Hello everybody, welcome to episode 125 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino and we’ve got a nice question coming to you today about money conversations with your partner.
Yes, that and couples spending. It’s all too often that money problems or money miscommunication anyway can ruin relationships, and today will help a troubled woman put together a good conversation for her to have with her husband about their expenses. Let’s hear her question and do our best to help out…
QUESTION: “My husband and I view our finances and budgeting very differently. I oversee and pay for the bills, and he insists that we always have more to spend, and does spend on things that we (I) don’t plan for. Is there any kind of way I can get him to change his spending habits without nagging or being too pushy?“
Finances are Personal and Important
What a nicely framed question – very polite of you. Thank you for sending this in. I mentioned this recently, but I’ve become more and more enthusiastic about budgeting, financial planning, and all things personal finance lately. I can’t talk about this stuff enough, so I’m happy to have the opportunity to blend two of my passions together here.
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First and foremost, it seems evident in your question that you want this process to be smooth. Seems like you want to stay non-aggressive and not shame your husband, which is terrific.
Finances are very personal and very important, so a conversation about a topic of such magnitude should definitely be about unity and respect (as should all conversations, but something like this in particular involving a conversation about money with your partner).
I’d encourage you not to think of yourself as a nag for wanting to discuss something like this, not only because you’re not being a nag, but because you can definitely approach the subject in a way that’s looking out for the best interests of the two of you.
Regardless of how frustrated you are or how tempted you may or may not be to want to slap some sense into him, leading with the philosophy of mutual benefit is key. I have a feeling you’re already thinking that way, though.
So again, gold star.
Money Conversations: Effective Communication
I will say that whether it’s finances or something else that you feel is putting great stress on you, and if your husband is at least partly to blame, it’s important to articulate that. And if the partnership is good, he should be receptive to that.
I’ve said on here a million times that communication is so important. But let’s consider how you can go about constructing effective communication with your partner about your specific financial situation.
As with all conversations in which you’d like the other person to adjust a destructive behavior, I highly suggest there being respect and trust built first.
Even with the best of intentions, we often resort to yelling at and shaming people for their behavior. This barely ever works, especially if we’re doing this to an adult who is not as impressionable or scares as easily as a child.
Explore Your Partner's Financial Needs
What this means for your conversation, is that it could be good to lead with the exploration of your husband’s financial desires or needs. Hear him out and see where he’s coming from first, and then you can articulate your feelings and work to come up with a plan together.
Some ways to start this dialogue and get him being a bit more mindful about spending would be to ask him to reflect on things he might have wanted in the past that he wasn’t able to afford. Or how much use he’s gotten out of the things he chose to buy that were out of the budget.
There is no accusation here. You’re simply warming him up to the idea that maybe he could have gotten more fulfillment out of spending differently.
Again, help him feel as though you’re looking out for his best interest. Which as his wife, I’m sure you are.
Unless this ends up being one of those spousal homicide storylines one might find on the Investigation Discovery channel. Let’s hope not.
Money Conversations: Financial Decisions
Throughout this conversation, you’ll probably find that he wishes he’d made some different financial decisions, and again, he can come to this conclusion before you even mention the stress his decisions have brought unto you.
Like most people with poor spending habits, I’d be willing to guess your husband spends the way he does because he does not want to be held down by money. Whether he is trying to keep up with the Jones’ or just try a lot of different hobbies or gadgets, poor spending can usually be boiled down to wanting some type of financial freedom.
Many people who don’t want money to be a concern spend as if it isn’t. As we know, this behavior will only distance us from true financial freedom.
The Freedom from Planning
What you can do (either yourself, or with the aid of a financial advisor if you feel your husband would be responsive to it) is remind him of how much freedom does come from planning.
We see this in many areas of life – it goes far beyond money. While planning gives the illusion of no time for spontaneity, it paradoxically frees up space for spontaneity because you won’t have to use brainpower on struggling to figure out where the money or whatever else is going to come from. If it’s already planned in advance, there’s less of a need to scramble, and any negative effects of spontaneous choices are better stifled.
Think about it. Why are you good at saving? Probably because you’ve considered what you want to save for – what priorities are important for you to make sure you have enough money for.
Cultivate this mindset in your husband. Continue shifting focus onto him, and ask him what he wants. What does he want to plan for? What does he want to afford down the road, and how will his financial decisions today affect that? A startling number of people don’t ask themselves these simple, yet important questions, and I have a gut feeling that your husband is one of them.
Let him know that, as his wife, you want to make sure his dreams can be realized and that you want to help him do that. Crunch the numbers together, and be open minded enough in this endeavor that you’re even willing to flex on your restrictions!
This should be a learning experience for you too, and if you two do the math together and find that you may be saving more than you need to, then find a common ground for budgeting.
Money Conversations With Your Partner: Conclusion
While this conversation is seemingly about helping your husband save better, there’s much more to it – many more ways for you to both benefit.
See it as an opportunity to show mutual respect, understand where he’s coming from, help him reach his goals, and more importantly, help you both reach your goals. After all, research has found a strong correlation between mutual financial goals and values to relationship satisfaction.
Ideally, somewhere in this conversation, you two will discuss what you both want in the future and how you can efficiently save for purchases that mean a lot to both of you.
The more ways you can discover that you’re on the same page, the easier the conversation will be, and the better you two can grow together.
And if you have the same ideas or goals you want to reach, the relationship will really thrive financially and spiritually.
To the woman who sent this question in, thank you so much for paving the way for couples and money conversations everywhere.
The odd personal nature of money can be so personal that sometimes couples won’t even want to get into the discussion with their significant others which, as you know, is a big problem. So for you to come to us with this topic and want to handle it gracefully is really awesome, and I hope you got something from this episode about how to do that.
Now for everyone else, you know you can send your questions in as well. Email them to us at advice AT oldpodcast DOT com
We’ll take them there, email you with an answer in a few days, have a dialogue about it over email if you need to, and then you’ll hear it on the show. Easy peasy, don’t be shy. T