A view from the other side – getting your partner on board with frugality

-Written by Cel

For some couples, it can be a problem getting on the same page when it comes to finances. Steph and I are fortunate to be on the same wavelength, but that wasn’t always the case.

We joke that we are doing early retirement on easy mode, as both of us are innately frugal. Neither of us has to fight against bad financial habits or a compulsion to spend.

However, I wasn’t particularly frugal growing up. I lived with my parents in a 3 story house, frequently bought take-out food, and knew little about self-sufficiency or frugality. Most of my socializing in university revolved around drinking at bars, eating at restaurants, etc.(Although I didn’t do anything really stupid, or getting into credit card debt for stuff I didn’t really need).

When I first moved in with Stephanie, she lived in a studio apartment and ate home cooked food religiously.  So it was a bit of a transition. However, Stephanie helped make it easy as possible by doing all the cooking, and being a really good cook (who’s only gotten better over the years we’ve been together).

It helped that I didn’t place any emotional value on dining out, or anything like that. Getting take-out was just was just a means to an end.  If part of a person’s identity is wrapped up in having meals at fancy restaurants – if that is integral for them seeing themselves as a “successful person” – it’s difficult to convince them to start brown bagging lunches. It may not always be a practical aspect, but a psychological one as well that you will need to address. You might try to persuade them that a truly successful person is financially independent, and doesn’t need to fritter away their money needlessly.

For instance, I have a psychological need to have a lot of food in the house. So I used to buy a lot of expensive baked goods, junk food, etc. However! As you probably know from other posts, Stephanie is an amazing baker. So she simply started having a stash of baked goods on hand at any given time.

For entertainment, we started doing more cheap or free things, like going on hikes, socializing at people’s houses rather than at bars or restaurants, or just hanging out together at home.

Moving from a giant 3-story house to a 300 square foot apartment might have been really bad, had Steph not been really good at making the apartment feel very cozy and inviting. If it had been cluttered or junky, I probably would have been turned off small spaces forever. Now, I actually prefer them – cheaper, more environmentally friendly, easier to clean, and encourages you to be minimalist and not buy stuff you don’t really need.

The frugal person in the relationship may have a penchant towards meticulously tracking all the finances, making budgets and spreadsheets, etc. In our household, that’s Steph. The other partner may not necessarily share that same inclination, so there’s no need to force them to do it. So long as one person knows what the financial plan is, and how it’s going to be accomplished, you don’t need both people to be creating spreadsheets and poring over data. Trying to force someone to that might only turn them off frugality.

So to sum up, if you want to convert your partner to the frugality train, try to make it as easy for them as possible. You want it to be the path of least resistance whenever feasible, rather than something that they have to go out of their way to do, or some hardship to endure. And if it seems like they are reluctant, try to identify what the actual issue is. It may not be the practical issue at hand, but an underlying psychological issue.

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