Couples Fighting about Money. Is It Your Fault?

by Neal Frankle, CFP ®

If you fight about money, how do you know who is to blame? And how do you know who needs to get their act together?

Earlier this week, I asked your advice for a couple that had different views on frugality and couldn’t stop fighting about money. Jim was making Deb’s life unbearable because of his tightwad ways, and I asked what you thought Deb should do about it. You provided fantastic ideas. A few folks suggested that Deb get a job. Others suggested therapy for Jim. Still others suggested they use a budget to solve their problems.

All good ideas.

But after I read your replies, I stopped to think. Certain cases are pretty obvious (Jim and Deb’s is one example). But it’s not always so clear-cut. When it comes to this issue, who’s to say when one person’s behavior is over the edge? If you live with this dilemma, how do you know it’s your partner’s fault for being too frugal? Maybe it’s your fault for not being frugal enough?

Or maybe it’s nobody’s fault. Maybe you just have different values. If so, can the relationship survive? So this is my question to you:

Is there an objective way to know when your partner’s frugality is just plain irrational?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.




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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Pam McCormick December 22, 2009 at 8:58 AM

I was wondering about advice for couples who earn very differently? I earn a large amount more than my husband and he benefits tremendously from it.We do differ on our money views any ideas?


Neal September 24, 2009 at 3:19 PM


I think for most people, you are right. But I’ve seen many people with incomes that far out-pace their spending…yet one partner remains ultra-frugal.

How do you get this person to agree on a budget?

My experience tells me they are in fear and it’s irrational fear.


Chris September 24, 2009 at 1:53 PM

I wrote yesterday on my blog about how couples should argue about spending differences. Most relationship experts agree that a rational argument is good for a marriage, and it’s certainly better than letting emotions fester.

As to your question, I don’t think frugality can be irrational, unless you have an enormous income stream, or your savings goal is itself irrational.

When two people have different views on spending, I think it’s important to (a) have a budget that allows for some (but not too much) spending, and (b) identify what situations lead to emotional/excess spending, and try to avoid those.


MoneyNing September 24, 2009 at 12:31 PM

When it comes to two people, it’s not a matter of “who’s fault it is”. It’s just a tug-of-war of what each party can tolerate. So, the responsibility lies on both of them to just work it out without thinking about who’s fault it really is.


Neal September 24, 2009 at 11:15 AM

So, if she isn’t working outside the house, he should put $ into an account for her each month and then butt out…..not a bad idea at all.


Susan D. September 24, 2009 at 9:01 AM

If a couple is fighting over money it means they have differing opinions as spending. They need to have separate bank accounts. 1 for him 1 for her and one to pay the bills. done…


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