15 Tips From a Couple Who NEVER Fight About Money
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That’s what most people think when I tell them my husband Nate and I don’t fight about money.
It’s completely true.
We never have.
That isn’t to say we always agree with each other. We might disagree, but having a disagreement for us is totally different than fighting.
My definition of fighting:
Arguing, belittling, blaming, yelling and/or showing disrespect resulting hurt and upset feelings. Not coming to a mutual conclusion. Doesn’t accomplish a dad-blasted-thing.
My definition of a disagreement:
Having a different opinion but discussing it with your spouse in a constructive manner. Being open and honest with each other in a respectful way where each spouse can have a say and can be validated and acknowledged. Being willing to move to the middle and compromise, or being willing to agree to disagree and let the other have a different opinion without holding it over them, so long as it isn’t going to continue to fester and harm the relationship.
So yes, we do sometimes have disagreements, but our conversations are a far cry from a true fight.
And we disagree on very little, so even disagreements are infrequent.
We talk in reasonable voices. We listen to what the other has to say and have the utmost respect for the others opinion. We don’t conclude our discussion until we can both come to an agreeable conclusion. We care deeply for each other and the feelings we impose on one another so we always work things out in a civilized manner.
The Way You Say Things Matters
Sometimes you’ll have a completely valid point and you should be allowed to speak.
But HOW you say it matters … a lot.
Let’s take a very simple example: Your spouse fixes a dinner you don’t like.
(I know this example doesn’t relate to money, but it gets the point across.)
- Choke it down without saying a word.
- Politely let them know “I didn't care for chicken recipe, but I really liked the potatoes. Thank you for taking the time to make it. Maybe we can try the other really good kind of chicken you make next time.”
- Shout "Yuk!" shoving the plate away, "fix me something else!" (I have actually witnessed a man do this to his wife.)
In any case, you didn’t like the dinner.
The way you communicate it is what makes all the difference.
Is it really necessary to make the situation worse by throwing it back in someone’s face and make them feel bad about it?
Of course not!
That said, option A may or may not be appropriate either.
If you sit silent, maybe your spouse got the idea you liked it. So, they keep serving that dinner, never knowing you hate it.
If you’re doing it to be nice and it doesn’t really bother you, then so be it.
That said, you should be able to speak up. And you shouldn’t hold anything against your spouse if you haven’t voiced your concerns.
Things That Help Us Keep Open and Kind Communication About Money
Below are some things that Nate and I do that help to make it so that money is not a problem for us.
I’m sharing this with you because this is what has worked for us. You may get some ideas here, but ultimately your relationship with your spouse is unique. Try to find what works for your relationship.
If you are having severe problems and fights over money, you may consider seeking professional advice or council.
Humor me while I play out this metaphor.
You are in a boat with your spouse headed for the same destination. Here are your options:
Neither one of you does anything. Your boat just drifts around with no purpose and no final destination. You may sit idle and go nowhere or you may be lost and not sure which direction to take.
You’ll get nowhere fast.
The current determines your destiny, which may ultimately lead to you being hurled over a waterfall if you aren’t prepared. (Just sayin’.)
One spouse does all the work. What happens when you’re in a row boat and only one oar is being rowed?
You go in circles!
If one person is doing all the work they will almost certainly resent the one who isn’t doing anything.
And, your boat still ends up going nowhere.
You work as a team. Each person takes an oar. You are working toward a common goal. You each take on whatever roll you need on your side of the boat so you can get where you want to go.
Nate and I realize that we are in the same boat, headed for the same destination and we will get there together. We choose to work together as a team.
Acknowledge and Accept Differences
When it comes to spending money, there are things that Nate likes that I just don’t get or care about. He’s big into technology and gadgets.
Technology isn’t that big of a deal to me. A TV is a TV.
We both use smartphones, but I don’t care about the brand. He does.
The thing is, I acknowledge my husband’s love affair with tech gadgets and let him do his thing.
(So long as it fits inside our money plan, more on that later.)
I like to save up money to pay for things.
It’s my thing.
If I want to buy something expensive, my husband is inclined to say, “We can figure it out and make it work.” And is ready to pull the trigger and buy said thing.
But, I get a great sense of gratification about staying in our budget and saving up.
He respects that and lets me work things out on my own. Even if it means delaying what we want for a while.
(Yes, it does take a level of respect on his part to hold back and let me figure things out. He’s willing to wait and be patient. That can be very hard for some people to do.)
Try to acknowledge that your spouse might have a different perspective of money than you do. Be patient with them and be willing to work out a solution together.
Your Spouse is the Most Important
Sometimes this comes across as harsh, but it’s true.
“What about our kids? What about paying rent? What about …” the gazillion other things you think might be more important than your spouse.
Yes, those other things are important, but your spouse should be number one.
Your spouse is supposed to be your best friend. You are working toward a common goal together. You need to be on each other’s side. Money is just a tool to help you reach your goals.
If you think money or anything it can buy is more important than your spouse and working together you’re never going to get very far with being on the same team.
Be Honest and Show Integrity
It is so important to be honest with each other about your finances.
Nate and I have nothing to hide from each other about how we’ve spent money. If we’ve purchased something unusual, we just let the other know. No big deal.
If we need to make a big purchase, we discuss it with each other and figure out the best way to pay for it. (We don’t use credit cards, so we work out our cash on hand or savings if we need to. If you use credit cards, you should still have a discussion as to how you are going to pay off the credit card ASAP.)
Related Article: How to Pay Cash for Big Expenses
Integrity comes from being honest with your creditors and service providers.
That means paying your bills on time.
If you have debt, someone trusted you and fronted you their money to use. You need to pay them back.
If it’s not debt, just cost of living expenses like utilities or medical expenses, you’ve still consumed someone else’s time or services. You need to pay for those services in a timely manner.
I realize hardships exist (I’ve been through plenty myself). If you’re in a difficult financial situation you can still be honest with your creditors and work out a payment plan or a deferment.
Trying to avoid paying or not even trying to get caught up causes serious money problems that can strain relationships. It’s best to confront the problems and try to work them out.
Open the Lines of Communication
Be willing to talk to each other about money. Having an open line of communication is essential to your financial survival.
Remember the dinner example where you choke it down and you don’t say anything? That’s a small example, but keeping things that make you unhappy inside just build up and it’s not healthy for your emotional state.
Communication is a lot easier if you dump the blame game and don’t hold past mistakes over your spouse’s head.
If you know you can be honest without ridicule it’s SO much easier to talk about money.
Don' Separate Your Money
We decided from day one of our marriage that all money we brought in was ours together.
It didn’t matter who earned what. We are both equal partners and we both have a say in how all the money is used.
It kind of forces us to talk to each other and be responsible. Whatever we spend, we must decide on it together. We can’t (and don’t want to) hide any of our spending from one another.
Ten years into our marriage we had our first baby and I left my job to stay home with her.
This did not mean that suddenly my husband had all the say in the money he brings in as the sole bread winner. We still work as a team and make decisions together.
The only exception to this is I have my own account for buying gifts for my husband. I wanted a way to buy birthday and Christmas gifts without giving away what they were, so we transfer that money to my account for this exclusive reason.
It’s ok for one person to set up the initial budget, but both of you have input and considerations to make with the budget.
Nate set up our budget initially because it was easier for him to look at our spending, compile it all and then present a semi-final budget to me. After that, we worked together on it.
We communicate any upcoming needs and make sure we are both aware of where money is going and what is available.
Divide Money Responsibilities
My husband and I have each assumed responsibility for managing and paying for different bills.
My husband pays monthly utility bills, regular expenses and manages our savings.
I take care of groceries, clothing and other things to manage our home.
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Overseeing a portion of the bills does not mean you have complete control, it just means you’re in charge of making sure that job gets done.
If we need to adjust our budget, we discuss, agree and amend the budget as a couple.
If we need to (or want to) make a big purchase, we both decide on it together.
Write it Down
Your budget can’t just be in your head. It can’t even be a check register showing how much money you have left.
You need to have a purposeful plan for your money.
A very basic budget is knowing how much income you have and how much you spend monthly (or even every paycheck if you prefer).
A better budget is planning for all the pesky budget busters that sneak up on you. There’s always something extra that you need to plan for above and beyond monthly expenses.
Related Article: 18 Budget Busters You Forgot to Plan For
Automate Everything You Can
One of the best things we’ve done is automating everything possible. This makes it so we don’t even see most of our money.
This virtually eliminates the "I thought you were gonna ..." blame game.
We get paid through direct deposit.
We have automatic bill pay set up for as much as humanly possible. Even our daughter’s music teacher is paid through automatic bill pay. Our bank is set up to mail her a check every month. (Our bank does this as a free service.)
Everything gets paid and on time. We don’t accidently forget to pay something. We keep track of what is scheduled to be paid and make sure we don’t over extend ourselves.
Our savings is also automated. We have a lump sum that is automatically transferred to savings each month. To divide it out we have an Excel spreadsheet that lists everything we are saving for. My husband is a bit of a technology wizard so he literally clicks a single button and all the money is instantly divided up on paper so we know how much we have saved and what specifically it is for.
Related Article: The Ultimate Money Hack that Saves You from Debt
Agree On It
You must come to a consensus on your budget.
Review what you have set up. If there are any issues with your budget decide what can be moved around. Is there is anything that you don’t really need? Are you are spending too much or too little in different areas?
When you can both agree on how the budget is working you’ll both feel validated and you’ll both be responsible for keeping it up to date.
My husband will let me know if and when anything changes on our spreadsheet and we will work together to decide how to make things work the best.
Do Regular Check-Ups
A budget is a living, breathing thing.
It needs attention and adjusting.
Even if you automate everything, you can’t just “set it and forget it” (although you can get pretty darn close).
The best laid plans will always have a hiccup in them. You need to be ready to roll with the punches and adjust as needed.
If you do make changes to your budget, make sure you reassign all of your money. If you leave money unaccounted for it will mysteriously disappear. (i.e. It’ll get spent on something and you won’t have any clue where it went.)
Give Each Other Breathing Room
Having a budget isn’t a ball and chain. Rather it should give you a sense of peace and freedom.
I know my bills will be paid. I know I’ll have food on the table. I know we are covered in the event of an emergency and are saving for retirement. There’s also room to have some “fun money.”
Like I mentioned before, Nate is really into the latest, greatest technical gismos and gadgets. He has some freedom within our budget that allows him to make fun purchases. He can’t do it all the time and some things he reconsiders buying if it’s expensive, but I don’t deny him what he likes to spend his money on. (Even if I wouldn’t spend my money the same way.)
It works for some to have an “allowance” where a certain amount of money is for you to use as you see fit.
Even if it’s only a small amount like $10 per paycheck.
Nate and I don’t do the set allowance thing, but if there is something that we want or need we will wiggle and adjust our money to allow for whatever we need.
Work Toward a Common Goal
Set some goals with each other and dream a little.
Your goals may include paying off debt (which really is fun!) and then decide what to do with your income once you no longer owe extra payments on debt.
You might be saving up for a fun vacation or maybe to buy a house.
This goes back to teamwork, but when you have a specific goal it will help tremendously with motivation to keep working toward it.
Teach Your Kids About Money
Your children are watching you. They are learning how to handle money based your example.
Take a good hard look at how you treat money and think about if that’s the way you’d hope to see your children manage their money.
If you don’t have good money management skills and values, how do you expect them to learn to do better?
Here are some things Nate and I are trying to teach our children about money:
- Work = money. You don’t work, you don’t get money.
- If you want something expensive, you save up for it. We are trying to curb the get-whatever-you-want-whenever-you-want-it mentality.
- Debt sucks. When they try to borrow from "The Bank of Mom & Dad" and they'll find it out really quickly! We have no intention of going easy on them so they learn what debt really is.
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Talking about money is known to be a sensitive subject. Money issues between married couples have caused countless divorces. Working together on your finances has a lot to do with staying committed to your spouse and making your marriage work.
My husband and I have decided together that this is one area where we don’t want to struggle. Yes, we’ve had hardships where money was tight (or almost non-existent) but we always worked together to find solutions.
We don’t fight over money because it doesn’t accomplish anything. Real solutions can only come when you put your heads together and decide on a plan and then work on the plan. You’re in the same boat, make sure you’re both headed in the right direction.
Even if money is a problem, it's so nice to have a partner who's willing to work with you to solve the problem.