Okay, it bugs me. It bugs me when I try to save us money and next thing I see, my husband is wasting money on stuff we don’t need. Honey, I love you, but we have to do something about that spending.
Money-management tip #1: You can’t change your husband overnight
Sometimes us women go into preparation overdrive: we read 21 565 articles online, prepare pink budget lists, and even organize the cash in our wallet to face in one direction. And just when you’re ready to power up the savings engine… you find your husband’s foot is on the brake.
While it’s actually possible to change your husband’s habits somewhat, that will take you A LOT, and I mean A LOT, of time. People don’t change overnight. And men don’t like being told what to do. (I once tried telling one of my ex-s how to open a can of tomato sauce after watching him struggle for five minutes. Sometimes I think that incident was part of the reason why we broke up.)
Trying to inflict change by force (read: nagging) will only get you into arguing and fighting. So it’s not wise to use nagging as your immediate course of action. If you feel your husband’s financial habits could be improved, and he’s willing to try, you both have to be prepared for a longer journey.
Money-management tip #2: Stop nagging and start narrating
After the unfortunate tomato sauce accident, I am now a firm believer that trying to tell a man what to do, even for his own good, doesn’t work.Ever.
A much more efficient approach is if you get out of his hair and resign to leading by example. That’s right! No more nagging. No more eye-rolling. We’re going to be all about saving in a much more calm, non-intrusive fashion.
Now, you might have guessed that the whole “lead by example thing” is meant to rub off on him. But what if you already are “leading by example in a non-intrusive fashion” but it doesn’t rub off on him?
Try narrating. Whenever you do something that you’d like him to notice and adopt, narrate it to him.
For example: when you’re in the store buying potatoes, don’t just quietly put them in the cart. Say “I’m going to get that sort of potatoes because they are on sale. That will save us money.” When you’re making your sandwich for work tomorrow, say “I’m going to take this for lunch at the office. That way I don’t have to spend money on overpriced burgers tomorrow. This will save us money.” It’s important to narrate every action you take to save money. But don’t nag! Even if he’s not picking up your hints at first, stay patient. If you push for faster results you’ll just push him away. Remember: this works slow, and time is your biggest ally.
Money-management tip #3: Micromanage him (for now)
Yeah, I know that micromanaging your husband or creating a sort of parent-child dependency is not really solving your problem. You want your husband to be on board with spending less and saving more willingly. You want him to be your ally, but you don’t want to trick him into being your ally.
However, since we already established that it would take A LOT of time for him to change, in the meantime, you have to focus on minimizing the damage he can do to the budget. If you have to micromanage him, so be it! It’s not that hard, actually. Does he tend to over-spend on beer when you send him to get your groceries? Then just don’t send him. Do it yourself. He’s too lazy to prepare a sandwich for work tomorrow? Then just make one for him. You have to take over and minimize the damage now, then subtly work on improving his habits as time goes by.
Remember: your biggest ally here – for both of you – is TIME. Time.
Money-management tip #4: Do not expect it to be 50-50
I’ve heard a lot of frustrated men and women complain that their significant other doesn’t put in an equal effort to money management. This is not about how much money each spouse brings, but rather how active each spouse is about savings, investing, and balancing the checkbook.
So if you expect to share financial responsibilities 50-50… not going to happen. Yes, you both should have an equal say about how to handle the money regardless of who brings more. But one of you is bound to be more money-savvy and more financially enthusiastic than the other. One of you is bound to take the lead. And one of you is bound to do the heavy lifting.
But you know, that’s not actually a bad thing. Nothing’s ever fifty-fifty in relationships. Wives do more of the housekeeping. Husbands do more of the car-fixing. Wives handle grocery-shopping and social events for the family. Husbands handle shoveling snow and cleaning gutters.
You know how sometimes, a firend would say, “We’re buying a new laptop, and I don’t know anything about laptops, so my husband’s handling the whole thing. He does the research on price, guarantee, brand and everything… I get to pick the color.” Ya see? In this instance, he is in the driver’s seat while she rides shotgun. And that’s okay. That’s how relationships work – sometimes you lead, and sometimes you follow.
So don’t expect financial responsibilities to be split equally, either. I’m not saying that one of you should do everything while the other one does nothing. But it’s okay ifone of you does does less than the other. I’m sure they will make up for it in other areas.
Money-management tip #5: The Pigeon Theory
I read somewhere that there were two strategies for training pigeons. The pigeons were in a cage with 5 floors and the goal was to train them to get to the top floor. There were three buttons mounted on each level. If the pigeon pecked the right button, it opened a little door to the next floor. So pigeons had to learn to peck the right button. But how?
The first strategy involved mild electroshock whenever the pigeon pecked the wrong button. In other words, the pigeon was critisized for each wrong choice it made.
The second strategy involved breadcrumbs in front of the right button. Much like in the Hansel and Gretel story, the breadcrumbs showed the right way.
Both strategies worked in the sense that eventually the pigeons remembered which buttonsare the right ones. BUT, with the breadcrumbs it happened 29 times faster.
What does that mean for you and your husband? It means it’s so much easier to focus on telling him what you do want, instead of telling him what you don’t want. You both would have a much easier time if you told him what you like instead of telling him what you don’t like.
So instead of going on and on about how irritated you felt when he forgot to take his lunch to work (again), pat him on the back for remembering to turn the lights off in the den. And instead of rolling your eyes every time he loses track of his spending, give him a smile when he remembers to replenish your chocolate reserve when that strawberry flavor goes on sale.
Show him you appreciate all the things he does right and try not to attack him on the things he does wrong.
Actually working to change you husband’s financial habits
Changing your husband’s financial habits is all about baby-steps. Bite-sized demands. Tiny, barely noticable little changes. It takes more time that way, but BE WARNED: if you try to speed up the process, it will backfire on you, and you and your husband might start arguing more than ever. It’s like cooking chicken: whatever you do, you can’t make it bake for 5 minutes. No matter how hot you turn the oven.
So how do all of those steps and tips come together?
Let’s say you want your husband to start keeping all the receipts he gets.
First, set an example and narrate it. Everytime you get a receipt, look at him and say “I’m going to save this receipt. I’ll put it in my wallet and take it home.” Don’t ask him to do anything just yet. Just keep saving those receipts and keep narrating what you’re doing.
Second, ask him to do it for you.Once you’ve allowed enough time for your example to sink in, it’s time to ask your husband to be proactive. When you’re at the store together and you get the receipt, say “Honey, can you please save the receipt for me?” When he does, say thanks. When you get home and he hands you the receipt, say that’s great and say thanks again.
Third, get him to start saving his own receipts. Ask him to start saving receipts like you do. Say „That would be a great help for getting our finances in order, and it will make my life easier.” Whenever he makes a purchase, prompt him by saying “Honey, will you please save your receipt for me?”
Fourth, whenever he remembers to do this on his own, without you reminding him, reward him with a happy look. Or a kiss. Say “Aww you remembered to save that for me, that’s so sweet!”
Fifth, while you’re working on this single thing – getting him to save all his receipts – avoid making any additional demands. The key is to work ononly one thing at a time. Yeah, so those socks on the floor? We’re just gonna let ‘em slide. Yes we are.
Sixth, if he slips and forgets to get a receipt, resist the urge to nag. A man finds a woman’s disappointment in him much more disturbing than her agression.
And seventh,remember the most important thing – that you two love each other. My husband still forgets the occasional cash receipt, but he never forgets our anniversary.
I love you, honey.