Henry believed Anne was perfect when they dated and got engaged. They shared common interests, similar friends, and really enjoyed going out together. However, a few years into their marriage, Henry felt that the only thing “perfect” about Anne was her manicured set of gel fingernails. Plus, she had a habit of going shopping and bringing home bags of new items for herself and their home. When Henry received their monthly credit card statements, he wondered, “Does she think money grows on trees?” When he mentioned the need for both of them to watch their spending, Anne didn’t seem to take him seriously. Henry couldn’t decide what was worse: stressing out over their finances or feeling like the heavy in their relationship.
What to Say:
Henry: I just looked over our latest credit card statement, and our monthly balance isn’t getting any smaller. Could we sit down and talk about our spending?
Anne: I know we had some big expenses pop up this month. But, I’m sure the bill won’t be that high next month.
Henry: I’m not so sure. Let’s look at these credit card statements together. I’m uncomfortable with how much we are spending each month. I’d like to break down these expenses and make a plan for cutting back.
Anne: Do you mean a budget? I don’t really like those. Besides, I know our credit limit and how much money we’ve got.
Henry: I’m not concerned with our credit limit. I’m concerned that we’re spending more than we’re making. Plus, we aren’t saving much money for future needs. I’d really like for us to get on the same page with our finances. How about if we just start by reading a book or taking a class together on money management? What have we got to lose?
Anne: Don’t make me feel like the “bad guy.” Remember, I’m not the only one who spends money around here!
Henry: We’re in this together. I just want us to get on the same page so that we manage our money wisely and prevent bigger problems down the road. I’ll research some books or classes that might be a good fit for us. How soon could we set aside time in our schedule?
Why This Works:
Henry took the bull by the horns and addressed the need to find a new financial plan. He used collaborative words, such as “I” and “we,” instead of making accusatory “you” statements. Sharing responsibility in the discussion helped keep Anne’s defensiveness at bay. Even smarter, Henry suggested that they follow a book or take a class as their guide. That step allows the author or presenter to act as “the heavy,” which takes Henry out of that role with his wife.
What Doesn’t Work:
If you tell your spouse to stop spending money altogether, get ready for a fight. That’s because money is like food – you can’t swear off of it cold turkey. It’s more effective to make adjustments and set goals in smaller steps that both parties agree are reasonable. As you build momentum, spending changes can happen more easily without feeling like a shock to the wallet.
Try This Activity:
Financial problems can turn into a major marriage killer. Take active steps to prevent money issues from stealing the joy from your relationship. Try these activities:
- Collect some recent receipts and review them with your spouse. Talk about what items are the most and least necessary. Bonus: If your spouse rarely shops, looking at current prices on the receipts can bring a dose of (shared) reality.
- If you feel that spending habits need to be curtailed, discuss setting a price limit to purchase certain items. For example, if you want to buy an optional item that costs more than $50, agree to call or text your spouse first and talk it over.
- If personal debt is robbing your peace of mind, consider enrolling in Dave Ramsey’s popular money management course called Financial Peace University. For details, visit: www.DaveRamsey.com