Do you believe that arguments about money between couples are inevitable? I used to think so but not any more. My personal and professional experience tells me that 95% of the time, dollar disagreements are rooted in divergent definitions of financial moderation. I’m going to share a very easy way to solve this problem but first let’s fully understand what’s happening.
Moderate vs Spendthrift
What’s frugal or moderate to you might be lavish to your spouse or partner (or the other way around). Your spouse might think that Netflix is a selfish luxury, but you might think it’s an inexpensive way to enjoy time at home. That dynamic can replay itself over and over in different ways in a relationship. And that can cause needless misery and resentments about control and overspending.
What makes this problem more difficult is that our financial situations change over time. When someone is broke and in college, it might make sense to take the laundry home to mom and dad and do it there. But at 30 years old and working, that same behavior isn’t really OK…is it?
When you were in debt, maybe it made sense not to go out. But once you got out of debt, the situation changes. If you still refrain from meeting friends for a cup of coffee because you are afraid to spend the money even though you can afford it, that’s just your past controlling your present.
3 Steps To Stop The Financial Fights
1. Declare A Stalemate
Sometimes people think that if they just separate their finances everything will be OK. I’m not so sure. Everyone has emotional baggage and that includes weird thoughts about money. You have it and so does your spouse. You might as well acknowledge this fact. You might be able to find agreement with your spouse if you have therapy and overcome some of these hurdles. This is a great idea but you don’t have to put all your hope on the shrink.
People ask me to referee spending squabbles all the time. Even though I’m no therapist, the first thing I suggest is for each party to accept the other person’s right to have a different viewpoint. Declare a truce and stop trying to control each other or change each other’s minds. As long as one person is set on changing the other, the problems persist. Just agree to disagree as step one.
2. Agree On Goals
You may not agree on spending priorities with your lovey dovey but you probably agree on life priorities such as retirement, travel, education etc. Make a list of financial priorities and their costs. Then, set up a plan to achieve those goals. Inevitably when you set up your plan you’re going to earmark a certain amount of money to set aside each month to help you achieve those goals. Automate those monthly deposits so you can set it and forget it. I bet you feel better already.
3. Spend Away
Once you agree on life priorities and set up your plan to achieve those goals, you know how much money you need to save each month. Once you reach that monthly savings goal, you can decide to spend whatever is left if you like. Simple. Done.
No More Fights
I grew up in a lot of financial fear. I wanted to save and invest every penny in order to make sure my family didn’t go through what I went through growing up. That was good up to a point but became very counter-productive and led to disagreements that should never have been.
Once my wife and I started using this approach to our finances, the arguments stopped. I was happy because I had a plan to reach my goal of financial security and she was happy because I stopped bothering her all the time and she had the freedom to spend money on things she thought were important without worrying about what I thought. FWIW – It worked for us.
Do you think this would help you? What would be a better approach?