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Couples and Money: End the Budgeting Bickering

Couple arguing over money

One of the issues regarding couples and money is what to do when they don’t see eye to eye about finances. If one spouse wants to get out of debt and start saving for their future, but their spouse isn’t on board.

What’s Your Money Philosophy

What we’re talking about is having two opposing goals in your relationship. If you’re the one who wants to get out of debt, you’ve thought about strategies to pay off debt on your own.

The Saver

There are different types of savers out there. If you’re a saver, it could mean that you track your spending, so you know exactly where your money is going. But, you could be a little more obsessive about saving, forgoing visits to the dentist to save more money.

As a saver, you most likely have money set aside as an emergency fund. You also most likely have a retirement account set up.

While you may splurge from time to time, you’re more likely to plan before doing so.

The Spender

If you’re a spender, you like to have fun. This usually means going out to nice restaurants and buying new clothes. As such fancy vacations and enjoying your lifestyle is essential to you.

This doesn’t mean that you’re a spendthrift. But, you will have a difficult time working towards a long-term goal.

Spenders versus Savers

If you’re a saver and your partner is a spender, you probably argue about money all the time. As a saver, you’ll take the time to create a budget, while your partner, the spender, wants no part of it.

Your partner may get upset that you never have fun, while you get upset that they are not saving for retirement. Unfortunately, this fundamental difference in money philosophy can lead to frequent fighting about money.

As a saver, you may feel obliged to take care of the household finances on your own. Even giving allowances to other family members.

As a spender, you may rebel against your partner by making massive purchases on your credit card. Worse you may gamble in an attempt to pay back debt, putting your family in a worse financial situation.

The First Step: Talking About Money

At this point, you should know whether you and your partner are either a spender or a saver. To open up the lines of communication, think about what you might be missing out on in life by being a spender or a saver. Then, think about how these things might make you happier (without thinking about the cost).

How to Begin a Conversation about Money

Quite likely, your spouse hates talking about money and doesn’t want to feel controlled by it. You bringing up paying off debt is coming off as controlling, limiting, and boring. Realize that your partner isn’t going to become a saver like you. It all comes down to a fundamental difference in views about money.

That’s why it’s crucial to reframe the conversation. You’re not talking about debt, you’re talking about dreams. You’re talking about your future together – your plans, your hopes, and your goals.

Here are some icebreakers to help get the ball rolling:

“I know we’ve been talking about money a lot lately, but I want to take a step back and start thinking about our future. Where do you see us in 10 years?”

“I was just reading about this couple who spent an entire year travelling the world. They blogged all about how they prepared and saved up for it and what they did to make it happen. We don’t have to do the same thing, but wouldn’t it be great to_____”

“A guy at work was talking about how they just had a kid and how happy his wife is that she can stay home with her. He said they planned for a couple of years to make sure she wouldn’t have to go back to work even after her mat leave is over”.

You get the idea. Once you start the ball rolling you can work backward. Travelling the world sounds good? You can’t do it with debt.

Every decision you make together involves spending and saving money in some capacity. How your family spends money (or doesn’t) represents your joint priorities as a couple.

Whenever a disagreement comes up over money, don’t try to change your partner’s opinion. Instead, take a step back and reframe the discussion.

Support One Another

If you find out that your significant other is carrying a large amount of debt, you should try to be supportive. Try to pass along your best spending and saving habits. Teach them motivating ways to save, create a financial timeline together. Show them the big things they can be saving for.

The Second Step: Setting Priorities

It might be difficult to stop in the middle of an argument and ask your partner to think about retirement but try it. Is that big screen TV that important? Setting goals as a couple is crucial to your success. 

The heart of the matter is if your partner is a spender, they want to focus on short-term goals. While if you’re a saver, you want to prioritize long-term goals. Neither of you should be against this. It all comes down to coming up with financial plans that work for both of you.

Make the Most of Today or Save for Tomorrow?

Every dollar that you spend on something is money that can’t go towards a long-term goal. So it’s essential to reflect on how it will affect your long-term finances.

Some savers take saving to the extreme, ignoring important stuff like your health. But, living each day like it’s your last can have dire consequences too. You must find your balance in the scale of finance.

You Can Enjoy Some Things, But You Can’t Enjoy Everything

 If you’d like early retirement, you might not be able to buy a big-screen TV today. If you’d like to pay off your credit card debt before the end of the year, then you might have to skip the family vacation this year. It’s all about sacrificing something where you’re both on board.

Having a partner to smile alongside will make the process that much easier. It’s that attitude that can stop money fights from happening in the first place.

The Third Step: Plan Your Family’s Future

If you can’t figure out what you’ll do once you’re out of debt, you’re not planning far enough ahead.  Your spouse needs to see the good stuff that comes AFTER, and the $0 on the balance sheet isn’t enough of a reward. Debt Repayment Isn’t The Goal – It’s Just A Step

Start Thinking for the Long Term

Do some brainstorming and think about how you’d like your life to look in the next 10, 15, and 25 years. Consider your debt goals, savings goals, things you’d like to buy, places you’d like to go, and whether you’d like kids.

Are you and your partner on the same page? For example, do you want to retire in the countryside and your partner wants to travel the world? Or Do you want to live a life without debt, but you own a fancy sports car that you can’t afford? If yes, then you’re going to have problems.

Most important of all, focus on how you can work things out. Try to find some common ground. For example, come up with a financial path that you can both work toward. By having common goals, you can grow closer as a couple. Choices become more fun and less of a chore when you’re both on the same page.

The Fourth Step: Set Financial Goals

Knowing your goals is also crucial for your partner. By identifying where you’re going, it can help motivate and excite them. In addition, having a shared target will help you to work together instead of against each other. 

Assess Your Current Financial Situation

It’s important to know where you are right now and where you’d like to go. Start by making a list of your checking, savings accounts, debt, salaries, and sources of income. Review 3 months of financial records. If you have variable income, go back further. There may be seasonal trends to look for. 

You may find out your partner has no debt (awesome) but their salary breaks even with their expenses. Conversely, your partner may have money saved but are carrying student loans. That is also something you should know. 

Set Some Boundaries

An excellent place to start would be to aim not to borrow any more money. Make this an operating principle that you both commit to going forward. 

Think about other money beliefs that you have and make sure your partner agrees. Think about possible money situations like borrowing money, gambling, or credit card use. If you agree not to take out loans, not buying that fancy couch on a cash advance is a simple choice. 

Short Term Goals

Knowing the destination enables you to start working towards it. For example, to reach your financial goals in 10 years, where will you have to be in five years? What about in two years? What about next year?

As you get closer to reaching your goal, you can start breaking down your goals. For example, if your goal is to be debt-free next year, you can list how much you owe and figure out how you’ll pay them off.

Attention to detail here is vital. Are your goals realistic? If they aren’t, you might consider adjusting your goals or figuring out how to accomplish them sooner.

The Fifth Step: Build a Stronger Relationship 

Going through this process will expose a lot about you and your partner. Learning each other’s hopes and dreams. Making a plan to achieve them together will be a fun, fascinating, journey.   

Once you’ve had an open conversation, you should be in a much better financial position. Think about how great life will be once you accomplish your goals. You can bask in the glory that you’re one step closer to achieving them.

Excitement Is The Key

If your spouse isn’t excited, this will never work.  New clothes, fancy groceries, and good wine all make you happy NOW. To have the discipline to skip them, you need something that overrides the desire. So make sure to celebrate the little milestones and keep an eye on the big prize. 

“We can go out to a fancy dinner this week or pay off the credit card in full!” 

Trade it for a cheaper or free alternative.

 “Let’s stay home, open some wine, cook your favourite meal …”

You don’t have to say NO to everything. Make big purchases a goal. Skip the movies and save up for your favourite band! That’s a much better experience to create memories.

When it comes to couples and money, conversations can become heated, leading to a big divide in the relationship. Most importantly, don’t forget that you should be working towards your goals whenever you talk about money. You and your partner should be facing the same direction and not in each other’s faces. By doing this simple thing, you should be well on your way to financial success as a couple.

Good luck!

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