"Money Dates": 6 tips for managing finances with your partner
Do you feel your partner penny-pinches or spends irresponsibly? Does talking about money create tension and discord?
If you and your partner fight about finances, you are not alone. According to a recent study, financial disagreements are the primary cause of stress in relationships. In most relationships, one partner feels that the other spends too much or is too frugal.
Foolishly spending money is the number one financial matter that results in divorce. According to Jeffrey Dew’s paper Bank on it: Thrifty Couples are the Happiest, when one spouse believes the other is foolishly spending their money, the likelihood of divorce increases by 45%.
Foolishly spending is subjective and means something different for each relationship. The important factor is perception. When one partner perceives the other overspending or penny pinching, this usually results in discord.
If you want to keep money from putting strain on your relationship, it is crucial to designate time to discuss managing finances as a couple. Try having a "money date." Set aside time – before a conflict arises – to discuss your spending habits and financial goals.
Want to know how to discuss money in a way that is productive and positive for your relationship? Here are some tips.
Plan money discussions before a conflict arises
If you confront your spouse the moment you see the credit card bill, this confrontation is bound to end up in a fight. Instead of addressing the argument when emotions are running high, schedule a regular time – once or twice a month – to discuss managing finances as a couple.
Money dates don't have to be boring. Bring your laptop to your favorite internet cafe or stay in and open a bottle of wine while you review your expenses. The location is not important, but the tone of the date is essential. It is crucial that you are both relaxed and in a good mood before you start your discussion.
Create space to discuss emotions
Money can be a very emotional issue, and it's important to acknowledge these emotions. Start by sharing your earliest memories of money, what you learned about finances from your family growing up, and your strengths and challenges.
Try not to start the conversation by talking numbers. In the context of a relationship, money can lead to power struggles and feelings of vulnerability or resentment. Do not blame or shame. When one person is taking, listen without interrupting. Validate how your partner feels and try to be open about your emotions as well.
Clarify your values
Money can be a vehicle to get to where you want to go in life. Therefore, it's crucial to be on the same page about your larger life goals.
Where do you want your money to take you in 25 years? Does your significant other share the same vision?
One partner may want to over-save for retirement while the other partner may wish to set aside a budget for beauty and self-care. With regards to earning, saving, spending, and giving money, two people may have very different values about how to allocate funds. Clarifying your values and acknowledging your partner's priorities can help prevent future disagreements and misunderstandings.
Keep a budget
Even though it may not sound sexy, a household budget is essential in a marriage. Budgeting is a highly effective tool to keep track of your money and ensure that you meet your saving goals. Today, budgeting has become much easier with online tools such as Mint.
Despite this, studies show that only 32% of couples keep a budget. Budgeting may seem tedious, but it helps prevent the marital strife that arises when couples feel in the dark about where their money is going.
Once you decide how you want to spend your money, you will need to figure out how to make that happen. How will you handle finances? Who will work and how much? Will you have a joint account or separate accounts? Who will pay the bills and keep track of numbers?
For many couples, having separate personal accounts and one account for shared expenses can help reduce arguments when there are different spending habits.
Divide responsibilities in the way that works best for your relationship. Regardless of how you divvy up the duties, having clarity and transparency can go a long way towards creating peace in the home.
Listen to each other
Does your spouse feel nervous about putting 300 dollars a month into savings? Ask him why. Maybe he wants to use the money to go out more, or maybe he thinks you should be using the funds to pay off student loans.
Whatever the reason, it is important to listen not only to the "what" but also to the "why". Listen to your partner and acknowledge his or her feelings. Once you both feel heard, it will be easier to agree on a reasonable compromise.
It is not uncommon for couples to have opposite spending styles. One partner is often a spender and the other a saver. This does not have to result in fighting and tension. Couples can create a plan that accounts for both of their needs and work together towards shared goals. Therapy can help you dispell financial tension and create a plan that is both financially sound and appealing to both partners.
If you find that money is causing strain in your relationship, our therapists can help you successfully manage finances as a couple.