Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Couples and Money

Finances are one of the most common areas of disagreement for couples. When we work with couples experiencing this problem we hear comments about trust, control, stinginess, irresponsibility, lying and dishonesty.

When couples start out with different ideas about money, they can get even further apart with time as each responds to the other. The one who is more frugal can become even tighter when he or she sees a spouse spend in a way that feels superfluous.
When a spouse who is freer with spending feels “controlled” with conversations, criticism or checking, they may find ways to hide spending. What begins as a simple
difference can escalate out of control and erode good will within the couples’ relationship quite quickly.

Here are a few tips that couples can discuss that might help them move from opponents about the family budget to players on the same team.

Talk together about a reasonable amount of money that each of you can spend without consulting the other one. Depending on each individual couple and their finances, it may be as small as $10 or as large as $1,000. Both agree that you will talk about it before any purchases are made (other than necessary ones such as groceries) and problem-solve around the decision.

Work on a budget together. Make sure that you both know the amount of money you receive in your paychecks, any additional income, and the amount of regular bills. Discuss other bills that may not need to be paid monthly but are regular and expected expenses.

Talk out your money differences. Couples with different ideas about spending may not really understand that thoughts of their spouse. For specific purchases that are controversial, talk about your position and why you feel as you do. Try to explain why this purchase is important for you and get a good understanding from your partner about her/his thoughts and feelings about this purchase.

Recognize that finances may just be something that is normal for you to differ on; however, if you remain respectful to each other in the conversations, you will be able to make decisions about expenses that will work for each of you. Think positively about this as a problem to solve, not an attack on your character.

Have conversations about the meaning of money for each of you. What did it mean when you were growing up? How did your parents handle money? How does that affect the way you think about money? Get a better understanding about your spouse and their thoughts about so money so that when you hit these normal roadblocks, you will be able to travel over them more easily.

Consider a financial planner. If you cannot afford one on our own, check with some churches in your area. Some churches and community centers have people who volunteer to help others with this.

Above all, continue to remain positive with your partner and know that you both have the same end goal in mind … a sound financial plan.

Do you have some ideas to share for what helped you to figure out financial differences?

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