how to manage finances in a marriage

How Do I Get My Spouse On Board with Money?

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One of the number one questions I receive is:

“Peach, how do I get my spouse on board with our money?”

Now, before I step out into the unknown waters of this touchy subject, let me get this out in the open:

  • I am not a marriage counselor, nor do I pretend to be
  • I am a guy
  • I have done plenty of stupid things in my life with money
  • I once had a spouse who was not on board with money
  • Through trial and error (and a few nights sleeping on the couch) , I believe I have the solution 🙂

Whew, I am glad I was able to get that out of the way.

The Players Inside the Relationship

Did you know the number one cause of divorce in North America stems from money fights and money problems? Also, did you know that every aspect of our daily lives touches money? Pretty scary when you think about it.

With that said, it is imperative that you and your spouse are on the same page in most areas of your life, ESPECIALLY money.

The Person who Currently Takes Care of the Finances – The Nerd

Taking on the finances all alone in a relationship is a lose-lose situation. When you decided to take care of the monthly budget alone, you become the nerd in the house. You become Captain No-Fun because you actually have to keep the budget balanced all by yourself – meaning using the phrase “It’s not in the budget” every 17 minutes of the day to get your point across.

What makes things worse is when the bills don’t get paid and the accounts are all overdrawn, you are now the one person to blame. You are the one who wanted to be in charge and now it appears you have failed miserably. Not only are you a family nerd, but now you are a nerd that can’t manage money. Like I said, it’s a lose-lose role in the marriage.

The Person who Loves to Spend the Money and Mess Up the Budget – The Financial Hippie

This is the person who gets away with murder inside the relationship. They get to have all the fun, never have to worry, and just buy whatever the heck they want. They are those cool kids from the playground that were always picked first at recess.

However, the cool kid is also in a lose-lose situation. Why? Well the cool kid is still behaving like a kid inside the relationship. Captain No-Fun is stressing out big time, while the child is playing recess in their adult life. This non-stop party doesn’t sit well with the family nerd. Secondly, when things end up going bust, the happy-go-lucky hipster is going to hit rock bottom fast when the money runs out. Another lose-lose situation.

Budget Nerds + Financial Hippies = Perfect Money Match

The truth is, you are both necessary inside a relationship. Yes this will sound cliche, but opposites do attract for a reason. You need to have a nerd in the relationship that is going to initiate the budget and set up bill pay. You need to have the nerd who is going to send the checks off to the ROTH IRA accounts each month instead of the QVC people. The nerds are going to make sure you have money in order to continue to have fun.

On the other hand, you financial hippies are also just as important. The problem with nerds is we don’t know how to have fun or how to spend our money. We need a little help from our party-planning-committee spouse on where we can spend some cash, goof off a little (or a lot), and be reminded that money is actually supposed to be FUN!

How to Manage Finances in a Marriage

This is a loaded question because the truth is this: You are not going to have success by dragging your spouse on board. The reason: dragging your spouse on board is making the statement that you are not included in the problem. However, if you and spouse are not on the same page with money, then you are actually as much as the problem as you beleive they are.

It’s Always 50/50 with OUR Money

I don’t care who works more, who doesn’t work at all, who brings home the bacon, or who burns the lasagna. Here is the deal: When it comes to money, you are equal managers of the money and have equal say.

I know this is going to sound harsh for the nerd because you’re already thinking that the party planner is going to bleed the bank accounts dry if you let them have some control over the money. I remember thinking that same thing, but the truth is they need to be fully included in the finances. They may not be the best at managing the money, but they need to still have equal input. This may surprise you, but they probably have some good ideas about OUR money that you haven’t quite thought about. 🙂

How to Get Your Spouse on Board with the Finances?

 

Step 1: Lay it Out for Both of You to See

The nerd knows exactly what the finances look like (good or bad), but the cute little spender may not have a clue. The first thing you need to do is get everything out there in the open. I recently did this with a couple I was doing financial coaching for and it was amazing to see how shocked the spender was and how the nerd didn’t even bat an eye at the overall dismal outlook with their money management habits.

However, you don’t have a financial coach in front of you right now, so what can you say to your spouse? Here is what worked for me:

“Andrea, I am struggling trying to manage our money. Would you mind helping me a little? I am sorry I cannot do this on my own, but it would mean a lot to me if you could help me figure out what I AM DOING WRONG”.

Did you just see what I did right there? I skillfully and carefully asked my wife if I could use her EXPERTISE. Instead of me looking down on her, waving my finger at her, and telling her to cut out her high-end purse habit, I instead looked up to her for help!

Chris Peach Pro Tip: Be prepared before asking for the assistance. Have the budget all laid out so your spouse can see everything plain as day. Let them go through it piece by piece and let them make comments. This will be a crucial turning point because your spouse can now see,  “Houston…we have a problem here.”

Step 2: Set Goals and Dream Together

It’s fun to think about the future we are going to have together. It makes us feel good when we know we can invest in our retirement, save for our kids’ college, and take a few really cool vacations along the way. The problem is, it’s usually just wishful thinking for most since over 70% of people are now living paycheck to paycheck.

Once you have laid everything out in the open, tell your spouse some of the dreams or goals you have for your life and your money. Ask them what they want in life. Are you both on the path to hit these goals and what do we need to do? It’s one thing to dream about them, but it’s another thing to actually realize you definitely can or you never will. This will be a huge eye opener for both of you and it’s a great time to open up the conversation immediately after seeing the numbers.

Step 3: Ask for their Opinion

The nerd has made all the tough financial decisions up to this point in the relationship. Now the nerd needs to learn to let go a little and allow the financial hippy to have some input.

Where can we cut back in our monthly budget? Where are we overspending the most? What are we BOTH willing to sacrifice.

Those are the questions you need to ask each other. Please don’t tell her she can no longer shop at Target (I tried and failed miserably) and don’t tell him you are selling all of his power tools on eBay. Make those decisions together and have equal input.

I remember when we sat down together for the first time and looked at our budget, our total debt, and our current savings….it was a rough few minutes. I felt like I had completely failed. Andrea felt she was also to blame. It was a painful few minutes, but it turned out to be a blessing because it was the first time I believe we were on the same page with our money.

 

Step 4: Make a Sacrifice YOU Don’t Want To

The biggest problem with getting our spouses on board is we believe we aren’t to blame at all. Your spouse probably knows you feel this way, which is why they have been so reluctant to be on your plan Mr. Perfect!

I always say getting your reluctant spouse to sit down and look at a budget with you is like walking a cat…it’s a BIG deal. Now that they have a seat at the table, let them make a decision and you need to be okay with it.

I counseled a couple where the Nerd was actually an avid NFL Sunday Ticket viewer. When it came time to cut back in the budget, he was quick to point out her shoe investments and luxury purse collection. However, when she pointed to the NFL Sunday Ticket, you could instantly see his mouth drop. By the end of our time together, he pulled the plug on the Sunday Ticket and that was enough to show the Louis Vuitton Purse Lady that he was also part of their problem, but more importantly, now part of the solution.

 

Step 5: Be a Spontaneous Nerd

If you have made it this far, this means you were able to coerce your spouse to sit down and help you with money. Then you set some goals together and asked for their opinion with creating a plan for your money. Next you let them make some financial decisions with the how the money would be managed. Congrats! You have officially taken them from the land of whatevs I feel like, to a shared level of financial responsibility.

You need to understand this won’t last forever if you don’t scratch their itch for them. Remember, naturally they are spenders and they like to Party with Money! You need to say thank-you to them for relieving you from all of the financial responsibility you were managing on your own. The best way to do so is by taking part in what they like – spontaneously.

I remember how impressed I was with Andrea when she first started helping me with the money. Spreadsheet budgets make her extremely nauseous, however she would sit there by my side when it came to creating a budget and making financial decisions. One time we sat down and I started crossing out some of our money that we had in our budget for DEBT, and added a little bit to the Dining Out category. Why? Because it was date night! However, SHE insisted that our date night was happy hour, no drinks, and a Redbox DVD rental. When I asked her why, she told me it Was Not in the Budget. 🙂

I am not a relationship expert and I have yet to receive an award for husband of the year. However, I once walked in your shoes, made a plethora (I just love that word…squirrel) of mistakes, and now get to share with you what has worked for me and for people I have helped along the way.

The good news is trying out the steps above is guaranteed to be better than doing nothing and hoping things will simply get better on their own. The number one cause of divorce in America is money fights and money problems. I think it’s time the nerds ask their financial hippy spouses for their expert opinion on this whole money thing.

Lastly, I will leave you with this:


If you can share kids, a house, and a bed, then yes, you can share in the money decisions too.

 

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4 replies
  1. mrricket
    mrricket says:

    I really enjoyed reading your article. It’s funny how opposites attract. My partner and are not married yet, but slowly finding our feet when it comes to finances.

    Cheers
    MrRicket

    Reply
  2. Tommy @ LeisureFreak
    Tommy @ LeisureFreak says:

    Great post. We struggled early on with this. For example, I would go to pay bills and there wouldn’t be enough money because she bought a large gift for her mother. Finally we set a budget based on our individual income and goals. I made more money so I paid for most of the living expenses. My Bride had grocery, her gas, any clothes for herself, or gifts she wanted to buy. I took care of everything else related to out home, insurances, medical, autos, kids, vacations, etc. This allowed us both to individually budget and save. We maintained two separate joint accounts. It worked for us. Retired early @ age 51. I have friends who constantly battle with their spouses and will never get to exit the rat race on their terms.

    Reply
  3. Lauren Burton
    Lauren Burton says:

    Hey great post! Thank you for it. I do have one question for you though. I am the nerd of the family, I have tried and tried to set up a budget with my husband to no avail. He agrees and sometimes contributes to the planning, but then continues on with what he is doing. He sees his spending as “important and necessary.” I have tried several ways to help him manage or budget but nothing works. I feel like we can never get ahead because he spends it all.

    Reply
    • Peach
      Peach says:

      Hi Lauren!

      Well, you are officially married 🙂 Here is what I would suggest:

      Nerds like to control things when it comes to money and numbers. We obviously know way more about this than anyone else, so we are in charge. Well, this is how our spouses feel about us 🙂

      In his defense, I am sure he is quite aware that you are all over him about spending every little penny. Therefore, I am going to suggest you pump the brakes on telling him about how much he spends.

      Try this: Ask him to HELP you. Let him know that you keep trying and can’t get it right. You really NEED his help. You would like his opinion, his thought, and his expertise on managing the household finances. He needs to feel like he is coming to the rescue here instead of feeling like he is the jerk-face that spends every last penny and dime 🙂

      As a guy, I can tell you we don’t like to be wrong and we love the feeling of being the hero. I have a feeling that once he starts taking an active role with the monthly budget and the cash flow, he’s going to see for himself without you having to tell him. And if he makes a mistake or two, don’t beat him up for it (yet). Pain is a great motivator and sometimes we need to feel it before we understand it.

      Great question!

      Reply

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