Fighting about money is often cited as one of the biggest reasons for divorce in the US. Not only does disagreement over finances often lead to the d-word, it causes upset in the home, relationship, and family. Over time, fighting about money can lead to resentment, control issues, infidelity, and even a loss of respect for your partner.
The most effective way to stop fighting about money is to increase communication and have clear expectations for each other. Communication is key, especially when we’re talking about something that can be so emotionally charged. Some of these tips may seem a little uncomfortable at first but isn’t it worth it to have a happy, harmonious marriage? I think so.
Discuss finances before marriage. If you’re not married yet, put this at the top of your list to discuss with your partner. You’ll need to discuss things like whether you’ll have joint or separate accounts, how much money you’d like to give to charity, whether it’s ok to lend money to family/friends, etc… Depending on the relationship, it might be best to have a pre-marital counselor lead the discussion. They’re familiar with all the ins and outs of the type discussion you need to have and they’ll keep the discussion on track.
Understand each other’s childhood. Discuss specifically what kind of attitudes their nuclear family had regarding finances. Did they wish their parents would stop fighting about money? Did the family struggle? Did their parents use money as a weapon? I recommend doing this in a neutral environment, like over dinner at a restaurant. This keeps things from getting out of hand.
Work on your own money issues. This is especially important if one person makes much more than the other. Get brutally honest with yourself. Does that make you feel like less of a provider/equal/husband/partner? Consider a few sessions with a licensed therapist as needed.
Hire a Certified Financial Planner. As I’m sure you already know, I’m a huge proponent of CFPs. Financial Planning isn’t necessarily expensive and it isn’t just for the uber-wealthy. You should both be present for sessions, whether you have in-person or phone meetings. RELATED READ: Why Everyone Needs a Financial Planner
Get visibility. Whether you have a joint account, separate accounts, or a combination, both partners need to have full visibility to everything. While you’re at it, sign up with Mint Bills for a free, simple way to keep track of your due dates and balances all on one screen. I’ve used the service ever since it was Check.Me and love how easy it is to set-up and use, plus it works beautifully on the phone.
Create a budget. Together! If you’re on board with getting a CFP, great, they’ll help you do that. If not, I can’t imagine why, but you’ll need to do this together. You guys need to do it together, from the first draft to final working budget.
Create a dollar spending threshold for household and family purchases made without consulting each other. Ours is $50 but it really varies by the couple and by finances. Some say $25, others say $100. It has to be a number that you’re both comfortable with. Anything over that amount needs to be agreed upon by both of you.
Have some fun money. Some people call it an allowance but that makes me cringe. Allowances are for children. In any case, both spouses need to have a pot of money that they can just burn on themselves. Again, the amount is really going to vary depending on your family finances. It could be $20 per week or $150 per week. If you want to buy a $7 latte or that gorgeous new pair of shoes, go for it and use your fun money. These purchases are exempt from the spending threshold.
Get rid of debt. Get rid of the cards. Yes, entirely. It’s not worth it. The more debt you have as a family, the more stressed you are about finances. Put a credit card in the safe or safety deposit box and cut up the rest. Don’t carry any with you.
Build that emergency fund. similarly to diminishing debt, a financial cushion helps to lower stress about money. Set an auto-deposit from your check[s] each week to go into a separate joint savings account. This savings account should be at a different banking institution than the rest of your accounts. This does not get touched except in the event of an actual emergency.
Grocery shop together. Especially when one parent stays home with the kids, it’s important for a couple to do the weekly or bi-weekly grocery shopping together. Believe me, it isn’t anyone’s favorite leisure activity, but we do it every weekend anyway. We figure out a meal plan for the week and make a shopping list before we leave. Do we always stick exactly to the list? Of course not. But the point is that we try and no one can wonder why we spend what we spend on food.
Shop together when possible. Does the kiddo need a new pair of shoes or do you want to start a veggie garden? Hit the stores together when possible. Usually, one partner is a spender and one is a saver… you’ll make each other better, smarter shoppers.
No secrets allowed. Ladies, that means no consolidating bags or leaving them in the trunk til your hubby’s not home. Guys, no coming home with the newest gadget and saying you had a free upgrade. Nope. Cut that crap out.
Remember that you’re partners. When we fight, we become opposing forces. Is that really what you want your marriage to boil down to? Hell no. If you feel an argument or disagreement coming on, touch your sweetie. It’s really hard to say something harsh or yell when the two of you are touching. Put your hand on his knee or your hand on the small of her back. Contact should be made in a neutral location on the body. No necks, arms, or shoulders.
Focus on long-term goals. Daydream with each other about when you finally buy your dream house, go on that amazing vacation or are both able to retire. Text or call your spouse when you find yourself wanting to deviate from your financial plan.
When all else fails, remind yourself that it takes two to argue. If emotions begin to run high, extract yourself from the conversation. Take a run, go sit in a bath, get some coffee, etc… just make sure you don’t dig the knife in deeper when you do it. Kiss him/her sweetly and say something to the effect of, “Honey, I love you and I don’t want to fight. Let’s finish this conversation in a little while when we’re both in a better headspace.”
Fighting about money sucks. It often leads to other problems and compounds into other issues. With enough honesty, communication, and clear guidelines, though, you will transform into a couple that doesn’t need to argue about money.