Money is one of the major causes of conflict in relationships. There are lots of ways to avoid the disagreements though. You could try to make a ton more money, you could just ignore the problem and hope it goes away, or you could try to spend as much as you can so that your spouse doesn’t spend it first (for example). In the long run it’s probably easier to convince your spouse to be frugal with you though.
First of all a disclaimer: I’m not a relationship counselor so please don’t read one of my articles and then go yell at your wife and say “Damn you woman! Can’t you be more like Aaron!” That would not be my fault. :) Secondly, when you talk to your spouse about money you have to have a good relationship to begin with. Okay, well that’s not 100% necessary. I mean you don’t have to have a perfect relationship, but you do have to at least be kind and civil to each other. You know, like friends are. You need to be able to talk about and share new ideas and share your personal interests with each other – that’s essential. Also I’m a dude so I use “wife” in this article. This is loosely related to my personal experience.
So here’s how this works. Lets assume that you ask your wife “Hey, would you like to have lots of money and be rich?” and she says yes. Lets also assume that you say “Hey, lets start investing money in stocks and get a smaller used car instead of an SUV” and she responds with “We could lose all of our money if we invest it (I’m scared), I like our SUV, and that would be a huge pain!”
So here’s the thing. This kind of thinking doesn’t just change with one conversation. There’s no way you can sit someone down, whether they’re married or not, and say, “Look, here’s what you need to do to be rich, so do it.” People don’t work that way and change is usually a slow process that involves a lot of learning.
This reminds me of something Alan Watts said about people believing the earth is flat. You can’t just tell someone the earth is spherical because they won’t believe you. You can’t reason with them that it makes no logical sense and has no scientific basis for it to be flat, you have to show them. You do this by saying, “Hey, lets go on a walk and have a look at the edge!” Then after miles and miles of walking, when you get back to the same place you started, you may then have someone that believes the earth is at least cylindrical.
Some of the most important things in life can’t be learned through a public education system.
- How to be kind to people.
- How to socialize properly.
- Applying the things you did learn through a public education system.
- How to have a successful relationship.
- How to manage your money.
The list goes on and on. You’ll need to learn about investing of course. Amazon sells books, for example.
If you’re friends with your spouse and you share your own interests and ideas with her, then the best way to change her mind about something is to understand her better and to share your own ideas. Whenever I read a book about finances, spirituality, or anything else for that matter, I always talk about it with my wife. After you read a number of books about becoming rich then, you will have talked with her about it a number of times and in a number of different ways. After multiple conversations you’ll know how she feels about money and you’ll see that some of her ideas don’t match what you’ve read about.
So two things will happen when you start reading about being rich and once you’ve read a number of books about it.
- You’ll talk with your spouse about it more.
- She’ll know you’re serious about becoming rich.
- She’ll know your current ideas are about being rich.
- She’ll know whether you want to invest in stocks, real estate, a business, or something else.
- You’ll both know where you want to be financially in the future. (How far away is that future?)
- You’ll start to notice some overlap in the various books. That is, much of the information is the same.
There is a lot of unique and original content out there and there are thousands upon thousands of books on being successful and being rich. But in reality it really is simple to do, and for this reason there is overlap. (Note that I said it’s simple, not easy.) Anyway, you’ll see repeated themes in the books that you read.
- Change your mindset and how you see money.
- Make it easier for you to explain in multiple ways to your spouse how money actually works.
When you come this far then you’ll be able to say, “So I finished another book today and it also said that we have to put aside some time on a regular basis to plan our finances. A lot of what I’ve read has said that. It seems like that must be an essential part of being rich.”
To which your spouse may respond, “Yeah I guess so. That sounds pretty boring though. I don’t really want to.” Which is pretty typical really. I think that’s what most people think about money. Of course it’s boring. Of course it’s not just easy and automatic – otherwise everyone would do it.
Anyway, one way you can deal with this is to say. “Yeah I guess it can be boring. I’m pretty excited about it though so I’m going to try it.” There are a lot of steps you can take without having to involve your spouse. You can keep a budget. Any missing money that’s not accounted for can only be cash that your spouse has spent on something. That can go into an “Unknown cash” category until she’s onboard. Everything else is either cash that you’ve spent or the “payee” (where it was spent) will appear in YNAB or Mint automatically.
Maybe your spouse will just say “Ok, have fun!” and walk away. What’s more likely though is that she’ll protest about you managing all of the money, having no say in what happens with the money, and you taking over without asking.
You: I don’t want to manage all of the money, I just want to count it. I’m not saying we should change everything we’re doing, I just want to track what we spend and keep a budget.
Her: I don’t want to limit what I’m spending. We’re not doing that now and we’re fine.
You: Yes. Lets keep everything the same. I’ll just count what we’re spending.
Her: But a budget means limiting what you spend.
You: Well sort of. I’m not talking about limiting anything but I do want to track what we spend. It’s a budget because we can see where all our money goes.
Her: Well I don’t want you to be the only one deciding where our money goes.
At some point she may say that she doesn’t want you to be the only one making decisions or the only one “in the know” about what’s happening with the money. Here’s a great opportunity for you to reply with,
You: Okay. I just want to make things easy for you since you’re not interested in the boring part. Why don’t I start doing it every month, or week, and every time I’m done doing the budget I can show you what I’ve found.
Her: So …
You: So I’ll give you a kind of report. An update so that you know exactly what I do and can see what I’ve done.
So basically you’re offering to your spouse to
- do all of the work of budgeting,
- keep her informed of everything that you do, and
- change absolutely nothing with your spending habits.
Reap the Rewards
That’s a pretty good deal for her and it’s a pretty good deal for you too. You get to learn about budgeting, you build good financial habits, and you improve your relationship with your spouse through communication. She gets a lot of the benefits of knowing where the money goes without doing any actual work, she gets to support your current interest, and she gets to continue spending however she was before.
What’s more is that once the budget is working and you can show what you’ve found, it’s easy to see where the money is going – which categories it’s going to. Then it’s easy to say “Look, we spent $300 on eating out this month,” or “Look, we spent $300 on clothes every month for the last 3 months.” Then a “maybe we can save money on that” comment has a lot more importance, because it’s not just that comment. That one statement means a lot more now, because now she knows the reason behind it and it’s not just an opinion on how the money is being spent. What’s behind it is your personal interest, your financial goals for the future, and the research you’ve done on how to invest that will give any saved money a purpose.