How Do I Make My Husband Change?

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How Do I Make My Husband Change?

How Do I Make My Husband Change His Spending Habits?

Kristy writes: Hi Tawra and Jill! I need your help! I’ve been checking out your web site and reading your blog for quite a while now. I’ve also bought you book and subscribed to your newsletter. I’ve learned lots of useful tips from all those sources. I feel like I’ve come along way on my road to becoming a tightwad!

The problem is my husband. He’s not a complete spendthrift, however, we have a lot to work on. For example, we came home the other night and he turned on the air conditioner. I thought I was going to have a stroke! We were getting ready to go to bed. We have a ceiling fan in our room, and the night before we had both gotten chilly with just the ceiling fan on. Here he was wanting to cool the whole house! We live in the South, so I’m not opposed to using the air conditioner when we need too, but it was only 72 degrees! We ended up getting into a little spat over the whole thing.

There are other things he does as well. Like if he goes to the grocery store with me. I go with a precise list of what we need. I also have coupons to use. If he goes I end up buying much more than I had planned. He also gets so impatient that I’m not able to compare my coupons to the prices. I know the easy solution is to just not take him with me, but I don’t really like that solution. I want him to understand why it’s important to stick to the list, and why it’s important for me to take a little extra time to compare the coupons I have with the prices.

Whenever I show him the grocery receipt (when I’ve gone by myself) he’s always impressed. I guess what I’m asking is, “What can I do to turn my husband into a tightwad?” I read Mike’s conversion story and I think it’s awesome. So tell me, what did you actually do the facilitate his change? Did you simply put your foot down and say, No, we’re not spending money on that? I don’t really want to do that since he’s the one making the money.

I would just like to show him how great it is when we are able to spend less. Any suggests you have would be much appreciated. Thank you so much for all your hard work and advice!



Tawra: Kristy, First of all, congratulations on how far you’ve come in learning to spend your money more wisely. I can tell that you’re excited to see how much of a difference you have been able to make and that’s great!

I can appreciate your frustration. My husband was a liberal spender when we married. It took several years for him to change his way of thinking.

The thing that worked for us was that I led by example. When he saw me saving he was encouraged to do so too. There were a few times when I did say “there is no way we are buying that” and we got into some big fights over it. For the most part, I just saved the best I could. If he spent extra at the grocery store whenever we went, then I just went shopping without him. I had dinners and lunches made and ready so he wouldn’t be tempted to eat out.

He came up with a system where he put all our debt on a chart on the wall. He tried to predict how long it would take us to pay off the debt and drew a line indicating the debt paydown. As we would make a payment he would mark that month off. It encouraged him to see the debt going down and so he wanted to save more. Pretty soon, the reality was that the paydown in real life was better than the chart predicted. Men are visual and this “visual scorecard” really helped him buy in.

Another thing that helped was that he started calculating how many hours he had to work to pay for something. When he realized that it would take all of the money he earned in 1 1/2 years work for a new car or 3 months for a used one, we bought the used car.

You said in your letter “He also gets so impatient that I’m not able to compare my coupons to the prices. I know the easy solution is to just not take him with me, but I don’t really like that solution. I want him to understand why it’s important to stick to the list, and why it’s important for me to take a little extra time to compare the coupons I have with the prices.”

Regarding the list — You don’t always have to precisely stick to a list to save money. There are always specials and maybe you see something that sounds good and you just want to buy it. That’s ok as long as you aren’t overly impulsive. Generally, the more impulsive a buyer you are, the more you want to restrict yourself to “the list”.

If your husband doesn’t like to shop and if you spend more when he’s there, why do you insist that he goes with you? It seems like the best of all worlds is for you to shop without him. Why is it important for him to understand sticking to the list, and taking extra time to compare the coupons with the prices? Most men don’t like shopping. If he spends more at the store, but would rather not go, leave him home. Let shopping be your thing and let his thing be mowing the lawn or something else he does well.

One thing that can be difficult in a marriage is the tendency for a person to want to be in control. If you know what the easy solution is, but you “don’t like it”, it looks like you want to have control over him in the situation. You won’t get control over him unless you want a divorce. Marriage is a partnership and he has to be a partner.

Sometimes you just have to let it go. There were times when Mike would buy something that we really didn’t “need”. maybe he wanted to buy a CD or go out to eat, but I just let it go. He has to have control of the money too. Remember, this is a partnership not a competition. Think about “net gain”. Whether or not he understands how you shop, if the outcome of your shopping is a financial gain for your family, you have a joint victory. If you think of it that way, you will both feel like you’re on the same team (and you are ;-).

Here’s another angle on partnership. You said “Did you simply put your foot down and say, No, we’re not spending money on that? I don’t really want to do that since he’s the one making the money.” By saying that “he” is the one making the money, you are implying that your role in the marriage is not as important as his. You are “earning” just as much at home by doing all the things you do (meals, laundry, child care etc.), so don’t feel bad about sharing in the decision about how you and your husband spend the family’s money.

Because our financial situation was critical at the beginning, I did put my foot down. If you don’t have the money, you don’t have the money. Mike was used to going to the movie theater a lot and he liked to shoot a lot of pictures. He was in the habit of spending more when he was stressed or feeling low. When we started having trouble paying our bills, I told him that we would have to cut the movies and the picture taking. He didn’t like it and we had a lot of fights over those things, but he did understand that we were going to be in huge financial trouble if he didn’t stop spending.

Here’s a practical example of a way you can try to bring him on board without irritating him: Instead of getting upset (“having a stroke”) about the air conditioner being turned on, say “Can we try using the fans first and see if that will cool us down enough?” or “Let’s turn on the air conditioner for an hour or so and then turn it off”. There are many ways of compromising when it comes to finances. Try to use a gentler approach whenever possible.

You husband won’t change his view of money overnight, but if you can have a positive impact on your family financial situation and communicate how happy you are about the frugal “victories”, his thinking will change little by little. If, as you said, he is always impressed when you show him how much you saved, he is already starting to see the benefit! Hang in there and let us know how it goes!




  1. Bunnie says

    Thanks for this article. I just had the same kind of show down with my inattentive husband last week. I told him, point blank, that we were going to end up in the poor house if he didn’t change his spending. I pointed out I’d already changed mine in response to kids being born and a job loss.

    Good luck!

  2. Jen says

    I’ve been reading your newsletters and website for awhile now, and even on days where I might not learn something new, it’s always encouraging to know that I’m on the right track if I’ve already adopted a suggested habit! Thank you for your gentle but honest words! I especially enjoyed this “husband changing” article; we each have our own problems with impulse buying, but while I know his is still the bigger “problem,” thank you for reminding me that it’s a slow process to change our habits (and the habits of those around us!). I, too, sometimes feel like I shouldn’t nag him about spending since “he’s the one that earns the money,” but you’re very right about my role in things: I help earn us money by using cloth for everything, making most of our meals from scratch, staying home to watch our son, etc, etc. Thanks again for all of the encouragement! God bless!

    ~Jen from MN

  3. Sheri says

    I’m looking forward to gathering up all our financial information and going off for a retreat with just my husband so we can have a financial summit to make a plan. A spending plan and reducing/extinguishing debt plan. I figure we have plenty to talk about. If we can make this plan to together, I think he will have a better “buy in”. Maybe I can call it a “money huddle” or a “moneymoon”. ; ] None of this is going to happen with our children around and the chores to distract us.

    And… the place I have in mind costs very little and we can bring our own food. I would precook it of course, then all we have to do is heat it up.

  4. says

    Hi, With my Husband I simply told him I know how hard he works to bring money home and I appreciate it so much (as I am unable to work at present).I told him I am not prepared to fritter this hard earned cash away on stuff we do not need.Kind Regards Helen u.k.

  5. Julie says

    Tawra, your response was so on target! Through 28 years of marriage I’ve learned that any time you try to force your will on your spouse you are acting like their parent. No one wants to be married to their parent! You always lead by example. There will be times when you think they aren’t noticing but, they are. Marriage is a partnership (regardless of who is earning the most money).

  6. Jan C says

    When I went through this with my husband (of 46 years), the two things that really changed him were 1) I let him pay the bills for 6 months and 2) I made him go grocery shopping with my budget for food. For a few years, he was complaining that I never cooked anything that he liked. Of course this was an exageration, but I guess that’s how he felt. So, I told him that he could go shopping and get whatever he wanted and I would cook it. The first week of his shopping, he bought meat but nothing else to go with it. The next week he bought lunchmeat, but no bread and mayo to go on it. The third week, he gave up, gave me back the shopping and stopped complaining. It was more extensive than this, but you get the point.

  7. Tracy says

    Responding to Krisy Husband
    I ‘ve been married a long time
    It nice to both shop together but What i do is
    Before leaving the house We agree on amount of cash we spend before ever leaving our house And we use Cash only
    That we will spend at each place we shop at
    We make two list the places we are going and my grocery list and i also make a notebook that list the prices of items that i buy each week write like what milk flour etc will cost at my favorite grocery store keep that in your purse it a little time consumming
    So when next week when you put your shopping list you can agree on a figure amount plus or minus 10 .dollars
    And when you get to checking out your off your total amount sinple ask the cherk to take off one or two items that you are over bughet or have your husband used a adding clecker or have him wait at the bench or cafe in your grocery store and go get him when your ready to check out and have him deal with the total with the clerk and you load the food on the belt I been dealing with these issues also
    and when times are tough you’ll at somepoint down the road you will be able to agree on whats what and your marriage will be stronger for it
    So when you arrive at home you had completed all the errands and done all the food shopping for that week
    and know what you bought you agreed on and that set amount of monies
    I also keep a bin for all receits for the whole year than i can compare down the road and have tax records also

  8. d. t. says


  9. Jackie says

    Responding to Kristy:


    I am taking some classes through the K-House Study Center and I am taking a class called “The Way of Agape” The class is about how to learn to Love our Husband and those around us with God’s love. Agape Love. One thing I learned was that it is important to change myself before my husband will change. You can get the books by going to and writing “The Way of Agape” in the search engine or going to . The two sites are really together but the first is for the K-house Study center and the second is for the King’s Higway which is a site for womens studies. The two sites belong to Husband and Wife Bible teachers Dr. Chuck and Nancy Missler.
    It will give you the hints on how to change you and then you will see the changes in your HUSBAND which will be amazing.

    I hope this helps

    With the Love Of Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah
    Jackie Schlageter
    Romans 1:16
    A Jew for Jesus

  10. Gail says

    While I really appreciate the frustration of living with a husband who does not save nearly as much as you’d like (my husband of almost 6 years started out that way–and still is in some few respects), I would suggest that you spend less time looking at what he does wrong. You’re not entirely responsible for the family’s finances. For me, that was a difficult lesson to learn, since I had been all my adult life (which included 7 years of single parenting). Don’t give up your way of living frugally–I can promise he’ll appreciate it. But you may have to give up some battles to win the war. In my case, I settled for spending some more in groceries so that we could have more meat and fewer beans on the menu (though I still feed our family of 7 for $100/week) and I don’t stress about his turning down the air conditioner at night (though I turn the temperature up during the day). Sure, it costs a little more money (though less than I feared), but it’s so nice to have peace between us when it comes to our finances. He’s also willing to cut back on other areas.

    When you spend more time looking at the ways your husband has blessed your life, you may find that you are happier–after all, one of the reasons you are frugal is that you realize that money can’t buy happiness. So you may have less disposable income than you’d like, but (barring bad things like spending more than you earn) it might be worth it if you feel peace and happiness at home.

  11. rose says

    jackie .. thanks for posting .. very informative info .. i also love the name Yeshua .. i first heard it in the movie that Mel Gibson made that starred James Cavallari (i think that’s his name) .. and every since then, i simply love love love the name Yeshua .. (it sounds like Jesus, Joshua, Josiah) .. *just my opinion* ,,
    and for kristy.. i too was a single mom when i met my hubby .. i was basically frugal .. but what hubby and i came up with .. we let each other know exactly all the money that comes in the house .. but the one that handles the money (save, spend, budgeting, etc.. ) .. handles this .. the other partner gets a weekly budget ..
    in my house .. i hate to admit this, but hubby is a much better money handler than i am .. he is a better saver, and well .. it has worked out best for us in our household .. we have been married over 22 yrs .. and yes we have had arguments but it was never about finances/money .. (well .. i take that back .. there was one time when i got a cc (i know.. i am bad) .. and well .. hate to admit this .. but its addicting to keep “charging” things.. now i have a debit card and what is on my card is all i can spend .. and i prefer it this way) .. and in fact.. i am glad he handles the money .. i have a spending problem .. i know .. he knows it . .the kids know and so does my relatives .. i like to spend money .. it makes me happy ..
    he likes to save money and handle the finances and i know exactly where every penny goes bc its all out in the open .. no hiding or anything ..
    it works for us ..
    now .. we used to work with a couple at the paper routes .. and the wife is like my hubby and the husband is like me .. and i asked him once if it felt odd or unmasculine (i asked this ?? this way bc some men that i personally know need to feel the head honcho (sorry if stepping on anyone’s toes) and need to control every little aspect of their financial lives and cant even control how much is in their wallet bc well they arent good money handlers .. brother in law to be exactly named!) .. well this co worker said when he met his wife he was so far in cc debt .. he couldnt see straight .. and when they first got married, she devised a plan to not only get him out of his old debt but pay off the other debts they had (house, car etc) .. and after that, he decided to be the one to be put on the budget .. they did argue but it wasnt bc of financial reasons ..
    another couple we worked with . they both were horrible at control their money and etc .. so they had to have one of their parents step in and help them .. not that they wanted this but they were drowning and didnt want to declare bankruptcy .. so .. every week when they got paid they went to their in laws/parents house (cant remember if it was her father or his father) and he would sit down with them and show them exactly where their money went and how much allowance they could have for the week (some week’s were better than others) .. it got so important for them to have this extra help, that they ended up taking less of a budget for each other .. thus saving more for a trip (1 or 2 day trip) several times/yr .. b4 that, they really couldnt bc then when they got home the same old issues would be sitting on the front table waiting for them to deal with ..
    they figured out of site, out of house, out of mind .. happy happy happy .. it worked for them ..
    i know several people couldnt do it this way but it did work for them and yes they are still together .. and yes .. out of debt .. not sure if the parent who was helping them still does bc i didnt ask (wasnt my place to ask) ..
    and yes sometimes i still go out .. and yes i do have a cc but i do not use it at all bc i learned how to control myself .. i only keep it on me for emergency purposes .. i have a really old car and well with the tranny about to go at any time and now this am the car was acting up by not starting (not sure why) .. i feel safer just having it .. but my spending is way way down .. i only use my debit card .. (it took me a very long time to have control over myself.. which i am very proud of .. i still look and wish i could spend .. but then i think “do i need it or want it?” b4 it goes into that cart!) ..

  12. rose says

    i forgot to mention . the couple that had one of the parents helping them, they had to turn over all the bills (monthly) to the parnet to pay on their behalf and cut up their cc’s and promised never to get another one .. they did keep one for emergencies only but that stayed at the parents house (locked up and hidden) ..
    it was hard in the beginning but then also very rewarding .. and this couple was very lucky they had someone in their life willing to help and guide them ..

  13. Maia says

    If you are like me, you dread taking your husband shopping more than you do taking your littlest ones! He is impatient and would spend a whole months grocery money in less than an hour! My advice is to go alone or do what I do; make it a coffee date. I have a friend that is a tightwad like I am. We have a set night that we do our main shopping. One of us makes the coffee and puts it in to-go mugs and the other drives. A night out, peaceful shopping, and keeping to the budget. We don’t mind the homemade coffee because it is a treat for us to get out and make a chore into a pleasant chat too. Hope this helps. Maia!

  14. Doris says

    As a couple we just completed the Dave Ramsey Financial course. If you take that together and want to learn, it may give him the incentive to control his spending and work on saving habits to see a goal in the end. I would recommend this course to anyone. It was given by our county. Once more the course was completely free.

  15. Veronica Tidd says

    Another excellent and informative article.
    We have been in all scenerios during our fifty years of marriage. If I had known then what I know now I would have done things very differently.
    The end result has been that we have been very fortunate late in life but there is still the need for budgeting and frugality on a fixed income. Now I handle all the bills etc and we are debt free. My husband has been slow to embrace the idea of budgeting but finally realizes the importance of what is needed. I hate doing the taxes but if I don’t some poor accountant gets presented with a shopping bag of bits of paper. I write up a budget based on necessary spending and make sure my husband does not go with the attitude that if there are checks in the book there is money in the bank!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. Magdalen says

    Helen’s way of husband managing is beautifully diplomatic. Every body likes to be appreciated . I’m sure it works very well.

  17. Stacey says

    Tawra, you’re right on the mark. I have been divorced now for almost 6 years now and his spending habits were a huge problem for us; though not what caused our divorce. I wish I had read this waaaaaay back then and had this information because it might have helped to alleviate some of our stress. But that’s in the past now; what I can do is use it in the future should the good Lord send me another husband and I find myself in the same situation again. You guys are awesome, thank you so much for what you do.

  18. says

    That can be one of the most difficult parts of changing your lifestyle — dealing with the rest of the people involved! I am newly married and my husband came with a whole different outlook on spending.

    I just shared my tips for motivating change a few days ago in

  19. Grizzly bear mom says

    I would leave my husband home when I went shopping. She can explain the savings afterward.

    I would also praise him whenever he saved money.

    However a man or woman needs to feel like the king of their castle. I would leave the a/c on for a while and turn it off right before going to sleep. It’s his life and home too.

  20. Benny Souza says

    I am a faithful reader of this blog. I fully agree with the answer provided. Adding my two cents, I’d say that Kristy’s body language and tone voice when dealing with the problem might be a real issue here. Husbands do not like the “You-are-hopeless”-implied message coming with them and tend to react negatively.

    • says

      Anything like this should be done with the right attitude and with lots of love. That is one thing people in marriages forget often. They think getting their way, doing it their way or proving they are right at all costs is what is important but that is so wrong. When you really love someone you naturally want to always do and put what is best for them first. If you do all things with – real sacrificial love at the core – that will show through and if your spouse cares for you too they should respond to that in a positive way.
      I realize that that isn’t the way it always is and in the real world most people marry mainly for what the other person can do for them or how they make them feel but hopefully with commitment and love that changes and grows into something better.

  21. Jill Marquez says

    I’m thinking that maybe she likes the company when going to the store. Maybe she could invite a budget conscious friend to go with her. They could be a support system and help each other find the hood deals and stick to the list. They could always leave the kids with dad and make it a ladies afternoon. Add in a little time to chat over a coffee or something else relaxing and inexpensive.

  22. Ruth says

    I got lucky…or blessed! I prayed about my husband’s spending and asked God to make him change. It happened. One of our neighbors purchased a repair mechanism that cost him more than he thought it should have. He complained and my husband noted it. “I can imagine the boys who throw their money around get noticed and get charged a little bit more,” I commented. I saw my husband’s eyes go wide, though he quickly recovered and didn’t say one word. It worked. He isn’t buying stuff we don’t need or buying lunch for his fishing buddies anymore. In fact, he’s started comparing prices with different dealers and stores instead of just buying at the first place he comes to. It’s not perfect but it’s a lot better than before.

  23. Tracy says

    I was married and young and made a decent income. I used to have a big spending problem.
    And It took a few years of remortgaging our home and almost having my hubby to threaten leave me If I did not get my spending under control.We were going very broke had many bills and zero $$ to cover them . We (i)sought counseling and learned that .I worked part-time for a few years and all those funds went to pay off those bills. We no longer use plastic or credit.We used cash for all our monthly purchases.I came to your site many years ago .And used your advice.
    We agreed each month on a budget .So We XX for groceries,XX for home bills ,XX for gas and car stuff. You recommended using envelope. With regards to having fights ,choose the things you want to fight over. And let the stuff that doesn’t matter go. Also to not spend $$$ stay out of the stores and you save $$ that way. I would use an extra 20 dollars to let hubby buy extra groceries. And that is his limit.

    • says

      I’m sorry we don’t have any more but it was just a piece of graph paper with our debt on it. Then we just marked each time we paid off more principle.

  24. Courtney Henderson says

    “Sweetheart, I appreciate how hard you work for our family, and one of the ways I honor that sacrifice is by being frugal. I’m not trying to irritate you. I am also contributing to our family. ” Something like what Helen said. Perhaps you could also say that you make enough for us to spend more, but if we can spend less and still get our needs taken care of, it puts us in a stronger financial situation.

  25. Larry says

    Take him to the Dave Ramsey “Financial Peace University” Class it is available at most local churches. Communication and accountability go a long way toward saving money and a relationship.

  26. Sarah V says

    Finances has been a huge growing opportunity for both myself and my husband. We married with a huge amount of college debt. I am inclined to pinch every penny and I got frustrated when I don’t see the same drive to pay off the debt in him. My husband loves random acts of kindness and one day when we saw an unhappy cashier at the store he opted to buy her a box of chocolates, to try to cheer her up. I didn’t say anything, but inwardly I was groaning as I reluctantly faked a smile and handed her the box of chocolates. My mind was trying to think of ways to save money next week so that we could still be within our budget. Eric knew my heart wasn’t in it and we spent a quiet afternoon finishing our errands. This was a familiar situation for us. And often ended in a frustrated discussions at home. After we got home I prayed that God would change my heart and give me wisdom to know how to truly love my husband in this area. A couple days later I apologized to Eric for being resistant when he wanted to bless people. I told him that it was one of the things that was so attractive to me and that I didn’t ever want it to change. I told him that I wanted to be more like him in the area of generosity. And I told him that I was still going to try to help him and myself live frugally and that might mean were were going to eat PB and Js for every dinner in order to be able to stick to our budget and still bless people. I told him I wasn’t going to ever question his small “blessing purchases” again. By God’s grace I was able to fully enjoy his next blessing purchase. About a week later Eric came to me and said that he had thought of ways to cut back on our budget. He presented several things that I had been hoping/praying for and In the end we have been saving so much more! And I’ve been learning to trust God with our finances. It is almost a year and a half since that happened and I have seen so many changes and so much growth in my husband (who just came to me last week with a one year plan of attack to pay off our debt!!!! This would never have happened a year ago!!) I think the only way to effectively change someone’s heart (especially a husband) is to love them into that change. And the amazing change I’ve had in my heart has blessed me more than I can say.

  27. Jan says

    I love a bargain and never pay full price. MY husband is frivolous with money. He picks up the tabs, buys everyone drinks, which irritates me to no end! And now he wants to buy a Corvette! I told him it’s a bad idea and impractical. He told me, “I heard you, but don’t mention it again”. He does what he wants regardless what I think. I’ve learned to live with his spending.

  28. Mary Ann Parrish says

    My husband and I are both control freaks. The answer for us is separate accounts. My income goes into my accounts and I have total control over how it’s used or invested. His income goes into his accounts and he uses it as he chooses. We each have separate areas of our common living expenses for which we are solely responsible. This has worked for us for 40+ years. We have no children together, but both have from previous marriages. This arrangement totally avoids conflict over what we give to our children, too.

    The only time this arrangement was compromised was while I was in college (during my 30’s) and not working. We were both miserable.

  29. Pamela says

    So, what do you do when you tell your husband that you don’t have the money and he still spends it or tells you he reserves the right to have fun. Meanwhile, you can’t figure out how to pay bills or take care of your kid?

    • says

      One big mistake couples make is that one or the other always pays the bills and the other one doesn’t have a clue to what they are. I did this in my marriage and it happens in many because there is usually one who is a little more responsible with the money and the other more care free. This is why I always say it is better that you both find a time and make it a priority to sit down once a week or month (when ever your bills need paid) and pay them together. You could even do something to like one figure out what needs to be paid and the other write the checks or something like that.
      What happens is usually the one will who pays the bills will tell the other how they have to save or what is going on but like any good teacher will tell you a kid learns much better if they read something and even more so if they write something and not just hear the teachers (or wife’s) voice. They tend to filter those out and ignore them. It would be best if they could deal with the bills themselves for awhile but that doesn’t always work because when they are irresponsible in spending they are usually the same in remembering to pay the bills that is why I say it takes you both.
      Now try to work with him too. You could maybe take a few dollars if you have some left over and say put it in an envelope for him or the two of you to do something special but you can’t do it until you have enough saved. That gives him something to look forward too and is a small reward for trying.


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