We have conversations about money without arguing all the time. Paying the clerk at the checkout counter is one example. He says, “that’ll be $8.95” and we say, “okay.” Easy as pie.
But make that a conversation about money with a spouse, and, well, it becomes a bit more complicated. Sometimes the conversations are directly about money (“I can’t believe you spent $200 on [insert misunderstood hobby here]!”), but more often, arguments about money masquerade as something else all together. To further complicate matters, spenders and savers tend to attract each other, resulting in the ultimate language barrier.
5 tips to help you and your spouse minimize any related money arguments:
1. If you’re stressed about money, admit it.
In this day and age, it’s become normal to feel stressed about money. And that stress often rears its head in unexpected ways. Picking fights over seemingly small issues (the TV being too loud or your spouse hogging the bathroom) may indicate that something else is beneath the surface. If the real stressor is worrying about having enough for retirement or figuring out how to balance your credit card payments with your living expenses, you’re not alone. Facing the stress head on—rather than letting it seep out in the form of unjustified spats—is very important to the success of your relationship, and to your overall health as well.
2. Talk about what you value as a couple.
Spending requires decision-making. Rather than taking an in-the-moment approach (which can lead to heated disagreements), take some time to talk through your priorities, and to agree on an overarching plan for your family. Creating a framework for making spending decisions will lead to fewer arguments and more calculated purchases in the long run.
For instance, if you’ve agreed that a nice home and new cars matter most, then you may have to pass on the Disney cruise your sister wants you to take with her family. But if you’ve come to the conclusion that experiences matter more than luxury items, the vacation may be just the right thing.
3. Talk about what you value as individuals.
For most couples, agreeing on how to manage joint accounts requires compromise. Once a decision-making framework for combining finances— joint spending and saving—has been set, it’s important to budget a certain amount of money that each individual can use however they want—without compromise, scrutiny or judgment. This amount may be small, even $20 a month, but having a little bit of financial freedom will go a long way toward minimizing arguments when discussing money.
4. Get organized, and stay organized.
Knowing how much you have and where it’s going is a key element in minimizing arguments when discussing money. Using online tools like Adaptu to monitor your accounts can prevent overdraft fees or missed bills. Having one place to keep track of all your finances can help increase positive communication about money, and inspire greater levels of partnership (and understanding) in managing joint accounts.
Not to mention, organizing your finances has the tendency to impact other areas of your life as well. Having a handle on your account balances and cash flows may just lead to greater organization in your email inbox or kitchen junk drawer. Major bonus.
5. Share the responsibility, and build trust.
Many couples default to a good cop/bad cop approach to money management. Even if one partner is better at dealing with the finances, letting them shoulder all the responsibility is a recipe for stress—and arguments. The couples with the most successful financial lives have found ways to share the burden together. That may mean one partner manages the 401k plans while the other handles the weekly budget, but money management needs to be a joint effort.
If tag-teaming your finances is a new venture, take time to build trust. A track record of forgetting to pay the bills on time doesn’t mean that someone can’t do better. Give them the space to prove themselves, and be patient if they make mistakes. It’ll be worth it. Learning to manage your money together is—without a doubt—the best way to avoid arguments when discussing money.