Trying not to smother my significant other

Hi, I'm Emma. I've been on the YNAB wagon since January 2020 and I've been all in since the start. Because of YNAB I've been able to save for a car purchase, determine where my true goals lie in regards to my money, and eliminate almost all stress regarding money.


That being said, my boyfriend of 5 years is not on the YNAB wagon and I struggle so hard not to make him feel bad about it (not on purpose, but any time I bring up money he goes into turtle mode, where he thinks I'm shaming him). He has constant stress regarding money and doesn't have any sort of budget. This only bothers me because I know how much stress could be eliminated using any sort of budget, doesn't even have to be YNAB. He just refuses to plan for the future. His form of budgeting is having a "cushion" in his bank account, and everything above that cushion is fair game. (So if he has $2,000 in his account, $1,000 of that is the cushion, basically his emergency fund, and the rest is for literally everything else). There's no sort of breakdown or jobs for his dollars and it frustrates me that he won't even give my way a shot.


I KNOW in my brain that it's not my job to tell him how to manage his money. I know this. I remind myself multiple times a day. But I have the tools to help!! I know what a difference budgeting the YNAB way can make! We will eventually be getting married, and once that happens these differences in money management will become a much bigger deal. 


Has anyone been in a similar situation? Any advice?  I know I need to bite my tongue. And it's been almost 6 months since I brought it up last, but he's down to $400 in his account and it's causing him so much stress and my YNAB brain won't shut up.

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  • I feel your pain...I have the same issue with my SO....only difference is that she is not down to her last 400 bucks...thank God for that. I've cleared all CC debt and she still doesn't see the advantage...or believe it. My answer to this is to simply let it go.....she'll either see the light eventually or she will difference to me so I let it go and save myself unnecessary stress....Hope this helps....

    Like 1
  • I know, it's hard...but it looks like you've already figured out that negative judgment is backfiring. Money is a tough subject for many. Try to gently and curiously ask him if he has any positive things he might want to do with his money, like save to buy a house, have enough extra to travel or take time off work, or visit his family more, or retire early. This is going to look different for everyone, so projecting your own goals onto someone else just won't have the same effect. Once you understand what he might want to do with more money (or maybe invite him to just start thinking about it), you can appeal to his personal interests.

    Like 1
  • I made progress with my wife when I added up all of our monthly debt payments and showed her the amount of cashflow we could have if she got on board with budgeting and focused on paying off our debts.  I spoke in terms of her priorities (money for travel), and it clicked for her.  She fell in love with the idea of being able to afford going on vacation every other month.  Fast forward a couple years and the debt is all paid off.  We don't actually vacation every other month, but the idea of doing that motivates her to continue using YNAB.

    I'm not sure what degree of difference YNAB will have with your SO's cashflow, but if it's meaningful, try to connect it to what they find important.

    Like 2
  • It depends on how serious you two are. If you're going to be long term partners, you need to be on the same page.  You're going to have to have "the talk". No, not the birds and the bees. Money. Seriously, finances are a huge part of a partnership and you can't be at odds about it.

    Just let him know how much it's done for you and that there's nothing scary about it. You'll help him all along the way. He'll be in a much better place financially and have some serenity both about money and your relationship.  Just being honest about the statistics here. If you don't work it out, your future together is not promising. Not trying to be mean but those are just the facts.

    Like 3
      • MadDog
      • Navy_Blue_Pegasus.2
      • 2 mths ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      Superbone Absolutely agree with this! Nothing worse than being on opposite sides of the page when it comes to money. 

      A big thing that I found helped is the suggestion of taking a "what's in it for him?" If you can find an advantage for him, then there is more likelihood that he will come on board. Maybe find a short term goal to meet. Run a budget on the side to show him.

      Like 2
  • Emma Catherine said:
    We will eventually be getting married, and once that happens these differences in money management will become a much bigger deal. 

    They absolutely will. Marriage can bring you closer together and it can also tear you further apart because there is more at stake.

    I think you have three choices here.

    1. The best option is to get on the same page before you get married. In fact, be clear that getting on the same page about finances is a condition of moving forward with your marriage. Go to a counselor if you need to. This is as important as being on the same page about whether you want kids. Finances will literally tear a marriage apart.
    2. The next best option is to get consensus that after you get married, his paychecks go into the shared account and you take care of the finances. You'll help him budget for fun stuff but you're in charge of prioritization. As long as he's willing to let go and let you be in charge, this can work. I've seen it work fine. But he has to be willing to say "here's my money and thank you for managing it" and then shut up after that. 😂
    3. My least favorite option is to keep your money separate, let him manage his money the way he wants to and as long as he pays his portion of the bills on time, you leave him alone. If he complains about money you can offer compassion but not financial advice. I've seen this work even though it's not how I would approach it.
    Like 3
  • As others have echoed, money can ruin a relationship if you can't figure out a way to work through it.
    Seriously - go get some counseling together. Find a counselor that can help you work through the money issues.

    What's important to recognize about money issues is that it's almost never actually about the money. There's always and underlying emotional thing that is keeping the money pattern in place. Feeling bad about it or ashamed doesn't help release the pattern. It's often something from childhood (the way a parent handled money, what "having money" meant in the family, judgements that were made about having/not having money, etc, etc, etc). Until you get to the bottom of THAT, then it's going to be a like Sisyphus and the boulder.

    So the way you actually get through the money issues is by not focusing on the money issues at all.

    My BF and I have been together for 9 years. When we got together he had about 8k in debt, and I had around 2k, and we got a personal loan to pay it off. We screwed around for the first several years, even though I was using YNAB then (he wasn't and in the beginning didn't want me to even have access to his accounts). He's on board, but I still keep everything organized. He's learned when I tell him to slow down on spending I'm not doing it to be mean, I'm doing it because he's not thinking of the bigger picture (i.e. we have a HOUSE and real bills to pay). I've also learned that I can't make him wrong for any purchase, but I can gently suggest that he cut back on spending. It's been a bumpy road, but we are in a MUCH better place (in the 4 years since we purchased our house his net worth has risen $16,000). Part of that was the actual act of buying a house.... he suddenly realized that it was all on his shoulders. I reassured him we could make it work, but it was going to be tight, and he's done a really good job of doing better over the years.

    So it's possible, but it takes clear, honest communication together, and not taking things personally together.
    I hope you all succeed and figure out how to make it work!

    Like 3
  • Update and another question for all you lovely people!


    This past weekend my boyfriend agreed to sit down with me and let me walk him through setting up a budget in YNAB! It was a great first step. Now I'm going to just sit back for a few weeks and let him get comfortable with seeing his budget every day and how his spending effects it. 


    So now onto the overthinking and planning in my head 😅


    Since he hasn't had a budget ever and hasn't really been using his money to cover future expenses, he has a decent amount of debt. As I've said before, marriage is the next step for us, and when that happens, all our debt is going to get combined. 


    I'm struggling with how this is going to be handled. I've been very cognizant of my debt for the past year and a half and have been doing my best to pay it down and not accrue more. I'm finding it hard to get out of the selfish mindset over my money ("It's my money, I don't want to use it to pay off your debt you racked up before we combined everything"). He pays more monthly for his car, while I pay more monthly for my student loans; however, we both had our student loans coming into the relationship, whereas he bought a new (to him) car last year when his old car was less than 2 years old, and I bought a new car in February after saving $10,000 and my lease was up on my old car (ie I wouldn't have had a car if I didn't buy one). 


    I guess my problem is just basically me judging him for some of the decisions he has made with his money throughout the course of our relationship. I need help friends. How can I shift my mindset? Can I even do that? This is very important to me because I don't ever want him to feel that judgement, and I would really like to stop thinking about it whenever the future is brought up.

    Like 1
    • Emma Catherine What an exciting first step! I'm so glad that sitting down and walking him through the budget went well. 

      Now, this is just my story, but I want to offer it up in case it's a helpful perspective! When I got engaged, I was the partner with debt. My partner and I sat down to have the "how are we going to combine/not combine finances" conversation, and we agreed that everything that we brought into our marriage would be shared, including my debt. Having my partner agree to work together to pay down debt encouraged me to make better choices moving forward - because it was clear that my past choices were affecting our shared financial picture, and any future choices I made would impact us both equally, too.

      I think if he had left me to tackle my debt alone I would have been much more likely to continue making poor financial choices (as well as potentially harbored some resentment towards him and his cozier financial situation - though that would have been a me problem 😆).

      Every relationship is so different, and I know that combining finances in this way does NOT work for everyone. That said, I do think it's worth it to put some of that internal dialogue out into the open, and set expectations for how you'll work together to pay down existing debt + avoid future debt. 

      Like 7
      • Emma Catherine
      • Civil engineer getting back on track
      • emmacatherine
      • 2 mths ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      Rachel This is what I needed to hear. If combining everything helps set us both up for making good decisions moving forward, then I'll do it. I just didn't want to combine and then his spending habits continue and negatively affect both of us. 

      Like 2
  • Rachel said:
    I do think it's worth it to put some of that internal dialogue out into the open, and set expectations for how you'll work together to pay down existing debt + avoid future debt.

    THIS. It's imperative that you do this before you get married. You both need to be on the same page financially.

    Like 4
  • Seconding (thirding?) Rachel and Superbone....

    Emma Catherine said:
    This is very important to me because I don't ever want him to feel that judgement, and I would really like to stop thinking about it whenever the future is brought up.

    The best way, IMO, to stop ruminating on it is to get it out in the open. If you can't have this conversation without you feeling accusatory/judging and/or your partner feeling defensive, you are not ready to combine finances, and if your values lead you that marriage and combining finances go hand in hand (a position that I totally respect), then you're not ready to get married, either. 

    Like 3
  • I think it's normal to feel some of those things, and it is important that you both find a level of comfort in communication together that you can say things and recognize that it's your responsibility to own that, and not his responsibility to fix how you feel about his situation.

    It has taken my BF and I a LONG time to work through these things, and we're still working on it. He still over spends when he gets stressed out (and sometimes when he's not stressed out 🤦‍♀️). I can 100% with confidence say that he spends LESS when I don't judge him about it, and don't put pressure on him regarding questioning why he's doing it blah blah blah blah. Seriously, when I was able to get to a neutral point and just figure out in our budget how to make it work (even if it meant that we added debt) and tell him in a really neutral way, "hey, that purchase added debt because there weren't funds available for that kind of purchase," that's when we started to make progress. Added into that when we were able to make really awesome decisions like paying the car insurance in a 6 month lump sum instead of monthly, which saves us $50 EACH MONTH, he started to really see the value in it. I still manage the budgets, and crunch the numbers, but it's what I like to do (I'm a geek like that). He still doesn't look at his budget, except for when he really wants something big and we have to have a conversation about where he wants to WAM the money from. And I'm ok with that.

    I have absolutely helped him pay off his debt. And he absolutely sees how his spending in the early part of our relationship contributed to where we are today, and he knows that. But it took a while for him to get to this point, and he has gotten to this point faster since I have been able to get really neutral in dealing with the conversations around money - releasing the judgement and stress. The better I got at it, the better he's gotten at it, and I really didn't have to do anything.

    This is already long... but I feel like this is an important secret that no one talks about.... this is true in relation to everything, but especially money. I would encourage you to take a really big picture view of your life... what other areas do you judge the way other people do things? Do you ever say "must be nice" when you see someone with something fancy expensive like a car/house/clothes, etc? Do you find yourself getting annoyed or frustrated if the person in front of you in line is struggling to pay for something with coins and wadded up bills? If so then it's worth really taking a hard look at why these things bother you about other people. They absolutely have no bearing on you, or your personal status/worth/etc. So what is it about the situation that gets to you? If you can really dive deep on this, I think you'll find that you'll get to the root of where this judgement is coming from, and why it bothers you so much. (A little hint is that there's probably something in your childhood, the way a parent did (or did not) handle money, a situation that happened, if money was always a subject that brought up fights between your parents, or even something as simple as your parents judging others who have money problems (or who appear not to), etc, etc, etc. I realized one day that one of the reasons I was always a little afraid of "having money" was my mother would always grumble "just because you have the money to buy it doesn't mean you have the brains to drive it" whenever someone with a fancy car would do something stupid... all that told me as a child was that people who had money were stupid. Ouch! So the things that get said to us and around us as children often shape who we become as adults.... until we get to the bottom of that, the way we act and interact with money will stay the same.
    It might be worth journaling and doing a really big brain dump about this, just write and write until there's nothing left. Start with your frustration with your boyfriend and how he handles things and write all about it until there's nothing left to write. And then write "this reminds me of...." and allow your mind to just go with it and see what comes up. Often when we stop thinking so hard and let our subconscious talk it's very interesting what we discover. If you're worried about it, then burn it after you're done (which I also find helps to get rid of those feelings even more!).
    Wishing you so much luck with this. It sounds like you really want to make it work, and I admire you for that. I hope that the two of you are able to figure out a way together, and that it makes your relationship even stronger.

    Like 5
  • Emma Catherine said:
    I guess my problem is just basically me judging him for some of the decisions he has made with his money throughout the course of our relationship.

     I don't know you obviously, but maybe you can reflect on your life before YNAB or budgeting. Did you make bad decisions with your money then? When did it change? If it changed when starting budgeting, then give him a chance to change. Let's give him some time to use YNAB and see if it changes his perspective and habits. If he changes his approach to money, then you should have less stress about the idea to help payback his debts.

    I know you can't stop your brain from thinking but remind yourself some things need time to become clearer.

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