The Money Hoarder vs. The Entitlement Spender
When Malcom (husband) and I got together we were so in sync. We had the same ideals, similar passions, similar religious views, and…. similar spending habits. Work Hard; Spend Hard. We ‘deserved' it! It's amazing how we discussed everything under the sun except our credit and our finances. When the recession hit in my market (real estate) and my income took a $60,000 hit, I knew we had to make some changes.
When one spouse wants to change the financial dynamics of a relationship it can really put a strain on the relationship. I was no longer ‘fun', I nagged when my intentions were to communicate my concerns, and I started to hoard every dollar I could find before he got a chance to spend it. When you take away your partner's control in any area, especially money, you're asking for trouble.
And trouble I got – Arguments, frustration, irritation, withdrawal – I did not want this in my marriage and I knew I had to take a different approach. Unlike my other attempts to discuss money with him, which were ad hoc, impromptu and completely out of anger due to something he unnecessarily purchased with our money; this time I decided to make a plan. Somewhere along the way I became so focused on telling and stressing my money goals that I failed to share my goals and ask for his input so that we could create a plan together
The more I thought about it, the more I realized; I know my man! I know his ideals and passions and goals and dreams. I know what makes him tick, what makes him happy, his vision for our marriage, our son and our careers; this is what I needed to focus on. By concentrating on our shared goals and vision for our family, I could introduce a new way of managing our money that would allow us to meet those goals head on instead of leaving it to chance.
Knowing my man the way that I do, I decided to wait until he had a moment to unwind from work, was well fed and had a drank (adult beverage) in his hand. And then I dropped it on him: ” Honey, we need to talk.” Now, I wish I could tell you his response was “Sure, baby what is it?; but it wasn't. I had irritated him so much by this point that I got a head roll, an exasperated sigh; and a “What now?!” Do you think I let that phase me? Sure didn't.
I began the ‘Butter Up' stage. This is where you find key things about your man and the things he does for you and your family and how happy and proud he makes you; and I can honestly say I had PLENTY of good things to say about him. Then I began to bring in our shared goals and the direction we wanted to take our family in. My husband is the bestest Dad on the face of the planet; and he wants the best for our boys. I knew there was no way we could give them average, let alone the best, at the rate we were going. This time instead of dictating what we needed to do I made an inquiry. “What do you think we could do differently to make sure we're on the right track to meeting these goals?” And then I listened and wrote them down. SIDEBAR: I didn't agree with 90% of what he said, but the key thing is that I made him feel as though what he said was important and held merit. Interestingly enough, the 10% that I did agree with were great ideas that we still implement to this day.
Although we didn't talk about everything that night, it was definitely a start in the right direction. We agreed to do our budget every pay period together, to pay bills together, to implement the Envelope System for groceries, entertainment, gas, and individual spending money; and to open a separate savings account for our son. Did some of this change over time? Absolutely! But all budgets change as income, family size, and other variables come into play. The most important thing is that we were able to open the door to positive communication about money. We were able to tie all of our dreams and passions to a financial road map to get us there. I won't lie and tell you everything was easy peasy (I'll have to tell you about our argument over a $1.49 pack of gum later); but I am happy about where we are; what we have accomplished and what's to come.
If you're looking to talk to your significant other about money I recommend you:
1. Create a plan of action prior to bringing anything up. Know what you want to talk about; and how you want to talk about it. This means that you do not want to be argumentative, accusatory or confrontational; but to create a positive environment for open communication. Please believe I know this is hard, especially when credit card bills are growing and bank accounts are dwindling every month; but if you want it to change you have to be able to talk about it without the ‘guilty' party feeling as if they are on trail.
2. Finding the right time. If you don't know what that time is; ask. You don't have to tell him why; just say you want to talk about something important. Now this not a hand on hip and a snappy “We gotta talk!” It's a “Can we set aside some time to talk Saturday afternoon, I want us to go over a few things.”
3. Food and drinks help. There are two things that make me anal; sleep and hunger. Therefore I made sure we were both well rested with full bellies; which heightened the relaxed setting.
4. Master the ‘Butter Up' stage. Why is this important? Because people are ‘funny about their money'. Basically when out of control spending, lack of savings and overall crappy money habits are exposed the guilty party can get pretty defensive. To keep things in chill mode, accentuate the positive, then introduce your message.
5. Start off with an inquiry. If both of your spending habits suck you can say “What do you think I could do better in regards to my spending habits?” Yep, open yourself up to scrutiny first. But don't worry; your turn is coming up :).
6. LISTEN. Why do you think I put that in all caps? Because as women WE TALK TOO MUCH. Not only that but we over talk, which is even worst. You want to know the easiest way to shut down a conversation? Cut a person off in mid-sentence, over talk them and interject your unsolicited advice, objections or opinions prior to them even finishing their thought. Listen, take notes, and show sincere interest in what he's saying.
7. Inquire to Action. “How can we fix this?” “What can we do to change things around?” “What do you think about…?” “What would you recommend?” You are creating a plan together to change your finances; this conversation should include your goals, your commitments, and how you are going to keep each other accountable.
Knowing your mate means you know their spending weaknesses. Take a look at the types of purchases made over the last few months and the dollar amount. GIve them their own pocket money to blow on whatever they want to, but the credit and debit cards are off limits!
Hope this helps! If you have more tips and/or comments to add please share! I'm always looking for additional ways to better our Money Talks :).