You know how important it is to save.
You need to put away money for long-term goals, like retirement. You should set aside cash for short-term goals like a vacation or a down payment on a home. Saving up for these goals provides you with a way to get what you want without going into debt and breaking your budget.
When you have a partner, though, things are a little more complicated. You may know how to save your money, but what if your partner doesn’t?
Managing finances in a relationship
Your partner has equal say in managing your joint finances, and that presents challenges if you’re a saver and your partner isn’t interested.
I feel your difficulty. My ex-husband is a great guy, but when we were married he didn’t care about money or saving up at first. He didn’t often participate much, beyond letting me know what he wanted to buy. That left me to make a saving plan on my own, while giving due consideration to his financial expectations.
Eventually, though, things changed. I was able to make the shift from, “How can I save money?” to “How can we save money together?”
Here are some things to keep in mind as you start saving, even when your partner isn’t on board:
Words, tone, and timing
If you hope to talk to your partner about anything — but especially money — it helps to remember that what you say and how you say it matters. Before you talk about saving with your partner, consider the following:
Choose your words carefully
Dave Ramsey recommends staying away from absolutes like “always” and “never.” Avoid accusing your partner of not caring about your situation. Instead, carefully consider your words and take the time to listen. Ask your partner for their opinion and then hear what they have to say.
When you take care of your words and show that you’re ready to listen, the conversation is likely to be more productive.
Watch your tone
Researchers at the University of Southern California and University of Utah were able to predict the health of a marriage by using a computer algorithm that analyzes how couples say things.
Your tone of voice matters when talking to your partner about money. Avoid sarcasm, accusations, contempt, and other cues that you think your partner is completely wrong.
Be open and inviting. Your partner will be more likely to get into the whole “how can I save money” conversation as a result.
Pick the right moment
Finally, remember that timing is everything. If you’re trying to have a potentially difficult conversation when you’re tired or hungry, things can go south quickly. Ohio State University researchers found that being hungry increased in aggression in couples.
Try not to talk to your partner about money if either of you are hungry, angry, tired, or stressed. Your money conversations are likely to work even better when you can schedule a time to talk. Pick a time when the kids aren’t around and you’ve both had time to relax a bit.
Don’t ambush your partner. No one likes this sprung on them — especially if it feels like you’re accusing them of doing something wrong.
Begin from a place of shared goals
My own experience taught me that starting a conversation with, “How can I save money?” or, “We need to talk about saving up for X,” was a short road to conversational failure.
Instead of starting with the idea of saving, I began talking in terms of shared goals. I’d start a conversation about what we wanted out of life. This built a feeling of camaraderie and it showed I valued our relationship and wanted it to be strong.
Once you’re talking about shared goals, it’s easier to transition into talking about how to save your money. After all, you need to make a plan for reaching those goals.
Ask for your partner’s opinion
Coming to the conversation with your own ideas is good, but presenting an entire five-year plan could put your partner on the defensive. It signals that you don’t value their insight since you’ve come with a ready-made savings agenda.
I learned to transition from talking about our shared vision for the future to asking for advice: “How do you think we can make this happen?”
This simple question, more than anything, got him talking about saving. When you ask for your partner’s thoughts and action plan, they’re more likely to be on board with saving.
Of course, this means you also have to incorporate some of their ideas into the plan. It does no good to ask for help and input and then completely ignore everything they suggest.
Make small changes together
It’s difficult for anyone to make huge changes all at once. Once I started talking about our goals and asking for input, my partner was more interested in making changes — but they had to be small.
We started setting aside a small amount for retirement. It wasn’t as much as I wanted to set aside, but it was a good step forward. After a while, he saw the benefits as the retirement account grew. We increased contributions incrementally.
Start small and celebrate little wins. Over time, your partner will see the benefits and be more willing to save for other things. My partner eventually moved from just agreeing to save for retirement to seeing the value in planning ahead for our big Fourth of July party and making other savings moves.
Focus on your own finances
In some cases, there’s nothing you can do other than figure out how to save your money on your own. If you can’t get your partner on board, you might have to do what you can alone.
This can be difficult if you have to use your “allowance” to save, instead of spending it on what you really want. Some people may even work side gigs so they can save that money without running into problems with a partner.
“How can I save money?” is a question that we all ask. It’s more complicated when an uninterested partner is involved. However, you can take steps to save where you can on your own while continuing to gently invite your partner to join you.
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