Day 21: The Process of Converting Your Spouse

Day 21: The Process of Converting Your Spouse

“Patience gives your spouse permission to be human. It understands that everyone fails. When a mistake is made, it chooses to give them more time that they deserve to correct it. It gives you the ability to hold on during the rough times in your relationship rather than bailing out under the pressure.” ~ Stephen Kendrick

[T]hroughout the course of our Challenge I have heard from so many of you who are claiming dramatic changes in thinking and behavior. You are learning to live and love frugality — yet many of you have expressed concern regarding your spouse. Today, the 21st day of our 23 Day Frugal Living Challenge, I’d like to speak a word of encouragement to those of you struggling to covert your spouse from wasteful spenders to frugal champions.

Many of us understand the societal pressures that comes when attempting to live frugally — but the ultimate discouragement comes into play when we struggle to covert a spouse that is resistant to any change in thinking. When I asked on Facebook for you to list your biggest obstacles to frugal living — whether or not you were joking or serious — most of you commented and said your biggest obstacle was…”my spouse”

The problem.

Here’s the hard cold truth: You cannot change your spouse (And if you’ve been in a relationship for any length of time you know this! But it’s still worth repeating.).

Any lasting change can only come from within and the individual must be willing to make the change on their own terms.

I know this sounds like such a downer, but I’m here to encourage you and say, never give up hope! If you are to have any success in converting your spouse over to the frugality side of the fence, you must first understand a few things about wasteful spenders:

  1. They were never taught the concepts of money management. Unfortunately, the ability to manage our money is not innate…we have to be taught these things…and if we’re never taught we, by default, start to pick up bad habits.
  2. Therefore, wasteful spenders do not fully understand the concept of money.
  3. They aren’t able to make the distinction between happiness and money.
  4. They don’t understand the freedom that comes from proper money management and enjoying what they have.
  5. Any confrontation of, or challenge to, their spending habits is seen as punishment and only pushes them toward more wasteful spending. 

What are we to do?

In love, we persist. Never give up! Here are a few suggestions to guide you along the process of converting your spouse:

Spearhead the conversation.
There never seems to be a good time to talk about money, but right in the middle of an argument is probably not the best time to bring it up (just sayin’). Always try to spearhead the frugal living conversation when your spouse is stress-free, or at least in a good mood. You may even want to set up a specific time to sit down and talk about it.

Gather the Stats.
Come to the conversation with your numbers clearly listed. Use whatever visual tools (charts, graphs, spreadsheets, etc.) necessary to communicate the flow of money in and out of the bank account. In order for this to be effective you have to take the lead role and begin now tracking your spending habits. There are several really excellent tools out there ready to help keep you organized.

Never name call, accuse, or blame.
In the heat of the moment I know it’s difficult to stay calm, but it’s vital that you find a way to stick to the facts. Name calling, accusations, and blaming will shut down your conversation and render any future discussions on the topic useless. Resist the temptation to inject your “feelings” about the matter and simply relay the facts. It’s hard to argue with the facts.

Set goals.
Together come to an agreement on financial goals. Sometimes when we talk about money — especially this day and age of plastic — it seems like some theoretical concept. We generally have a hard time visualizing it. This is why goal setting is vital to our financial victory and vital in converting a wasteful spender. Be specific! Agree on the time frame in which the goal will be reached. And find a way to keep the goal at the forefront of you thoughts.

Zero to sixty is just not a realistic financial strategy. Establish a list of small changes that you can recommend to your spouse and begin slowly implementing them one at a time. For example, suggest using the 30-day list for large purchases. Commit to it for a 2-3 months and see how it goes. If he/she embraces it, move on to something else. Here’s another one…does your spouse hate to take leftovers to work? Why don’t you suggest he/she choose only one day a week to brown bag it. Baby-steps!

Allow for an allowance
Okay…I know it sounds silly to allow an adult to have “an allowance” but here me out on this:) Just this one tip makes all the difference for me and my husband. This type of discretionary spending is a pre-set amount of money — whatever amount fits into your budget — that can be spent without criticism from either party. It’s great! No questions asked, just a little fun money:)

Direct them to the Challenge.
Gently recommend that your spouse read through the posts of the 23 Day Frugal Living Challenge:) And conveniently leave other books on the topic laying around the house (i.e. The Complete Tightwad GazetteDay 21: The Process of Converting Your Spouse and Your Money or Your LifeDay 21: The Process of Converting Your Spouse)

Learn the prayer of serenity.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” Memorize it!

Be patient.
Neither my husband nor I were raised to live frugally — we have learned are learning to live it slowly over time. Sometimes he does better than me and vice versa. Try not to push your spouse too hard, it only leads to resentment and bitterness. Respect their attempts at frugal living and understand that changes in behavior come as a result of changes in thinking and desire.

Now It’s Your Turn

Daily Goal:
Talk with your spouse and set a date to discuss your financial concerns, goals, and changes you’d like to implement. 

The 23 Day Frugal Living Challenge Daily Goal Sheet

Connect With The Community: Take a few minutes and head over to the forum. Share your “Frugal Living Daily Goal“, encourage, and support one another.

Subscribe: Be sure not to miss a day of the Challenge! Click this link to receive the 23 Day Frugal Living Challenge by email.


  1. I’ve been married 15 years to a guy who is not at all frugal. I’ll add another important pair of qualities: patience, and integrity. The last one means that, no matter what your spouse spends, you don’t retaliate by a spree of your own — stay consistent. Otherwise, it seems like all your words about frugality are things you don’t really believe. And if you can stay true to your own frugal values, and if your marriage really is based on love etc, then your spouse will slowly learn to imitate you. My own guy still buys vitamin water (ugh), but he’s a lot more frugal than when I first married him. And I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in the nest 15 years. yay!

  2. We have allowance in my family. I don’t have an income and I was never very good at spending mony for the things I wanted. We have several accounts, family expenses, vacation, emergency fund, college savings, retirement, business account and we each have an allowance account. We put an equal amount in each from his paychecks and we can spend it on anything we want. We generally spend the money on our hobbies, it’s great for many reasons. It is finite, so we don’t have endless credit budget, and it’s guilt free, it doesn’t take anything from the family budget. Having these types of accounts stopped our bad habit of putting vacations or other large purchases on a credit card with the intent to pay it back within a few months, only to not follow through and our balance just kept increasing. In my family we had 2 different philosophies on money. I would rather have nothing in the bank and a zero balance on my credit card and my husband would rather have money in the bank and put everything on a credit card. It took many years of adding up how much interest we were paying compared to what we were earning to convince him to pay off the cards. It was a very good thing that we did this many years ago, because our income dropped dramatically when the recession hit and there is no way we could have paid everything if we still had a bunch of credit card bills.

  3. These are awesome tips. Sometimes we don’t consider this aspect as a challenge when thinking about gardening and everything else, but your spouse is your partner and if they don’t agree with what you are doing, it can make it really hard!

    My husband is all for hunting and gardening, but oh that money burns a hole in his pocket! Thanks for sharing.

  4. These are great tips! Sometimes becoming frugal together is a long road, but it is well worth it! And sometimes, just when I thought we were on the same page, I get surprised. Like when I cut my son’s hair and he couldn’t understand why I did it! I did it to see if I could and to save $16 from the haircut. The haircut turned out well, but he just didn’t understand why I did it.

    Keep up the great posts! Thanks!

  5. I was blessed with a husband who is just as cheap as me. 🙂 But I do know that prayer changes things……God can move mountains. If your spouse is having a hard time, just pray that God would change his/her heart.

  6. I have just within the past 2 weeks put my DH onto an allowance. I was giving him $5 per week day and $10 on Friday for him to buy coffee etc. I would go mad at him when he asked for extras such as a magazine. So i now give him $40 each Sunday for him to do as he wishes. he did well on it last week but this week he fell off the wagon and stupid me gave him another $5.
    He calls me a scab when i wont let him buy any “wants” as i feel he needs to budget his money for those things. On Wednesday he asked me for $2 to buy some Australian flags to put onto his truck for Australia Day as he was working that day, and told me he was already out of his money. I declined to give it to him even though it went down like a lead balloon.
    He was never taught the value of money as a kid and his parents gave him no guidance. He thinks its strange that with my birthday coming up on Monday that as my gift i want the fittings to set up my water tank for my veges., but that is what i want and need. I dont have wants in life only a few needed things. I think he believes that i have gone strange in the head or something with the changes in the home but if it makes me happy and its saving money so what is the problem. I will keep working on him a little at a time and keep moving forwards. Wish me luck!! Keep up the good work with your blog 🙂

  7. I’m lucky not to be married yet, which gives me time to start “prepping” my boyfriend now so when/if *crosses fingers* we get married it won’t be such a hard transition for either of us. I started by doing chores with him, or inviting him over to dinner so he could see how I do things. He’s already admired how instead of filling the whole sink with water when washing dishes, I choose one bowl or cup and reuse that water among other little tricks. He’s even been asking me advice on his personal finances and to go grocery shopping with him.

    Being open and honest with each other over finances and maintaining a family has allowed our communication to improve in other aspects of our relationship as well as encouraged us to have a better game plan for how we want our future to go. 🙂

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