You're frugal but your spouse is not
It is possible to mend financial differences.
This post comes from Trent Hamm at partner blog The Simple Dollar.
Readers often leave comments at The Simple Dollar
complaining that they make frugal choices, but their spouses see their
savings not as a long-term financial benefit but as more money to spend
Thus, their frugal ways go without a
long-term reward. They're careful about spending their money, but their
bank account balances don't grow.
I'm lucky. My wife is very frugal, and we share the same philosophy. In fact, she's probably more frugal than I am. Her only weakness is books, but she participates in PaperBackSwap to keep the cost low. She's in line with my goals: freedom from debt, saving for major purchases so we don't have more debt. Our goal as a family is to eliminate all of our debt by my 40th birthday.
many people aren't in such a lucky situation. They may be in sync with
their spouses in a number of ways, but in terms of personal spending,
they're in different worlds. Naturally, the frugal spouse is going to
be frustrated, watching his or her efforts dissipate in a spending
binge. On the other hand, the spending spouse probably feels
frustration too, because his or her partner won't "live a little."
can these two sides meet? Here are five suggestions, culled from a
number of sources, particularly my own experiences interacting with my
spouse and observing other couples, as well as the excellent "It Pays to Talk."
Accept that your spouse is operating with a different set of beliefs.
You believe in the power of frugal living and have chosen to live
frugally. That's great. Realize, though, that it is a choice and that
your spouse has made a different choice. You can't force people to agree with you, but you may be able to convince them over time to make a different choice for themselves.
Accentuate the positives of frugality. Point out some of the more obvious frugal choices and indicate how much of a difference they will make. "If we hold off a year in replacing the car but save up the money now, we'll save $6,000." "If we skip one shopping spree a month and turn that saved money into one extra house payment a year, we can pay off our mortgage five years earlier. Think about how much extra money we would have each month then."
When making spur-of-the-moment entertainment or social choices, suggest frugality but don't point it out.
If your spouse wants to do something today, take the initiative and
suggest something that doesn't break your budget. Instead of a trip to
the mall, suggest going to a free museum. Instead of going out to eat
somewhere expensive, propose that you make a romantic dinner at home.
The best tactic is to suggest the idea spontaneously, but don't focus
on the fact that it's cheap.
Make your saving automatic.
One reader has a spouse who, at the end of the month, sees what remains
in the checking account as extra money to spend. Set up a separate
savings account and have a certain amount transferred to that fund on a
regular basis. That way, there isn't "leftover" cash in the checking
account, and you can use that savings account stash for major
purchases, like a car down payment.
Propose "equal spending."
If none of the above work well, propose that the "extra" money be spent
equally, then sock yours away. If there's $200 left at the end of the
month, you each take $100. Your spouse spends it, and you save it. This
works well if it's pretty clear that your spouse won't come around to
making frugal choices.
Most of these ideas have one thing in common: They demonstrate the benefits of frugality without the preaching. Don't tell
your spouse how great frugality is and how "bad" she or he is for not
believing in it. Instead, walk the walk and let your spouse see the
Eventually -- hopefully -- the power of frugal living will become clear.
Never, ever push it to confrontation.
That will just result in two unhappy people in a marriage. If you're
constantly telling your spouse to spend less, resentment is probably
building up, and that's a tactic that always ends in failure. Instead,
focus on being a good example of frugality, and when the benefits are
clear, point them out.
Also, be willing to compromise a little.
If your spouse wants to go out for a nice dinner on occasion, go along
with it. Marriage is about compromise, in the end.
Other articles of interest at The Simple Dollar:
- Afraid to talk about money with your spouse? 10 tips for 'The Talk'
- Review: 'It Pays to Talk'
- 6 ways to follow up that big financial talk with your spouse
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