Budgeting With a Silent Partner


My husband is a man of few words. Compliments from him come few and far between, so when they do, they mean a lot. 

I’ve been budgeting with YNAB for almost three years, and I’m not sure you could say he ever really got “on board.” He goes along with the budget but he’s never actually sat down with me to look at it. He earns three-quarters of our family income, but I’m the one who handles all the finances — and all the budgeting.

Sunday morning our 28-year-old nephew dropped in for coffee. He got talking about the expense of raising a young family and I — as I do at the slightest opportunity — mentioned YNAB.

He showed no recognition of, or interest in, this “why-nab” thing and moved on to talking about his son. But my husband, who was at that moment frying an egg, said, “Yeah, that budgeting program Jesse uses is pretty good. It’s probably the best thing she’s ever done for us.”

What?

He wasn’t looking at me so he must have heard the thunk — the sound of my jaw dropping — because he added, “I never say that out loud because, well, I’m not good with that kind of thing, but we’ve paid off — what — almost $30,000 in debt?”

I was speechless.

It wasn’t just that he had paid me a rare unsolicited compliment. It was that I realized that, though he had never shown any interest in the budget, he had been paying attention.

Keep in mind: This is the same man who, when I had first told him about YNAB three years ago, had insisted that our debt was so overwhelming that no amount of penny-pinching would make a difference, so why bother?

Back then, I didn’t have YNAB blogger Annie’s 7 Steps for Getting Your Spouse on Board. My strategy then was simply to budget without him. I casually mentioned every budget success, from our rising bank balance to bills paid early, and hoped he was listening.

The Turning Point

A couple of months in, I suggested that we go out to dinner. When he said, in his most sarcastic voice, “Oh, no. We’re on a budget, remember? We can’t eat out anymore,” I was able to say, “Actually, the budget is the reason we can. I’ve saved up $75 in the meals category.”

As I recall, he responded with something insightful like “Harumph,” but I think he got the message: The budget was more than just a Suffer-While-You-Put-Every-Dollar-Toward-Debt-for-the Next-30-Years mechanism.

These days, he occasionally asks me how much we have in this category or that and, when asked, will offer his general opinion on what he considers priorities.

I don’t think he’ll ever want to be more than a silent partner in the budgeting process. But at least now I know, though he rarely says so, he’s all for it.