How I Almost Died Talking To My Wife About Money
We all know that money is important.
Tracking, budgeting, and saving it is also super important.
But frankly, it’s not something a lot of us feel super-passionate about.
Throw in a significant other into the mix and well… it’s a recipe for disaster.
If you’ve got a partner who doesn’t see eye to eye with you with regard to your money goals.
Or a spouse who just doesn’t take money as seriously as you do.
Here are a couple of tried-and-true strategies that I’ve developed over the years when learning how to talk to my wife about money.
Which you can use to talk to your partner or spouse too.
Learn from my mistakes and save yourself from dying of exasperation.
TL;DR: How To Talk To Your Partner About Money
Instead of letting money ruin a relationship, why not work together to increase your combined wealth.
And enjoy retirement comfortably together?
It all boils down to a couple of simple things when it comes to talking about money:
- Practice accountability and compromise
- Consider your timing and tone
- Give specific examples and think “we”
- Have goal-oriented conversations
- Recognise that it’s a process
- Don’t judge
1) Practice Accountability and Compromise
Before I was attached or married.
I saved almost 70 per cent of my salary, ate frugally, and probably only purchased one pair of pants a year.
(Aside: not that I was only wearing pants and nothing else… but you get the picture)
Heck, I was rocking a Nokia 8210 and loving it.
My wife, on the other hand, spent almost all of her money dining out, always had the latest iPhone, and was essentially living paycheck to paycheck.
This was despite the fact that she graduated with good honours from a local university and made good money.
When we got together and eventually got married.
There were adjustments on both sides that had to be made with regard to how we handled our finances.
This is important because we recognised the need to and developed a sense of financial accountability and responsibility to each other.
This meant that it becomes more difficult to rationalise going to say…
A steakhouse for steaks twice a month where a ribeye costs more than $100.
But at the same time, the lady’s gotta have to satisfy her epicurean cravings too.
And sometimes, an overcooked black pepper steak from the kopitiam Western food stall is just not going to cut it.
So you have to meet each other halfway.
Oh, and guys, the old adage is true: happy wife, happy life.
Trust me when I say this guy knows what’s up.
2) Consider Your Timing and Tone
Before I get into this next part, always remember that you should never feel apologetic or bad when talking about money.
Especially if it concerns your combined future.
At the risk of sounding like a marriage counsellor, open communication is what helps to keep a relationship healthy.
However, this doesn’t detract from the fact that money is always an acutely sensitive topic.
When and how you broach it often dictates the end result.
I’ve found that if we schedule a time in advance to talk things over, preferably during a Sunday afternoon.
After she’s had brunch.
And after her midday nap.
Also better if she has her favourite drink in hand when we start.
My partner is more receptive and committed to our discussion.
So what I’m trying to get at, is this: if your partner is not up for the talk, then you’re not going to get the results you want.
I also noticed that how you start the conversation can greatly influence how the discussion pans out.
Here are some phrases to avoid:
- “Why haven’t you [insert something they were supposed to do but didn’t]”
- “It’s your fault.”
- “You always…”
Shouting from the kitchen when your spouse is replying to an email from an overbearing boss, who he or she always complains about.
To ask, “Why did you spend $500 on a leather jacket when Singapore always feels like it’s 100°C out?!”
And then follow up with an accusation, “You always spend unnecessarily on useless…”
Why Not Try…
Bringing him or her a glass of their favourite drink.
And lead with, “It would make me really happy if we worked together to track and ultimately lower our clothing expenditure.”
3) Give Specific Examples and Always Think “We”
By looking at the credit card statement and going, “I can’t believe how much money we spent last month! Where the hell did it all go?!”
When obviously it’s because your partner went on a shopping spree despite this conversation:
I mean… what did you imagine his or her reply is going to be?
“I’m a self-indulgent idiot with the financial literacy and self-control of a 5-year-old”?
But that’s not gonna move the conversation forward, right?
What you can try doing is to point to a specific example to signal that the action itself is problematic instead of putting all of the focus on the person in question.
This way, you de-personalise the issue, and it makes it more bearable for the person involved to talk about the problem.
It also helps puts them in a position to take responsibility in order to rectify the situation.
Overall, phrasing it in a way that seems like both of you are tackling the problem as a team, will make the issue even easier to broach.
Looking at your man, coming home with 5 pairs of new sneakers, angrily.
And shooting him with a, “Walao eh, are YOU a millipede or something?”
“Why do YOU even need to buy so many pairs of shoes?!”
Why Not Try…
“We usually keep to a budget of $200 when dining out.”
“But last month, we overshot and spent $400 instead. What do you think happened and how can we fix this?”
4) Have Goal-Oriented Conversations
As a couple, it’s important to be honest and be able to talk openly about your shared money goals.
I noticed that when I frame money conversations as steps taken towards achieving our future goals.
We tend to have more productive conversations.
Here’s a real example.
After talking about our goal of being able to go on one major vacation a year to a faraway destination (read: outside of South East Asia).
We established that her $15 lunches were an expense that had to be cut in order to make this a reality.
When I reviewed her receipts from lunch, I realised that she was ordering dessert — cakes, bubble tea, and Starbuck’s coffees — almost after every meal.
When I explained that the additional $5 she spends on dessert at lunch, amounts to $1,200 in a year.
And that amount could easily pay for an air ticket to Europe (if we booked it months ahead).
She immediately decided that a well-earned vacation is better than splurging on simple carbohydrates.
Better still, this change in her diet also helped with her weight loss goals.
Sulking in a corner and getting frustrated with your partner that you aren’t saving enough money as a couple.
Why Not Try…
Selling a shared financial dream first.
Once he or she buys into it, it’s easier to talk about how to make it happen.
Rather than some lofty retirement goal that seems too far away.
5) Recognise That It’s a Process
So you’ve enjoyed reading SeedlyReads articles for a long time now (I hope).
Heck, you’ve even signed up for a FREE Seedly account and are an active Seedly member.
But your partner would rather read a phone book than touch anything to do with personal finance.
Just like how you can’t expect someone to give up sugary drinks overnight.
You’ll need to recognise that it’s a process and you’ll have to take incremental steps towards the ultimate goal.
So if your partner’s spending habits bother you…
Sit down and review how you can improve your combined savings together.
Remember the “dessert at lunch or flight to Europe” example I shared earlier?
That talk was easier to have after we had an earlier discussion with regard to how much she should put towards paying off her student debt on a monthly basis.
I introduced being debt-free as a positive goal to work towards.
Which would ultimately give her peace of mind.
And the discretionary income she craved for, to spend on what she really desired.
Once she was committed to the mission, it was easier for her to see that the faster she paid off her student loan.
The sooner she could lead a worry-free life.
And once she achieved that goal, it made it infinitely easier to talk to her about other instances where specific expenses needed to be cut.
Or other larger financial goals that would benefit our lives together.
Praying to all of the gods known to humanity in hopes that your partner will wake up one day and get their sh*t together.
Why Not Try…
Choosing simple goals to work towards first.
Once he or she has tasted success.
They are more likely to be receptive towards setting other larger financial goals.
6) Don’t Judge
One of the most important things I learned when talking to my wife is to never judge.
The problem with passing judgement is that it undermines the relationship and makes your partner less inclined to work with you.
So if both of you are committed to the relationship and truly wish to make your money work.
Leave your ego at the door and communicate openly with each other.
If one of you is more adept at handling money…
Be sensitive and create an environment where there is no such thing as a stupid idea or question.
Your spouse or partner might have made financial mistakes in the past.
But that doesn’t mean he or she is unable to learn.
Or doesn’t wish to do better.
As a matter of fact, this should apply to other aspects of your relationship too.
Free relationship advice.
You’re welcome, bruv.
“Wah piang eh… Your money management damn cui please…”
Why Not Try…
“I love you, but I also need you to know that it’s important to me that we talk more about how we’re spending our money.”
Parting Thoughts for Success
When it comes to talking to your spouse or partner about money.
Always treat them with respect.
Even if he or she might have the financial literacy and self-control of a 5-year-old.
Oh, and as a friendly word of advice, this attitude should extend to every other aspect of your lives together too.
P.S. I love you, mi amor.
And to my readers…
It would make me really happy if you signed up for a FREE Seedly account.
We’ve always got really cool sh*t to send to you like money hacks, exclusive guides, and sneak peeks into what’s next at Seedly.
Also, I’m sure that together, we can make great decisions with regard to our personal finances.