We are getting towards the half-way point of our no spend challenge this year, and I’ve come to a terrifying realization. My boyfriend may not have been on board with this whole thing in the first place. I mean, we all know that he sucks with money, but he was trying. And he seemed to understand how important it was to save money this year. I might have made a slight mis-judgement there. So, what do you do when you need to save, but your partner isn’t on board with not spending money?
When Your Partner Isn’t On board with your No Spend Challenge
The first step to starting a no spend challenge with a partner is to have an adult conversation about it. I swear we didn’t skip that step! We talked about how we needed to tighten our belts and not spend money at length when we first moved to Pennsylvania. We were buying a house that we both knew was a fixer upper, had just spend tons of money moving, and were trying to get out of debt. It seemed clear to me that trying to not spend any money was a great move! And I’m pretty sure I expressed this to my boyfriend, who agreed with me.
Partner isn’t on Board
As it turns out, Brian was perfectly on board with me not spending any of my money on frivolous things. He didn’t have a job when we first moved, so of course he was going to agree not to spend money! But apparently, he didn’t consider that I also meant that he couldn’t spend any of his own money frivolously once he got a job. He blew most of his first paycheck on clothes (which, could be argued that he needed for work) but also bought himself a few games.
It didn’t stop with a single splurge after his first paycheck. He bought a few more games, and made a few careless fast food runs when he didn’t want to make something to eat. None of these things are terrible – it’s not like he’s spending thousands of dollars at a casino or blowing all of his money on any of these things. But most of these things weren’t included in the no spend challenge budget, and these small things add up.
I’m not sure if this was a gross miscommunication on our part, or if he just can’t help himself and needs to spend money when he has it. I’m thinking it’s the second, because obviously I couldn’t have messed up.
So What Do You Do?
So here’s the crux of it – what do you do when your partner isn’t on board with your no spend challenge?
More Adult Conversations
Yes, I know it’s excruciating, but the best way to resolve problems in your relationship is to talk about them. Mind blowing stuff, I know. Let’s be honest though, having these conversations is easier said than done. It’s not easy to tell your partner that they haven’t been meeting your expectations, and it’s not easy to hear that they have no desire to. I’m so thankful that we have such a healthy relationship that we can have these difficult conversations. We can talk about our individual hopes, fears, and priorities without hurting each other. Through these conversations, we can reach compromises that will make us both happy and fulfilled.
Brian and I had a long talk about our different financial priorities. I reminded him about all the stuff in the house that needs to be fixed and all the debt that we need to pay off. He agreed that those things were a priority, but he brought up another good point – our relationship and our well-being is also a priority. We have both kind of been in a slump since moving – winter sucked, our jobs are stressful, and we have very little time for one another. Isn’t it worth while to spend a little bit of money on us every now and again? And if a stupid game makes him happy and provides hours of entertainment, isn’t it worth it?
The end goal of these conversations is to reach a compromise that you are both comfortable with. I’m not ok with Brian spending all of his money on games when we have tons of other priorities right now. He’s not ok with not spending any money on himself. There’s actually tons of room here for compromise. He could spend half his money and spend the other half on house stuff and bills (But I’m not ok with that either!).
In the end, we were able to reach a pretty reasonable compromise. Instead of blowing money each paycheck on games, Brian will save twenty bucks per paycheck for gaming. This way, he still gets to spend some money on games – but having to save and wait means that he will only buy the ones that he really really wants. It also means there will be more money available for our other priorities.
We also came to a compromise on spending money for our own well-being. The two dinners out per month that I allowed for at the beginning of the challenge aren’t really cutting it. It’s not that two date nights aren’t enough. That would be more than enough if we were together every night. But we hardly have any nights together. Spending our only two nights we get together each week watching tv at home sucks. We mix it up by playing games and going for walks, but we decided not to limit ourselves.
Instead, we are going to make sure that we spend the small amount of time we have together engaging with each other. That means that we will attend fairs and festivals, kayak, take day trips, and do anything else that seems exciting when we manage to get a day off together. We also won’t limit ourselves when we have a few hours off together. We will take walks to the ice cream shop, even if it means spending a few extra bucks. That quality walk time is definitely worth the money.
Moving Forward with the No Spend Challenge
While it’s true that this compromise will cut into my no spend year challenge, it won’t completely destroy it. I still pledge not to spend any of my money on frivolous things. There will be no clothes shopping, no bookstore runs, and no video games. I still won’t even eat out without Brian. That means I’ll still bring my sack lunches to work and I’ll still cook at home the majority of time.
We probably won’t even end up spending that much extra money. Sadly,Brian hardly ever gets a full weekend day off. He’s had maybe one or two since he started his job. So although we have pledged to do fun things together on those days, they are few and far between. It won’t break the budget much.
What Was Your Compromise?
Have you had an experience where your partner wasn’t on board with a financial plan? I’d love to hear about how you worked through it!
Melanie launched Partners in Fire in 2017 to document her quest for financial independence with a mix of finance, fun, and solving the world’s problems. She’s self educated in personal finance and passionate about fighting systematic problems that prevent others from achieving their own financial goals. She also loves travel, anthropology, gaming and her cats.