Each of us has our own personal relationship with money – our own values, attitudes, and story that shape how we think about and interact with finances. When we join our life with someone else’s, it’s only natural to assume there are going to be growing pains in navigating how to handle finances as a couple. Too often, however, couples fail to have the right money conversations – or any money conversations at all – and this lack of proactive and healthy communication can easily lead to a cycle of fighting about money without ever really resolving underlying issues.
If you and your partner find yourselves disagreeing on financial matters, you’re not alone. In fact, money issues is one of the leading causes of contention that couples face together. If you’re looking to find healthier ways to communicate with your partner to stop fighting about money, try these four steps.
#1. Set clear expectations and boundaries
If you find yourselves fighting about money frequently, you probably avoid discussing it unless it becomes necessary. However, you can stave off fights by proactively discussing what you expect from your partner and what you’re comfortable with when it comes to finances. This conversation can be uncomfortable at first, especially if you’re not used to having money conversations. Push through it, though, because being on the same page as your partner regarding financial matters is critical to your financial future – and often to your relationship, too. Discuss things such as each of your money stories, any anxieties or triggers you have about money, and your personal financial goals. Together, you can then write out a list of short- and long-term financial goals that you both share and prioritize them.
Knowing where your partner stands when it comes to money, and being clear about where you’re coming from, can provide a strong framework to stop fighting about money and build a successful financial life together.
SEE ALSO: Are You the Victim of a Financial Bully?
#2. Work together to build a budget
The key to a healthy money relationship in your household is to create a budget and stick to it. This is even more important for couples than it is for individuals since spending is often a trigger for fighting about money. When you take the time to build a budget together, you can be sure that you and your partner are on the same page with things like saving, spending, and debt repayment plans. Not only are you going to want to determine how much money you want to allocate to bills, groceries, going out, clothing, savings, and other financial goals, but also how you want to divvy up the household expenses.
A budget should not be a “set it and forget it” exercise because life evolves. If you want to stop fighting about money and maintain the peace, reevaluate your budget every few months. It’s an opportunity to check in with one another to gauge how the budget is working for both of you. Do you both still feel like the budget is realistic? Have there been any life changes that may require you to change aspects of the budget? Are either of you struggling to stick with it? Being proactive in tackling any problems that may arise can help you approach the issues as a team rather than see each other as opponents.
#3. Prioritize accountability
Having a budget you both agree to is only half the battle. If you or your partner aren’t sticking to agreed-upon terms, you’ll still find yourselves fighting about money. So, make sure you establish ways that you can have accountability, both to your budget and to each other. A helpful way to do this is to use a budgeting app, which you can connect directly to your bank account and then track your money automatically right from your phone.
You can also motivate yourself and your partner to stay accountable by having regular “money dates”. For example, maybe once a month you have morning coffee or tea together and discuss your joint financial goals and whether you’re still on track to achieve them. Having dates scheduled specifically for financial matters can help you both feel prepared and safe to bring up any money issues without feeling like you’re attacking the other person.
#4. Decide on big purchases as a team
Some couples assume they won’t be fighting about money if they keep their finances separate. It’s sort of a “what’s yours is yours and what’s mine is mine” approach, and it works for some people. However, it can be alarming to come home from work and find out that your spouse or partner purchased a car or booked a vacation without talking to you about it first. Even if your finances are largely separate, you’ve chosen to do life together. If one partner wants to make a large purchase but the other is opposed, take some time apart to get your thoughts in order before coming back together to address the issue. Perhaps the reluctant partner feels the purchase is unnecessary or wants to invest that money elsewhere. Take time explaining and listening to each other and work on finding a way to compromise so each partner feels listened to and respected.
If you’re fighting about money and it’s often based on extravagant or unnecessary purchases, consider the underlying issue. These sorts of financial fights tend to be more about communication than the money itself, so it may help to come to an agreement about which purchases should be discussed beforehand. For example, do you always run it by one another before spending more than $200? Do you set a threshold to wait 24 hours to thoughtfully consider purchases over $500? The specifics are up to you, but this strategy can be especially helpful if one or both of you are impulsive with purchases.
Keep the Faith – It’s Possible to Stop Fighting About Money
As a couple, there are plenty of ups and downs that you’ll face together and work through as a team. However, fighting about money doesn’t have to be one of them. Establishing healthy and honest communication habits – such as checking in with one another, establishing boundaries, and managing expectations – will not only help you navigate financial matters more successfully but improve other aspects of your relationship, too.
If you’re looking for more tips on how you can better communicate with your significant other about money and navigate the intersection of emotions and money, tune in weekly to my Flourish Financially podcast. Or, if you’d like to have a conversation with one of our financial advisors about your financial plans, please contact us today.