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Q&A: How do I get my husband on board with living a debt-free life?

I am just beginning on my mission to get out of debt, live more simply, and find happiness with the bounty that I have before me. I feel inspired and motivated and have put together a rough plan about how to accomplish this. My problem is getting my family on board.

My husband falls victim to “needing” the latest gadget, random shopping trips, and keeping up with the neighbors’ latest toys. I take care of the budget and bill paying but I don’t want to treat him like a child and control all of his spending. How do I get everyone on board with living a simple and happy life? -Stephanie

This question is something that comes into my email in various forms on an almost weekly basis — and my heart goes out to all of you who are struggling to get on the same page with your spouse financially.

I’m not a marriage expert and I’ve been blessed with a husband who is goal-oriented and a bit of a nerd when it comes to spreadsheets (I use the term “nerd” endearingly!), so I can’t guarantee that I have any brilliant words of wisdom to offer. But we’ve had a number of other areas where we’ve not always seen eye-to-eye on in our marriage and here are some things I’ve learned — mostly the hard way!

1) Nagging Doesn’t Work

If you want to ruin your relationship, start trying to nag and drag your spouse along with your latest and greatest ideas. It’s a recipe for disaster — and discord.

2) It Has To Be an Us Thing, Not a Me Thing

There is no “I” in team. If you want to successfully get on the same page, it has to be a game plan you come up with together.

Don’t expect your spouse to jump on board with you. Instead, ask your spouse if you can sit down together and talk about where you both are financially and where you both want to go together.

3) Compromise Is Key

When you sit down to discuss your finances, come with an open mind. Don’t have everything all mapped out and badger your spouse into signing off on your plan.

Share your concerns in a gentle manner and then listen to your spouse’s thoughts and concerns. If they see that you genuinely want to work with them and want to hear their heart on the matter, they are going to be much more apt to join you in the journey. But they will likely resist from the get-go if you don’t seem to care about their desires and or have any willingness to compromise.

4) Give Grace — And Some Breathing Room!

In most marriages there is one spouse who is more of a spender and one who is more of a saver. In our marriage, my husband is the spender and I’m the saver.

For me, I’d be pretty much fine with rarely ever spending money. However, I’ve learned that my husband is happier when he has a little breathing room in the budget.

But instead of our opposite natures causing a lot of conflict, we’ve actually helped balance each other out. Since being married, my husband has become more frugal and careful in how we steward our money and I’ve learned to lighten up and learn to enjoy life a little more.

Because of our different personalities and natures, we’ve found a beautiful compromise in an agreed-upon blow category in our budget. We each get an allotted amount of money that we can spend on whatever we’d like, whenever we’d like. This set-up has worked well for us and prevented many unnecessary arguments over money.

When we both accept our differences, agree to compromise, set goals for our family together, and give each other grace, we have so much more unity. And this unity propels us to both be working together to wisely steward our money — instead of constantly fighting and bickering over stuff that really isn’t going to matter too much in 25 years from now.

For more suggestions, check out my post on How Can We Improve Communication About Finances In Marriage?

I’d love for the rest of you to chime in with advice and suggestions for Stephanie. What has worked to help you improve communication about finances with your spouse?

photo from BigStock

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  • Jennifer says:

    I agree with Crystal! In our marriage I wanted to establish a cash budget from the beginning but had to be patient to let my husband lead in all things and waited until this summer for my husband to mention his desire to go to cash. We’ve done three months so far and I don’t see us going back yet. We’re also listening to Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University CDs recently, I took the class myself as a single woman years ago. Dave talks about discussing with your spouse why/or why not they do/don’t want a budget and just really listening. Some may say they don’t want to be controlled but the answers are usually very enlightening and allow you to discuss deeper issues besides just numbers on paper. Also, Dave Ramsey talks about the nerd in the relationship should be the one to first write their ideal budget then ask the free spirited one to look over it and make some changes so they don’t feel locked in, which means both partners are actually partners in the financial decision making.
    And for us, the blow/personal spending envelopes are the best. No questions asked if I want to spend all mine on eating out lunch with friends or husband wants to buy expensive camera equipment. So long as our purchases aren’t ungodly or harmful, anything goes and there is freedom in those envelopes!

  • Kelly A. says:

    This describes my husband and I completely and is probably a lot more common than we think. If you don’t exactly get a warm response when trying to discuss finances with your husband, just pray about it, and when the time is right you can offer your opinion as for the direction of your finances. I have made the mistake of nagging and wondering why isn’t anything changing? Why don’t I get heard? And it’s just not the right approach. Just pray, pray, pray and you will be amazed at the change you will see! Prayer is the only thing that really works!

    • I so agree! Pray, Pray, Pray!!!! My Husband is the spender and I am the saver and we did not see eye to eye at first and I am ashamed to admit that I nagged away for too long. But then I started praying and before I knew it my husband started making changes. We then took Financial peace together and now we are very much on the same page. Prayer will change everything.

  • Liz says:

    We did the Dave Ramsey class together (Thanks, Crystal for introducing me to him!) and I have to agree that each of us having “blow money” has probably saved us from a LOT of money fights.

    I’m the saver, he’s the spender but the blow money helps him to see that money is finite and helps me to see that money isn’t just for paying bills, either. 🙂

    But it took us almost 6 months of back and forth discussions about finances to actually get a plan in place.

    I’ll be praying for you tonight! 🙂

    • L. says:

      @Liz: This was (almost) going to be my answer to a T. My husband wasn’t on the extreme end of a buy-don’t-save mentality, but we also didn’t always see things the same way. (Honestly, we still don’t always see things eye-to-eye but not in the way it was before!). We did the FPU class a few years ago and it made a WORLD of difference in both of us individually and, most importantly, in our marriage. He got so excited and motivated in the class that he almost saw it as a (healthy) competition and began making all these goals to pay off the debt we had and build our savings. He’s on a mortgage crusade right now, wanting to pay it off ASAP, and I’m pretty happy about it!

  • Jessie says:

    I struggled to get my husband on the same path as I was on in regards to our financial matters. Finally, I ordered some of Dave Ramsey’s dvd’s from the library and asked my dear husband if he would watch it with me during nap time. He really enjoyed the dvd’s and thought that Dave was funny. It is amazing how enthusiastic he has become about shedding our debt ! Could you try a similar route? Good luck!

    • Heather says:

      We did the exact same thing…watched the DVD together and it got us both on board too!
      One other thing we do, aside from our mad money accounts (blow money), is that my husband is the only one who works and get paid hourly, but gets a chance to make overtime occassionally. Since he works so hard, we take just 10% solely off the OT earned on the paycheck its paid to him and save that aside too. This is used for date nights/babysitter fees when we have spent so much time apart, its nice to catch up and not have it dip into our regular budget to have a fun, but frugal, night out. What is left over, which is usually a lot, goes into savings at the end of the month!

  • NatPatBen says:

    Same situation here. I may have to step back, because I will spend hours coming up with a budget and then share it with my husband with the expectation that he will be in agreement. (Note: I work full time. He is a stay-at-home-dad to our 10 month old daughter.)

    We have the “blow” category as you do. The challenge is in how much we think is appropriate for each of us to get to blow. Payday: we each get $xyz. Payday-night: my husband has spent all of his $. By the next payday, I still have money left over.

    He definitely feels that I’m very controlling regarding the money. Time has shown multiple times that if given free reign, he’ll spend us deep into a hole. It’s definitely a struggle.

    I look forward to seeing comments of how others have successfully addressed this.

  • One thing that has really helped my husband and I in our marriage is that every pay day we each get an “allowance”. I take a set amount of cash out for each of us when I withdraw our grocery and household cash each pay day and that money is ours to do what we like with.

    We cannot tell each other how to spend it or nag each other about what we do with it. If one of us wants to buy something “big” or expensive or not necessary then we save our allowance for it. We also save our personal allowances to buy each others birthday gifts, anniversary gifts, Christmas gifts and so on. Sometimes we will use our personal money to take the other out for a special or extra date night which makes it even more meaningful.

    The amount of our allowance has changed depending on our financial situation over time and in months where we are tight with out budget or are saving for something big like a trip or a household project we will sit down and talk about “giving up” part or all of our allowance that week or month to go towards the common cause.

    I love that we no longer have petty fights about who went through the drive thru or if he bought fishing gear he didn’t really need (in my opinion) or if I bought a new purse (that he didn’t really think I needed). It also allows us to feel like we have some “fun money” so sticking to our budget with the rest of our pay check feels much easier. Some people may think it’s silly or maybe even childish to have allowances as married adults but I love it!

    • FrugalSheila says:

      The “allowance” or “fun money” concept has definitely avoided a lot of strain in my marriage. It’s good to have a little pocket change to spend without guilt. I’d even go so far as to say it’s one of my “marriage savers” (something that keeps the peace between us).

      Now, if only we could just stick to our budget more diligently, we could reduce our debt!

      • Penny says:

        Yes! Setting up an allowance of personal fund$ to scatter about freely has been the #1 tool in our household. I don’t worry about what he does with his fun-money, and he continues to be disinterested in what I do with the rest of the household funds, LOL.

  • Tara says:

    I think these are great points, Crystal! My husband and I are not quite on the same page(though we’re a lot closer after taking FPU!). We’re actually both spenders which is a lot of the problem. The past couple of years though, I have really tried to start changing. I think my biggest piece of advice would be to pray! There are times when I’ve been really aggravated with a purchase he may have made or something but rather than fuss and complain I TRY to give it to God.

  • My husband and I love to work with couples ever since we took some marriage enrichment classes in seminary. My first thought is COMMUNICATION. Usually the husband and wife don’t truly understand what the other is thinking, feeling, etc.

    Our favorite communication tool is the Awareness Wheel. I know this sounds hokey, but it’s a way to communicate a clear and full message. Each spouse needs to cover all parts of the wheel while the other listens without interrupting. After both spouses have spoken and each covered all aspects of the wheel, you can ask each other questions.

    It feels hokey because it is unnatural and WORK to communicate this thoroughly. But marriages take work. Try this out just one time and see how well it works! Go into it telling your spouse that you think it’s really crazy, but worth a try. 😉

    Without going into all the techniques for using the wheel, I found a diagram to at least give you an idea of how you can work on giving and receiving complete messages to your spouse. You may be surprised at what each other is thinking, feeling, sensing, wanting, and doing! 🙂 The hardest part? FEELING is actually emotion words….not “I feel like you spend too much money”. That’s a thought, not a feeling. Saying the feelings is really tough but enlightening. And sensing is regarding the 5 senses…what are you seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting, lol. Hey, it’s thorough!,r:0,s:0,i:74

  • I just finished reading Larry Burkett recently (The Complete Financial Guide for Young Couples) and he estimates that in 80% of marriages, the wife is the bookkeeper. So I imagine the problem is more common than we think. I am the saver and my husband is the spender, and I was the first one to get excited about Dave Ramsey and living a debt-free life.

    All I can say is give him time, and set a good example in your own money management. Don’t nag him or rush him. I think my husband was a little skeptical at first because although we had debt, we paid every bill on time in full. Like many people he grew up with the philosophy of paying off the highest interest rate loans first, rather than “snowballing” from the least to greatest debt. But when we paid off our car in early 2010, he couldn’t help but get excited too. A year later we paid off our two smallest student loans, and he was even more excited. Another year after that we paid off our second mortgage, and qualified for a refinance for the first time. He gets excited with me when I save us a lot of money, and he brags to his friends about all the great deals I find. He loves when I give him coupons for free stuff, or hand him free samples that I’ve received in the mail.

    Like Crystal said above, we balance each other out well. My husband keeps me from being so money-centered, and helps me to relax and enjoy life. I would probably never eat ice cream, go out on a date, or take any trips if he weren’t there to balance my stinginess. 2 months ago I took a friend up on the suggestion to budget “fun money” (Crystal’s blow category) for each of us, and that has been nice. My husband can now spend some money on things that he wants without having to check with me first to see if there is money in the budget.

    I think if you put your relationship with your husband first (before money) then he will eventually warm up to your ideas and vision. Achieving freedom from debt will be so much harder without him on board, so don’t alienate him in your zeal. Keep reminding yourself of all his good qualities and all the things he does right, and keep praising and encouraging his efforts on behalf of your family. 🙂


  • Wendy says:

    A big thing is to allow him to make his own choices. Don’t unilaterally decide what you’re giving up – write down the options, then sit down as a couple and decide which you’re going to save on and which you’re going to splurge. Figure out how much you’d be saving if you cut everything down to bare bones, then work together to figure out how much over that you’re willing to spend for the sake of still eating out on occasion, buying new gadgets, getting enough TV to be able to see the shows you like, etc. He may really want the expensive cable package, but if you show him “We need to either cut the cable or not buy new gadgets – or you can look at the budget and figure out something else to cut” he can make his own choices.

  • Mary says:

    I have the same issues with my husband. What has helped us quite a bit is for each of us to get an “allowance” from each paycheck, in cash. That way he has spending money, but with a visible limit. I get the same amount of money, and even though I’m not much of a spender, my allowance usually goes toward buying clothes for the kids, birthday and shower gifts, date nights, and has even helped out with the expenses of a family trip to Disney World – all things that are important to me. I have been couponing for about 3 years now, and at first, he hated it, but has come around with time. He still loves to spend, but now he searches for the best deals as well as coupon codes before making any purchases, and he has learned to live contentedly and more freely within his financial boundaries.

  • kathy says:

    We sit down twice a month and do the bills together, discussing any unusual expenses or needed purchases. If we have to adjust a budget category to meet an expense we decide jointly how to do this. We make it fun by going out for abreakfast biscuit and coffee and writing checks in a quiet Booth. We actually look forward to this! In this method both partners know what has to be done for the month without feeling that the one who balances the che k Cook is being stingy. And like Crystal my husband needs his own personal spending money and so even on a tight month. I try to make sure we’re covered for that. Also, I’ll tell you what I found when we went to this way of budgeting and bills:When given the chance my husband has come up with solutions to budget problems that were better than mine and vice versa when he was trying to come up with a solution to a monetary dilema! Also, another source of our peace is that we budget and take care of the Lord’s tithe in this process but he decides how to di idea the tithe from his check and I decide how mine will be allocated ( for ex. 75% local Church, 25% Gideons, etc.My advice is to approach this as a joyful journey together and let your husband. Know you value and NEED his input.Good luck and may God bless.

  • Bobbie says:

    We have found that each having a personal ‘allowance’ works for us. That way I can save mine the items I want to buy and my husband can do the same.

  • WilliamB says:

    Sometines what’s needed is a third party to facilitate communications – minister, social worker, trusted neutral person. A person who won’t be affected by any emotion the couple brings to the conversation, who may be in a better position to hear what is meant to be said.

  • I am a big believer in letting the numbers speak for themselves. When my husband wants something (which for him it is usually something the whole family would love using or doing) I think we cannot afford I chart out his earnings and our bills and ask him to help come up with a plan to get it paid. Often he will go out and take overtime shifts to pay for what he wants, other times he will sell something he is no longer using to get it and other times he will simple say “I don’t need it that badly” and give up on it. We also have a set amount of money that is ours every month to do what we want with it. I spend mine here and there on little indulgences where as he tends to save his up for one big indulgence.

  • Meredith says:

    One of the easiest things you can do is to stay on track yourself but try not to be ridiculous with your saving at the beginning. Going from a carefree spending style to living frugally (in my opinion), should be a transition. Sure, one can say “I’m stopping all of this spending” and go cold turkey. It may work for some but getting a family on board with this style is difficult at first but it can be done! I’m exaggerating here but don’t announce to your family that you are becoming vegetarians, are starting to use reusable toilet paper, and are going to start to make all of their clothes. Be gentle and humble with your approach. If your husband has to have a new ipad, encourage him to sell something he already has or you have. If he is stuck on credit, make him us his designated credit card to pay it off that he is in control of with his allowance. After awhile, he will start to see all of the work you are putting into your saving. Just be a good example and love him no matter what….after time (yes, that part stinks) things will start to turn!

    Crystal, I have a “nerd” husband too who is a financial analyst. We have a spreadsheet for everything in our house. It’s weird but it works!

  • Sarah says:

    I would recommend taking Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University course ( not expensive!) It teaches spenders and savers on how to work together on a budget, getting along with each other and other real helpful things! You can find a local church that offers it too- many times free of cost 🙂

  • Kaitlin says:

    I was ALWAYS the person to say ‘no’ to something fun that would cost extra money and my husband resented my desire to be on a strict budget as a result.

    What got my husband to understand that sticking to the budget was important was making what we call the ‘Punch List.’ It was such a fun thing do as a couple.

    We made a list of all the ‘extra things’ we wanted to do with our money that didn’t fall into the monthly budget. I put things like ‘pay off the car’ and ‘put 3-6 months into savings’ on there. He put things like ‘new TV’ and ‘save up for vacation.’ Then we prioritized them and wrote them in the order that we would knock them out. Surprisingly, when it came to listing them in order of importance, DH was very practical!

    This was SO much fun to do together because it was a conversation about the FUN stuff we would do with our money instead of another conversation about how to stay on budget.
    Every extra dollar that we had at the end of the month went to the next Punch List item on the list and we’ve steadily been knocking them out.

    The results…..the hubs is happy about budgeting since he knows that having extra money menas that we get to do the fun stuff on the list. He also tries to stay on budget and squeeze as much as he can out of our monthly checks so that we can get to the next item on the list that much faster. I’m happy because I don’t have the be the person to say ‘no’ anymore. I just say, “sure we can get that- put it on the punch list!”

    • Lea Stormhammer says:

      I think this is the key. What a fun way to write out your financial priorities!

      Until my husband and I did this – it was a constant struggle. Now that we know where we want our money to go it’s gotten a lot easier to say “not” to the little or big things that aren’t consistent!


  • jess says:

    Oh this all sounds so familiar! Pray about it! When our church first mentioned offering another session of the Dave Ramsey FPU, I really wanted to participate. Our finances were a mess and we were fighting all the time about it. My husband didn’t want to participate. I considered attending myself but was warned that it may make the situation even more stressed. I could picute myself nagging even more once I had the information from the class. So I started praying about it. From August through October I prayed that my husband’s heart would soften to the idea of getting help with our finances. I didn’t mention once to him during that time. He would hear the updates from the planning team at church and that was it. About two weeks before the class he asked if I still wanted to join 😉 It changed our lives! Our communication is better than ever. I found there were lots of things I was doing that strained our relationship and FPU forced us to deal with the problems as a team. I hope that you and your husband can work together as a team. If you can find an FPU class to join I would highly recommend going to a class. The videos are great and we benefitted to being acountable. I will pray that your husband’s heart is also softened to the idea. Good Luck!

  • Lana says:

    I second everything Crystal said! My husband and I have been married for over 34 years and he has no concept whatsoever of the value of a dollar or what a reasonable price is for anything. He will never change and that is fine. I handle the money and he gets his pocket money in cash every month. I would never spend my money on the things he chooses to but that is fine because that money is his to spend as he likes. I am sure he sees no point in what I spend my pocket money on either! That is okay! By the way my hubby is a nerd too and I wouldn’t want it any other way!

  • Mike says:

    You definitely have to have the Blow category. Even Dave Ramsey’s classes tell you that you have to waste some money sometimes.

    I’d recommend you find an FPU class in your area and go to the first lesson (It’s Free). That might be enough to get you both more motivated to see how much more you can do and how much more fun you can have once you have no debt.

  • Sally says:

    One of my best friends sticks to a strict budget and her husband just spends and spends. He has accumulated a lot of debt and even to the point where she didn’t even have grocery money trying to keep up with his spending. It just about ruined their marriage.
    She was able to handle the issue by setting up separate accounts. She has an account that he does not have access to that she puts the grocery money in and some for the bills etc. Then he has his own account with a debit card that is “his” money. He isn’t supposed to spend more than what goes in that account each paycheck. He still wastes it all but at least they still have money to live on.
    In my opinion the worst thing you can do is give a person who has no control over spending money a credit card! Stick to cash or debit. If he isn’t willing to get on board with cutting back in every area then try splitting things up between yourselves and you take care of most of the spending yourself!

  • jen says:

    My husband and I do a LOT of financial counseling with couples in our church. Money is something that shows what our hearts value, and when different heart values are contrasted, there is opportunity for conflict and, quite frankly, to sin against the other. So, the first thing that I would encourage you to consider is the heart of what is going on for each of you. We have found that, even in our own desires to live frugally and on a budget, there are sometimes sinful motivations there (a desire for control, a lack of trust of the Lord’s future provisions, etc.). And, try to honestly consider what may be motivating your husband’s heart to keep up with the latest toys and gadgets. Let those considerations inform how you pray for him.

    For the practical, it can be very helpful when both spouses sit down and do FPU (or another financial class) together. FPU is particularly good about laying out a strong case for delayed gratification and setting goals, but the class-environment makes it less “accusatory” than a family budget meeting!

    And, I agree about the blow money! When we have worked with couples, this is one of the first things we try to help them establish in their budget, after the basic responsibilities are met!

    Finally, if there is another couple (or some other counseling resource) in your church that you and your husband both respect in regards to how they spend money, seek them out for counsel if that is mutually agreeable! It can be valuable to have third party wisdom around when working through a budget.

  • A smith says:

    If you are a Christian , pray and ask The Lord for direction and respect your husband on the journey.

  • I like what Dave Ramsey says – that the saver needs the spender and vice versa. My husband has toned it down a little from the spending he did when he was single, and I’ve learned it’s okay to spend money every now and then. Having an allowance for each of us (a new concept for us this year) has been great since I don’t feel like I need to limit my spending to balance out what he spends, and he’s more aware of what he’s spending.

  • Jessica says:

    It helps to have a partner who is of a similar mindset regarding finance management before you get married.

    I grew up in a working poor home where my parents kept their money separate and my dad would blow his money and my mom would hoard hers after they paid bills. The end result was I did not have many of the things I needed. Dad never had money to buy me a winter coat that fit, and Mom would claim I could wear my one from last year with the broken zipper and that didn’t reach past my belly button, for example. This was in northern Michigan where we would have school cancellations due to severe cold weather in the winter (not just snowstorms).

    Because of my parents’ differing mindsets on money, their low incomes and the his-hers attitude, there was much arguing. It is hard as a child growing up in that environment, and I always felt like I wouldn’t do that to my own children.

    One of the things I looked for in a husband was not just a sense of humor, intelligence, compassion, faith, kindness and the desire to be a parent, but also wise financial management. My husband’s family instilled in him a better attitude about family finance management and I have never heard my inlaws have any issues about their money (not his, not hers, but theirs!).

    The first year of our marriage was very hard, as I’d quit my job to start graduate school, he was having a hard time finding employment because no one was hiring computer engineers 10 years ago and we’d moved across 3 states for me to go to school. I got a part time job on campus and then found a fellowship that paid for the remainder of my masters degree and provided me with a monthly stipend. DH finally found more steady employment and that year we earned about the same amount of money, less than $20k combined.

    We took on debt for my first quarter of tuition and then 2 years later, we took on a mortgage. As most investments failed to yield significant returns, we paid those debts off. We became debt free after 8 years of marriage, including our mortgage. During that time, we also paid cash for major home repairs (foundation, roof, fence, windows, hot water tank) and cash for two new to us vehicles, as well as unexpected medical expenses beyond what our insurance covered.

    Once I graduated with my masters degree, I earned significantly more than him but we just laughed it off, because we also had the goal of one of us being a stay at home parent. We realized that goal just over a year ago when I quit my job. I was the higher earner and I have the higher education level. However, I was also miserable and bringing everyone down with me. We’d been debt free for a full year when I quit my job. Giving up 60% of your family’s income is not an easy choice, especially when you have a background of deprivation like I did.

    Having a similar mindset allowed us to get through all those challenges yet still come out ahead and allowed us to achieve our dream of having one of us at home fulltime with the children.

    I guess it also helps that although we each have our own hobbies (for me it is needlework, for him it is gaming and photography) that could be very costly, we have self control to not go beyond our monthly blow money allotment. ($25 per month).

    • Andi says:

      thanks for saying how much your blow money is, I’ve been wondering what was a reasonable amount, but noone else was mentioning it. THank you!

      • Crystal says:

        I’ve heard anywhere from $10 to $200… I think a lot of it depends upon how much wiggle room you have in your budget, how much the spender spouse feels comfortable with, and how detailed your other budget categories are (i.e. if you practically cover *everything* else in your other categories, you may not need much blow money since you will truly be spending it on stuff that is totally non-essentials, etc.).

        • Amanda says:

          We usually stick to $10 per person per week.

          • NatPatBen says:

            Wow! Seeing these blow money amounts makes me really want to share this thread with my husband.

            He actually told me to call Suze Orman and tell her how little blow money each of us gets a month to see what she says… and it’s between $200 & $300 depending on the finances of the month!

            And that’s even with separate categories for entertainment, shopping, dining out, gifts, personal care.

            The thing we discussed is to eliminate those categories and add to our “blow” funds. That would actually mean *I* get more money, because right now, my husband usually spends the money in those envelopes as well as his blow money.

            • Anonymous says:

              My husband’s monthly allowance is $400. We both have well paying jobs, no debt and didn’t do that large of an amount until we had accomplished other goals. He plays golf which is, unfortunately, a very expensive hobby. My frustration about the expense has greatly reduced now that I don’t see the expenses coming through.

      • jerilyn says:

        It all depends on the budget. During our “times of plenty” we’ve had $10 a month. During our “times of want” (inlc. now) we’ve got none.

  • kristi says:

    I’m in the same boat as the reader who submitted the question. My husband constantly complains that “we” don’t have enough money for this or that, and by “we” he means HE doesn’t have thousands of dollars to spend on hunting. Honestly, not exaggerating here. I have come up with a hundreds of ways to try to get him involved with the process; making up a list of discussion questions, reviewing the budget vs. actual, asking for his input on the budget (how much do YOU think we should be spending on________ {fill in the blank}). All to no avail. Finally, I have come up with a solution and it has nothing to do with Dave Ramsey or any other financial guru. I read a book called “Boundaries” by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend. I highly recommend it to anyone who is at odds in their relationship (marriage, family of origin, parent/child, work, literally ANY relationship).

    It helped me to understand that “NO” is sometimes appropriate and there are ways to effectively use it without being a nag. I created a budget based on my husbands and my base pay. He is a fire fighter and has access to overtime. Anything in excess of his base pay is his to keep for whatever he wants. I set up a separate account that he is fully aware of but does not have access to. When his paycheck is deposited I transfer the base pay amount to the separate account and pull out the cash I have budgeted for him for fuel and work. I divy up the cash for each shift and week’s worth of gas. The rest of what’s left in his account (which can be anywhere from $40 to $500 depending on the amount of overtime) is his to do with as he pleases. When the cash in the envelope I gave him is gone, it’s gone. This method gives him a sense of control and accountabiltiy without messing up the needs of the rest of our family. If he doens’t have overtime or something to sell or the means to pick up extra work (check the job postings on craigslist; often there is a lawnscaper/tree guy/handy man looking for someone to fill a need for a day or two) then he doesn’t have the extra money he is looking for.

    After reading “Boundaries: When to say Yes, How to say No to Take Control of Your Life” I have learned that sometimes the problem is me; not him.

  • aimes says:

    Word of caution about letting the hubby have his own account to manage, or mismanage, as he will. Just make sure it has absolutely no connection whatsoever to the account where the bill money resides.

    When we married we had his, hers and ours accounts. We each had direct deposit into our own accounts and would transfer into the ours account to cover communal bills. One month I discovered several hundred dollars missing. Upon further investigation it turned out that ‘his’ account had been overdrawn (and collecting fees) so the bank decided to just take the money from the linked account instead. Of course, not a word from him on any of this before it happened.

    When we later changed banks, we reduced to only one account and I’m in charge of that one. He doesn’t get a say in it. It wasn’t a gentle conversion so much as a ‘you messed up, bad, now you have to do it my way.’ I don’t recommend this type of approach in general but it was my only choice.

    • kristi says:

      Good point! He is not linked to “my” account but I am linked to his. I had to be so I can make the transfers. Recently his account was overdrawn and I couldn’t withdraw any cash until his account was settled since I was linked to it. When his next check came in a few days later I transferred the usual amount, plus the overage I had to cover. He wasn’t happy about it but it is the consequece of his actions.

  • Brittany says:

    For me, I need to realize that there is more than one way of doing things. Recently we thought our fridge died (thankfully it didn’t). I wanted to get on craigslist and get a cheap used one and not spend more money than we had to. We live in a 50+ year old house so I’m all about not over-improving things. DH wanted to go buy a new one. He said a fridge is something important we use every day and we want it to last awhile. Thankfully ours was fine (with a new lightbulb lol)–but next time I need to consider both points of view.

    I have a feeling that will be in a couple months when he wants to buy a used car with a loan and I want to wait (and pray like crazy my 20yr old car lasts the winter!) until we can pay with cash in the spring (even though that would wipe out our savings…)

  • Monica says:

    My husband was brought up in a household where everything was purchased with a loan. His family members drove brand new cars while earning little more than minimum wage. My father in law has COPD and frequently ends up in the hospital. My husband was the one who took care of the bills when he fell ill because his parents never planned for the future and have always lived above their means.

    With the way he was brought up financially, it was no surprise that my husband was in consumer debt himself when we met. He bought everything he wanted without thinking about whether he could afford it or not. I helped him to get out of it and he was consumer debt free by the time we got married.

    Even though he’s (very slowly) gotten on board with my plan for being completely debt free, he faces challenges with impulse buys once in a while. Patience has been the key for me. As other said, nagging didn’t work. Sometimes, I would get easily frustrated with his spending habits or carelessness about money, but what I should focus on is how far he’s come. Seeing our progress has definitely helped him to become more committed to the plan.

    I recommend sitting down with him and puting all of your debts on paper. I bet the number is higher than he realizes. Then, establish a budget together. In our case, my husband usually gets more spending money than I do weekly, and I’m O.K. with that. You may have to do a few trial runs of how much to budget for each category, but eventually you will figure out what works for your family.

    I pray that you’ll get your family on board soon :).

  • Ranna says:

    Love this. My husband is the spender and I am the saver too. We are in the process of buying our first house and it’s been hard. There has been a lot of hard feelings between us. I have fully committed to the debt free lifestyle and he has “sorta” committed. After the 3rd or 4th suggestion of going to Lowes and opening a line of credit for floors, plus many more little things, I had to sit down and explain to him why I was so hurt and mad.

    Let me say, I was really hurt and here is some of the thoughts in my head:

    How could my husband be saying these things? He knows that we both made the commitment to live debt free. It’s his fault we got into trouble and ran to Dave in the first place. Would he really put us into debt AGAIN?

    It was my first instinct to throw his debt and our almost demise (but for the grace of God) in his face, but I sat down and told him this:

    I told him that I was hurt and felt like I couldn’t trust him. I didn’t feel like I could even trust him to buy a house now. I gently reminded him that going into debt means to me less-security and as a woman I crave security and safety from my husband. I quoted Proverbs 22:7 The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.

    You know what? He saw how I felt and understood what I meant. It’s so important to explain to your spouses how you look at things instead of nagging him about it. We are back on the same page and while I know there will be little things we will disagree on, he fully knows my fears and I am positive that he will be sensitive to them over the next month.

    • NatPatBen says:

      Thank you so much for this post. I’ve, in passing, stated why I don’t like debt. But I bet if I sat down and calmly explained it deeper, as you did, I’d get better results.

  • Boysmom says:

    I live this daily. When my husband and I got together we both spent money like it was growing out back. We were not spending more than we made but we were buying things we really didn’t need. I had one child and his kids were grown. We now have three children living at home (2 little ones together) and I started cutting back three years ago. My husband refuses to cut back on spending. We currently have seperate accounts and always have. It just really bothers me that I am stuck being the only one to save any money. We are in the process of purchasing land to build a new home on and I feel like I am the only one putting any money into this deal because he doesn’t know how to save. It gets really frustrating. So I feel all of your pains.

  • Meredith M. says:

    First I would read Dave Ramsey’s book yourself, then ask your husband to try it for 3 months. That’s what I did…. He was the spender, I was the saver, and we had credit card, student loan, and car debt. I told him if he didn’t like it after 3 months, we could go back to the way we were living. He agreed. That amount of time made all the difference. During those 3 months, we were able to pay for tools for his job and car repairs with cash and that’s what got him hooked. It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s been so worth it. Now 4 years later, my husband has been unemployed for the past 7 months, but we’re still in a better financial position than when we had two incomes and all that debt. Ask for the 3 months and make sure to include blow money. We still do that now, although it’s less of an amount, since we’re living on one income. The satisfaction it brings is worth it. Good luck!

  • Sarah says:

    2 weeks ago my husband wanted the latest and greatest camera. We have worked four years to get out of debt. We simply could not afford the camera. So I suggested. Sell all your old items and get a spending budget together for what you want. Get rid of all the items your not using and get something you want to use. So he sold two old cameras, a camera bag, a video recorder / some extra lenses and two jackets he had out grown. He now has his new camera, all the little new items he wanted to go with it and $80.00 for his next item he wants. I have also told our grown children instead of buying greeting cards and gifts just give him an envelope with whatever cash you would have spent and all of this tiny cash goes into his “big boy toy” account. He is so happy with this just for his birthday he got another $50 to add to his account so he now has $120 towards anything he might want computer / ham radio or photography wise when he gets the bug. Christmas is coming he can choose to grow his account more or buy his item he has also learned the art of using discounts and promo codes to get what he wants dirt cheap.

  • Val says:

    I too was wondering how to approach my husband. He wasn’t making big purchases, but was making so many little ones, it was really putting a dent in our tight budget. I prayed and thought about the best way to approach him for a while. Then it hit me that perhaps he would “get it” if I starting setting an example in a respectful and quite way. This is what I did:

    I had really been wanting a cast iron pizza pan for while. At the time it cost $35.00, but that simply wasn’t in the budget to buy with cash. So, I explained to my husband that I really wanted a cast iron pizza pan. I asked him if he would mind if I put a little jar on our nightstand to start saving for one. I told him, I would just put a dollar as well as change in it now and then.

    His first reaction was to say, “why don’t you just buy it now?” With a very sweet and kind voice I explained to him that it was important to me to not aquire debt over something so small, that wasn’t a necessity. I also told him it would be fun to see the jar grow!

    He actually found a jar for me and put in the first few dollars. We had enough money for it in four months and after that my husband really got better about paying cash for things! In fact that is what we do now for little things we want, but don’t need. Right now I am saving for a popcorn popper!

  • Flybabymom says:

    Perhaps your husband doesn’t have a clear picture of just where you stand financially as a family. You mention that you are the one who pays the bills…maybe it would help him to pay the bills with you for a month or two, to see just where the money goes. Discussing plans with this (new to him) information in mind might be more fruitful! That is something Dave Ramsey emphasizes–make a written budget _together_. And pray! Trying to push this forward all on your own will cause you lots of frustration. Lots of good ideas here…

  • Jason says:

    I couldn’t agree more with the blog category, Crystal! My wife and I use that and it’s helped a lot of the clients I’ve coached. Many of them feel constricted and trapped by a budget, so allowing spending money is a great thing!

    Sharing the concerns is also key but it’s so hard not to come across as nagging there. I often get asked this question and it’s so hard to have a good answer that works for everybody. I know many ladies that have tried everything and their spouse still abandons them and refuses to grow up.

    • mom says:

      So what do you suggest “when the ladies have tried everything and their spouse still abandons them and refuses to grow up.” How do you prevent one spouse from financially ruining the family?

  • Here is something that worked really well for my husband . . . we had a “contest”. We decided at the beginning of the month how much spending money we would each get, laid out a set of rules as to what you can buy with that money (technical gadgets, coffee at Starbucks, shopping, restaurant meals with friends – but no spouse, etc.). Then at the end of the month, we opened our wallets to see who had the most cash left. We had a convoluted system of “prizes” and rules, but you could certainly make it much simpler. It was a lot of fun and whenever we want to save money, we go back to the system – works every time!

  • S. says:

    We use Mint and it has really helped. When we are in a jam, my tendency is to blame my husband. His money trigger is food- he enjoys eating out, he doesn’t like to feel deprived, and he travels a lot for work so fast food comes into play as well. I can see that he comes by it honestly, after growing up with a Mom who had (still has) a “functional” eating disorder and a Dad who enabled said disorder to keep peace in the home. My husband and his sister actually both have a healthy relationship with food, for which I am very grateful- and surprised. So I know that we both blow our grocery budget, him slightly more than me, and in my head it becomes “we had all this extra money and he spent it on tacos and fancy coffee!” I know that this is not fair- I have my own money triggers. For example, I have gained some weight and want to feel good again. So I spend a lot more money on clothes than I used to. (Although I must note, I *do* work out. It jsut hasn’t yielded any jeans-size results!)

    My point is, Mint keeps us from sliding into the blame pit. I can look at it and see, yes, he did spend a little bit more on fast food but we also had XYZ extra bills that month, and I bought some clothing.

  • Meg says:

    When we first started on the road to living debt free, I realized that what was hard for my husband was feeling like there should be more money to spend than there was. Obviously he knew we paid for cable, heat, groceries, the mortgage…but because he wasn’t doing the, “Books,” I don’t think he really understood how much we had left to work with.

    When I put that in black and white for him, it really helped.

    Also, make sure to have these conversations at a good time. When we were first married our money, “Talks,” were always loud fights on the day we realized we were in overdraft…maxed out…etc. Try to have conversations at the beginning of the pay period and during a time when you’re not already tired, frazzled, crabby.

    Finally, as Crystal said, don’t underestimate the power of prayer! We’ve been married 15 years, and we still have ups and downs all the time, but nothing has helped as much as prayer.
    I’m also a big believer in getting help if you need it. Our attitudes about money often come from our families of origin, and that can be tough stuff to untangle. Sometimes you can get free counseling through your workplace (they pay for it as a benefit, I mean), or ask around for the name of a reputable financial planner (not someone selling specific products). Hugs!

  • L says:

    As a person in her 40s, I would love to recommend to any of you younger people, to run a retirement calculator. I like the one from Google “Bankrate retirement calculator, what does it take to retire”. I wish I would have done this in my 20s. Although my husband and I always saved the best that we could, it is an eye opener to know what it will actually take to retire. This has been the best thing for both of us to start saving more because now we have a “ballpark figure” and it is more than what we would have guessed. So even though we were always savers, now we have a “plan”. This sometimes helps curb those bigger purchases because we have a better picture of our goal.

  • cindy says:

    My husband, 14 year old son and I all have a Wishlist where we write down wants. It helps to be specific and see it written on paper. It is also interesting when an item gets crossed out because you just donnot want it anymore. Of course, it is also nice when you cross an item out because you finally got it. This Wishlist helps when you are in a store and want an item, but then someone asks, “Is it on your wishlist?” Maybe it needs to go on it first and then buy it later. It is also handy at Christmas and birthdays.

  • Danielle says:

    We agreed to an all cash budget for my husband. He gets a set amount each week. Whatever he has leftover he can use to buy whatever he wants. It has worked great. He has quite the stockpile of cash. He enjoys saving up his money and watching it grow. His big purchase so far has been an ipad. He can spend the money however he wants and he doesn’t hear me nagging about spending too much money anymore. He now realizes what he can actually live off of and thinks about purchases before buying them.

  • I agree with all of these points, but want to add to know why you really want to get out of debt and be able to convey that goal to your husband. Do you not want to leave your debt for your kids to pay? Do you want them to accrue debt just to get an education? Do you want to be able to continue your lifestyle if someone was to lose a job or experience a medical emergency? What if you have to take in and support a parent? It’s easy for us to have our own reasons in our head, but if you want your husband to see your point of view, we have to be able to express ours.

    Also, truly listen to the comments your husband provides. I too quickly dismiss his ideas, thinking they’re not good just because they’re not my own, when in reality they are really, really good ideas.

    And another, lol, don’t expect him to be on board the first time you talk about it. Sometimes it takes lots of mini-talks, or even a few big ones, for something of this magnitude to sink in. Give him time to think about it too. If he’s willing to do it because he wants to, the master plan will have a better chance of succeeding.

    • Jen says:

      Great ideas! I just wanted to point out that a child will not be held responsible to pay a deceased parent’s debt. Now, if there are any assets in the estate, those will be used to pay any debt, before an inheritance would be honored. Whether there are assets or not, though, no living relative is ever required to pay a deceased relative’s debt. Unless, of course, the living relative’s name is on the debt as well.

  • Natalie says:

    We did this in January. I was 100% in and ready to sell everything and move into a tiny apartment! Haha. My husband was totally opposite. He was all for being debt free but not at all ready to make the sacrifices. We ended up sitting down and talking it all out. We made a deal to stop getting into debt (credit cards, loans, etc.). I decided to go 1/2 as hard toward paying the bills and he agreed to meet me in the middle. He didn’t want to feel “broke”, and I didn’t want to feel weighed down by debt. We have found a balance that works for us. It is not getting us anywhere super fast, but we have a common goal and are going at a pace that keeps our home happy 🙂

  • Erin says:

    Like you, I am all about the cash budget system, the hubby not so much. I once, unsuccessfully, tried to get him on board. But after tracking our expenses for a few months, I realized since I am the one who pays all the bills and does all the household and grocery shopping, I am actually the one who does the majority of the spending. He was only spending money on lunch and gas, which is pretty manageable for our budget. So I use cash and he uses a debit card, and you know what? It still works. Sometimes, he wants a larger ticket item, like electronics, but we always talk about it as a couple first. Usually, the problem is he sees the amount in the bank account and doesn’t realize all the bills that still need to come out. Usually, all I have to do is show him a spread sheet with the details and what will be left at the end. Then he usually picks up an extra shift so he can still have it. Just remember, there are lots of ways to accomplish the same goal, and its alright for the two of you to have different styles. I would suggest sitting down and have a heart to heart with him and tell him about your financial concerns and goals and maybe have some financial info to show him where exactly you are and where your concerns are coming from Be careful to not to place blame! Then be sure to listen to how he feels about your finances. Chances are, you’ll be able to find some common ground.

  • Elizabeth Kane says:

    Great tips, Crystal. Money really can get in the way of a good relationship if you let it. Your priorities have to align somewhere when you want to make a life together. I used to be a super stickler in budget situations, but I’m starting to slowly learn the difference between budgeting for “budgeting sake” and the importance of saving for the things that matter.

  • Lisa says:

    Thank you so much for addressing this, and doing it so well! This has been a struggle for me as well. I am the saver/purger-of-stuff, in charge of the budget, and my husband is the spender/gatherer-of-stuff. In addition, I am gung-ho about paying off our debt and not acquiring any more (besides our mortgage), and he doesn’t have a problem with our debt or sometimes accumulating more. The biggest source of tension has not been in the differences themselves, but in how I approached them. I have gotten very irritated and frustrated, feeling like I was always saying no. I resorted to nagging and shutting down any conversations about money or spending.

    Finally, after much prayer, a light went off. I began to pray that God would help me have an open mind and heart. I began to see a way for us to come together in this area. My husband loves to make big plans for future projects, etc. He is always planning improvements on the house and yard, or dreaming of a newer vehicle or fun toy of some sort. Instead of just saying, “Nope, we can’t afford it,” I began to really listen to his ideas and found I liked many of them. I began to actually engage with him instead of shutting him down. I pointed out that paying off our debt would help us reach these fun goals more quickly. Lo and behold, this more positive approach made these conversations less tense! We will always be different but Lord willing we will continue to work towards being on the same page (or at least in the same chapter!).

  • Georgina Davies says:

    How Helpful! My husband and I are in the same position. I am the saver and he just spends and spends. You hit the nail on the head about the nagging. Once I stopped constantly trying to force a budget on my husband he turned a new leaf. He actually came to me with a few money saving ideas he came up with and we worked through them together. Great post, keep up the good work.

  • Stacy Cooper says:

    I think for us, I had to model my ideas and now I’ve given up the control of being in charge of the money and paying the bills. This was EXTREMELY hard for me because I think I’m better at it. To my surprise, my husband asked how much to keep in our account (for direct withdrawals for bills out of the account) and brought the remaining cash home for me to put in our envelopes according to the budget I drew up. I’m not sure what control he wanted because it seems as though I’m still mainly in control but he is happy and feeling respected as the man of our home and I still have enough control to feel secure. It’s amazing how when we live according to God’s rules how amazing things work.

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