribute toward a 401(k) retirement account. Many employers will match the money you put into these accounts, something that has the potential to immediately double at least a portion of your retirement savings. If your spouse isn’t sold on the idea, remind him or her that money put into a traditional 401(k) is tax-deductible.
6. Do it yourself
Finally, there may come a point at which you realize your spouse will never willingly save. In that case, I recommend taking matters into your own hands.
Go ahead and max out contributions to your own 401(k), and set up a transfer to a savings account. If your spouse shows zero interest in managing the household money, save anyway. Consider setting up a separate account for your spouse’s spending so he or she doesn’t run your joint account dry.
If your spouse controls the money in the house, won’t save and isn’t open to your concerns, let me gently suggest that you have bigger issues to address in your marriage. In that case, a trip to a counselor — either together or on your own — might be in order.
Do you have advice to offer others about navigating financial matters with a partner? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.