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How to Encourage Your Spouse to Start (and Keep) a Budget

While there are those who are stubborn and insistent about not budgeting, I’ve found that most people are willing to make a change to improve their family’s finances. Getting them started though can be a huge challenge if this is something that they have little experience with or worse, they’ve had a bad time (such growing up where every penny was counted to the point of causing a ton of stress and guilt).

If you’re having trouble getting your spouse on board with a family budget, here are some tips on to get started and how to keep the peace as you find the best way as a couple.

Take the Bite Out of Budget

It may seem like a small change, but there is a significant mind shift when using spending plan versus budget. People associate have a budget with having restrictions and for some who have failed at keeping a budget, it can be a huge mental barrier.

Using the word budget can be just as appealing as saying the word diet for someone who has no interest in the idea.  Instead you can re-frame it so you’re highlighting what the budget does – telling your money how to work for you.

Create Rules for Your Money, Together marriage and finances

The nest step with making a sustainable spending plan is deciding what is important and what you need it to accomplish. Need some ideas? Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Every dollar has a purpose. When you create a budget, make sure you give a job for all of your money. Some of it will be needed to cover the essential bills, some of it will go towards savings, some of if for giving, and some of it for spending.
  • Make sure fun is in the budget. Speaking of spending, being a miser isn’t going to encourage your spouse to stay on track for very long. You should have room in your budget for some fun stuff. You can also dial it back as you two get better control over your money. Your long term goal is to get them on board with the spending plan, so be patient.
  • Save for rainy days and hiccups. Life happens – cars break down, appliance fail at the most inconvenient time, and bills can seemingly come out from nowhere. Prepare yourselves and stash away some money into an emergency fund.

You don’t need an extensive list, just a few guidelines to keep both of you on track.  If you have children, make sure they know the rules.

If you need a starting place for your budget, I’d suggest using the 50/20/30 budget. How does it work?

  • 50% Needs:  This covers your essential expenses like rent/mortgage, food, utilities, and transportation. Make it automatic payments from your checking  so you two don’t have to worry about late fees.
  • 20% Future: This money is allocated for your savings goals including retirement and kid’s college fund. As soon as your paycheck comes in, go ahead and transfer this into savings.
  • 30% Wants: Alexa von Tobel, CEO of LearnVest, refers to this as lifestyle choices. What do you two enjoy?

For some this framework is the perfect way for them to see their finances. Having a big enough chunk of their money dedicated to the things that make them happy while still taking care of their current and future needs will curb their spending behavior.

Of course you two have to make the decision about what is sustainable for your family.

Find Tools That Suit Both of You

There are plenty of free and low cost tools that the two of you can use to create and maintain your budget. The two of you have to decide which fits your situation best. Here a some of my top picks to get you started:

  •  Mint: It’s easy for us as the data from our joint account are automatically pulled and Mint organizes it for us. With a few clicks we can check month to month and we can compare them against each other. You can also drill down to get to the individual transaction.
  • Finovera: In line with their vision of giving you one spot to manage your finances, Finovera gives users a digital filing cabinet (currently with no size limit) to store documents such as bank statements, tax returns, and other important records.
  • Gazelle Budget: For first time budgets, Dave Ramsey has a free and paid option to get you two started. You enter your income and it can divvy up your money into various categories.

Another advantage of using the above mentioned tools is that it can be incredibly easy to keep one another in the loop when it comes to your money.  Even if one of you takes charge of the day to day finances, it’s important that you both know how much is coming in and where it is going. Money and communication go hand in hand with a successful partnership.

One last tip, I’d like to point out is to give yourself time to make mistakes and improve. Even if the two of you are on the same page, it can take time to get it right. We ourselves have worked to make sure that our family’s budget works for both of us. It’s well worth the effort and we’re less stressed about money and more focused on each other and our goals.

Thoughts on Encouraging Your Spouse to Save

What about you? How do you create a family budget? What has worked really well for you? What helped you two to work it out?

Photo Credits: 401K and giumaiolini

by Elle Martinez

Elle Martinez helps families at Couple Money achieve financial freedom by sharing tips for reducing debt, increase income, and building net worth. Learn how to live on one income and have fun with the second..

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  1. I think the key is to handle the family finances together…if ONE person lives on a budget, one would think the other would have to as well.

    1. I agree! When a couple comes up with a budget together I think it makes it much easier to follow through on the budget together.