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How to Teach Your Spouse to be Frugal

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If you want to teach your spouse to be frugal, it's not impossible. Just follow these steps to create a plan for both of you to be financially fit.

When it comes to making money changes or learning the art of frugality, you have to make sure your spouse is on board. Depending on who you’re married to, that may require you to teach your spouse to be frugal. Nothing derails a savings or retirement plan faster than a spouse who overspends or isn’t respectful of your budget.

The problem is, it’s hard to change people. Even if you want to whip your finances into shape, that doesn’t mean your spouse will be on board. However, there are a few ways to teach (or coax) your spouse into being frugal.

I personally am much more frugal than my husband, but all he needs is a little reminder and he’s right there with me. This has come after nearly a decade of working together on our finances. One thing I will say as you set out to teach your spouse to be frugal is this – tread lightly; you don’t want to come across as pushy or judgmental.

My husband has excellent taste, far better than most dudes out there, and he really does enjoy the finer things in life. He just can’t help it. He’s a classy guy who wants to try out a bottle of fine wine that he recently read about in a magazine only to realize when he looks it up that it’s $150 a bottle.

So, I’m the one who is there, encouraging him to put it on a wish list or a “someday” list. I’m the one who nudges him a bit, tells him about our goals, and gets him back on track. He’s very agreeable to all of this and it doesn’t take long to remind him of why we do what we do.

If you’re trying to teach your spouse to live by a budget, here are some tips that will help:

1. Don’t Nag

 

When my husband used to talk about places he wanted to see or things he wanted to buy, I used to think he meant right now and I used to nag and tell him about our budget or say no all the time. Now I realize, he’s just talking. He’s just taking a study break and indulging his wanderlust by reading another travel article. He knows we have a budget. He’s just having fun, dreaming about the future.

2. Be Goal Oriented

 

We both have big goals, especially for our children. We want to pay off our student loan debt, own a home, travel, pay for our kids to go to college, and be financially independent someday. All of these things are very possible with our current life trajectory and we just need to be reminded of those end goals when the current day-to-day drudgery gets us down.

3. Allow for Rewards

 

Everyone is different, but when it comes to my spouse, he really benefits from a little treat here or there. When he’s worked insanely hard or has done five 24 hour shifts at the hospital in one month without complaining, I’ll get him a new bowtie or a small bottle of bourbon, things he really appreciates and likes.

If you want to teach your spouse to be frugal, it's not impossible. Just follow these steps to create a plan for both of you to be financially fit.

These are extras that are never a part of the budget, but I always make room for small indulgences or go without myself to keep him motivated to keep on going. Everyone has different ways of achieving their goals, and I find if I thank him with a little gift from time to time, he can get the energy to push through his difficult education to get to the end goal. Seriously, y’all should see the bow tie collection now. He’s earned quite a few for his hard work the last few years. 😉

In sum, you have to cater your frugality and savings plan to the less-frugal spouse. It’s easy for those of us who are naturally frugal to go without but much harder to convince the one who isn’t to live this way. You have to make the environment safe and comfortable for them because the better they feel about it the more likely they will be amenable to your plans for the future.

 

Are you more frugal than your spouse? Are you trying to teach your partner to live by a budget? How do you keep your spouse motivated to stay on track with your shared financial goals?

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Catherine Alford is the go to personal finance expert for parents who want to better their finances and take on a more active financial role in their families.

32 Comments

  • Mark@BareBudgetGuy says:

    I got lucky in this area. We were both already fairly frugal when we met. And the cool this is that our kids pick up on it! My 6 year old made a decision not to buy something because it was too expensive. Almost brought a tear to my eye!

  • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

    Bowties! I love it! For us, staying focused on our long-term goal of moving to a homestead in the woods is our ultimate frugal reminder. Like you said, having joint goals that you’re working towards together is the best way to keep each other on track.

    Mr. FW and I are both naturally frugal, but, we still communicate about our finances and our frugality all the time. It’s just so important to stay on the same page together.

  • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says:

    Love your idea about rewards, Cat! I am lucky that Rick is mostly frugal. In our younger years, I was the NOT frugal one, but now I’ve surpassed him in frugality. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Holly@ClubThrifty says:

    Sometimes I think Greg still sees himself as a poor college student. He never spends any money on his own. I hope that never changes! =)

  • Brooke says:

    I wouldn’t call either of us frugal, but we are getting there on cutting costs! For us we are motivated differently so we have to create different levels of goals to keep each other motivated. Definitely something to keep working on together.

  • travis @debtchronicles says:

    If you approach it as “I’m gonna teach you how to be frugal!” it’ll never work. Being goal orientated, however, working with your significant other to achieve something together – that’ll work!

  • Michelle says:

    I’m definitely more frugal than Wes. I keep Wes motivated by reminding him about our financial goals. That usually keeps him in line ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Elroy says:

    We are fairly aligned budget wise, but we each get $250 a month to spend on whatever we would like. No questions asked!

  • Ben Luthi says:

    I’d also add to check yourself too. Overall, I’m frugal, but there are some things I’m downright stingy about, and we got in a lot of fights early on about them. My wife is also frugal, she just values certain things more than I do. I had to step back and realize she was just as disciplined as I was.

  • DC @ Young Adult Money says:

    My wife and I are both relatively frugal. I think your suggestion of being goal-oriented is a good one. That’s what keeps us driven to be frugal and allocate money towards our long-term goals.

  • Mrs. Maroon says:

    I relate to your thought about not nagging the second he mentions something. I’ve been horribly guilty of that in the past. I assumed that since Mr. Maroon even hinted at wanting something, he was going to run out to buy it right then. But no, he’s really just talking.

    Also now that we are unified in concrete goals – not just my previous “we can’t spend money so that we can save it” mentality – I find it to be so much easier. Nothing could be more important than a common set of goals and beliefs.

  • Deal For a Living (@DealForALiving) says:

    This one is easy. Make that spouse suffer a little bit for a couple of months and show them what it’s like if you don’t turn around the financial picture.

  • Joe @ StackingBenjamins says:

    Great stuff here….especially the “don’t nag” advice. I’m the “not frugal” member of our family. We use an allowance system. Spend whatever you want from your allowance. If it’s a big purchase, it might take me a few weeks to splurge. That keeps the budget happy and makes us look frugal (because I’m always looking for ways to get the item cheaper so I can have it more quickly OR the urge passes because I can’t have it right flippin’ now….).

  • Kalie says:

    Your last point about thoughtful rewards is really sweet. In my experience, the best way to help a spouse be more frugal is to put your lifestyle in perspective–to feel privileged that we truly have plenty, rather than feeling deprived. When you can get to a place where you are grateful and content it is easier to pass on the “extra’s” and press on toward the goal.

  • Shannon @ Financially Blonde says:

    Hubby and I have gone back and forth in our relationship as to who is the more frugal one, but thankfully now we are both on the same page and it’s all because we got on the same page with our long term goals. Now that we have very definitive long term goals, we are working as a frugal team to get there together.

  • Mr. Captain Cash says:

    Great advice, I know for us working towards our goal of reaching financial independence before 30 really ramped up when we each realized we were working and contributing to the same goal.

  • Kayla @ Everything Finance says:

    Great post Cat! It was funny and informative. I’m no where near needing this advice at this point in my single life, but if I ever do, I know who to come to for help. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank says:

    I hate being nagged. When I am nagged, I tend to rebel more. Haha! I’d rather talk about this seriously and openly.

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