Monday, September 27, 2010

How do you include your significant other in your financial goals?

For some of us, waking up and smelling the financial coffee isn’t terribly difficult once we get nudged in the right direction. It’s easy enough to handle our business once we know what we have to do.

But how do you get your partner on the right track as well?

I’m in a stable relationship of about 3.5 years (“pre-engagement” is what some have called it) where we keep separate finances. Ms. 104 makes almost exactly the same base pay as I do (sometimes I get overtime), but her expenses are different than mine. Our individual savings rates are different (0% vs. whatever I can hustle), and we have different fixed expenses. Because of our student loan debt, we could move back in with our parents, sell our cars, cancel our cell phone plans, and live like adult children and still owe a combined $700 per month.

We are both committed to moving to Colorado in August 2011, but I just can’t see her making it happen for herself. She occasionally shows interest in personal finance, but quickly reverts to the “if I have it, and it’s not dog-eared for a bill, I can spend it” attitude. By my count she probably could save as much as $400/month if she wanted to, but I just don’t know where the money goes. She’s never been able to explain it to me or to track her spending well enough to show me. I'm also on the verge of paying her half of the fancy bed she wanted to buy because she didn't like the bed I brought with me when we moved in together; the 0% interest runs out in November and she hasn't paid anything on it since we bought it 10 months ago.

So what’s a guy to do? I won’t leave her behind. I can’t change her habits unless she wants to change. Two weeks ago she asked me to go over her finances with her (again), but she has yet to make time to do it.

I have to make it happen for us. I want to move and I want to take her with me, so I have to hustle. At the same time, I’m going to hold her accountable for her expenditures. I might even cut up her Kohl’s card that seems to get used every time the balance reaches zero. If I can show her how hard I work to make this happen for us, she’ll eventually get the message. I have to lead by example.

I know that she could never make the move without my help. I'm just worried that she can't do it with my help either.

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