How do I make my spouse a tightwad?

Overspending Spouse

by Tawra Kellam

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Hi Tawra,
I need your help! I've learned a lot of your useful tips and I feel like I've come along way on my road to becoming a tightwad! The problem is my husband. He's not a complete spendthrift. However, we have a lot to work on. For example, there's trouble when he goes to the grocery store with me. I go with a precise list of what we need and coupons to use. If he goes, I end up buying much more than I had planned. He also gets so impatient that I'm not able to compare my coupons to the prices. I know the easy solution is to just not take him with me, but I don't really like that solution. I want him to understand why it's important to stick to the list, and why it's important for me to take a little extra time to compare the coupons I have with the prices.

Whenever I show him the grocery receipt (when I've gone by myself), he's always impressed. What can I do to turn my husband into a tightwad? What did you actually do that facilitated Mike's change? Did you simply put your foot down? I don't really want to do that since he's the one making the money. I would just like to show him how great it is when we are able to spend less. Any suggestions?

First of all, congratulations on how far you've come in learning to spend your money more wisely. I can appreciate your frustration. My husband was a liberal spender when we married. It took several years for him to change his way of thinking.

The thing that worked for us was that I led by example. When he saw me saving, he was encouraged to do so too. If he spent extra at the grocery store, then I just went shopping without him. I had dinners and lunches fixed so he wouldn't be tempted to eat out.

He put all our debt on a chart on the wall. He tried to predict how long it would take us to pay off the debt and drew a line indicating the debt paydown. It encouraged him to see the debt going down, so he wanted to save more. Pretty soon, the paydown in real life was better than the chart predicted. Men are visual and this "visual scorecard" really helped him buy in.

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Another thing that helped was that he started calculating how many hours he had to work to pay for something. When he realized that it would take all of the money he earned in 1 1/2 years' of work for a new car or 3 months for a used one, we bought the used car.

You said that he gets impatient waiting at the grocery store, but you want him to learn to stick to a list and compare prices. Why do you insist that your husband shops with you? It seems like the best of all worlds is for you to shop without him. Why is it important for him to understand sticking to the list, and taking extra time to compare the coupons with the prices? Most men don't like shopping. If you spend more when he goes, leave him home.

Sometimes you just have to let it go. There were times when Mike would buy something that we really didn't need. Think about net gain. Whether or not he understands how you shop, if the outcome of your shopping is a financial gain for your family, you have a joint victory because you're on the same team.

Here's another angle on partnership. When you said you didn't want to put your foot down because "he's the one making the money," you imply that your role in the marriage is not as important as his role. You are "earning" just as much taking care of things at home, so don't feel bad about sharing in the decision about how to spend the family's money.

Because our financial situation was critical at the beginning, I did put my foot down sometimes. If you don't have the money, you don't have the money. Mike didn't like it and we had a lot of fights over those things, but he did understand that we were going to be in huge financial trouble if he didn't stop spending.

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Instead of getting upset about the air conditioner being turned on when it's not needed, say, "Can we try using the fans first and see if that will cool us down enough?" or "Let's turn on the air conditioner for an hour or so and then turn it off." There are many ways of compromising when it comes to finances.

You husband won't change his view of money overnight, but if you can have a positive impact on your family financial situation and communicate how happy you are about the frugal "victories," his thinking will change little by little. If, as you said, he is always impressed when you show him how much you saved, he is already starting to see the benefit! Hang in there and let us know how it goes!

Reviewed July 2017

Jill Cooper and Tawra Kellam are frugal living experts and the editors of As a single mother of two, Jill Cooper started her own business without any capital and paid off $35,000 debt in 5 years on $1,000 a month income. Tawra and her husband paid off $20,000 debt in 5 years on $22,000 a year income.

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