The Budget Couple

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Episode 51: Getting Your Spouse on Board

Nate and Danielle answer a listener question about getting their spouse to agree and stick to a budget.

Show Notes

Listener Question

My husband and I just purchased our first home.  I am super obsessed about managing our finances. I’ve made my own templates for our budget on excel!  I understand his enthusiasm won’t ever match mine, BUT I don’t know how to get him on board. Money burns a hole in his pocket and we have two little boys (5mo and almost 3 yrs) that we need to ensure are safe and taken care of.  I don’t know any other way to tell him not to touch the savings without taking away all his access to it and I think that is unfair because he is an adult and my partner. How do I make going over the budget not necessarily fun but interesting enough so he understands?

NOTE: We have no issues at all playing our bills, our only debt is the house and one care, and we don’t max out cards or anything without being able to pay them off at the end of the month.  He just doesn’t understand the importance of an emergency fund because “We will figure it out”

First of all, you’re doing an awesome job by keeping yourself out of debt and paying all your bills. Here’s the but… It sounds like you guys are breaking even each month or worse yet dipping into your crash fund occasionally for ‘wants’. Breaking even may mean that you’re getting to fulfill most of your momentary whims (that new dress, the expensive restaurant), but it also means you’re probably not going to meet any of your longer-term goals. So before we start diving into how you might approach this with your husband, we’ll chat about how our saving strategy.

I totally get the idea of money burning a hole in your pocket, but that comes to the money, not in our savings. Savings by definition is money with a purpose or a goal. 

The only money we keep in savings is our emergency fund or if we are saving up for something large. All of our money after those two conditions are satisfied sits in our checking account. As a rule of thumb, our emergency fund is 3-6 months worth of expenses. The entire purpose of our savings account is to house money for emergency expenses; car breaks, water heater blows, roof leaks, etc. This money was built up years ago and just doesn’t get touched… I forget it’s there, but I will most definitely be happy about having it when we have a $10K expense pop up.

Note – We do have other savings though. We put away 15% of our income into retirement and we put $400 (up from 250!) into our son’s college each month. 

We don’t break even each month, we have left-over. Now we’re lucky to be in a position to have that, but we also make it so… we set up a budget that works backward. We want to pay the house off in 15 years (long term goal) so we make sure we have enough left-over each month to put extra on principal.

You cannot take away access to the bank account. As you said it’s unfair and you two are in this together. Removing him from the equation is a recipe for trouble. But you are in this together, you need to make decisions together, and come up with a plan together.

We would have a conversation with each other about our goals. If one of us was feeling that the other was out of control we would let them know and explain why they feel that way. Making him understand your concerns and how it could impact your family is important. “We will figure it out” doesn’t work if some major happens and you are unable to cover an expense. To add to that you could be costing yourselves thousands of dollars if you have to borrow money to cover an emergency.

We approach everything as a team. And if half of the team doesn’t want to do something, we don’t do it. That goes for money or going out for dinner, we both have to be in agreement. As for money, look at setting goals together. Short, mid, and long term goals that you both agree to will help put things in perspective and make it easier for both of you to stick to your plan. 

List out those goals – maybe it’s retiring early, traveling with the kids each year, paying the house off early, buying a beach house

Crunch some basic numbers and see if breaking even is getting you there (I bet it’s not). See if you guys can focus on goals and work backward with budgeting. It might make him feel like there’s a purpose of skipping out on that new Ipad he wants. 

Finally, one thing that’s helped us is to carve out individual budgets ($200 a month for each of us) that you get to have complete control over.

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