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.


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