If you're in relationship, especially if you're married, chances are you've had your fights over money. Financial feuds are the number one reason for divorce – even over infidelity. If your marital bliss is ruined by financial disagreements, use these six steps to stop fighting over money, once and for all.
In Pictures: 8 Steps To Teach Your Partner Household Finances
- Understand the Meaning of Money
Sure, the fight is about that night out where he bought everyone drinks, or that shopping spree she had. But what are you really fighting about? Money is much more than currency - it stands for control, freedom and dreams. To stop fighting over money, you have to assess what money means to you and your partner. Did she grow up in a poor household? Maybe her tightwad attitude is her way to keep from ending up like her family. Did he grow up clipping coupons and never eating out? Maybe he's enjoying dinners out as a way to feel free. Money means very different things to each of us, and understanding the meaning of money for you and your spouse is the first step toward reconciling your differences. (Sneaky financial moves could erode your finances - and your relationship. Find out more in Financial Infidelity: Are YOU A Cheater?)
- Take a Time-Out
However much your partner's financial habits are driving you crazy, take a step back from those feelings. Even if you're looking at the credit card bill that made your blood boil, it's important to take your angry feelings out of the equation. No blaming him for that expensive watch he bought; if you want to break the cycle of constant fighting, you have to agree to work together and start fresh.
- Sit Down Together
Now comes the hard part: you have to assess your financial situation. If you're fighting over money, that probably means there's some debt you're not dealing with properly. You got together for a reason, right? So face these numbers together, openly and honestly. And remember: no blame. Take this opportunity to take stock of your finances, everything from bills, debt, to any retirement accounts or other investments you may have. (For help with bills and budgeting, check out 8 Steps To An Organized Financial Life.)
It's hard to remember when you're picking apart credit card statements and grocery bills, but there was a time when you both dreamed of your life together. Did you want to travel? Buy your dream house? Maybe you've always wanted to go to college. Those dreams are what energizes us as people, and what will bring you together as a couple. Set those bills aside for a moment, and dream together again. Write down those goals; you'll use them in the next step.
- Make a Budget
Now that you've assessed your finances honestly, and you've talked about your dreams, it's time to sit down and make a budget ... together. Even if one of you pays the bills, it's important you both take ownership in your financial plans. Aside from making sure the bills are paid, you should add two things to your new budget. First, allow each of you to have some cash that you don't have to be accountable for. Call it mad money or an allowance, it's important that you allow her to buy that pair of shoes without feeling guilty, and for him to have lunch out of the office a few times a week. That personal financial space will allow you to let go a bit, and feed your meaning of money from step one. Even if you're on a tight budget, set a bit of money aside for each of you personally.
The second important part of your new budget is allocating savings to go towards those dreams you wrote down in step five. Always wanted to go to Hawaii? Set aside some money each month, even if it's only a little, to pay for that vacation, or for that house you've dreamed of buying. Saving for your dreams will motivate you as you watch those savings grow, and it will also give you a shared goal - something to bring you closer together. (Learn more about creating budgets in Top 5 Budgeting Questions Answered, 6 Months To A Better Budget and The Beauty Of Budgeting.)
- Stay On Track
With a new budget, financial goals, and an "allowance"' for each of you, you should already feel the improvement in your relationship. Change can be difficult though, and you may need to remind each other of your dreams and budget from time to time. If one of you is an impulsive spender, find a way to talk to your partner without blaming or getting into an argument. You could agree on a word that helps remind you of your goal for when she's looking at those expensive shoes, or he sees that flat screen TV, like "Hawaii" or "Dream House" - whatever fits your financial dream.
Don't let financial feuds get the best of your relationship. With your new budget, you're ready to face the future together, and realize your dreams. (Learn more about getting along financially, read Teaching Your Partner About Household Finances and Say "I Do" To Financial Compatibility.)