“How can I get my spouse/partner on the same page?”

by Leo on January 6, 2011

On Tuesday I asked my readers to help Dee with a question:

“One thing I would like to see is how to get your
spouse/partner on the same page.  My husband is
a spender and buys into the whole instant
gratification deal…”

There were quite a few suggestions of “divorce”
or something similar.

I’ll quote some more suggestions below but so
far my advice is a combination of the best
suggestions.

Sandra suggested weekly meetings to review their
financial situation.

Dena suggested adding up all the finance charges
and late fees and then asking the question:

“is there any thing we could have bought with
this ? do you like throwing your money away
to big companies instead of give it to someone
of your choice.”

I absolutely love the weekly meeting idea but
I KNOW a bunch of people are at this moment
thinking “there is NO WAY {Name} is going to
sit still for that.”

No problem.

Prepare a weekly report.  After the first one
they’ll be pretty easy to update.

It should include:

-a list of all your expenses

-your list of debts

-any new charges/bills

-any finance charges

-a running total of the finance charges from as
many years back as you can find

-translate those finance charges to something he/she
would like to have/do

-total up the weekly outflow

-Show the monthly payments as a percentage of income.
In other words, if your total monthly payments for
all bills and debts is $1000 and your monthly income
is $2,000, the percentage is 50%.

Turn up the heat by requesting a “Benefit Estimate”
from the Social Security administration. (U.S. Only)

Start the process here:

http://www.ssa.gov/estimator/
{click the red box on the right}

They will send you a report (I get one sent
automatically a couple times a year I think)
that details how much you will get from
Social Security when you retire.

Usually that’s a scary number when you imagine
having to pay your regular living expenses and debt payments.

If you can find media stories of people suffering
because they had money habits similar
to your uncooperative partner, that would be good
to throw into the weekly report.

Now I’m no “ologist” of any kind but I say simply
make the report available…”NO JUDGMENT” as Sandra
says…”hey I ran a financial snapshot on us this
weekend, you might find it interesting and here’s
the report”…leave it near their coffee cup…and
GET OUT OF THE ROOM!

Do this for a month or two and see what happens.

Actually this is all good stuff to do regardless
of the cooperation of anyone else.  Do all
this for yourself every week.

Please give this a try and let me know how it
goes.  In the meantime below I’ve included
some of the advice my readers sent in.

Feel free to leave your own suggestions by
clicking on COMMENTS.

Thanks!

Leo

Sandra says…

While I do believe that there’s not one
answer that will work for everyone, one
thing that has definitely helped my husband
and I is to have weekly financial meetings.

I credit the fact (no pun intended) that we
now have our debts paid off in no small
part to you and to these weekly meetings.

We go over what each of us has spent during
the week, what bills have been paid and are
coming up, and our overall financial picture.

There’s something about sharing this information
and being accountable to each other that has
gone a long way to helping us clean up our
financial act. Part of what makes it work
for us is the agreement that no matter how
bad the situation may look, we are here to
support each other.

If someone has a suggestion for the other,
we just listen first and then discuss whether
the idea can be implemented or not. The biggest
thing is NO JUDGMENT.

Somehow, having that as a primary rule has
made us want to do the right thing financially
more often than not without a lot of unpleasantness.

Another thing that helps is we each have some “fun”
money that we don’t have to answer to the other for.

I hope this helps someone. I know that our
financial life is better for our weekly meetings!

Corleen says…

It sounds like Dee’s been battling
this for years with her husband.
She states every time “she” gets
things paid down, “he” gets new
credit.

Let HIM pay them down.  Let HIM
be accountable.  Let HIM go thru
the agony of paying the bills down.
There’s no repercussion on his part.
Quit bailing him out! End of story!

Nothing else sounds like it’s working.

Loretta says…

I don’t know what will work for Dee,

I just know what worked for me.  I have
been with my husband 50 years.  We have
to different ideas how to manage money.

I handled the money for 15 fifteen years
without dipping into the nest egg & then
when he retired from the service,  he blew
it all & I said that I was so tired of
being his conscience that he could just
take over the household money, but that
I would have my own account  without his
name on it & guess what, he finally woke
up to see my way of handling money.

His “long” term investment was beginning to
lose money because he never looked at the
bottom line.  Now he will not think that
I am just being a nudge.

I don’t know  how to manage her husband, but to try
“any thing” that she believes that a child
will respond to. He is a child at the candy
store & therapy is not going to do it.
Just make an independent decision to change
your own way of dealing with a child that
is acting out. Please remain on this web
site with LEO< my guru in all things
financial.

Dena says…

regarding chronic use of credit cards.
there is a feeling of power, status…
using a card suggestions:    sit down
with the years statements. add finance charges,
late fees, membership fees…then ask the
question, is there any thing we could have
bought with this ? do you like throwing
your money away to big companies instead
of give it to someone of your choice.

encourage him to use quicken and total
his spending categories and switch him
to a debit card off you checking account
and use online banking to monitor what
you are doing.

been there done that.    cash is king !

Sue says…

Well, Dee, I know the frustration of trying
to control what u can have no control over.
Don’t give up. Buts its a battle worth picking.
Not to fight it but to let it go (which is harder).

I would completely separate financially and
consider my husband a roomate with benefits.
If he can’t agree to live in a reasonable place
of wisdom and stick w it for the obvious
benefits then stop sticking w his insanity
and trying to remove the stripes off the tiger.

If he wants to swim in deep water he’ll
eventually drown and he can only blame himself.

But as for u, keep swimming to shore and maybe
a more mature man is waiting on the beach!

Victoria says…

I would suggest (since he seems bent on using
credit cards, etc.) that each one he pays off –
he uses the money he would have paid to the
monthly balance to put into a 401k or CD.
This way, each month, that money is actually
working for him.

Then, with a CD, at the maturation date – use
it for a large-ticket item (cruise? Travel to
foreign destination? Gi-normous TV?).
He still gets to ‘spend’ the money, and maybe
there will be a little bit extra (left-over)
that he can then put into a new CD and start
all over again.

He still has to make the ‘payments’ – it just
goes into a different type of ‘pay-off’!!

Cristin says…

I don’t have an answer for getting one’s
spouse on board with debt reduction, but it
may help to remove some of the temptation.

I opted out of pre-approved credit card offers
through Direct Marketing Association
(www.dmachoice.org) and now I don’t get
handfuls of come-ons every week.

This may help Dee’s situation.

Here is a link of other ways to achieve
the same end…

http://www.ehow.com/how_5899309_eliminate-credit-card-offers.html

***

Please leave your own comments/suggestions below.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymouse January 6, 2011 at 8:46 am

Thoughts:
-Find out when would be a good time to talk about finances.

Don’t nag. Just ask. If they aren’t receptive to the idea ‘right now,’ then find out when would be a good time. What worked for me: “I think we really need to look at our finances & budget soon; when would be a good time for you to help me with some new ideas?” Biggest thing I found is finding a time when the other person WANTS to be on board about debt reduction. Be patient; it may be a LONG time. Meantime, do what you can to help situation. It’s possible to work around someone if they are even remotely interested in the idea, but aren’t ready to commit to action just yet.

-Don’t complicate things.

If your SO/Spouse is not a detail freak, don’t make him a complex spreadsheet. He’ll just glaze over. Instead, give him/her what he wants in terms he can understand, and ask him what he would be able to do (however small) to contribute to the goal. Set a short-term goal, and have him report his achievements. Don’t forget the Brownie Points!

-Find a ‘drive home’ point and bring it up so that it affects the other person.

A common remark by my own DH was: “We’re making the payments aren’t we? Then what’s the problem?” I turned it around one day: We certainly were making the payments with no problems, but several hundred dollars was going to those minimum payments, and I’d venture to guess around 80% of it was going to INTEREST! His having to work OT was doing us NO good, which really made him think.

-Ask him/her to come up with ideas on finding ‘bigger chunks’ of money to dump on debt. Got a lot of ‘stuff?’ Sell something. Find out if there’s anything they really aren’t using and if they might know someone who would be willing to buy it. Big chunks (even if they come with a big loss) are often worth the reduced stress and sense of satisfaction you get from ‘cleaning up’ and seeing a big change in the bottom line debt number.

Bottom line: Work WITH your SO/Spouse, don’t come at them as a competing force. You’re on the same team, and the goal should be mutual. Set short-term ones rather than looking at a huge debt number. Reward yourselves for a job well done, and make sure to let the other person know how much their input is valued.

Lisa January 6, 2011 at 8:48 am

Hi there. I can only say what I have done, and gotten a pretty good response!

I did a complete budget, showing what we owe, and what we pay out each month, and where we need to be. Then I discovered how much OVER THE BUDGET we were. So we sat down together, and I said HELP me make a budget that makes us happy and we can get things done.

He still wants his spending money (I am always the only one willing to give that up to pay down debt) so I said, let’s both have a bit of money each week that we can do whatever we want with it, but because we have major debt to pay down, it is coming out of groceries, since usually it is spent on money.

So right now, our grocery budget is smaller, but we both have a bit of cash to spend (mine may go to retirement in the end. I don’t like to spend)

He spends less now because he knows we want to pay down debt. If he wants to eat out..it comes out of our food budget for the week, THUS less food at home for the kiddos and that sometimes deters the eating out.

Basically I don’t fight with him (ever actually) or argue, or accuse him of spending money. Instead, I just make sure that we both have the same cash to spend (In my case save) and he has been a part of the budget making so he does much better.

Basically MAKE THEM THINK THEY came up with the ideas, or that THEY have more control of the money and maybe they will be smarter too.

Christina January 6, 2011 at 8:51 am

I have tried a couple of different things with my spouse. First, I limited how much money he could have a week and let him deal with the budget from that and I paid all the bills but he was mad about the cuts I made to the bills and how he couldn’t go buy whatever he wanted.

The next thing I did is figure out how many of the bills he could pay out of his wages comfortably and we got separate free checking accounts.

He now has to pay the internet, phone, satelite dish, electric, his vehicle and insurance. I have the house payment, insurance, groceries, and medical. This way he understands that wanting all the movie channels isn’t worth the cost and how long it actually takes to pay off the loan he got.

I wouldn’t call him a willing participate but it works. If he does start to get upset about the bills he pays, I simply point out the fact that I pay the mortgage which is more than he makes in a month.

He has drastically reduce how much money he blows by buying snacks and stuff on the way to work and stops at the fast food joint. He even reduced his internet and phone bills, as I had attempted, after a few months of paying them.

He also chose to pay more money on his vehicle loan so that he would get it paid off sooner.

Jim January 6, 2011 at 9:26 am

We recently had some friends that had this same problem and still do. We helped the wife to figure out her expenses & income. We made a budget on pearbudget.com (Just a simple to use budget spreadsheet showing money in & out & whether or not they were over or under. She was quite surprised herself to figure out why they weren’t making it each month & areas where they needed to cut back. She had been pushing her husband for quite a while to sit down with her & work on the finances. Finally after she was set up on pearbudget, she had him come in so that she could show him what she had done, & enter some receipts that they had accumulated already. He was so shocked when he saw the end result showing that they were way overspending the amt. of money they had coming in. I think now, he’s more on board & into it after he had a visual of what his financial pictures really looks like!

SusanJoy January 6, 2011 at 9:33 am

I think Dee hit it precisely by naming it “instant gratification”. Getting “IT” now rather than later by laying down plastic — Google “EQ & Marshmallow test” — it is pretty amazing but explains a lot. IQ = Intelligence Quotient — EQ = emotional quotient. The test showed that the EQ ability to postpone immediate gratification for a later (& often greater) gratification accompanied success in a broad range of areas, including relationships, finances and employment success & satisfaction. The “child” reference is also accurate, for deep down, we are all that “child” INSIDE but as we mature, we are supposed to be able to distinguish between what we WANT and what we NEED — and the value/cost of getting it, getting it NOW or forgoing IT for something later/better or within a more advantageous financial. That isn’t to say that we should not get some of the things that we WANT – but in a marriage/relationship, it is not all about the WANTS of the one but the NEEDS of the two … So! Intellectually, he probably knows better –Emotionally, he has “gaps” and getting stuff NOW feeds that gap!

Lee January 11, 2011 at 9:50 am

Sit down with him and tell him that since your money values are so different and that you do not want to be constantly in debit, you will now have separate checking accounts. You will divide up expenses equally. Your debts will be separate from his. For instance, you will pay the mortgage/rent if he pays for utilities/groceries. He may not establish any debt in your name. Then stick to it, and show him monthly or maybe quarterly, how far ahead of him you are financially. If he sees the difference, he may come around at least a little to your way of thinking. But… don’t forget to budget a little to have fun with him. Take him for a night out or a weekend you may not have been able to afford with his way of spending.

Eleanor January 11, 2011 at 11:10 am

As a minister and spiritual counselor, I would like to add another suggestion of something which can be done in addition to the fine ideas above. The situation between this couple has an energy all its own which can be shifted by the wife/saver changing her idea of her husband/spender. Right now she thinks of him as being a reckless spender who is immature and putting their finances in jeopardy. She could adopt a new mental image of her husband, seeing him as a loving, responsible person who always does what is loving and constructive for the family. This will entail the wife forgiving his past behavior and being willing to see him in a new light, BEFORE the new behavior is visible. This inner work will change the energy in the situation and then outer behavior will change. The work is to be done in secret, without telling him or anyone else. She is telling herself a new truth which she wants her subconscious mind to accept in place of the old experience. This method will work but there is an even easier way. The easiest way I know to make this shift is to use an affirmation we have used in our church with very satisfying, successful results over and over. I have modified the wording slightly to fit this situation:
“The long arm of God reaches out over our finances, bringing about Divine Justice, and protecting our interests.” It is amazing what this prayer will do if you use it consciously. Just think it or say it several times a day in a thoughtful manner, especially when thoughts of bills come to mind. One beauty of it is that it doesn’t matter what your concept of God is, it will still be effective. If you use this prayer, be prepared for positive changes to happen. Of course this requires openness on the part of the one saying the prayer, that he/she too will be changed, since it is our own energy which is holding our experiences in place. This affirmation can be used for other situations too, not just finances. I have found that it is important for us to realize that Divine Justice may not always look like what we would call human justice. Blessings and Peace.

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