Getting Your Family to Become Frugal Too

by Kelly · 9 comments

in Concepts in Frugality

Unless you’re single and/or living in a vacuum, any decision that you make affects the people around you. Not to mention how the people around you affect the decisions you make!

My husband and I are generally on the same plate financially. We want to have financial security, provide for our children, pay off our debts and be able to spend a bit on ourselves without having to worry about it too much. But we also have the same weaknesses… for eating out, buying things for the kids, and splurging on the occasional treat.

Our problem seems to be that we have problems translating the ideal goals into a concrete plan of action, and as we both have the same sort of spending and saving behavior, our strengths don’t complement the other’s weaknesses- they exacerbate them!

So what I’d like to know is this:

How do you get your family to become more frugal? Does your partner help you on your path to frugality, or are they a hindrance?


1 Tom June 19, 2009

I find that my wife being less frugal then me is a benfit to me and the family.I am so frugal that I find it really hard to spend money on anything that isn’t necessary.In fact I often struggle to buy the things we need ,since I can endlessly comparsion shop or wait for a sale.My wife doesn’t fret as much about paying for something now that may cost less in a month.I know intelluctually that money should be spent sometimes but I find that hard to do emotionally.My wife complemeints my weakness and helps me enjoy life more.And she often marvels at how we have no debt.

2 Kelly June 19, 2009

Tom- I think it’s great that she’s able to complement your weaknesses and that you’re able to keep your family out of debt!

3 Nancy June 19, 2009

I’m much more frugal than the others in my family. I’ve found that if I converse with them about financial issues, goals, etc. that they are more willing to get on the band wagon. They need to know the answer to WHY we do it.
.-= Nancy´s last blog ..The Beginning of the End =-.

4 Jerry June 19, 2009

Being on the same page financially is key and that’s what will lead to success. My wife and I made a lot of mistakes along the way but when we finally got on the same page that was when we started to make real progress. There’s no insurance that you will have large amounts of money so taking charge of what you have now is your best bet for success.

5 Kelly June 19, 2009

I agree completely! And I still feel that we’ve gotten a late start on things, but better late than never, right?

6 Amy Reads Good Books June 19, 2009

Great topic! My husband is about as frugal as I am. The difference is that he can budget much more instinctively. I need to write everything down and chart it all out! So, we have to mesh our styles, but it’s nice that we have the same goals!
.-= Amy Reads Good Books´s last blog ..Booking Through Thursday =-.

7 Kelly June 19, 2009

I so agree with what both you and Jerry said, that having the same goals makes all the difference! We just have to figure out the execution, like you seem to have!

8 Emma @ June 20, 2009

Me too, it is absolutely a must to have the same goals. The next step is planning and I think that it actually needs to be done on paper. You need to set a date (a year at least) and say what you would like to achieve by then. And then it is working towards a known goal, and from my experience it does wonders to your cooperation.

9 Abigail June 21, 2009

Hooo boy! I have dealt with this a lot. I actually wrote recently about “mixed marriages” of savers and spenders.

Tim and I had a lot of trouble for the first year or two, getting goals into concrete plans. Finally, I figured out that he will often agree to things so as to quickly end an argument or my anger or whatever. So, whenever we hit upon a problem, I now refuse to take, “OK, I’ll try to do better” as an answer. Instead, we sit down and brainstorm ways to make the change more feasible.

For example, Tim has ADD. He’s forgetful. So I’ve had to get a lot more patient about needing to remind him of things. We also decided to switch carriers — mainly because we couldn’t even use our cell phones in our apartment — and so got phones that we can use as planners. (Not smart phones, just have calendars and full keyboards. We’re not picky.) That has helped a lot. He has alarms go off at certain times to remind him of appointments or errands.

I think it can just be amazing how many things can go unsaid without your realizing it. About three months ago, we had yet another argument about cooking. Since he’s unemployed, Tim has been asked to take over most of the chores so I can concentrate on my blog and my contract work.

I was talking about how I had to prod him to figure out dinner by a reasonable time (ie, get him going no later than 6ish). He reminded me that he wasn’t used to eating then. Um… what?

Turns out, when he said his parents worked swing shift, that meant they all ate when his parents came home. A family dinner. So he’s used to eating dinner anywhere from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Having grown up this way, he’s just not hungry at 6. I am. And I would be starving and angry and low-blood-sugar and annoyed that I was once again having to demand food. (Didn’t help that I never know what i want to eat.)

And when he said his parents worked swing shift, I assumed he meant that he and his brother fended for themselves. That’s what all the latchkey kids I knew did. He thought I understood that he meant they ate later. We had been together two and a half years when we figured this out.

So, now I’ve shifted my eating habits slightly. I have a snack around “dinnertime” for me and then eat closer to 8ish. Also, for now, I’ve told him that I can fend for myself, food-wise. That took a lot of pressure off.

But I think the moral of the story is that big things can be misunderstood for long periods of time. Because they seem so natural, no one bothers to question them. So I think it’s important to stress to each other just what you mean. How much money is “enough”? How carefully do you want to live once you have that money in the bank? What are the things he would want to spend money on, as the budget frees up? What is a fair amount of money for you each to earmark as “mad money”?

As you discuss the specifics of the goals, a lot of times the steps to get there become more clear. Because of our health problems (and therefore our low income) I’m worried about retirement. So I told Tim that I wanted to get started with something in an IRA this year. I said even just $10 a week. He pointed out that $20 wouldn’t be missed any more than $10. And so now we’re funding an IRA. Even if it’s very, very, very small.

Similarly, we talk a lot about once we get out of debt. We run ideas by each other and are trying to get a better feel for what the other’s priorities will be in that time. How much we’d increase our mad money; what we’d want to start saving for (car, house, etc). And so, as we get a feel for what our goals are in real terms, we start to see how to get to them.

Sorry if that’s a little vague, but i hope that, in practice, you’ll see what I mean.
.-= Abigail´s last blog ..Why we need a single-payer system =-.

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