Sadly, money issues are one of the leading causes of divorce in the United States. Setting up great financial practices as a couple is one the best things that people can do to give their relationship a chance to thrive.
But what happens when your money styles are out of sync – and one partner is more focused on saving, while the other is more focused on spending?
Here are some ideas to help make savings a joint goal:
- Have the conversation
Don’t make a big deal of it. State that this is something that is important to you – and something you would like for the two of you to do as a couple. Keep the conversation on the practical: “Let’s set a goal and save some money” versus an emotional blame game.
- Set a joint goal that is relatively easy to accomplish for you both
Discuss what goal you would like to tackle first. A good idea is to make it an achievable goal, and something that is positive and pleasant for you both. A good idea is to save for a vacation, or a weekend away.
- Select a method and a timeframe for saving
So where is this money going to go? If you don’t already have a joint savings account, now is a great time to set one up. Mark your calendars with your target goal date, and set up a direct deposit to automatically route money into the savings account.
As you progress, make sure you discuss how you’re doing against your goal, and keep the conversations positive. You can achieve your goal faster by cutting back in other areas of your budget, and putting the savings towards the goal.
Where many couples fail is that they make this an emotional conversation, or worse, blame their partner for being ‘bad with money’. Other contributors to savings failures are when unrealistic goals are set (“let’s be debt free in 3 months!”) or the methods to achieve the goals are impossible to live with (“let’s not go out for 3 months while we pay off our credit card!”).
Once you’ve started to build your savings muscle as a couple, you can extend this behavior into a larger long-term goal (like saving for a deposit on a house), or work toward multiple goals at once. Think about how your options in life will open up as you pay off debt, save an emergency fund, and save a base of money to grow together for your future. A simple trick to keep you on course is to build mini rewards along the way (and if they don’t cost much money, even better!)
When your goal is to help your partner get better at saving money, the #1 thing to remember that it takes a lifetime to build up financial habits, and they don’t change overnight. Be patient, be positive and make it a joint effort. Make changes in your own behavior to make sure your partner understands that you are trying to change too.
It can be helpful to talk about why they overspend (remembering what you consider overspending may seem very reasonable to your partner). A good conversation to have is to draw and review your respective ‘money family trees.’ Talk about the habits your parents instilled in you as a child, or the impact of seeing an uncle go broke, or how your sister has a bad case of the ‘keep up with the Joneses.’ You’ll learn a lot about each other by looking at your extended families behavior from an objective perspective – with the goal of understanding why you act the way you do.
There are a few other things to do while you’re at it. Make a commitment to each other to not hide spending. A great way to be open about where money goes is to set a line in the sand where each person can make a decision without the other’s input (say a $100 purchase) – but for anything over than amount, it should be discussed. This works even better when you have a budget with a set amount for discretionary spending (clothing, entertainment, eating out etc.).
If you can - a great idea is to make a commitment to live off one income and save 100% of the other. This creates a clear path to savings. And should either one of you lose your job, you won’t have to tighten your belt significantly as you’re already living well below your means.
Remember, start small, keep it positive, and make your partner see that saving is not about deprivation – but about creating positive options for your future.