When One Partner Won't Budget

This article is from new staff writer Honey Smith.

In my last article at Get Rich Slowly, I gave the background on my income and expenses. My husband's income and expenses are a little more difficult to compile. For one, Jake left the life of a steady paycheck about a year ago in order to start his own business. This means that his income fluctuates, which of course we knew going in. It also means that the first few years he's going to make much less than we hope he will eventually. We also knew that going in.

However, another major factor is that Jake's idea of budgeting is “make so much money it doesn't matter what you spend because you can afford it all.” When he started working at The Big Firm right out of law school and was making $90,000 a year, this was something that was more or less possible, especially since he was working 80+ hours a week and didn't accumulate vacation or sick time. He didn't have time for anything really spend-y. However, even though he's now living the entrepreneur's life, he's resistant to budgeting. Earlier this week I sent him J.D.'s article about how to budget for an irregular income, and his response was:

This assumes that I actually have a budget…which I do not. I just make however much money I happen to make and pay whatever bills happen to fall due. Perhaps it's not the best system, but it's worked well so far.

I suspect that it's going to take a major crisis or two of his own making before he comes to view things differently. One of the things I've learned over the last six years is that he almost never agrees with me the moment when I propose something; however, six months to a year later he'll suggest it like it was his own idea. Go figure.

Since there's nothing I can do at this point to convince him without violating the tenets of how to talk to your partner about money, I'm willing to wait. And to keep our finances separate, at a minimum, until we've reached a point where we are more in sync.

Even then, like J.D. and Kris, we may opt to continue to keep our finances separate. Interestingly, like J.D., Jake also grew up in a household where access to money was used as a weapon, and Jake is also the spender in our relationship. On the other hand, I don't recall my parents ever having a single argument about money, and Jake referred to me yesterday as “the most frugal girl he's ever dated.” In the meantime, though, since his situation does affect me and I have access to his Mint account, I have started compiling his data so it's ready for him to work with when he comes on board.