7 Steps to Getting Your Spouse On Board: Step 2

If you missed the two other posts, you can catch them here:

My very sneaky but very discerning husband must have the patience of Job. As I look at the steps that he took, I just think, ‘My gosh, am I some kind of kindergartener or something? I mean, get it together, Annie!’ (I have since then, thankfully.)

He seriously had to treat this whole “Operation: get my wife onboard with our finances” with kid-gloves. At any moment I could have spooked and started remodeling everything in sight.

So after he got overly-organized and had a plan in place, he began to implement Step 2 of the process. In his words:

The spouse owns a category.

“Hey honey, groceries is your category. How much do you need in it?”

What you are doing here is cleverly but deliberately teaching your spouse Rule 1 within his/her category.

When one spouse has all of the control over every single category, you’re just asking for conflict. Nay, begging for it. 

A YNAB relationship works best when each spouse owns certain categories and not others. But we’re doing baby-steps, right? So let’s just start with one.

And you, as responsible as you are, as organized and tidy with your finances as you are, can practice letting go of the reins just a little and give your spouse at least one category in which s/he has complete control.

“Hey, how’s your clothing budget? Have you been needing to go shopping lately?”

“Actually, yeah, I could use some new clothes.”

“Okay, let me know how much you need, and I’ll put that in your category.”

Next, bend over backwards to make it happen! Think long-term. This is an investment.

It’s not about having a perfect YNAB month. It’s about coming up with a workflow that works. Having your spouse onboard works

Okay, so how is this going to be tracked?

  • Cash in an envelope? That’s one idea (probably the safest bet). You could even tell them to take the amount out of the ATM so they don’t feel like their parent is giving them their allowance.
  • S/he vows to enter in the transactions at the moment of purchase into the smart phone? Maybe, but remember, they’re not into the habit yet, most likely.
  • S/he keeps the receipts and has the spouse enter them in? Maybe.
  • You watch the account like a hawk? That was my husband’s preferred method.

It doesn’t really matter at this point. I would let them decide. The tricky part is to avoid being the parent. The chance of your spouse going over in this category this month is very likely. And that’s okay!

The most powerful part of learning is a retrospective after a failure. 

“Okay, so I see we went over on this category. Should we have put more money in there? Do we need more in there next month or is this a one time thing to catch up on not having enough in there to begin with?”

See how non-threatening that is? You’re a team. You love him. You don’t want to control her. You want this to work, so you’ll lay aside the fact that you had to go without your lattes and happy hours this month so that your beloved could have some new clothes (that you’re most likely going to enjoy, too).

When my husband showed me that grace when I went over in my clothing category, it worked. I felt like his wife, not his child, like my opinion mattered, like my comfort mattered, like I had a choice and a say in how we spent our money.

It was a baby-step, and I pushed the envelope more times than I’m proud to admit, but he kept the faith.

Like my husband, you’re learning in this whole thing, too. So if this whole little experiment flames out in a blaze of glory, go easy on yourself. Pick up the pieces, and try again next month. It’s a long-term investment with big returns financially and relationally.