If you’re married, your best financial intentions are practically worthless if your spouse is not on board.
On top of it being a challenge to reach goals if you’re working separate from your partner (sometimes against) it’s well known that financial disagreements are a leading cause of separation and divorce.
You absolutely need to talk to your partner about money, regardless of how annoying, difficult or frustrating it can be.
Even and perhaps especially if one of you has been deemed “the finance person” in the relationship.
How to Get Your Spouse to Save Money
I’ve had quite a few e-mails recently along this trend “I want to build up our emergency fund/down payment/vacation savings but husband/wife doesn’t seem to care.
How can I get my spouse to save money?”
Any teacher will tell you that making someone care is practically impossible. Showing them different things to care about and then letting them choose stands a better chance of success.
If you have personally decided you want to build up your emergency fund savings and then tell your partner that “We need to save more for emergencies” or even “This is what I would like to do” he or she will feel you have made their financial choice.
Even a compliant partner won’t feel ownership if the decision was made solely by the other person.
Change your approach
We hope you are able to move from:
recognize a desire to save > create a savings goal > share with spouse > expect participation
express a desire to discuss your finances > take input from both sides to create financial goals > expect participation
It’s only when both sides have created a goal together that buy-in exists and moving forward will bring you together rather than driving a wedge.
You don’t want one person’s role to be creator, implementer and then inevitably nagger. Using the second approach you both become responsible for helping reach a shared vision.
Give concrete ideas
Another problem you can run into when you’re trying to push someone to save is that they are being told generally that they need to ‘stop spending so much’ or ‘save more money for our emergency fund’ but aren’t given real ways to go about meeting that expectation.
Make sure both of you know exactly how you’re going to reach your savings goals. A goal set on a pedestal with no plan to achieve it is just a wish. Dream together, create your goals together and then come up with a plan.
Answer these questions:
- At what time would you like to reach your goal?
- How much will you need to save each month to get there?
- Where in your budget will that money come from?
- What account will you put the monthly amount into?
- Who wants to be responsible to transfer the funds?
- At what time will you check in with one another to see how you feel about your goal progress/amount you’re sacrificing each month?
Refer to this post on how to establish a realistic savings goal and then make sure you’re both on the same page when it comes to your savings strategy.
This will help both partners feel involved, responsible and empowered to move forward together.
Don’t just talk about money when you need them to change
Money doesn’t have to be a stressful and argument-prone topic for couples. The problem is we tend to only bring money up when we’re in a bad spot or we’re frustrated.
If money were a part of our regular rhythm of conversation, we could have productive conversations about it without upsetting each other. We’d also be more inclined to consider financial goals together.
If you want to shift your family’s financial future, don’t start by addressing every hindrance your spouse will bring to the table.
Instead try and focus on something you’ve done well financially. Do you give money to a cause you both care about?
Did you pay off any debt in the last couple of years such as a car payment or student loan?
Try and find time to talk about money with your spouse where you don’t even bring up the negatives. Set the stage for more open-minded budget conversation later.
In a follow up conversation, revisit your positive conversations and bring them into a discussion of budget and spending.
How can you take some of the things you’ve done well and apply them elsewhere in your finances? What are you BOTH doing well and BOTH struggling with?
How can you both work to hold each other accountable and also offer grace to one another when you mess up?
If you set a budget goal like setting aside $25 a week for savings and then your spouse forgets one week make sure you don’t instantly point out the mistake and then get angry.
Instead, try asking (calmly) where the money was spent and if (s)he thinks there will be another part of the budget you can cut from to get the $20 back into savings.
Don’t just drop it and let it go. Calm and grace-filled doesn’t mean get pushed over or ignore the problems. It just means don’t elevate them beyond what they are, simple mistakes.
Getting past small errors will help you to get past larger problems in the future.
If your partner sees that you’re not going to freak out every time they mess up, they’re more likely to admit a mistake and avoid them in the future. You’ll also be grateful when they use the same technique the next time you mess up.
The Wrap Up
How to get your spouse to save money?
- Create goals together.
- Create strategies to reach those goals together.
- Keep finances a regular part of your conversation, not just when there’s a problem.
- Treat small mistakes calmly and with grace.
- Hold each other accountable.
That’s our two cents. This comes from four years of marriage, a lot of money-talk and many conflict resolution and mediation classes. We’re not experts but these things have worked for us and people we know.
What works for you? How do you get your partner to care about saving money?