Money. It’s the thing that buys us food, clothing, and shelter. Money can be a source of pride or even a source of discomfort. Money can be fought over. But not in our house. I’m about to explain how we never fight about money. We may argue about other things, but our bank account isn’t one of them.
What’s there to fight about?
Money is one of the top things couples fight about. It’s also a big reason why married couples get divorced. Finances can be a struggle in some relationships. It only gets worse when your finances aren’t in such a great place.
Reasons couples fight about money
There are many different reasons couples fight about money. These are only a few. Do any of these apply to you and your partner? If you struggle with arguing over money, be honest with yourself.
- One spouse is the “bread-winner” or “earner” of the family
- Spender vs. Saver mentality
- Different financial experiences growing up
- Depth of financial education
- Who gets to be “in charge” of the money
- No budget in place
- Debt is overwhelming
- Different, or no, long term goals
Do any of these reasons push your buttons? Does it make you want to argue with your spouse in your head right now?
Let me tell you how my husband, D, and I never fight about money. Then, I’ll let you in on some secrets to help you stop fighting about money.
How we never fight about money
D and I came from different backgrounds. He moved around a lot with his military parents, while I only moved once as a child. His parents divorced while mine are still married to each other. He got a job early on, while I waited until I needed a little more spending money. My husband is the saver. I’m the spender.
Despite our different upbringings, we very quickly learned how to manage our money as adults. This is only possible because D is a money nerd (and I love him for it). His mom taught him the basics and he learned the rest on his own. His financial education allowed us to budget better and set more realistic goals.
When we first started to really budget back in 2014, it was a process at first. We set time aside one weekend and took a long, hard look at our bank accounts. Money was slipping through our fingers and we knew it. An honest conversation around our spending habits lead us to develop a budget spreadsheet that we still use today. There is no “hiding” of transactions or purchases. We are open about what each of us spends. If we aren’t, then our budget gets out of control and it could lead to a fight about money.
Financial goals have been set and are reevaluated every quarter or year. We’re a married couple that doesn’t fight about money: goals and a budget are key!
How to Stop the Fight About Money
There are 6 key actions to stop the fight about money:
- Regular, Consistent Communication
- Spending Audit
- Set a Budget and Goals
- Divide Responsibility
- Pay Down Debts
- Save for the Future
Regular, Consistent Communication
Can’t fight about money if you don’t talk about it, right? Wrong!
Schedule an open and honest conversation about money with your partner. Don’t throw the topic on them and expect them to be okay. Let them know that on, let’s say, Saturday after the kids go to bed, you would love to have an open conversation about your finances. Give yourself and your partner time to prepare any questions, fears, and goals to bring them to the table.
Still think you’ll fight? Go out to dinner. Have your first budget date! You’re less likely to fight in public and you probably won’t even raise your voices. Bring a notepad and pen to take notes or write down your spouse’s concerns.
Revist you previous talks and review your budget on a regular basis.
Once you and your partner are on board with never fighting about money again, do a spending audit.
Do you first audit by “hand” (looking at bank statements individually). The next should be done on Mint or another finance app.
- Create a spreadsheet to type expenses in. Organize it by category: bills, debts, grocery, eating out, gas, home expenses, shopping, babysitting, daycare, etc.
- Review all of your transactions for all of your accounts. Plug them into this spreadsheet.
- Look at your totals for each category with your partner. Is there anything that you can cut to reduce expenses? Do you need to readjust anything?
Together, you’ll be able to see where you struggle with money (if you do). This is not a time for playing the blame game. You might find you’re spending more than you bring in. If you’re in debt, you’re in debt. End of story. You got there by making perhaps a few poor financial decisions, or maybe it’s because of medical bills or student loans. Whatever the case, don’t blame each other. Find a way to work through it as a team. (More on this later)
Set a Budget + Goals
After your spending audit, evaluate where you spend the most money. Create categories around these spending habits. The budget categories can include:
- Emergency Fund
- Short Term Savings
- Cell Phone
- Cable – PSA: get rid of it!!
- HOA Fees
- Property Taxes
- Personal Debt
- Medical Debt
- Student Loans
- Credit Cards
- Auto Loans/Car Payment
- Public Transportation
- Insurance (health, vision, dental)
- Gym Membership
- Life Insurance
- Co-Pays/Out of Pocket Expenses
- HSA Contributions
- Casino Cash Withdrawals
- Movie Tickets
- Eating Out
- Concert and Other Tickets
- Personal Care Items
- Household Goods – laundry soap, toilet paper, etc.
- Extracurricular Activity
- Necessities – diapers, formula, medication, etc
- School Supplies
If some expenses are annual for you, like property taxes, car tags, HOA fees, etc. make a note of that on your spreadsheet off to the side and put it on your calendar.
Set you budget for each of the categories you’ll be using based on what you spent in the previous month. If you’re spending too much in one category or are spending more than you make – things have to change. Do you need to cut an expense all together like cable or a gym membership? Or can you scale back on things like cell phone usage, eating out, groceries, and entertainment?
Budget spreadsheet templates can be found HERE from Google.
Within your budget, you should have a goal. Most of the time, our goals involve paying off a debt or saving money for a big item like a vacation. We don’t fight about this money, we just set a goal. Once the goal is set, we figure out how to get there. Most of the time, we reduce expenses in another area and redirect that cash flow. Sometimes, you can increase your income with a side hustle and put that money towards your goal.
There are two people that work on your budget, right? You and your spouse. Neither of you can be responsible for the same money at the same time. So divide and conquer!
If your husband does all the maintenance around the house, on the cars, and pays all of the medical bills and insurance, he is responsible for those things. You don’t need to worry about them once they are on the budget.
Because you’re a boss and a mom, you are in charge of the grocery shopping, tuition, activity payments, and all things kid related. You are in charge of those budget categories. Your husband shouldn’t worry about those funds since it is on the budget and he knows it is your responsibility.
Go through your budget and mark (or write down) who is responsible for what. If you need to put a due date on your calendar (either paper or in your Google Calendar), do it now.
Debt sucks. Debt can be overwhelming. . Again, don’t fight about money here either. Your debt exists. You just have to tackle it
Start with your smallest debt first. Work as hard as you can to put any extra money each month towards it. Still pay on your other debts, too. Once the first is paid off, start on the next biggest one. Apply the payment amount from your first debt to the second debt to result in an even bigger payment! Put any extra money towards that debt, too. Continue to do this “snowball” method until everything is paid off.
Save for the Future
The future can be a scary thing to think about financially. Will you be able to move? Have a second baby? Retire early or just on time? Can you go on that killer vacation? Saving money can be the answer to all of this.
Because you have a budget and have reduced expenses, you should be able to start your emergency fund. Begin with a goal of $1000. After debt is paid off (other than your mortgage), build up your emergency fund until it reaches three months of expenses.
Start saving more and more money. What goals did you come up with when you budgeted? Create a line item in your budget for each savings goal (vacation, moving costs, home down payment, etc). Is your goal so amazing that you’re willing to cut expenses even more? That’s great! Put that extra money into the savings category of your choice.
Remember to think about retirement savings too. You don’t want to work until the day you die. Check out your employer’s 401(k) program. Do they match what you contribute? Are other types of retirement accounts offered? Take advantage of those programs.
So let’s stop the fight about money.
You have a plan. Talk to your partner about money and be open. This money talk may not happen all in one sitting, and that’s okay. The point is that you’re talking about it.
What helps you never fight about money?