Helping a Spouse Become More Financially Responsible

How can I encourage my wife to be more thoughtful about money? Our family has really struggled recently. I was laid off from my job two years ago and have finally found full-time employment. My wife worked a couple of part-time jobs, but we still have a lot of bills to pay. And no matter what our income situation has been, she's always spent money we don't have. She'll buy herself and our kids top-of-the-line clothes, even if it means we won't be able to make ends meet. I've tried to discuss this with her many times, but it doesn't seem to matter.

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No doubt about it – you’re up against a tough challenge, especially if your wife has become set in her ways.

It’s hard for us to advise you without knowing more about the situation and each of your personalities. And while Scripture gives us many biblical principles related to finances worth following, there’s no specific absolute in a case like this.

It’s obvious that the circumstances you’ve described are creating a lot more stress for you than for her, but that could be because husbands and wives often experience tension in different ways, especially where finances are concerned. This is actually pretty common in marriage. You’ve heard it said that opposites attract! What really matters is figuring out how you and your wife can get on the same page.

The key to a healthy marriage is good communication.

You say you’ve tried to discuss your concerns with your wife “many times” and that’s a good thing. But since you feel these conversations haven’t given the result you wanted, it might be good to look at your approach.

Have you been able to set aside a time to talk things through calmly and rationally, or have you tried to talk when emotions are high? Have you inadvertently used words that call into question her intelligence or integrity, or made her feel like you’re trying to control her behavior?

Don’t wait until a crisis before talking about finances.

Pick a time when life is going smoothly. Take your wife out for coffee or a meal. Do everything you can to put her at ease. Begin by saying something affirming. “I’m thankful that you want to take such good care of our kids when it comes to providing for their needs.”

After making it clear that you’re on her side, express your concerns as honestly and straightforwardly as you can. Use “I” language wherever possible. Rather than blaming, you might say something like, “I’m feeling worried about our financial situation. I wonder if we can discuss our current circumstances and come up with some workable solutions together to help us handle our money.”

Keep the discussion rational instead of emotional.

Try to move it in the direction of seeking balance. Make suggestions like, “If we can’t compromise on the quality of the clothing we buy, maybe we can cut back in another area. For example, we might save money by substituting oatmeal for box cereals generic for brand name.”

Talk about creating a spending plan that helps you both keep a lid on expenses. Moving forward, affirm any positive steps you see your wife making in the right direction. Don’t expect her to change all her spending habits overnight.

Take a look at the resources and referrals below for more suggestions. And if you’d like to discuss your concerns at greater length, call our Counseling department for a free consultation. Our licensed counselors would be glad to help in any way they can.

Complete Guide to Faith-Based Family Finances

Financial Peace Revisited

The Total Money Makeover

Your Money Map: A Proven 7-Step Guide to True Financial Freedom

Resource List: Family & Personal Finances

The Good Fight: How Conflict Can Bring You Closer

Fight Your Way to a Better Marriage


Crown Financial Ministries

Dave Ramsey

Debt-Proof Living

Money and Finances

Money Management in Marriage

Managing Money

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