Personal Finance

5 Ways to Encourage Your Spouse to Save

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Like many married couples, you may discover early on in the relationship that your soul mate is also your financial opposite. You’re organized, while the other is an organized “mess.” You’re frugal and cut coupons, while your mate is a big spender who rarely price compares.  You check your credit regularly, while your partner’s totally out of touch. With so many other similarities (he’s your soul mate, after all!) how is it possible to be at extreme ends of the financial spectrum?

The answer is simple, though perhaps unexpected: We tend to marry our financial opposite. Academic research has concluded this many times over.  For example a 2009 survey of married adults published by researchers at The University of Pennsylvania, University of Michigan and Northwestern University found that people with opposing emotional reactions towards money (e.g. spendthrift versus tightwad) will, indeed, attract.

Here are 5 tangible (and I dare say, fun) ways to get your spouse to embrace saving. A bit of advice to the savers in the relationship: it’s up to you to guide your partner and make these proposals. And the more you emphasize that these savings activities will help US as a couple and make it less about pointing fingers at the other person, the better your chances for success.

[Article: When Financial Opposites Attract]

1.     Establish a spending threshold. For household purchases that exceed say $150 and which come out of your joint account, promise to check in with each other before ringing them up. For example, if you come home with an iPad, having purchased it on a joint credit card and without consulting with your partner first, it may be perceived as a “selfish” purchase.  Instead, involve your spouse in big-ticket purchases, even if you think it will benefit the whole family. It’s nice to considered…and who knows, maybe you’ll arrive at a better way to spend that money.

2.     Have a cash contest. Stick to cash for a week and see who wins. As we know, the best way to reduce spending is to stick to cash. Swiping a credit card involves less “pain” than taking cold, hard cash out of your wallet and watching it disappear. But to make this more fun (and to involve both of you) create a contest of out it. Give yourselves a strictly cash (no credit cards) discretionary budget for the week, say $100, and see who finishes with the most in his/her wallet. The one who loses has to assume some undesirable chore or task – like cleaning duties for the week or chauffeuring the kids to their various play dates/sports/tutoring all week. Sticking to cash, as I write in my book, keeps you more honest with your money. You’re forced to think twice, three times about whether you actually need something before buying it. Practicing this for 7 days straight is enough to learn that lesson. And if you actually end up spending less (and in fact on average we do, by 20%), you’ll feel extremely rewarded and hopefully be encouraged to keep at it.

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3.     Plan meals ahead of time and eat early. After reviewing our 2010 expenses, my fiancé and I realized just how much money we spent on dining out. Let’s just say it was thousands of dollars a year. To curb our spending in this category (me, being the the over-spender on dining out) we’ve become more diligent about buying groceries in advance and planning at least 3 or 4 meals for the week ahead of time.  Taking the spontaneity out of preparing dinner eliminates the risk of eating out. Another big help:  We make sure we eat by 7pm – before starvation kicks in and we succumb to ordering take-out.

4.     Open personal expense accounts. Want to still treat yourself to an iPad and avoid hostility when you arrive home? Each of you should have your own spending accounts. Agree that you’ll each allocate a certain percentage of your incomes to this account each month and use the money as you wish. No more guilt. No more fights over “how much did you spend on that suit jacket, mister?”

5.     Track Spending Online. Mint, Thrive, Bundle. The world of online budgeting sites is growing bigger by the day. I’m a fan of online budgeting site Bundle.com because it not only shows you how you’re keeping up with your saving and spending goals; it allows you to compare your performance with other couples in your demographic and region of the country. So if your spouse doesn’t want to take YOUR word for it, he/she can see that other couples are spending far less … and that can serve as a helpful, objective way to analyze your finances.

Image: Rachel Davies, via Flickr.com

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