I was halfway inside of a giant, steaming, coffin-sized metal autoclave that I was cleaning out when I had my financial epiphany.
I’d just started my long journey in listening to financial podcasts while at work earlier that day when the lightbulb moment struck (to be fair, it also could have been my head striking the top of the autoclave—a common occurrence). If me and my husband Zach got rid of our debt and started saving money, we could do whatever the heck we wanted in the future and I wouldn’t have to clean out autoclaves anymore!
Unfortunately my enthusiasm went over about as well as a fart in church.
You see, Zach was still stuck in the mindset of the average American consumer. To him (and me, before my epiphany), it didn’t matter how much debt you were in as long as you could meet your minimum debt payments.
Saving money was a high ideal but didn’t matter much because theoretically there would always be some type of program to bail you out when shit hits the fan. (Spoiler alert: there isn’t.)
Over the past two years I’ve slowly changed his mind, and even today he’s surprising me with new ways to save money and move towards our financial goals sooner. It wasn’t easy to get him on board with managing finances, but here’s how I did it (mua ha ha!):
Find Out What Your S.O.’s Goals Are
Everyone’s got goals, unless you’re a bump on a log I suppose. Maybe their goal is to take over and rule the world, or it could be as simple as winning the neighborhood pub trivia competition.
Either way, you need to take some time to discuss what their goals are. This probably won’t be complete in a single afternoon. People’s goals change over time as they find new options available to them (hello FI), or reform old ones (I’ve accepted that I will not win the Iditarod in this lifetime). That’s OK.
For Zach, his primary financial goal is building and owning our own home. He’s in college now with the goal of becoming a construction manager, but as he’s seen more of his friends and myself do freelance work, now he’s starting to shift his goals towards becoming a freelancer as well. It’s something he didn’t even really consider as a possibility before.
Related: One Bed, One Bank Account: Better Conversations On Money And Marriage by Derek and Carrie Olsen
Discuss Your Financial Goals With Them
A marriage is a partnership, and that means your spouse has to listen to you too (it’s true!). It’s important that your spouse knows your goals as well so you both know where you’re working from.
Make sure you fully explain why you have each goal and how important it is (or not) to you. For example, I told Zach that I wanted to get out of debt because I was appalled once I saw how much interest we were paying each month on our debt.
Debt also made me feel like a nincompoop for being irresponsible in taking on that amount. It also made me feel trapped because I’ve been chained to working jobs I didn’t want to, just because I had a loan payment to make.
Related post: A Step-By-Step Guide To Get Out Of Debt
It’s OK if your goals differ, but it probably won’t work out too well if you’re polar opposites. If one spouse loves blowing tons of money on TVs and DVDs all the time and the other spouse wants to live in a tiny home and save up for early retirement, that’s probably a recipe for disaster.
Link Your Current Financial Decisions To Your Future Goals
Now that you’re both on the same page as to what you both want, it’s easier to figure out the shared steps to get there.
If you’re going to make progress towards your financial goals, you both need to do two things: spend less, and make more money. Coincidentally, those are two things that are hard to do for financial neophytes, but once you place them into perspective of your long-term goals, it’s easy to get on board with new changes.
For example, it’s easier for me and Zach to cut back on former spendy areas when we consider how much we can save—and put towards our goals.
I’ve saved thousands of dollars by hoofing it to work and riding the bus rather than buying a car. Together we save an extra $450 per month by making meals at home rather than going out to eat. The amount of money Zach has saved by not showering the kitties with useless cat toys is untold (it really is hard for him to resist the urge).
Zach was skeptical of us being able to pay off our debt sooner while starting up an emergency savings fund. Once I showed him a plan for how to do it and pointed out that we’d be able to afford a better home and sooner (his own goals), he jumped right on board.
Be Willing To Compromise On Managing Finances
If it were up to me, I’d probably still be living in a dry cabin and work day and night like a robot until all of our debt was paid off. Showers? Screw that. People can’t smell you over the Internet.
But if I did that, I’d probably lose Zach faster than a Hollywood marriage. Zach isn’t quite so keen on leaving running water behind again to join me, and so I’ve had to adjust my plans somewhat.
Be prepared to give your partner some leeway in which goals you’re shooting for and how much they’re willing to sacrifice to reach them. If you’re an ambitious money-managing partner, this may mean you have to forego hardcore stuff like financial independence that other people get to do. Don’t become bitter over it; just accept it. Maybe they’ll come around later.
Of course, this means that your S.O. needs to make some sacrifices to accommodate you as well. It’s why Zach just rolls his eyes and lets me obsessively hoard the tiny soaps from hotel rooms so I don’t have to buy my own hand soap (they really do last a long time!).
Let Them Know You’re Grateful
Of course, always let your partner know you’re grateful for their help. Then they know their sacrifices aren’t being ignored, and it’ll keep them motivated to continue.
How do you get your significant other on board with managing finances together? Leave a comment below!