It probably comes as no surprise to you that money problems are a significant point of contention in many relationships. In fact, along with sex and kids, it figures in the top three disputes most couples have in their relationships.
You’d love to avoid fighting over money, but maybe you’re not quite sure how. One of you is a saver–you’d rather watch the numbers in the bank account go up–while the other is a spender who figures that as long as you have the money, you might as well enjoy it.
One of you has one set of goals–saving for a vacation, perhaps?–while the other is eager to buy a new car.
It seems impossible to avoid disputes over finances–but the truth is, you can enjoy a more solid relationship with some of these tips for financial relationships between couples.
Talk About Money–And Talk Often
Many couples, in an effort to avoid fighting over money, choose instead to not talk about it at all.
Unfortunately, not talking about your money problems won’t make them go away–and in many cases, failing to talk about it may mean that problems boil over later, causing bigger fights than if you had merely dealt with the issue in the first place.
Instead, try talking about money often. Discuss significant upcoming expenses, whether you know that costume fees are due for the girls’ dance class or you have a major home insurance payment coming up.
As you talk more about finances, it becomes a natural conversation, rather than one that makes both of you tense up and get ready for a fight.
Equally importantly, you’ll learn to come to an agreement and compromise long before you have serious issues.
Share Major Financial Responsibilities
As a couple, you likely have divided duties in your household chores. One of you takes out the trash; the other is responsible for washing the kitchen floors.
Perhaps one of you spends more time with the kids, while the other one brings in more of the money. Here’s a hard truth: the primary breadwinner doesn’t have to be the one who is in primary control of your finances.
Sit down and have a conversation with your spouse. (Remember, we’re practicing talking about money more often!)
You probably both know which of you are more financially responsible. That individual may be the one who is responsible for seeing to it that the bills are paid on time each month, while the other one is responsible for taking care of payments toward a vacation or another big purchase.
One of you may handle filling out the tax forms every year, while the other deals with more day-to-day purchases (groceries, for example).
How you handle your financial relationship is up to you. It may depend on strengths and weaknesses as individuals and as a couple.
It may depend on which one of you has time to go online and take care of paying those essential bills. Designating who is responsible for those tasks, however, can prevent a lot of potential arguments later on.
Create a Play Money Budget
One of the biggest arguments couples get into over money is the idea that one partner is controlling all of the money–or that one partner gets to “play” with all of “their” money, while the other one has to scrimp and pinch to meet their goals.
Instead of arguing over it, sit down and have a discussion when both of you are calm. Discuss setting a “play money budget” that will allow each of you to have some spending leeway each pay period.
This amount will depend on your bills, your income, and your financial situation.
A few years ago, my husband and I decided to save money for a downpayment on a rental property. We created a budget and agreed to spend no more than $50 per pay period–$25 per week–on whatever we wanted.
It was difficult sometimes, mainly when we wanted to eat out because we were too tired to cook. It was also nice to have a solid amount that we knew we could save so that we were able to achieve our financial goals.
Make Big Financial Decisions Together (And Learn to Compromise)
It can be difficult to make financial decisions together when it feels as though your spouse is refusing to see things your way.
You know you could make this money thing work if he (or she) would just listen. Instead of barreling ahead, however, have another one of those essential money conversations together before you create more money problems. Are you ready to get serious about paying down debt?
Make sure your spouse is on the same page so that you don’t find yourself arguing over every time that credit card comes out.
Do you want to make a major purchase like a car? Discuss the amount you have available to spend together. Sometimes, you’ll have to compromise.
Ultimately, however, you’ll find that compromise works to both of your benefits–and that you spend a lot less time fighting as a result. Ask yourself this:
- Am I fighting about this because it’s important to me, or because I am too proud to back down?
- Will this decision matter in six months? A year?
- How will this decision impact our family long-term?
Often, by asking these simple questions, you can shift your perspective on that financial decision. If it’s a minor decision, you might be able to let your spouse have their way.
Major decision? You might be more likely to come to a consensus for the good of the family, rather than just the desires of one.
Use the Financial Management Method that Works for You
My husband and I have worked hard to be on the same page financially. I pay the bills and balance the checkbook, but we make all financial decisions together.
We spent many months talking about our hopes and dreams and what we want out of life. Together we mapped out a financial plan to help us achieve our goals.
We discuss money matters every week. Once a month we go over our cash flow statement from our rental properties to see if we’re still on track or if we’re headed for money problems.
We don’t always agree on everything, but we each get a chance to explain our point of view before making any decisions.
Sometimes I get my way and sometimes he gets his. In the end, we both have the same financial goals, and that makes it easier to agree.
Our style may not work for you, and that’s fine. Find the financial management method that works for you and makes things easier, rather than harder, on the two of you as a couple. It’s worth it to experiment and see what works!
Learning to avoid financial disputes in your relationship can be a challenge, but it’s one that’s well worth it.
About The Author: Cara Palmer paid off over $20k of debt and then started buying rental properties with her husband, Daron. They own six rental properties, and Cara writes about real estate and money tips over at CaraPalmer.com.