Even if you and your partner do not yet share finances, if you plan on doing so in the future, it’s good to start healthy money management habits now. But what are you supposed to do if you see that your partner is not good with money, and the reality is that, at least for now, it is still his money? Dictating how someone else handles his finances can feel like overstepping your bounds. But not saying something could set you up for a real headache when you do someday share bank accounts and credit cards. There are ways to help your partner with his money management without feeling like you’re acting like his boss or parent. It’s all about diplomacy and delicacy. Here are ways to help your financially irresponsible partner become better with money.
Reduce your standard of living
Financially irresponsible people are often easy to influence which can be a good thing…or a bad thing. If you start shopping less, talking more aloud about negotiating better prices on your insurance, and mentioning how you’re going to pack your lunch to save money, your habits could rub off on your partner. Also keep in mind that he may be spending a lot of money and buying luxury items to impress you, or give you the illusion of some type of lifestyle. If you show him you don’t need that, he may pull back.
Talk about fun financial goals
When it feels right, slip into some casual conversations about financial goals. See if your partner wants to buy a house one day. Where would he like to live? What types of activities would he like to be able to teach your kids? Piano? Karate? You can make the conversation feel fun, pull up your laptop, and start looking at how much these things cost. This may be a reality check your partner never had before.
Casually price a few houses
Here’s another reality check financially irresponsible people often need: the real price of a house, and how far away they are from being able to afford one. Millennials especially are often shocked by how far off they are from being able to afford a house. The mild scare that they could be living in an apartment into their early fifties can shock them into better money habits.
Monitor the credit card offers
Credit card companies target financially irresponsible individuals. Keep an eye on the mail. If you see your partner opening a credit card offer, ask him about it. Ask him if he’s interested in it. Suggest that he doesn’t need it…or that he should pay off one before signing up for another one.
Discuss your credit scores
Whether or not you share money, you are still going in together on things like apartment leases, car leases, and possibly even loans. And when you go in together on things like this, both of your credit scores will be checked. If you ask your partner if you can both sit down and look at your credit scores, just so you’re prepared for meetings with loan advisors or land lords, he may be surprised to find that you’re bringing a lot more to the table than he is. It can hurt a man’s pride a bit to see that he is reliant on his partner’s credit score to do things like pay off a big screen TV in increments. But that little kick to his pride could kick him into better habits.
Bring him to meet a financial advisor
Maybe your partner won’t listen to you because you aren’t a “professional.” So, bring him along to your next meeting with your financial advisor. Ask your advisor if you can pay her a small extra fee to look at your partner’s finances and draw up some plans for his financial goals.
Figure out why he overspends
People tend to overspend due to some emotional issues or to fill some void. Pay attention to your partner’s spending habits. What events tend to trigger him to go out for expensive dinners or buy new clothes? When those events happen, make sure you’re by his side right away in case he needs to vent. Encourage him to stay in and talk to you rather than go out shopping.
Find cheaper ways he can have what he wants
Maybe your partner doesn’t shop for emotional reasons but just loves his things. Alright. Then do a little research and find ways he can still live the lifestyle he (mostly) likes for less money. Sometimes the only reason people overspend is that they don’t take a half hour to do a little research online and find better deals. If he doesn’t have the patience for that research but you do, help him out.
Set a shared financial goal
Say you both decide you’d like to take a nice trip at the end of the year or purchase a new car together. You’ll have to set a shared financial goal to do that—one to which you’re both obligated. Let’s say, for example, you both need to put aside an extra $200 a month (so $400 total) to meet your goal and get that thing you want. Because there is something fun at the end of this road, your partner will feel motivated. But the process of putting aside that money will also force him to take a closer look at his finances.
Don’t make him feel guilty
No matter what you do, don’t make your partner feel guilty for his spending habits, tell him he is irresponsible, or compare him to someone who is more responsible (including you). Remember that a man’s pride runs deep. As a reaction to you making him feel guilty, your partner may just spend even more and stick to his habits more firmly.
See what he can do without
Agree that you can both do a little cleansing. Sit down and look at your credit card statements. Do you dine out too much? Do you drink at the pricey bar when you could go to the cute hole in the wall down the street? Do you take a lot of taxis when you could take the metro? Agree to do a cleanse together.
Identify the bad influences
As I mentioned before, financially irresponsible people are easy to influence. Your partner may have some friends or colleagues who influence him to eat at places he cannot afford or go on trips he cannot afford. If you notice that, and you feel comfortable talking to those people, privately mention that the two of you are trying to cut back and that it would help if they suggested more affordable restaurants.
Talk aloud about your money pitfalls
Talk “to yourself” (but really just out loud so your partner hears you) about your money mistakes. If you’re looking at your credit card bill and notice something you don’t like, state out loud, “Damn. I spent more than 20 percent of my limit this month. I have to watch that next month.” Vocalize your own little lessons so your partner can think about them for himself.
Accompany him to car lots, apartment hunting etc.
Know that your partner is probably susceptible to upsells. Anytime he is going to look at an apartment, a car, or anything where negotiations are in place, go with him. People will always try to sell him on the bigger apartment, the fancier car and so on.
Let him know you worry about the future
Your partner may not know that you’re genuinely worried about how the two of you will send your children to college, get a decent mortgage rate on a home, and retire before you’re 75. Sometimes a heart-to-heart can do the trick. But again, old habits die hard, so combine the heart-to-heart with the other tactics on this list.