No relationship is perfect and even the most agreeable couples will have things that cause discord such as work, kids, in-laws, chores, sex, and finances – with money being at the top of the list.
Disagreements about finances are rarely about money itself. Conflicts over money are fueled by fear. Fear about not being able to pay the bills, fear of not living a certain lifestyle, fear of not meeting future goals, or fear of not being respected because one partner makes more than the other.
Find Middle Ground
Everyone has different spending habits so it’s important to resolve these differences by setting goals you can both agree on. For example, what if one of you wants to save towards a fabulous vacation, while the other wants to invest in stocks? Or one person is a chronic shopaholic and the other is a penny-pinching tightwad? Help each other out by establishing some ground rules such as depositing a certain percentage towards savings, and allowing a reasonable budgeted amount for shopping sprees and recreational activities.
Talk About Money
Whether you are a spender or a saver and your spouse is the polar opposite, don’t be afraid to talk to each other about money. Communication meltdowns can be avoided by being honest and transparent, and getting concerns out into the open. If you procrastinate about money issues or try to sweep them under the rug, this will eventually lead to a catastrophic fight.
To Separate or Combine?
Many couples have their own bank accounts and take the responsibility of paying for specific bills. This arrangement should ideally leave them each with some discretionary funds if they are staying within budget. Other couples have a joint household account that each contributes a certain amount towards for household expenses, with each person having a separate account for personal use.
However, many financial experts like Dave Ramsey, founder of the Financial Peace University, believe bank accounts should be “married” together the same as couples. “When you are married, combining your money into joint accounts is crucial,” Dave says. “Keeping one area separated can lead to others, and you want to set a precedent from the get-go. Working together from a shared account brings honesty, unity and a sense that ‘we’re in this together!’”
Set Up a Budget
Sit down together and figure out where you both are financially. How much money are you both bringing in and what are you spending it on? Talk about the future and how you would like to save or spend discretionary funds. What debts do you want to pay off first? Create a budget that is developed around your financial priorities; then closely monitor it by keeping track of your spending habits. There are a number of online budgeting tools including the free one on Dave Ramsey’s site. It even has a smartphone app!
Keep in mind that many couples simply don’t know how to communicate and handle conflict – especially when it comes to finances. This is true for couples who have just become engaged, are living together, been recently married, or have been together for decades. Skills to handle disagreements and work out compromises can be learned from a qualified mental health professional or therapist such as Dr. Susan K. Daniel. Please feel free to contact her with any concerns you may have about your relationship.