NICKEL’S, DIME’S AND QUARTER’S: CONVERTING YOURSELF OR YOUR SPOUSE.

My grandmother once told me that by the time you marry your spouse they’re already set in their ways, you must accept them for who they are and don’t expect them to change.

Shifting gears in the middle of a financial struggle can be challenging to any relationship, even when its at its very best; but when time’s are tough there is a small degree of hope for some behavior modification. Any psychologist will tell you any behavior modification takes time. So be patient. It just may take several years or his being unemployed for you to get through to him. ( I’m going to be using a gender neutral “he,” not just for simplicity but its something I can relate too. So to the men out there reading this, in converting your spouse, you’ll be thinking about “her.”)

The advice I’m going to give you isn’t a recipe for success but it just might bridge the gap between sinking and staying afloat, living together, for richer or poorer.

Like any diet, you should have reasonable expectations on what can be accomplished within a specific time frame. Establish a financial goal that you both can agree on. You’re probably thinking “Good Luck!” To do this you must present a goal that will show him how he can benefit from it. Yes, he will demand evidence. Record your spending habits, and if he won’t cooperate, you know his habits, so you can estimate what he’s spending by the money that is left unaccountable for.

It is always a good to confront him at the right time. Not when he first walks in the door after working all day, has that presentation to make at work the next day, not when he’s watching his favorite television show or in the middle of that ballgame. Never accuse or blame; just stick to the facts when you bring up that major item he just purchased because he just had to have it.

Request small changes rather that sweeping “domestic” reform. Take my youngest daughter for example, a classic tightwad with financial sense. Her husband had a bad habit of eating out with the guy’s everyday and it was taking a big chunk into their budget. She called me (Rule #1 don’t involve family in financial arguments.), seeking my advice because he was fed up with her dictatorship. My suggestion to her was to give him a reasonable spending limit, known as an allowance, so he could eat out with the guys and brown bag it the other days. My son-in-law had no knowledge what the word “budget” meant so I told her to present their financial budget, what it was; and a proposal, what it needed to be; along with a little extra so he could impulse buy. This gave him the freedom to spend it on what he wanted without comment or criticism, including buying that gift for her. I told her to give herself the same discretionary fund. This attempt to make him responsible for money was first perceived as an attempt to control him and almost backfired. She was lucky she found a loving way to simmer the raging fire she fueled.

Educate him. Sometime’s the trouble is they don’t understand the concept of money. Like small children, we as adult, just don’t require instant gratification, we demand it. Show him the price difference on items from one week to another and show him how you both can save money, by waiting for it to go on sale, rather than buying it on impulse. Show him there are ways to save money, and he’s more receptive if you increase his discretionary fund. Sometime’s you’re the last person he wants to hear information from and the best way to get through to him is ask him “What do you think about….? Give him time to think about it. Walk away, and then bring up the subject in the same way another day. Most often times, he’ll think it’s his idea. Go with the flow, you’ll win him over.

Believe me when the experts say financial issues are among the top reasons why people end up divorced. Its true. Here’s a couple of tips, so financial issues aren’t the demise of your relationship:

The financial key to success when people have two spending styles is trust and communication. In my marriage, I was the saver and he was the spender. In knowing this, I always set money aside for emergencies, shamefully, not telling him. If something broke, there was always money to get “it” fixed, repaired or replaced. It wasn’t until he asked me flat out, just how much do I have set aside ,and I responded to fix just about anything that broke; did things blow up between us. I was always worried that if he knew the money was there, he’d find something to spend it on. On the flip side, he was always worrying about if things broke, there wouldn’t be money to fix things.

Agree that purchases over a specific limit must be discussed and agreed upon. If you know a major expense is coming up discuss it in advance and plan for it. Be sure to have a joint savings account that you pay like a bill. If you run into a situation where either one of you have binged on a major purchase, don’t retaliate with one of your own to get even, this only proves that the money was available all along. Any major purchases such as a house and car should be purchased jointly, eliminating his or hers, it should always be “ours.” If purchased separately, in your own name, you’ll be hearing about it for years.

The most serious mistake any family could make is not setting aside money for an annual vacation.

Finding the key to making vacations affordable and fun will be what’s discussed next time in Nickel’s, Dime’s, and Quarters: Vacation Fun, On Only Cents.