If you're married or in a committed relationship, a budget can only succeed if you are both committed to it. Nathan Lippincott tackles the difficult question of how to budget when your spouse isn't willing.
The big question in everyone’s mind after they create a budget is what to do once everything is set and planned. The short answer is: live by it.
The more detailed answer includes dealing with many unexpected circumstances that may arise. In the next few blog entries, I am going to tackle some of the most common issues that may be encountered when first implementing your budget.
Getting Your Spouse On Board
One frequent concern I’ve heard clients voice is this: how do you get one’s spouse on board with a budget? You cannot create or implement a budget without your spouse’s support. Unless you work as a team, any attempts to manage money will fail and instead of decreasing tension and promoting peace, the opposite will occur. In the beginning of my budget journey, my wife believed it would not succeed and did not want to go along with it. However, she knew I had always handled finances for our family and so she allowed me to take over the entire thing, asking that I show her signs that it was working.
Having your spouse’s trust is a huge component to making a budget work, even if they are leery of its ultimate success. I was able to show her how it was working throughout the first six months and she ultimately joined my enthusiasm for it. Many people believe a budget will confine them, so they may feel like following one will ruin their life. Aim for small victories. If you can convince them to agree to a trial period, the two of you will have taken a huge step in the right direction. If a spouse is reluctant to believe in a budget, it can help to offer to create the plan yourself at first, asking them to simply agree to follow it for a test period and let the results convince them.
Make It Fun - But No Blames Games
Also, if you can make the budget easier for the spouse, it will help them to participate. Create the entire budget on the first day of each month and just review it with them. Don’t make them sit through the agony of creating it if they are uninterested. Some couples work collaboratively on their budget; others have one member creating/organizing and another following. It does not matter what arrangement you come up with as long as it is one that both of you not only agree on, but follow.
Be very careful that you do not play any “blame games” on your spouse in regards to the budget. If he or she feels attacked or blamed, they will grow defensive and unwilling to cooperate with a budget. It is important to remember that debt is shared as a couple and blaming one of you for the debt will never motivate change. Some couples have found success with creating a rewards-based system. For example, if you are working on getting rid of debt, it may help to allow the hesitant spouse to make a cash purchase after paying something off. This will help them see that a budget does not confine you, only tells you where your money is going before it is spent and allows us to use it responsibly.
There is one last option that I do not usually promote but have heard of couples using. Some couples separate their income. They sit down and calculate their yearly income contributions and distribute bills and expenses according to it. For example, if you make ¾ of the entire yearly income, then you would be responsible for ¾ of the bills. If your spouse makes ¼ of the yearly income, they are responsible to pay for ¼ of the bills. At this point, then you create and implement a budget of your own with your share of the income/expenses. This would allow you to show your spouse that it is easy to budget and that it works. I believe couples should work together on their finances, but it is better than not having any kind of financial structure or budget at all.