You might be thrifty as hell; you may live within your means, make sensible choices, and do everything right in order to keep your bank balance in the black. However, if you’re sharing your home, and finances, with a profligate partner who refuses to reign in the spending (or worse, labours under the assumption that they are actually being very thrifty) then life can be really difficult.
Everyone’s relationship is different, and how you tackle sticky issues varies. However, here are a few ways in which to approach your partner, and to gain a tighter reign on the finances yourself so you can help steer a surer course for you and your family.
Obviously this is the clear place to start. If your partner has a clear and persistent spending problem that is causing problems for the joint household, then you are well within your rights to gently sit them down and talk to them about it.
A good way to approach this is to sit down with receipts or your previous bank balance that details all the transactions that have taken place over that last few months, and to go through all the spends together. Talk to your partner about why the transactions were made, when they were made, etc. This may sound awful and controlling but remember that this is your financial future too. Don’t be confrontational about it, instead approach the occasion as an opportunity to realign your thinking and awareness of the current state of your joint finances.
Sometimes, having some physical evidence in front of them that they can see and touch can make it easier for someone to understand something. It can really serve to highlight that the money they are spending is real and they can see the consequences of it on your joint bank balance.
In order to keep the occasion as non-confrontational as possible (which can sometimes be difficult when it comes to discussing money), try asking your partner a few of these questions so you can gain a better understanding of their way of thinking:
- How do you feel about our finances right now?
- How much would you like to be saving every month, ideally?
- What stresses you out, financially speaking?
If they refuse to sit down, or say you’re being ridiculous or paranoid, then that’s frustrating, but try to bear it out.
Instead, every time you’re together and your partner is going to make a useless spend; give them a gentle nudge. Just say ‘oh is this a necessary spend? Don’t we already have… xyz’. Asking them to stop and think in the moment, taking a pause before each transaction can make them more mindful of what they are doing and if they really need to make this purchase. If they say you’re nagging, then you have full permission to go nuclear on them, especially if your finances are shared. It’s a joint responsibility and it’s a joint consequence if you begin to accumulate debt through their bad habits.
2. Attend therapy. Of a sorts.
Financial therapy is thing that actually exists. You can either buy a book and work through it together, or literally go and both see a financial therapist. Hearing things from a third party expert can sometimes make the difference to someone. They can see their behaviour more clearly from a different perspective, and may be less defensive if it is coming from an expert who is outside of the relationship. Furthermore, with a therapist you can actually build up solid positive financial habits with which to replace the bad ones you are trying to shed. It is a way of both tackling the problem together and relearning how to be financially literate in a way you both understand.
Maybe your partner is spending money because there’s something they really, really, want. Maybe it’s a super special five star holiday they’ve been dreaming about since childhood, maybe they want to impress their boss with expensive work lunches, or their high achieving sibling by rocking up to Sunday lunch in a new car. Maybe their spending is even rooted in something else entirely; fear that they are not providing enough for their family, or worry that the money will go and they’ll have nothing to show for it. There are many reasons why people spend money. You just need to figure out your partner’s.
Sit down together and find out what it is they want (in a return to point number 1), and communicate. If it’s a new car or super special holiday maybe it’s a cost you can compromise on. Open a new joint savings account and save towards that together every month, with the understanding that you’ll spend less on other things. With this joint goal you will not only be working towards the same thing, but it will also open a channel of communication when it comes to challenging or questioning unnecessary spends they make on other things.
4. Set clear parameters
Whilst it may be a bit much to totally uncouple your finances from your partner (although this is definitely a measure to consider if they start to drag you down into debt), making it clear exactly what each person needs to be responsible for financially can make things a lot clearer and easier to manage on a daily level.
Sit down together and make a list of all the financial responsibilities you share. Ie.
household utility bills
credit card payments
Make sure the list is totally exhaustive, then divvy up the payments. If your partner knows that they have to make certain payments they may be more likely to control their spending to ensure they make all the payments they’re supposed to.
You could even ensure that ‘savings’ come under your list, so that you can make sure you are putting away enough money each month.
Money is stressful, and talking about money can be even more so, but nothing ever got fixed that wasn’t discussed first. Grit your teeth and talk to your partner before your money troubles spiral out of control. Usually, when something is clarified it can be more easily rectified.