In our journey to save $60,000, we were fortunate that both of us valued some of the same things: travel and experiences. Because of those shared values we were able to become a penny-pincher superhero duo. A shared goal, we found, is one of the most powerful motivators for getting in sync with habits – ours happened to be saving money. But what if your partner/friend/spouse is a spender and you don’t have dedicated shared goal to pursue? What if you want to convince your spouse to save money? We can lend a few tips to help with that.
Make it Personal
Use your spender’s emotions and desires to your advantage. Let’s say your spender loves animals or has a family history with a disease, use that as a reason for practicing frugal steps. Let your spender pick the non-profit/charity and make an agreement to divert entertainment/shopping/weekend money into a donation fund. Basically have a donation/tithing category in your budget (you have a budget don’t you?). You’ll have to do a little feeling around but make sure the donation amount isn’t too small where no one notices but also not too large where it breaks the bank. Make it enough that everyone is aware of it. Once the two of you save a certain amount, cut the check and send it off. You get to pick the next charity.
Do both of you want something? For example, a house? Yes? Well in that case you have a pretty solid foundation on which to build your frugal kingdom. Maybe you both want to go on a trip, like we did. That’s another worthy goal. The two of you need to communicate and find out what matters most to each other, if you don’t already know. Once you know and once you’ve agreed on values, saving for them won’t be as arduous as it had been in the past.
Everything in Moderation, Including Moderation
Often when you’re trying to convince your spouse to save money, it can be helpful and stress relieving to have a little splurge every once in a while. It’s like having an occasional cheat meal. Be careful with this, though, make sure you aren’t doing this too often, but also make sure it’s something you both truly enjoy – like a play, ballgame, movie, or favorite restaurant. Also be aware that your reward should be relative to how much you make/spend/save – no ludicrous rewards for saving a pittance.
Better yet, if your reward is being happy with your spender’s happiness, you’ve cracked the code to success. You don’t need to engage in something you both like in every case. If your spender likes Shakespeare and you don’t, but are happy to go to it because it makes them happy, you win! You’re options just multiplied tenfold. Make the splurge meaningful by keeping it rare enough that everyone looks forward to it, and if your spender realizes you’re enjoying their happiness in and of itself, they will be more likely to give you leeway in other realms of your relationship.
Make Being Frugal Fun
- Kids use their imaginations
- Using your imagination is free
- Everyone reminisces about being a kid
Add all of these things together and I’m telling you to exercise your imagination! It can be tough to be imaginative but luckily you have the Internet to help give you some ideas (just be careful how much time you spend on it). Record your own podcast, start a tape swap with friends, learn to love bird watching, have a dress up night (a couple we met once dressed up in a-shirts, sat in lawn chairs in the front lawn, and drank PBR). Organize a neighborhood potluck, start composting, play tag, play basketball, have a haiku writing competition, do a puzzle! Look at what kids do (that doesn’t involve a glowing screen) and try to emulate them. Kids are imaginative because they don’t have money to spend!
Difference Between Frugal and Cheap
Cheap means you don’t spend money on anything. Ever, if possible. Being cheap is bad. Being frugal means you spend money only on the things that matter. For example, when asked to be in a wedding a cheap person would decline because it’s a lot of money to spend for a single day. A frugal person would feel still feel the sting of money spent but would understand that a friend’s wedding is a true life moment and is worth spending some money on (if doing so won’t put you in debt or cripple your modest budget). Be frugal, not cheap. And don’t forget frugality is a virtue.
Teach, Don’t Preach
Unless you’re the Buddha you’re bound to get a little defensive when someone comes at you hard with critiques and criticism. That’s especially true when trying to convince your spouse to save money. Keep that in mind when the desire to preach at someone else arises. It’s easy to get into the swing of preachy but we need to remember that it doesn’t work, especially not with two people who are supposed to be sharing equal responsibility and respect.
Imagine if your spender came to you preaching the benefits of keeping a stagnant savings account and spending any cash surplus you came across. You would laugh that person out of the room. You are so convinced that saving money is the right thing to do, the contrasting idea of that is ludicrous. Imagine how hard it would be to convince someone that a diet of candy and soda was healthy. It can be that difficult to convince a spender to cut down on the purchases when you preach at them. Few people want their beliefs attacked directly, but many will entertain other points of view if you do so helpfully and without judgment.
You’re Human, Too
Let it be known that you, too, enjoy spending and it can be difficult to stay frugal. Let your spender know that you’re human when it comes to finances and you are occasionally tempted by the desire to spend. Share what you feel like when you save and how you enjoy the positive benefits it can have on other people: helping the poor or sick, for example. Don’t have all the answers. If a question or situation comes up, and you know the frugal truth can be too hard to bear, consider taking a milder approach and working with your spender to find a net positive solution.
Personify the values you want your spender to pick up on. This is so tough because it can take a while and being preachy is immediate. We like to preach because it’s easy and doesn’t take forever to do. Preaching only “works” when the scales of power are skewed and the individual with less fears the individual with more. And even then the “working” of preaching is tenuous and creates resentment. Instead you must be a good role model. You must truly embrace the spirit of ethos described above in order to convince your spender than you’re happy being a saver. If you believe it and live it, they will pick up on it.
Convince Your Spouse to Save Money! Believe in Yourself!
Remind yourself right now: “Being frugal is virtuous.” Saving money is good, it is Right, it is a worthy thing to do. You can be proud of being a saver. Nobody looks at a spender and thinks they are righteous for spending all of their money.
Be aware that you’re doing a good thing but be humble about it. If you’re pompous about your spending habits you’re sure to turn away your spender. It’s difficult to convince your spouse to save money, but will a little dedication and patience you’ll find it much easier.