Promote frugality in your marriage

Partners should encourage one another to make low-cost choices, Hamm writes.

Mike Blake/Reuters/File
A sale sign is see at a Borders bookstore in San Diego, Calif., in this February 2011 file photo. In many relationships frugality with positive emotions behind it becomes something that pushes us both partners to spend less, Hamm writes.

Whenever Sarah makes a financially smart choice, particularly one that involves her doing something outside of her usual comfort zone, I usually make an effort to compliment her on it. She does the same for me.

When we’re choosing activities together, we often point out things that are free and use the low cost of that activity as a strong positive in favor of that activity.

When we’re examining bills and I notice that Sarah has kept her spending really low over the last month or two, including things like grocery shopping, I make sure to give her a high five with regards to it.

Simply put, whenever there’s a chance to encourage or positively reinforce Sarah’s frugal choices, I try to do it. She does the same for me.

The end result of that is a strong sense in our relationship that making low-cost choices is a very good thing in terms of making us both happy. Because of the positive reinforcement, inexpensive choices naturally seem like the positive thing to do.

What we’ve found is that the opposite isn’t true in this case. If you’re condescending about expensive choices, it often backfires. Whenever you inject negative feelings into a situation, even if there is reason for it, it usually ends up breeding negativity and resentment and, eventually, resistance and rebellion to the idea.

So, how can you bring this into your own relationship?

When you see your partner making a frugal choice – particularly one that’s a bit outside the norm – let them know you’re impressed. Give that person a pat on the back or a kiss and tell them that you love that they’re making choices with your mutual financial future in mind.

Do your best to exhibit financially sensible behaviors, too. Be a model through your actions for how to cut costs. Do things regularly that make financial sense, like making shopping lists or choosing low-cost entertainments.

Don’t freak out if your partner overspends. Just say nothing negative or positive about the choice. Instead, hold onto your positive comments and drop them when something frugal is done.

Don’t preach. Honey is a much better lure than vinegar. Don’t insist on change. Instead, reward it. Don’t demand change. Instead, model it.

In our relationship (and many others), frugality with positive emotions behind it becomes something that pushes us both to minimize our spending while feeling good about it.

This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere. 

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