Money conversations when you aren't on the same page (or even maybe in the same book!)

Hi all,

Husband of 18 years and together since I was 17 he was 18 (now 42/43).   I've used YNAB for 21 months.  He won't even talk about it - and is a 'set and forget' but also 'head in sand' kind of guy.

Have always done a together but separate approach to our $.  We look at our expenses and (based on after tax income) split them.  We currently work 32/37.5 hours and therefore split our expenses that way also (I finish early 3 days a week to take kids to after school activities).  Our 'expenses' list is still a little 'pre-YNAB' thinking for me - so doesn't contain Christmas gift budgets, holidays or appliance or bigger asset replacement items.  It does contain all our regular billed expenses – they really are the easy ones to plan for! (mortgage/rates/electricity/water/insurances/heating/house general repairs/school /kids activities/kids clothing/groceries etc).

Obviously over time using YNAB, my budget has both 1. gotten almost entirely on track for all those I am responsible for and 2. started growing as I realise it is possible to plan ahead for things like new glasses, Christmas, holidays and asset replacement.  I am hoping that over time, I can add items into our shared budget for these types of things!

So...in the meanwhile, we have reviewed our shared expenses a couple of times...and in actual fact adjusted our ‘share’ – it wasn’t ever our intention for one or the other of us to end up with more disposable income than the other – and we each contribute to the lifestyle we want and have…so we looked at our most recent fortnightly take home pay we adjusted.

I’ve paid off debt that had crept up on me and (as I worked through the priorities process) I realised wasn’t what I wanted to be spending on.  It’s helped me understand what is important to me and I’m planning for the future.  

I’ve listened to all the podcasts, read lots of the blog, and am still struggling, in the very infrequent conversations we do have, to not be ‘preachy’ and self-righteous about where I am BUT at the same time try and have a meaningful conversation about planning for the future. 

So – any tips, what has worked for you and what phrases can I say that don’t sound like I am trying to convert him…

And to be clear, I don’t need him to use YNAB.  I would like that we plan for shared priorities, spend on what is important to us (both individually and together) and mak our money and plans conversations easier.

I have tried to plant a seed also – a gift recently that I gave him was a physical money box jar wrapped with a country’s flag (printed out) as he mentioned he wanted to take part in a trip that is being organised in 2020 – and I started it off with some cold hard cash 🙂

I'd love to hear what has or hasn't worked for you...or even just hear that I am not alone in this!

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  • You're absolutely not alone! I've only been using YNAB for three months, but the biggest challenge, by far, has been getting my husband on board. When I first started using YNAB, he was incredibly skeptical that it could work and would just roll his eyes at me when I tried to talk with him about the details of the budget. We deposit our paychecks and spend most of our money out of a single checking account which makes things simpler for tracking.

    What has started to work for us is me managing the regular bills and true expenses in the budget, but then us having conversations about how we want to spend the additional money that we have (however limited that might be). Another thing, is really working together to visualize the life that we want. Through this visualization, my husband has decided that he wants to start a side business and that has given him a goal post to work toward and has led to him being "bought into" the budget. Even smaller goals, like weekend trips or buying something for a hobby can help build confidence in the process before your partner is completely sold on it.

    It's also been really important that we make conversations about money fairly casual. When I first started using YNAB, I would sit down each day and ask him question after question about his spending. Now, I try to talk to him in advance about what he wants to spend money on during the budgeting period. This way, I'm more prepared for what may come up and I'm not stalking him about the purchases he makes.

    There's also a Joining Forces guide on the site that can provide helpful tips.

    I hope this was helpful. It's a challenge, but it will be worth it once you've both committed to the budget!

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  • Thanks for your comments - I like hearing that you have seen changes and also your ideas around shared goals.

    I think I'm very stuck on how to bring that in...when we 'both' have our own money - even without a $ conversation, I'm finding having a 'where should we holiday next' conversation also isn't easy....I will keep working on it of course...

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  • First of all, if you're already splitting shared expenses relative to your net incomes you are already LEAPS AND BOUNDS ahead of many hetero-normative couples. Getting male partners on board with the idea that what matters is what you contribute towards joint quality of life, not how much money you earn, can be a nightmare for women. And I'd look at this as a super bright ray of hope in your joint budgeting conundrum. 

    I'm curious if you've thought much about the upbringing and cultural factors that may be influencing your husband's attitude towards money. My partner and I come from very different economic backgrounds. My parents are upper middle class, had enough money to pay for both of their kid's college degrees outright and still put away substantial retirement savings. They've never carried credit card debt and have always budgeted and planned for the future. My partner's family kept a solidly middle class lifestyle that was financed almost completely by credit cards. They struggled to make ends meet and now, even in their 60s, are unable to retire from their small business and still finance major purchases with credit cards.

    I knew all this, going into our relationship, and obviously don't care that my partner's family isn't "well off" the way that mine is. But it does matter, deeply, because it influences the way he thinks about money and financial security (mainly, that it's unattainable). He has a very hard time believing that saving money does any good - because he's literally never seen it work. His family has also been taken advantage of by corporate interests, like when they sold their first business to a company that then went bankrupt and ended up only paying them a quarter of the original sale price. He learned early on that if you're financially successful you're also probably a bad person.

    Realizing all of this has helped me had a lot more compassion towards his budget struggles. I too feel a little preachy and self righteous about my budgeting prowess, and I have to remember that what's right for me isn't necessarily right for him. I'm honestly not trying anymore to get him on the same page as me. I'm trying to find a page we can both be on together.

    Like  Nina Shelly I'm also working on building that shared vision through a more informal process. I've tried to have "budget dates" where we talk about financial priorities, but my partner clams up under those circumstances. Instead, I find that when he's really relaxed and enjoying himself doing something we both love, that's the best time to bring it up, and then only by saying, "I love doing this, I hope we can do more of it in the future." That kind of opens the door for him to be like "me too" and then I can start talking about how we make that happen.

    Side note - also due to his upbringing, and some nasty financial and personal defeats in his mid-twenties, he has a really hard time taking the risk associated with wanting anything. It might be worth asking if your husband has similar fears? This is why I have to get my partner is a really safe place before he can think optimistically about the future.

    I've also stopped talking about YNAB, as much as I love it. He sees me enter my purchases on my phone right as I incur them, and has heard me say more than once, "I can't buy that, it's not in my budget right now." I consider this leading by example, rather than preaching or teaching. I noticed that when I cut him his first paycheck from his new business, he wrote down a list of everything he was going to have to pay for by the end of the month, then compared that total with how much was in his bank account. Granted, he didn't give the remaining positive balance a "job," but he did kind of Rule One it without even knowing what Rule One was.

    It's a pretty excruciating process (actually, as I am writing this he just kissed me goodbye for the day and ask if we could talk about "us" this evening, YIKES). Fraught with anxiety for me, and self-doubt for him. Be really attentive to your husband's "raw" spots when having these conversations, and validate the hell out of them.

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      • Kombucha Kid
      • Slate_Gray_Router.1
      • 2 yrs ago
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      P.S. the Bad with Money podcast by Gabby Dunn is a great resource for learning more about the structural barriers faced by certain communities in achieving financial independence!

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  • I am single and have many friends I know would benefit from a budget.  But many people see budgeting as an impossible situation and I keep finding brick walls, with no one willing to share this wonderful gift I have found with me.  The suggestions here have given me ideas on how to bring up the subject to those I care about.  I would love to see their finances change, the way mine have, since coming to YNAB.  

    Thank you for this conversation.  

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  • I think it's important to find each person's points of resistance to budgeting, and for most people it's a combination of difficulty, not wanting to face how deep a hole they're in, and the perception of budgeting being restrictive.

    When we started our YNAB journey $35,000 in debt I got my wife on board by first putting all our accounts and debts into a spreadsheet so we could finally face the music and acknowledge our real position.

    Then we talked about what we want our future to look like, how much it sucks putting most of our income into debt servicing and not even being able to think about doing anything fun or travelling. We agreed that even if it was going to be difficult, it was worth the effort to make sacrifices so we could have the life we wanted.

    Most people aren't going to respond well if they hear about the short-term sacrifices first, but if you sell them the dream of financial freedom, accruing savings and even having money left over to play with, they'll be more willing to play along.

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  • Great suggestions and thinking here people.   I really appreciate the time you have taken to comment.

    Both Kombucha Kid and paveln touch on what the resistance might stem from and have given me lots of food for thought about how to keep trying to have these conversations.  Thanks again!

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