Convince Your Spouse To Stop Being Such An Idiot With Money

If your household is wallowing in a sea of debt and looking to paddle your way out, you’ll need to get your live-in better/worse half on board with your plans, otherwise you’ll just be rowing in circles. Since you can’t berate loved ones into changing their ways, you’ll have to find a method to convince them that change is necessary, and that rewards will come from taking the right course.

The Debt Myth coaches you up before you engage in that uncomfortable conversation. The post recommends starting off by sharing inspiration. Relate a vision of how much less stressful things would be if you could join forces to become debt-slashing ninjas.

The path to getting on the same financial page won’t happen immediately. It’s important to give your loved one time to adjust to a more frugal lifestyle, and not lash out when things go wrong. Encouragement for self-control and whatever minimal early success you can muster together will go a lot farther than scolding.

Failing that, you can always threaten to withhold sex unless they shape up. Kidding, sorta.

Having Trouble Getting Your Spouse on Board? Start with Why [The Debt Myth]


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  1. clippy2.0 says:

    No one tell my wife, she might figure out a way to convince me not to max out our credit cards each month!

  2. PHRoG says:

    “Convince Your Spouse To Stop Being Such An Idiot With Money” – is an oxymoron. It’s not possible to convince a spouse of such a thing!

  3. Agent Hooter Enjoys Enhanced Patdowns says:

    I initially read this headline like we were about to embark on some carrot and stick training with cash being the carrot…

  4. Bsamm09 says:

    Pay your spouse so they stop acting like an idiot?

  5. pop top says:

    This is why you have the money conversation BEFORE you get married.

    • kobresia says:

      Yep, you either do it, or wish you had.

    • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

      This is why you don’t get married at age 22 and stupidly think that everyone was taught to pay bills on time and that there are such things as “mommy’s boys”.

  6. SRK says:

    While the title is a little harsh, this is a very important concept. Being on the same page with your spouse on financial matters will change your life! My wife and I had a rocky start, but once we both saw the end goals, we were able to get in sync. We’re now debt free and saving as much as possible for a large down payment on a modest house. We both had to understand the WHY before we could tackle HOW to do it. If you don’t see the the rewards together, you won’t have any motivation.

  7. aja175 says:

    Since when is withholding sex effective in a marriage?

  8. gabrewer says:

    Oh boy, let the spouse bashing begin.

    My situation, I suppose like a lot of couples’, is somewhat mixed in this regard. On the positive side, my wife and I agreed to some “rules” early on that have helped us stay on track financially — such as paying off credit cards in full every month, always contributing enough to our work place retirement plans to get any employer match, and driving our current autos until they are almost to the point of dying in the road.

    I did learn early on that, for my own piece of mind, we needed to allocate x dollars every week for my wife’s descretionary spending, under her control in her own account — which I would then not think about, lest it drive me crazy. It’s a system that does seem to work good.

    Here are my gripes though. She has very happily turned over major financial concerns to me — making investments, managing long-term debt, insurance coverage, etc. — kiddingly referring to me as her CFO. I practically have to plead with her to give any attention to — or even be aware of — these types of matters. Some guys probably are okay with this arrangement, but if I get hit by a bus tomorrow……

    Secondly are of very different mindsets on food expenditures. Even taking into account inflation, the amount we spend on food is easily four or five times what I spent as a single. I have accepted defeat on this issue. However when we are at the grocery store I will ask my wife several times if she sure’s she has gotten everything she needs for the week or if there is anything else she wants. My hope is to limit her to spending only one small fortune per week on food (and stuff) instead of two or three. One of the calls I dread getting at work is her telling me she’s going to little late getting home because she needs to stop at the grocery store to “just pick up a few things.”

    • pop top says:

      Maybe you guys need to work on meal planning? There are ways you can limit your food budget, like clipping coupons, shopping at “lower-end” grocery stores, buying generic brands, etc. And then don’t go back out for food until you’ve eaten the pantry bare.

      • gabrewer says:

        We have some limited success with coupons; just dealing with them often involves more time and effort than we are willing to give. She does plan meals, but there is still a conflict in our differences in perception. I can look in our kitchen cabinets and freezer and conclude that we have plenty for another week or so. My wife looks at the very same cabinet or freezer and goes into a near panic — contending that we are “almost ouf of everything” and need to go grocery shopping “right now.”

    • kobresia says:

      I think you need a Costco membership, and to only buy food there & nowhere else. That’ll whip the food budget into shape even if it compresses your choices a bit.

      • gabrewer says:

        Tried that once, and we were going to both Costco and our regular grocery store several times a month. She actually decided to let the Costco membership laspe, because she didn’t like the limited variety.

    • sprybuzzard says:

      I’m pretty much like your wife, except I am with you on the food bills. If my husband shops he comes home with bags full of crap he ate as a bachelor- little substance. When I shop I get some treats but mostly healthy things, stuff on sale, and spend way less for more. The solution for us is either I go alone or he goes with me so I can veto this or that.

      • gabrewer says:

        It’s not so much that she’s buys junk as it is her perception of what we really need. For example she loads up the refrigerator crisper with all kinds of produce. Which then just sits there. Then a week or two later I take it out to our compost pile. Often the prepackaged stuff has never even been opened.

    • Starrion says:

      I would completely give up on that.

      I volunteered to take over part of the food shopping because I know when to stock up on basics, and how to use coupons. I also recognize that there will be times to spent $7.29 on a little jar of smashed up imported olives because it makes her happy. For that price I know of a place that I could get a Sub sandwich so scary big that the navy would commision it. To each their own.

      I had a point there but it wandered off. If you want it done cheap, do it yourself.

    • sadie kate says:

      Hang in there! I was like your wife for a long time – my husband did the finances, and as long as I knew things were getting paid, I wasn’t really interested. I lost my job when I was pregnant, and with all the copious free time I had, I began to take an interest in our finances, and realized that while my husband had been doing a good job, there were a lot of areas that could be trimmed. Now I have full reign over the finances, he gets an allowance, and we’ve already got $4,000 in savings that we didn’t have when I took over running things about 8 months ago. So things can change.

  9. Phil Keeps It Real [Consumerist] says:

    I substituted ‘Spouse’ with ‘Self’ & things made much more sense to me.

  10. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    For years I have begged my husband to be more responsible with money. His attitude? They’ll get their effin’ money when I send it. When I try to reason with him and say, you know it’s better to pay the property taxes within the due date window instead of 2 years later with about a 50% penalty with the sheriff threatening to sell stuff, I get “quit nagging me, I know they’re due, I’m getting to it”.

    Result? I have slowly but surely separated our finances. We no longer have joint bank accounts, because he constantly overdraws. We have one bill left that’s in both our names, and of course, I end up paying it most of the time because every 6th of the month it’s a giant surprise that it’s due. His credit score is in the mid 500’s, mine is nearly 800.

    I’d like to file for divorce (the money thing is just one issue). I’m not sure what he’ll do, but I’m tired of being a mommy instead of a wife. As soon as I find a place to rent that will accept my dog and 2 cats, I’m outta here.

    • pop top says:

      Good for you. You should look into getting a storage unit (if you can afford it), so you can have a place to put any valuables/essentials/stuff you don’t want him to steal or break. That way you can start slowly getting your stuff out of there, instead of having to do it all at once.

      • Cat says:

        “getting a storage unit”

        The best thing anyone suggested I do when I sensed that my ex was about to walk. Sure enough, 2 months after I rented it, she was outtta there, and left me to deal with everything – moving out, cleaning up, paying bills. Unable to pay the apartment rent on my own, it was great to have a place to keep my stuff while the kid and I surfed couches at relatives homes for a month.

    • dolemite says:

      My wife is like that. She spends freely, but when the bills come, they sit unopened on the counter. She has a terrible credit score, but doesn’t really seem to care at all about fixing it.

      On the other hand, I pay all the bills the day they arrive, and have lots of money in savings and have a really good credit score. We keep everything separate. It’s almost like having a roommate. We used to fight about money on a weekly basis, but she’s come around a bit. I’m hoping she’ll become more responsible as time goes by. Our only real fights now concerns the 1 or 2 bills with my name on them that she is responsible for paying (like the health insurance).

  11. lifeispunny says:

    I don’t care what method you use or how long it takes you, but GET ON THE SAME PAGE about money. Best thing my now husband and I ever did was take the FPU class. If it did nothing else (which it did a lot for us) it got us thinking the same way about money.

    This is something that you never think of as an issue, but it is a BIG issue that needs to be addressed. That is unless you make 5million a year or something…

    • Elizabeth B says:

      I agree with this. My husband and I are in the middle of it, and it has changed the way we think about handling money. And we do it together. We are currently getting rid of debt! We discuss the budget when we make it and when it needs to be changed. It helped us talk about money instead of ignore it to avoid conflict. FPU is the best thing we’ve done financially.

    • eturowski says:

      Making $5 million a year does not immunize you to financial problems. See: professional athletes.

  12. scottboone says:

    All fun and games TALKING about finances…but the REAL fun will begin when, after you separate your bank accounts and put your wife on a stipend because she simply refuses to curtail her spending, she learns from friends in two hours over drinks that she can simply walk in front of a judge, lie and say you pushed her and that she fears for her safety and the safety of your children, and have you slapped with a Protection Fom Abuse order. Armed SWAT cops show up at the house where you’re watching the kids, waiting for her to get home from work, and remove you from YOUR home for four months without so much as a hearing where you get to defend yourself.
    Think that can’t happen? It does, and did. I highly recommend that men who find themselves in this situation seek the advice of an attorney, quietly, well before this kind of thing can happen, setting up a protective framework. “Scorned” women seem to have nearly unlimited power in some jurisdictions.

    • pop top says:

      One anecdote means that all women will do this!

      • sadie kate says:

        And I’m sure women who claim abuse vastly outnumber women who are actually abused and ignored or disbelieved!

    • Jane_Gage says:

      My mom did this. But hey, you guys see the big tits and the cute face, and slap that ring on, and reap what you sow.

    • scottboone says:

      Wow, talk about crazy reaction. I didn’t say EVERY woman does this. I didn’t say ALL women who make accusations of abuse are lying. What I said was that IT DOES HAPPEN and men who find themselves in a situation where they are unable to rationally discuss reasonable budgeting with a spouse would do well to consult a lawyer sooner than later rather than simply following the article’s advice. What I said was getting caught off-guard by one of those FEW women who DOES LIE can be devastating.
      Hence, better being safe than sorry. A spouse who so poorly manages finances that it puts your relationship (and financial wellbeing) at risk, is *likely* not a rational person that you’ll be able to have a reasonable discussion with. Get a lawyer first to protect yourself.

      However your responses speak multitudes to me. I’m not married (this story was not about me, I’m just aware of the circumstances); and, like many other good men I know, I have lost so much confidence in women generally that I will never be married. It can’t happen to me because I simply won’t ever get married. Has that position cost me relationships? Yes. So be it.

      • HogwartsProfessor says:

        It does happen, and I’ve seen it too. But don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Painting all women (or men, if you’re reading this and happen to be a woman) with the same brush means that if you do have a relationship with anyone, it will suck because you’re mired in suspicion and fear.

        I nearly lost my current relationship because of my stupid irrational fears. Thank God he could see past my mistake and acknowledge my efforts to make good. I hope we can keep that communication open in the future.

  13. Extended-Warranty says:

    This is the problem with marriage. We get an image of what we “want” and believe that we can convince people to change.

    You shouldn’t marry someone unless you two are going to see eye to eye. Put your pride aside, ignore your immediate feelings, and think long-term.

  14. bee8boo8bop8 says:

    My husband and I have general discussions about our goals, and I handle the budget and implementation. Once a month we review any changes in our net worth, how we are reaching our goals, and any upcoming big expenditures. Right now we are finishing up our 2011 Roth contributions. Mine has the full $5000, and his has $1000 in it so far. We will get the rest in before tax time, and then we will save up for next year’s rent, which is due at the end of July.

    It works well for us, but it means my husband is comically clueless about money. I recently realized that he doesn’t know what his take home is, and that he doesn’t realize that my salary pays all the bills and discretionary stuff, while his pays the rent and I bank the rest of his salary. He always thinks we are broke.

  15. Dallas_shopper says:

    I had such a hard time every month getting the ex-BF to pony up for his share of the bills (which accounted for about 1/5th of the total household expenses) that I started to resent him…a LOT..for holding out on me. I remember in December 2010 he asked if I could wait to get the money because he had to pay for his car insurance and buy Christmas presents.

    Um…one word, two syllables. BUDGET BUDGET BUDGET. I got so sick of having to subsidize his idiot ways with money. Plus he wasn’t good in bed. Plus he made a mess in the kitchen. Plus he clogged my baththub drain with his hair and blamed it on me (WTF). Plus he refused to ever clean up after the cats. Plus when he did “the laundry” he would wash only HIS clothes.

  16. Sad Sam says:

    We had a money summit before we bought a house together. We each came with our credit score and a spreadsheet with assets and liabilities.

    After we moved in together, I paid all the joint bills, he was responsible for his own and I was responsible for my own. We each paid into the house account a % based on how much we earned, since I earned more I paid more.

    After we got married, we merged more of our finances but we still each have a separate account we use for day to day spending.

    On an annual basis, I create a spending plan we meet to discuss goals for the year, he creates the Excel spreadsheet to track the goals and I now pay all the bills and do all the savings allocating. We work on an allowance system, we each get the same amount and that is our discretionary spending for the pay period. We are debt free except for the mortgage and we don’t use credit cards (although we have one). We’ve been working off this system for 5 years now and it works pretty well. Mr. Sam will spend as much money is available to him so hence the allowance system and the reason for no credit card, but I’m the spendthrift in the relationship so the allowance helps me moderate my spending as well.

    Mr. Sam is generally on board, he loves being debt free, loves having money in the bank and loves not having to think about any of the bills. He does, once in a while, moan about the allowance system.

    I wouldn’t say that we were 100% compatible with our finances, but we did a lot of talking about it and our first year of marriage paid off all the unsecured debt (most of which was Mr. Sam’s MBA) and that process set in motion a general theme for dealing with our money. Mr. Sam does get involved when it comes to investments and our retirement accounts.

  17. Robert Nagel says:

    This looks like an article of great worth to my family. How do I get my wife to read it?

  18. LanMan04 says:

    Family of 4 (me, wife, a 1 year old, and a 4 year old).

    She somehow spends $1000+ a month on groceries. I do not know how.

  19. LanMan04 says:

    Failing that, you can always threaten to withhold sex unless they shape up. Kidding, sorta.
    Yeah, that works so well on women…

  20. catgirl4276 says:

    My husband and I dated for four years before we married, living together for two of those, so we had a good long time to get used to each other’s money habits and fix the most egregious problems.

    One conflict arose over the fact that I like to buy slightly more expensive things if it’s something I use often and if I know for sure that the pricier option is better and will last longer. Husband was in the habit of buying whatever was cheap. We went back and forth on that one for some time, until I pointed out that the New Balance sneakers I had paid $55 for on sale had lasted two years to his $20 Walmart ones’ six months. (Then we discovered Discworld books and found that Sam Vimes and Sybil Ramkin had the exact same issue when they married, with boots, no less!) Eventually we hammered out an accord in which we peruse online reviews and ask friends to be sure the pricier option is worth it -sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t.

    There was also the great liquidity issue. For years, we’ve bought cheap, and I mean “one was $350, one was $700 and we fixed them up ourselves,” CHEAP. They are what most people would call beaters. As one can imagine, we had a lot more financial freedom than friends with a $200-$500 car payment, and our insurance was cheaper too. However, we also spent a mess-ton of time underneath said cars, covered in engine grease, and the auto parts stores in three states know us by name now. When we were broke college students who had more time than money, that was okay. Now that we’re more young-professionals with a first house and the possibility of kids at some point…it’s really not.

    Husband would prefer to save about $3,000 to $5,000 and pay cash for something new enough to need less work less often, say, a 1996-2002 model. I would like to save that same amount, make a down payment on something costing a bit more, about $5,000-$8,000, which will be even newer and even nicer, make double or triple the payments so it’s off the books quickly and ups the credit history, but has more safety features, lower mileage and more choice of make and model. (I’d also like the beaters gone a little quicker. Replacing brake lines has done a number on my hands.) He argues that all debt is bad. I argue that SOME debt is unavoidable and can even help you in the long run, plus if you have no debt whatsoever, you will also have no credit history and look how that worked out. (He didn’t even get a credit card until I persuaded him to at age 25. Applying for a mortgage was…interesting.) I’m not averse to hard work, or to buying secondhand and fixing things (I did my own kitchen with Craigslist, Instructables and sheer ornery womanhood,) but I do think, considering cars are something we climb inside and ride in, we COULD reasonably do better than a 1994 with 207K without considering ourselves unreasonably profligate.

    Finally I got tired of him panicking whenever I used credit (I have the utilities on auto-pay with a card, which I then pay off in full every month to A. build credit history and B. simplify the process,) and me panicking every time we needed an item and he went for the ‘this will cost as much as a new one, you’ll just be making the payments to AutoZone instead,’ option, that we registered at our community college for a personal finance class, which we took together.

    Such a difference! My spending and credit habits were reined in a little further, my husband’s radical cheapskate-ism was moderated to the point where we aren’t cutting off noses to spite faces anymore, and we’ve also found the ultimate substitute for cable TV -MORE CLASSES. (If you do the math, community colleges are cheaper than Netflix, let alone Comcast!) I took Furniture Restoration and redid the living room in ‘you’d never know this was Craigslist and Joann’s’ chic for $230 -sleeper sofa, loveseat, two recliners and a coffee table. He took Residential Electricity and saved so much on repairs and upgrades we were able to afford a new generator for emergencies and a solar panel set. I took Plumbing, he took Tile and Cement and we took Basic Carpentry together -now we have an amazing twenty-by-ten-foot deck complete with Jacuzzi that honestly cost us $400 in materials, including the Craigslist-find tub and wood from the Habitat For Humanity Re-Store.

    Our finance professor also told us to calculate what it’d cost to do any of these projects ‘the ordinary way,’ budget that much, and then devote at least half of what we ‘saved’ to paying down debt -the rest we can do as we like with, having traded money and skills for time. I can’t say we’ve entirely ended arguments about money forever, but with the ‘well, we’ve got $XXXX worth of stuff for $XX, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to put aside the remaining $XXxx toward a nicer Y,” option, our home, cars and amenities are certainly getting nicer fast!