how to get your partner on board with budgeting

4 Ways to Get Your Partner on Board With Budgeting

What to Do When You're Pumped and They're Stumped...


You’ve got a fire in your veins to finally get your finances under control, but there’s just one problem—how do you get your partner on board with budgeting too? You’re jazzed out of your mind, talking a million miles a minute about the miracle that is THE BUDGET, but your partner is just giving you some serious side eye. Egads! What’s a couple to do?!

Let’s level set: you want to budget, but your partner/spouse/significant other is not on board. Here’s how to proceed forward:

First things first: listen to them.

If they’re opposed or hesitant, they probably have a reason (or three) why. 

  • Do they feel restricted or controlled by the thought of budgeting? 
  • Do they have some money scares from growing up that need to be out in the open first? 
  • Maybe they actually have a system and like it better than yours! 

All these things are best talked about first before trying to bash the budget on an unwilling partner. If you don’t, your shiny budget plan might be grounded before it starts.

Ok, so once you’ve gotten some buy-in to dabble in budgeting, here’s your game plan for getting your reluctant partner on the budgeting bandwagon. It doesn’t have to be forced, it doesn’t have to be stressful. Check it out:

Prefer to watch instead of read? Watch as Ashley explains four ways to get your partner on board with budgeting:

4 Ways to Get your Partner On Board With Budgeting

1. Create a Fun Money Category for Each of You

When you tell your partner “hey we should budget,” your partner might actually be hearing “hey, stop spending so much money.” or “hey, you can’t buy anything you like ever again.” But nothing could be further from the truth! The first step to getting your partner on board is to inject the fun immediately back into the equation.

Fun Money gives each of you your own spending money—which, of course, is fun!

Here’s how to do it: add two categories to your budget (one for you, one for them) and decide on a monthly amount. This becomes your Fun Money and you get to spend it however you want. 

In our budget, my husband Brian gets $85 every month, I get $85 every month. He can buy whatever he wants, I can buy whatever I want. No questions asked, no snide remarks passed (but really, no snide remarks. That’s central to preserving its joy). If you don’t spend it, it rolls over to the next month (but no borrowing against future Fun Money).

How to get your partner on board with budgeting: Step 1: fun money for each of you.

You can see I’m winning right now in the Fun Money competition. I’m kidding. But only sort of. This approach lets us swim in our natural spending lanes: Brian saves up for months and buys something big—like a mountain bike or something with an engine. I’m more of a whittler: I go to a concert with friends, pick up a few things on Amazon, and now I’m saving up for a trip with my mom. 

Our fun money stipend has been anywhere from $20 to as high as $150 as we experimented with what worked for our budget. There’s no right answer, you’ll know what makes sense for you and your budget. Adding fun money to our budget reduced our money fights by 75%. Ok that statistic is completely unverifiable but that’s what it felt like the day we added those categories. 

2. Save For Something They Care About

You already know the budget is a powerful force, and the key to translating that knowledge to your partner is to show, not tell.

Soothe your partner’s worries that you’re going to slash and burn your spending and become a family of frugalosauruses (frugalosauri?). To build trust in the budget, add categories and balances that are important to them—what can they get excited about? 

Is there something they’ve been talking about that you just haven’t been able to afford? A hobby? A repair? A trip? Something to upgrade? Add a category and start saving for it today.

In our budget, we added a line item for a new speaker for our living room. Would I buy this if it were just me? Nope, I would not. But it matters to him so we’re starting to squirrel money away each month. As the balance grows, the excitement grows. And just imagine the glee he’ll feel when thwoomp! On the wall goes a new sound bar! Thanks, budget!

3. Make It Easy for Them—Remove Friction

You want to make it as easy as possible for your partner to buy into the budget. That probably means you’re going to do most of the work. Congratulations, household Chief Financial Officer on your newly elected post. And you know what, you might manage the budget and love it—and that’s perfectly fine.

I manage the budget and Brian doesn’t. He’ll ask if we have dollars to go out to eat, or for a new pair of jeans. He might take a peek into the budget on occasion. But he doesn’t want to get down into the nitty gritty, and he doesn’t enjoy the daily budgeting like I do. So, I send him a monthly recap of the big picture, we get on the same page, and that setup works for us. It’s actually very rare that I hear of couples that have equal vigor toward budgeting. (They might have equal vigor toward larger life goals, but when it comes to actually doing the budget, it seems more common for one person to really dig in).

4. Have a Regular Budget Date

And speaking of larger life goals, make it a regular date! Get into a rhythm where you have time set aside to talk. The frequency will depend on your life. Maybe it’s every Monday night, or maybe it’s the last Sunday of the month. Make their favorite meal. Go to your favorite restaurant or coffee shop. 

For those first conversations, don’t make it about money. Make it about wants, dreams, and aspirations. You can talk about all those things without mentioning money. Let it be a time where you really dream about the future.  

At some point down the road, you can make it about something specific, like “let’s take a road trip down the coast.” Pick just one awesome thing to start that you’re both excited about and make it not about spending less, but about spending more. 

At the end of the day, it’s a slow process. I’m still working on it. Ashley is still working on it. Even our CEO and his wife are still working on it. But oh man, when we get on the same page financially—which is ridiculously easier through budgeting—wow, do we feel like an unstoppable team.  

And that, my friend, is worth the slow and steady process.