5 Steps To Getting Your Partner On Board With A Budget

I know several people who would like it if their spouse would exercise a little more. Sometimes our motivation is for them to be heart-healthy. That’s a perfectly fine reason.

Sometimes the motivation might be because they put on a few pounds. But we can’t come out and say ‘put down the donuts’. Because that doesn’t work (please don’t try it).

Your motivation is not their motivation.

It’s true when it comes to money as well.

You might want to retire at fifty. Your wife might want a Louis Vitton purse for her birthday.

Or if you’re a woman you might want financial security right now to reduce your stress. Your husband might be more interested in a new Ford Mustang.

The following steps will give you guidance to get your significant other on the path to where you both want to be heading.

Step 1: Find out what will motivate your partner

Budgeting for budgeting’s sake is useless.

You need to have some goals to aim for. More important – you need to have goals that motivate both of you.

  • A new car?
  • A vacation?
  • An awesome retirement?

Those are all great goals – but you need to get down into the weeds with the details to make it tangible and have power. The type of power that will drive change in someone.

What does that vacation look like? Where are you going? For how long? Are we getting a new wardrobe and luggage too?

Get some excitement going. Put a date on the calendar.

Then use your budget as the plan to make it happen.

Are we living paycheck-to-paycheck? Then we need to find some ways to save for that trip.

Are we eating out too much? Then we need to eat out less or spend less on eating out to save for that trip.

Are we just wasting money because we don’t even track our spending? Then we need to commit to a budget for 90 days to help us save for that trip.

Have a conversation and learn about the things that will motivate them. Because it’s not budgeting. Budgeting is a means to an end goal. Step one is to find the end goal. Then you can explain how the budget will get you there.

Avoid the things that won’t motivate them

Just as important to knowing what will motivate someone, is knowing what will not motivate them.

1. Teaching them a specific budgeting software
I’m all for budgeting software – it makes budgeting easy.  But the reasons have to be in place first.

This is like buying someone a gym membership. You have to find out what’s going to make someone want to go to the gym or workout first.

2. Doom and gloom
There are two driving factors in most of our decisions – the need to avoid pain, or the desire to gain pleasure. But when it comes to a retirement that can be decades away (or a savings goal that might be years away) we need to focus on what’s most important to the other person. Is it avoiding pain or gaining pleasure?

Consider the following:

If we save 20% of our income for our retirement we can travel the world for an entire year.


If we don’t save 20% of our income for our retirement we’re going to end up living under a bridge.

I’m not saying the desire to not live under a bridge isn’t motivating. But you need to find out what’s keeping the other person awake at night or what they are peacefully dreaming about.  Focus on that one thing.

3. Nagging / condemnation
Your wife just bought a $300 purse.

Your husband just bought a $300 golf club.

Now what?

Return to why you started the journey to begin with. Ask a simple question:

Nice purse/golf club. How does that affect our savings goal for the new car?

Hmmm. Now you’ve got the other person thinking without pointing out how they blew the budget. (You know they blew the budget, but you’re not saying they blew the budget).

Because you had some shared goals to begin with its hard for someone to argue against what they already agreed to.

Step 2: Find ways to compromise

Where you can’t find common ground, you’re going to have to compromise. And by you, that means both of you.

One of you will probably have to loosen the purse strings a little. The other is most likely is going to have to tighten up.

One of you will probably have to commit more to following the plan you both agree on. The other may need to stop beating the other one up over every nickel and dime.

Step 3: Find out how to make it fun

Have you ever watched the Amazing Race? It’s a reality show where couples work together solving challenging problems and compete against other couples.

Each couple has to work together to win.

The quickest and easiest way to reach your common goals are to work together and make them happen. Goals are just challenging problems.

Budgeting doesn’t have to be boring.

How do you make budgeting fun? Turn every little challenge into a game.

  • How quickly can you save $1,000?
  • How quickly can you pay off that credit card?
  • How much stuff around the house can you sell that you don’t really need or ever use?
  • How long can you go without buying something off Amazon?
  • How many different ways can you cook rice before losing your mind?

When you work together on your challenges you’re no longer working against each other. And when you work together it’s no longer a boring task, it’s a fun game.

Real-world examples

Example #1

Ok, what if you had an extra $50 a month to spend on whatever you want, but we agree to meet weekly, review the budget, and commit to following it for the next 90 days?

Motivation: $50 extra to spend on whatever
Common ground: Budget review and commitment
Fun: Agree to eat a cupcake together after every budget review

Example #2

Let’s see if we can reduce our grocery budget by $200 a month. After 90 days, we’ll have an extra $600. We’ll take 1/2 of that and go away for a weekend trip, and invest the rest.

Motivation: A weekend getaway
Common ground: Saving for things we both want
Fun: Making a game of figuring out how to save on groceries

Example #3

We’ve never had an emergency fund. Let’s come up with a plan to save $1,500 in the next three weeks.

Motivation: Security for the family and moving on a path to getting out of debt and moving into a bigger house
Common ground: We can use the money we’re wasting every month on debt interest payments to save for a bigger house.
Fun: Start collecting pictures and ideas of what our new house is going to look like

Step 4: Find some help

Six months after I was married we started working with a financial planner, who also happened to be a marriage counselor. He flat out told me:

Scott, you can afford to give Katie $1,000 to decorate the townhouse.

I was too tight with the purse, and my wife was unhappy about it. It took a third party who was looking out for our best interests both in our finances and in our marriage to help with the situation.

I’ve learned over and over again through the years to listen to experts. When someone smarter than me or who has more experience than me gives me advice, I pay attention.

Places you can get some help include:

  • Accountability groups (Facebook, etc.)
  • Churches, places of worship
  • Comprehensive financial planners
  • Marriage counselors
  • Marriage mentors

Step 5: Find some patience

As I mentioned, once I was married it took my wife six months to get me to agree to visit a financial planner. But it took her finally sitting down with me one day and explaining how important it was to her. The bottom line was I was just too cheap to spend the money on one.

Finally, I listened and agreed.

Finally, I spent the money to get us some help with our combined finances.

It was one of the smartest decisions we ever made, but it took a long time to get me there. It’s hard to get people to change. And while there are some great tips in this article that can help you, it may take time to get your partner on board.

Keep trying and have patience!

You never know what the X-factor is going to be to cause the change to happen, but it will happen.

Question: Do you have any tips that worked for getting someone on board with a budget?  Please leave a comment below.

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