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How Can I Help My Boyfriend Manage Money?

Ask Savvy: My Boyfriend's Bad Money Habits Are Problematic

Dear Savvy,

I recently moved in with my boyfriend, and we have been discussing marriage and all that comes with it. In the next two years, we'd like to purchase a house. The problem is that I have excellent credit and his is in serious disrepair after his parents "forgot" to pay his student loans. The loans went into collection, but he is not making regular monthly payments as he should. He works two jobs and uses this as an excuse to justify "forgetting" to pay his electricity bill until the company calls to disconnect it. Yet he seems to have no problem remembering to have money for going out or attending bachelor parties.

I've tried to remain calm, but I'm afraid his finances will never shape up. He wants us to take a vacation to go snowboarding in December, which will cost upwards of $2,000 per person, but I think the money could be better spent on paying down his loans. He's told all his friends that we're going even though we have yet to purchase the tickets. I'm afraid he'll resent me if I suggest that we put off a vacation or the other things he wants, which I think are unnecessary like a new TV. How can I help him manage his finances better so that we can achieve our future goals while still having fun in the present?

To see my answer,


Savvy says: While the two of you have agreed on a near-future goal of purchasing a home, you're obviously the only one taking it seriously. Your boyfriend isn't taking responsibility for his finances, so try not to feel like the bad guy for not going along with his impulses to do things he can't afford. Just because you're clashing right now doesn't mean your goals are doomed, but he needs to step up and stop ignoring his financial obligations.

Instead of suggesting that your boyfriend can't do certain things, volunteer to help him set up a plan that would allow him to pay his bills while saving up for fun trips. Explain that his debt will always be a problem if he doesn't start dealing with it now, and express how his financial decisions are stressing you out. You say you fear your boyfriend will resent you if you don't want a new TV, but you'll end up resenting each other if you don't start seeing eye to eye on money issues.

Sit down together and make a list of all of his fixed monthly expenses, including a set amount for debt repayment. Then, divide the remainder of his income between two other accounts: discretionary income to be used for things like eating out and going to the movies, and a savings account to start building an emergency fund. It might be a good idea for your boyfriend to set up another separate savings account for things like trips and big purchases — whatever money he doesn't use from the discretionary account could be moved into this special savings account at the end of each month or pay period.

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