I’ve had a few comments and emails recently from readers asking how they can ‘encourage’ their partners to be more frugal when they don’t really want to be. Honestly, it’s a difficult one to answer because in a relationship where things are equal, it’s difficult to make someone want to change their lifestyle and spend less money. Especially if they aren’t really convinced that there’s a real need to change.
I thought I’d tell you a little bit about my struggle to convince Mr Frugal to be more frugal and where we’re at now in our journey although I’m not sure how much our story will help you….
Mr Frugal and I met when I was in college, we had fun spending money for a few years, then we bought a house on the spur of the moment (that’s a whole other story), struggled to afford the bills etc and relied on credit cards to get us through to payday each month. At some point credit cards moved from being something we used in an emergency to a regular method of payment for pretty much anything. We had credit cards, cars on finance, a house and eventually, two children and we kept spending through it all, leaving us with a not so small amount of debt.
I had what some people might call a Lightbulb Moment, that moment when you realise that things have to change. I decided that I wanted to be more in control of our finances and that it was time to sit down and work out a plan to get serious about money. I had lots of suggestions and ideas on how we could do this and to be fair, Mr Frugal was totally supportive of them all – until it came to actually putting the ideas into practice!
He was a huge fan of meal planning until he fancied a take away, a massive advocate of not spending on the credit cards until he wanted to buy a treat and perfectly willing to give up holidays and weekends away until we found ourselves with some time off together. He wasn’t doing it deliberately but he just had very little willpower and I’m ashamed to say that I’m easily persuaded so I often just went with the flow because more often than not, I wanted the same things and missed not being able to afford them.
I justified it by telling myself that it was his money too and he worked very hard for us so who was I to say he couldn’t have a treat when he wanted one. In reality though, every time he spent money, it threw my budget out and I had to frantically try and rework everything and juggle things around – not always successfully.
Then we agreed that if we could get our outgoings into a place where we were managing better then I would reduce my hours at work to spend more time with the kids and that was the game changer for me. I sat down with Mr Frugal and told him things had to change and that we both had to get our head in the game and start being more sensible with money because the kids were the most important thing in our lives!
So, that’s how we finally got to the point where Mr Frugal really decided that he was going to get on board. Here’s the things we agreed on together than helped him stay there….
- We created a section of the budget that gave us both ‘pocketmoney’ each month and any treats came out of this amount which was drawn out of the bank on payday. This stopped us from just putting things on our debit card or getting cash out each time we wanted something and helped us not to go over budget as cash is so much easier to keep track of.
- We started to write our meal plan together so that we both knew we would enjoy everything we had planned.
- We went through our budget together so that he knew how much everything cost – it sounds silly but I always managed the money as we bother preferred it that way but I’d never really sat down and shared costs with him so telling him we needed to cut down never really hit home until he saw why.
And here’s the things I did without him realising at the time….
- I finally realised that I needed to accept that he wasn’t necessarily always going to be great with money, despite his newfound resolve. That in itself was huge because money was the only thing we ever argued about and by allowing myself to not stress over every poor decision he made (and I made for that matter) the silly little arguments stopped.
- I didn’t keep focusing on cost when we talked or made decisions, I just kind of steered us that way. Meal planning is a great example, if he suggested a meal that would cost more than usual I would say something like ‘mmm that sounds nice, I quite fancied mac and cheese though’ and more often than not he’d go for it without realising he’d chosen the cheaper meal. The same with days out, if he suggested a day out then I’d automatically suggest free of cheap places like a museum or the park.
- Following on from the above, I made sure that I respected the fact that he had preferences too and if he wanted the more expensive meal or a day out somewhere else then we’d do that sometimes. It’s all about compromise.
- I bit my lip when he spent his pocketmoney on things I saw as wasting money. As a grown man, me telling him off or having a mood because of the way he spent his money is never going to go down well.
- I made sure to tell him how much money we were saving and how being more frugal was good for us but not in a preachy way, I just dropped it into the conversation and then moved on.
- I realised that in a way, my telling him to spend less had made him resent the control and that by sharing the control a little, it made us both happier.
- He doesn’t drink, smoke or do anything really that costs money but he does enjoy his PS4 so I make sure that there is always money for when games come out that he wants because it’s not all that often and genuinely, a treat makes it easier to be frugal the rest of the time. I couldn’t stop him buying a game when he works hard so I just make sure that there’s money available so it’s a guilt free experience for him usually. I say usually because more than one game every three or four months may involve a small sulk from one or both of us.
Ultimately, it was Mr Frugal who had to make the change and he did…. Eventually!
He’s still far from perfect (as am I) but it’s a lot easier now we’re on the same page!