Getting your spendy partner on board with budgetin...

Getting your spendy partner on board with budgeting

One of the biggest barriers to getting your money together can actually be other people – we talk about strategies for talking with your partner, roommate, or co-parent about money.

We talk about:

  • Leading by example
  • Focusing the conversation on values instead of shame
  • Talking about money with a co-parent that you’re not romantically involved with
  • Anarcho-punk roommates who pay rent in cash
  • Paying the tab for the entire bar (really, we do!)
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Will Romey: [00:00:00.18] This show is supported by generous listeners like you. Yes, you! through our Patreon. This [00:00:05.0] episode is under the Tamsen G Association, Warrior Queen and Chris Giddings. To learn more about ways to support Oh My Dollar! and get cool perks [00:00:10.0] like cat stickers and a fancy special icon [00:00:15.0] on our forums. You can visit

Lillian Karabaic: [00:00:19.62] Welcome [00:00:20.0] to Oh my dollar!,  A personal finance show with a dash of glitter. Dealing with money can be scary and stressful. Here [00:00:25.0] we give practical, friendly advice about money that helps you tackle the financial overwhelm. I’m your host [00:00:30.0] Lillian Karabaic

Will Romey: [00:00:31.74] I’m your other host, Will!

Lillian Karabaic: [00:00:34.35] So the [00:00:35.0] other day I was teaching a workshop on personal finance and one of the [00:00:40.0] students came up to me afterwards, and said like, “how do I [00:00:45.0] get my partner to stop spending all of the money?” [00:00:50.0]

Lillian Karabaic: [00:00:51.15] And this is one of those things that I think comes up really often [00:00:55.0] when you first start talking about like getting your money together. This student, in particular was like, I’ve [00:01:00.0] been behind on rent and bills for a couple months, but I just got a job and I’m like, catching [00:01:05.0] up.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:01:05.04] But, one of the big problems that I have is just that my partner is like always wants to go to the bar [00:01:10.0] and always wants to spend money eating out and doesn’t really like understand [00:01:15.0] that that can’t be the thing I do right now.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:01:17.43] And it’s such a slippery slope when [00:01:20.0] your romantic partner is – not *really* [00:01:25.0] on board with getting money together side of things,  when you are [00:01:30.0] like motivated and fired up, just start getting things together.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:01:33.48] And that could be like early [00:01:35.0] in the stages, where you’re just starting budgeting. But it can also be like later on when it turns out like, you know, [00:01:40.0] you want to do a renovation on your house and one person’s on board and the other is not.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:01:44.16] Like so many [00:01:45.0] conversations that we have with our significant other are kind of conversations about [00:01:50.0] money, which, of course, as we know on the show, are always really just a conversation about values.

Will Romey: [00:01:55.72] Yeah. [00:01:55.0]

Lillian Karabaic: [00:01:56.68] And obviously the best case scenario is that your partner wants to get a handle on your [00:02:00.0] money just the same as you.

Will Romey: [00:02:02.43] Best case scenario, you both want to do it and you can work on that together.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:02:04.25] Right! But [00:02:05.0] that doesn’t mean that there isn’t still like going to be conflict and conversations. But let’s [00:02:10.0] say, like, one of you is really excited about it and you’re trying to like start [00:02:15.0] budgeting together, blah, blah, blah, but the other is just totally not into it. If [00:02:20.0] your partner is resistance to making a change –  My biggest advice and advice [00:02:25.0] that I’ve seen a lot of other people that have kind of like brought their partner around – is the lead [00:02:30.0] by example.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:02:32.28] Which is just leave them out of like starting [00:02:35.0] budgeting and doing the saving and just lead by example. Like remember, that they’re dealing [00:02:40.0] with money scripts and like internal feelings about money just like you are. [00:02:45.0]

Will Romey: [00:02:45.09] And they’ll see you succeeding at these things and want to be like that.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:02:49.08] Right. And so like [00:02:50.0] you can work on yourself, right? It’s like it’s the airplane thing. Put your mask [00:02:55.0] on yourself, before before your partner.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:02:59.36] And I [00:03:00.0] think it’s really helpful, because I think even at the even if you’re like your finances aren’t [00:03:05.0] commingled with your partner. Obviously, this is a little easier if you’re not –

Will Romey: [00:03:08.58] Right, because it’s just up to you!

Lillian Karabaic: [00:03:08.79] If [00:03:10.0] you live with them and you’re mostly separate like it, it helps for you because they’re like, oh, they’ll [00:03:15.0] start to see you like get control of this and be like, oh, I especially [00:03:20.0] if they’re like a complete disaster with money-  which I know quite a few people like that.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:03:24.15] I’d be like, oh, I want [00:03:25.0] that. I want that feeling of peace with my money and start to see it.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:03:29.82] And just [00:03:30.0] like seeing kind of the way that you’re handling it, like, oh, they’re sitting down to [00:03:35.0] budget every Sunday night or oh, like I actually see them like entering [00:03:40.0] transactions or making the decision to close their tab at the bar when they like have [00:03:45.0] hit their limit.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:03:45.87] You know, those those kind of things can just start to to [00:03:50.0] make a difference. And there’s a lot of things that usually are within your control, unless [00:03:55.0] you are like always 100 percent of the time with your partner.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:03:57.99] So like, do you bring lunch to [00:04:00.0] work? That’s probably something within your control. It’s something that you can choose to do yourself.

Will Romey: [00:04:04.6] It would be [00:04:05.0] like less pressured by by by their inclusion to do differently.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:04:08.61] So and then like the [00:04:10.0] automatic savings is one of those things that I think is really powerful, [00:04:15.0] especially if you’re like starting to get that ahead.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:04:16.71] And, you know, that’s the thing that you’re in control of. You can [00:04:20.0] you can start amping up that savings and paying yourself first without [00:04:25.0] them. So one of the things that I like to think about [00:04:30.0] is figuring out ways that you can involve them that don’t make them feel like they’re restricted. [00:04:35.0]

Lillian Karabaic: [00:04:34.71] So, hopefully if you are in a relationship with them, you [00:04:40.0] can kind of see what’s going on. Maybe they shut down when you talk about money at all because they just don’t want [00:04:45.0] to deal with it. Or maybe they feel like they’re not good at money.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:04:49.39] So if they say [00:04:50.0] like, oh, the finances are your thing, do whatever you want, I recommend just [00:04:55.0] asking them to show up to a budget check in. And then once you get there, ask them [00:05:00.0] about things that are not to do with numbers.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:05:02.86] So if they feel like finances are not their thing, to [00:05:05.0] have the conversations about money that are about goals and dreams and not about numbers [00:05:10.0] and then just shut up and listen while they answer,.

Will Romey: [00:05:12.15] I like that because that kind of makes it less budgeting as an abstract [00:05:15.0] concept. And more bring it back to how money powers your life.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:05:20.03] And [00:05:20.0] I’d probably like you have some shared goals that this person like. They could be really big financial goals [00:05:25.0] that you want to buy a house.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:05:26.77] They could be like wanting to fund school, like private school for your kids, [00:05:30.0] or like taking off to travel the world. But it also to just be something [00:05:35.0] really simple, which is like “I want to stop being incredibly stressed out at the end of every month, because [00:05:40.0] we’re out of money until the next payday.” Right?

Lillian Karabaic: [00:05:41.71] Like it could be, which is like both simple [00:05:45.0] and the most important. Right?

Lillian Karabaic: [00:05:47.05] So having a conversation about like [00:05:50.0] what would it look like? Oh, what would what would it look like if at the end [00:05:55.0] of each month we were able to go out for a nice meal, because we’ve saved enough money to do that?

Lillian Karabaic: [00:05:59.86] What [00:06:00.0] would it look like if, you know, we weren’t in the situation where we had to finance [00:06:05.0] every time we needed a car repair and kind of focus on like that and ideally [00:06:10.0] focus on the positive goals and dreams, if they really have a lot of trouble with this.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:06:14.86] So [00:06:15.0] like, oh, three years from now, what do we want to be able to do? Well, I’d love to be able to quit my job and spend [00:06:20.0] six months, you know -.

Will Romey: [00:06:21.01] On a cruise ship.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:06:22.6] On a cruise ship? I like how that’s your [00:06:25.0] example. It’s always it always comes down to boats with you.

Will Romey: [00:06:27.73] Yeah, I was gonna see a cargo cruise, which I think [00:06:30.0] is way more interesting,.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:06:31.15] Which is that’s a will goal –

Will Romey: [00:06:32.52] We’ve probably talked about that – you can [00:06:35.0] see that in past episodes.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:06:38.89] So like, obviously, I [00:06:40.0] feel like that’s like an easy way to ease into it.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:06:42.67] If you’re in the situation where your partner is, [00:06:45.0] you have some shared finances or there’s just a lot of pressure and they’re overspending and [00:06:50.0] completely blowing your budget. It’s really helpful to remind them of shared goals. So [00:06:55.0] having that conversation about what the shared goals are, OK. “Well, we really one to have a down payment in [00:07:00.0] two years on a house” –  but remind them of that goal. [00:07:05.0] Something that hopefully you both share, and then ask for possible solutions to the overspending [00:07:10.0] and let them come up with some of the ideas.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:07:12.79] So like, OK, we agree that this is our goal, [00:07:15.0] but we keep going a hundred dollars a month over in the budget category. And [00:07:20.0] that means that we’re gonna be, you know, another year out in how much we have saved for a house rent. [00:07:25.0]

Will Romey: [00:07:25.21] So maybe maybe go through the implications.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:07:27.2] Yeah. Like actually figuring out what it is. And have them [00:07:30.0] come up with some suggestions. So I’ll give you some suggestions.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:07:32.71] But I like it. I like to like give [00:07:35.0] them ideas because then they feel invested in it. So an idea would be a cash-only [00:07:40.0] budget for fun money; giving you a call before they buy something if they have like impulse control problems [00:07:45.0] like, “hey, maybe text me before you guys drop one hundred and fifty dollars at [00:07:50.0] the bookstore.”.

Will Romey: [00:07:50.08] Cirque du Soleil tickets.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:07:52.12] Yeah, exactly. Implementing waiting periods. [00:07:55.0] We’ve talked before on that. But just remember not to lead with shame or [00:08:00.0] a judgment, because if they’re if they don’t feel great about like overspending, [00:08:05.0] then leading with “you’re overspending and you’re interfering with our [00:08:10.0] budget and like you should be ashamed of yourself”.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:08:11.68] Like, that’s not going to work, nor [00:08:15.0] is really guilt. Like a little bit of guilt can be helpful for some people. [00:08:20.0] Some people respond to that. But I think it’s more helpful to think about like the fun things. [00:08:25.0]

Lillian Karabaic: [00:08:25.33] A little bit of guilt might help, but you hopefully know your significant other well enough to know [00:08:30.0] if a little bit of guilt is helpful. I’m one of those people that responds pretty well to like [00:08:35.0] feeling like I might disappoint someone else. And so a little bit of that is good, but it never, ever [00:08:40.0] helps if someone shames me for it. Right?

Will Romey: [00:08:43.12] Focusing on the positive aspect of [00:08:45.0] budgeting, like you were saying earlier.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:08:47.71] Yeah.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:08:48.94] And then this is kinda related [00:08:50.0] in the next one. Like if you start getting your money together and you’ve got some shared finances and they [00:08:55.0] start to feel like they’re losing control or like, you know, “oh, I don’t want to be boxed in [00:09:00.0] by by having a budget.”.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:09:01.09] Like obviously one you figured out that they feel really restricted by the budget, which [00:09:05.0] gives you good information – because you can like look at other ways to do that.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:09:09.58] But I [00:09:10.0] think that there is a really good category in this case, which is the no-judgment [00:09:15.0] fun money category. And this is each of you getting a budget category that you can use in [00:09:20.0] any way you like with no comments from the other one.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:09:23.47] This even works even better if it’s in [00:09:25.0] cash.

Will Romey: [00:09:25.88] Yea, that’s true – no one’s even seeing the account.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:09:26.13] You just like take the money out in cash. This [00:09:30.0] is one of those categories where if your budget is really tight, it can be really [00:09:35.0] helpful to lead by example in this category. So if you’ve got a no-judgment [00:09:40.0] fun money category, but you’re like, oh, we’re not going to save any money if we both have this category, [00:09:45.0] well-  save your fun money category. This is one of those things where you can do some lead by example. [00:09:50.0]

Will Romey: [00:09:50.22] You can do whatever with it.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:09:50.49] Yeah, you can do whatever. And this is one of those things where, you really [00:09:55.0] want to give them some area where they feel like they’re still executing control. Because [00:10:00.0] often, I’ve noticed that the same people that don’t want to do the budget because they feel like they’re losing control, are [00:10:05.0] the same ones that say it’s the finances, you worry about it, not me. Like [00:10:10.0] they you know, we’re complex emotional creatures, right? So we’re like simultaneously. [00:10:15.0] I don’t want to worry about it. But also, I don’t want to lose control. So finding [00:10:20.0] a way where they can feel a little bit invested, and like they have a little bit of control without [00:10:25.0] necessarily getting mired down in the details can be really helpful.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:10:29.05] So what are those partners [00:10:30.0] that are like not your current romantic partner or ever [00:10:35.0] have been, but you still have some expenses that you share. So like people [00:10:40.0] you cohabitate with or someone you co-parent with but don’t live with anymore, you’re [00:10:45.0] still gonna have to talk about money at some point, right?

Will Romey: [00:10:46.99] Anytime you have shared finances, it seems useful.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:10:49.09] Yes. Right. [00:10:50.0] So there you go. On the kind of lower end – there [00:10:55.0] is, you might share housing and not bank accounts, but you maybe share groceries, [00:11:00.0] some grocery expenses for like bulk oils or something like that, or your Internet bill. [00:11:05.0]

Lillian Karabaic: [00:11:06.16] In this case, worry about the things that you do share and only talk about [00:11:10.0] those categories. So, you know, talk about your Internet speeds and whether or not you’re [00:11:15.0] going to go to the farther away grocery store that has the cheaper oil. Don’t talk to them about their [00:11:20.0] student loans. Right?

Lillian Karabaic: [00:11:21.24] So like focus on the things you share.

Will Romey: [00:11:24.15] Right, yea – the things [00:11:25.0] that impact you, really.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:11:25.54] That impact you. And I think it’s really important that like, if [00:11:30.0] you’re in a situation where you have very different finances than the person that you’re living with, to just [00:11:35.0] focus on the things that you do share, because I think often I see a lot of resentment [00:11:40.0] build. if like one roommate makes more money than the other.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:11:43.87] I’ve also seen [00:11:45.0] situations where one roommate doesn’t make more money than the other, but has their finances together. [00:11:50.0] And the other person is kind of in a disaster space. And that’s where I think the leading [00:11:55.0] by example can be really helpful because you’re like, oh,”I actually don’t make that much money, but [00:12:00.0] I, you know, have a plan for it. And I’m not always constantly stressed out about it.”

Lillian Karabaic: [00:12:04.6] And that’s [00:12:05.0] the leading by example, but not judging and not shaming. So if you co-parent with someone you don’t live with, [00:12:10.0] but you know, you still have some sort of relationship with where you’re gonna need to talk [00:12:15.0] about schooling or child care.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:12:17.56] I think it’s very helpful to ground that conversation [00:12:20.0] in values. So talk about the kind of schooling or child care you both want for your [00:12:25.0] kids, but leave judgments out of any other budget categories. So don’t freak out when [00:12:30.0] you see that they spent a bunch of money on cigarettes or, you know, really nice oil [00:12:35.0] paintings.

Will Romey: [00:12:35.74] Comic books.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:12:35.83] Or whatever their vices, comic books –  last weekend – just come [00:12:40.0] back to the things that you share in your finances [00:12:45.0] together.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:12:45.44] So, OK, “I really want to make sure we can pay the school fees on time this year. I [00:12:50.0] really want to make sure we can pay for school lunches, or it would be nice to be able to afford camp [00:12:55.0] – that’s 12 months out. How are we going to split that?” How are we going to do that?” and leave judgments [00:13:00.0] out of the other budget categories. I know that’s easier said than done, but you know, that’s [00:13:05.0] one of the goals,.

Will Romey: [00:13:06.88] But we said it.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:13:07.24] Right. Do you have any do you have any strategies you use [00:13:10.0] with roommates, Will?

Will Romey: [00:13:10.93] I mean, I like what you were saying about leading by example. I feel like that [00:13:15.0] can be frustrating when you’re kind of trying to drop hints about other ways people could do things, [00:13:20.0] but not necessarily.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:13:21.28] The classic passive aggressive roommate.

Will Romey: [00:13:23.11] Not, not not even [00:13:25.0] I guess I have friends who do have frustrating spending habits, and I try to be transparent about what I do differently [00:13:30.0] without casting aspersions. I [00:13:35.0] mean, it’s sort for me. So I don’t really care as long as you’re paying rent and bills.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:13:39.35] Right. I [00:13:40.0] think the thing that I have found interesting is that, [00:13:45.0] you know, I feel like a lot of my like anarcho-punk roommates would be [00:13:50.0] kind of, like, annoyed that I seemed to [00:13:55.0] like have it financially together or like, you know, would try to like, oh, you should come out [00:14:00.0] to the bar.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:14:00.25] And I be like eh, You know, it’s not really in the budget this month, blah blah blah blah. But then [00:14:05.0] slowly over time, I think almost at this point, a hundred percent of those roommates [00:14:10.0] have come to me and been like, hey, “I need to figure out what health insurance to get. I don’t understand any of this. Can you [00:14:15.0] help me?” or like. “How? What is a credit score?”.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:14:17.44] You know, like slowly they kind of [00:14:20.0] were like, oh, I need help in this one area. And you seem to be.

Will Romey: [00:14:23.56] You seem to know – you have your money together. [00:14:25.0]

Lillian Karabaic: [00:14:25.44] And I also know that you’re not going to like it, because I think what’s very helpful [00:14:30.0] is that I never would be like, man, maybe you shouldn’t spend three hundred dollars at the bar when you just got [00:14:35.0] paid on Friday and rent’s due next week because they knew that I wasn’t going, I wasn’t going [00:14:40.0] to judge them, even if internally I was like, oh,.

Will Romey: [00:14:43.51] Yeah, I’m judge internally.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:14:45.0] Yeah, [00:14:45.0] yeah. It’s hard when you have a roommate that you do see, you do that. And then at the same time, [00:14:50.0] you’re like, oh, now you can’t pay rent or now you’re late with rent.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:14:55.42] And [00:14:55.0] that’s one of those situations where, you know, that’s kind of a roommate. Discussion [00:15:00.0] situation, more than a finance situation. But this [00:15:05.0] is one of those things where, like I think it’s helpful to only focus [00:15:10.0] on the thing that you need and let them make their own decisions about it, right?

Lillian Karabaic: [00:15:13.85] So like, [00:15:15.0] hey, I need to get rent by the fifth. And like, I don’t care what else you do [00:15:20.0] with your money.

Will Romey: [00:15:20.7] But that’s one important.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:15:20.7] Like you balance and for rent, you keep paying on the eighth or you keep paying on the 10th. [00:15:25.0] And like, focus on like I need this from you because, you [00:15:30.0] know, I’m the one that pays the whole rent check or whatever.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:15:33.51] And when it gets there [00:15:35.0] late, it, you know, really screws things up for me and focusing on kind of the impact [00:15:40.0] that they’re having on you – rather than like. “And I know that you could have afforded [00:15:45.0] it because I saw you, you know, pay the tab for the entire bar last week”

Will Romey: [00:15:49.89] You [00:15:50.0] know that. That was a wild moment.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:15:53.17] Yeah.

Will Romey: [00:15:54.81] Everyone [00:15:55.0] was cheering.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:15:55.17] I mean, that sounds nice.

Will Romey: [00:15:56.94] Probably felt worth it in the moment.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:15:58.02] Yeah, that does sound fun [00:16:00.0] to do at some point on time.

Will Romey: [00:16:01.52] Pay the whole bar’s tab.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:16:03.57] Very small bar.

Will Romey: [00:16:04.17] Yeah.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:16:06.09] One [00:16:05.0] of those bars in Japan that only has like four seats.

Will Romey: [00:16:10.29] Well [00:16:10.0] on that note, tell us. Write in! Write in and tell us about the time you  paid for tabs of the whole bar. [00:16:15.0]

Lillian Karabaic: [00:16:15.51] Yeah. I want to hear about the time that you paid for the tab in the whole bar. Actually, I would just love to [00:16:20.0] hear like if you’ve gotten a partner on board, especially if you’ve gotten a partner onboard with [00:16:25.0] like a really big financial thing.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:16:28.98] I think one of the things [00:16:30.0] that I did is that I just didn’t say anything and just slowly started cooking more dinners [00:16:35.0] instead of trying to go out to eat all the time and got got to the point where, [00:16:40.0] you know, my partner realized maybe it was probably better than having just champagne and orange juice as [00:16:45.0] the only things in their fridge.

Lillian Karabaic: [00:16:47.73] So, we love [00:16:50.0] hearing from you.

Will Romey: [00:16:50.49] It’s true!

Lillian Karabaic: [00:16:51.02] So e-mail us your financial worries or successes [00:16:55.0] or anything else at or tweet us @anomaly or [00:17:00.0] @ohmydollar

Will Romey: [00:17:01.3] Yep. Our producer is me, Will Romey, and our intro music is by Aaron Parecki. And [00:17:05.0] your host and personal finance educator is Lillian Karabaic. Thanks for listening. And until [00:17:10.0] next time, remember to manage your money so that it doesn’t manage you.