From the title, it is obvious that this is a touchy subject. You may have been inclined to quickly click away or skip ahead without reading a word. Statistics indicate that more couples argue, fuss, disagree, and divorce about money than they do anything else. In fact, money woes and differences in spending habits are less forgivable offenses for many than a steamy affair.
One of the problems is that couples do not know how to go about discussing spending habits with their partners. The roots of this problem can reach far into the dynamics of the relationship and often come down to simple defiance and the need for autonomy. In households where only one adult works – while the other stays home to raise children, discussing spending can be even more of a hot button issue. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Firstly, understand that couples come to a marriage with different ideas of spending. Rarely, are both partners involved in the household budget. At first, especially if both have a job there is rarely a problem. Many couples with equal salaries just divide things right down the middle, while keeping accounts of their own to protect their individual needs with money. There is no adult that wants to discuss or seek approval for spending their own hard-earned money on something their partner sees as useless. However, as the relationship progresses and the bills begin to increase – couples are faced with the need to come together on the family finances. If not, the left hand wont know what the right hand is doing which can cause a lot of financial problems.
You have to understand why you feel ill at ease discussing spending habits with your partner. Do you feel that they are always putting you down? Do you feel that they think their spending is more justified than yours is? This is often the case when one person pays the bills and does all the household shopping. The other partner is wondering where all the money goes, and the other is hostile because it is going toward the family. The discussion can make the one tending to the household needs feel as though they are being chastised for spending too much on groceries, clothes for the kids or other important items. Once the tempers and pride get involved, the conversation is over before it begins. It is common for one person to thrown the debit card and checks to the other, throwing up their hands and saying “you do it!” But this won’t solve anything.
The other scenario may be that one person feels justified in making large purchases like furniture without consulting the other. Again, the two of you should be on the same page with what is going on and large purchases should be discussed.
The easiest way to ease into money discussions is to be as honest as possible. Don’t worry, you aren’t the only couple who hides the checkbook from one another, or who uses a credit card in secret, paying it off little by little so that it hopefully won’t be noticed. And while as an adult, you should be able to do as you wish with money and get what you need if you can afford it – many couples have no real idea what they can or cannot afford. It is easier to discuss spending habits and financial issues BEFORE the money is spent, rather than after. Getting a second opinion is always a good thing and sometimes your spouse’s perspective on whether you need a new washing machine or not, may help you think of something you might not have thought of. Two heads are always better than one.
The easiest way to solve this issue is to have a joint account where all the bills are paid from. This account is for the necessities like electricity, water, groceries etc. Make sure that both of you have internet access and complete knowledge of this account. If both partners work, then equal amounts of money should be placed into this account. You should decide if ‘pre-marriage’ debts should be shared or not. For instance if you have a student loan that you are still paying off.
Next, you should have a joint savings account, where both partners (if working) place an allocated of money in on a set basis. If only one person works, then the amount saved – whether $35 or $250 per month, should be agreed upon based on overall monthly debts. The next step is for each of you to have a mad money account. You can decide to put as much or as little in this account as necessary to keep the household running. This way, each of you has an outlet for spending that doesn’t have to be discussed. This solves the issues of being questioned about paying $100 for a pair of heels or purchasing a $100 golf club.
Couples don’t have to agree on spending habits necessarily. But it is important that both partners feel they have some autonomy to spending as they wish. It isn’t fair for one person to have an ‘allowance’ while the other spends at will. Similarly, it isn’t fair for one person to be responsible for all the accounts payable while the other is clueless about what is owed. It is however very important for partners to discuss spending habits that take a toll on the family budget and household expenses. These discussions need to be 90% compromise and 10% respect. Setting financial goals together and realizing that money doesn’t have to be a hot button issue is a stepping-stone to overcoming the stress involved in talking about money with your spouse.
Discussing spending habits isn’t about being right or wrong. It isn’t an issue of I win, you lose. It is simply an issue of working together for the common good of the family and the relationship. There are some purchases that no woman or man will ever understand of feel is justified. This is why making sure that both of you have mad money and that both of you are on board with the family budget is the easiest way to discuss money, spending, savings and ensure the mighty dollar doesn’t become grounds for divorce.