Does your spouse spend WAY too much money? Is it leading to conflict in your marriage? Are your spouse's spending habits compromising your family's financial future? If so, here are some helpful tips to consider.
1. Review your financial goals and priorities together
One of the best ways for spouses to get on the same page regarding their finances is to have common goals and priorities. Reviewing these goals and priorities on a regular basis is a great way to recommit to your shared vision.
Of course, reviewing your financial goals and priorities implies that you've already set financial goals and priorities together as a couple. If you haven't, then it's about time you do! Without big picture goals to steer your financial decisions, what's driving your spending habits? Not having a purpose or action plan for your resources is a one-way ticket to nowhere. Remember, it doesn't really matter which direction you walk if there's no intended destination.
One common frustration couples run into isn't necessarily that one spouse spends too much, but rather, that one (or both) spouse's spending is diverting important resources away from a shared goal. Your husband may be spending way too much money on golf lessons because he's lost sight of the 10-year anniversary getaway you'd like to enjoy together, or the house you'd like to buy and the needed down payment you're saving for.
The key is to share your financial vision and regularly review, and recommit to that vision together. Staying focused on the ultimate prize will make it much easier to say "no" in the moment, so that you can say "yes" in the future.
2. Revisit your budget
Take the opportunity at regularly scheduled intervals to review your budget. Consider your current financial position. Take a look at the past few months to see how things have gone and discuss areas for improvement together.
Are there areas where your budget may need to increase? Can those increases be offset with compensating decreases in other areas?
This isn't intended to be a time to catch your spouse in his or her poor spending habits, but rather a time to counsel together and put a strategy in place that will lead to your success (remember, you're on the same team!).
Of course, this all implies that you have a budget in place. If that's not the case, then it's time to get one. There are many programs and apps out there to help — some of our personal favorites include: You Need A Budget, Mint, and Quicken.
There's no "one right way" to budget; so find what works best for you! The key is that your budget is clear, with complete support and buy-in from both spouses (and of course making sure it balances!).
3. Give each other some room for fun
It's possible that your spouse is feeling a little too "pinched" financially. You both sacrifice so much to achieve your long-term goals, and your spouse may just need a little wiggle room every now and then.
Even if you're living on a small budget, you don't have to feel claustrophobic in your financial house. The trick is to give yourself a little "play" money.
Make room in your budget for personal spending. Each spouse should have a set amount of money each month that he or she doesn't have to be accountable for. This money could roll-over from month to month, allowing either spouse to save up for larger personal purchases.
This simple practice can go a very long way in alleviating some of the financial stress you may be experiencing in your marriage.
4. Empower your spouse
Once you've discussed your goals and priorities together, and your budget is set, it's time to empower your spouse! You're not his or her parent; you're his or her spouse, best friend and biggest fan! You play on the same team and can only succeed together.
Resist the urge to financially "babysit" your spouse. Of course it's OK to track where you're at, and of course it's encouraged to discuss purchases together (especially large ones) — but it's not OK to make your spouse feel like he or she is your subordinate.
By empowering your spouse and extending to him or her your full trust and confidence, you'll likely be surprised at how he or she responds. Even spouses with a history of poor spending habits will probably rethink those habits and make improvements. That doesn't mean they'll make perfect financial decisions overnight, but at least they'll be headed in the right direction.
5. Remember that you're in this together
Remember, marriage is an equal partnership. No spouse should feel like his or her voice isn't being heard, or that he or she has no say in financial matters. While there may be one spouse that is more financially literate and tends to lead in financial matters, you're still in this together!
In your marriage, there may be one primary earner. Even if you're the primary breadwinner, remember that the funds and resources you acquire are yours together. Just because one spouse works at the office while the other works at home, doesn't diminish the value either one brings to the marriage as a whole — or the importance of each spouse's role.
By remembering that you're in this together, spouses will come to more fully appreciate and support each other in the roles they play — whatever those roles my be. Each spouse makes sacrifices that benefit the other. By working together, you'll be able to create a comfortable financial future and a marriage that will last.
This article was originally published on Nurturing Marriage. It has been republished here with permission.
Aaron & April are the founders of Nurturing Marriage, a website dedicated to strengthening marriages. They enjoy playing football with their two little boys, watching sports, eating cereal late at night, and going out for frozen yogurt.