If fighting about money has become a ritual in your household, you are not alone. Money is a leading cause of tension between couples. Before it goes too far, realize that you both have control of the situation. These steps can help you work together to fix your differences:
1. Know both of your money personalities and create a plan/budget that works. There are three basic money personalities: hoaders, splurgers, and avoiders. Understanding why you treat money the way you do, and gaining insight into how your spouse/significant other feels about money, will make it easier to manage your situation.
Hoarders love to save and bargain hunt. Because they fear that they’ll never have enough, spending money makes them uncomfortable. Luckily, they are happy creating a budget, because they enjoy keeping track of their finances. By putting “splurge money” into the budget they can learn to enjoy their money without worrying that they are spending too much.
Splurgers are happiest when treating themselves (or others). Spending makes them feel loved and successful. The danger is that they will spend far more than they bring home. Because they like to be rewarded, they too can benefit from putting a line item in the budget for reasonable splurges.
Avoiders lack the confidence to deal with money. They ignore their financial responsibilities, such as balancing the checkbook or researching their investments. Their greatest risk is missing opportunities to make their money go farther. And, if they are married to a splurger, they won’t realize that debt is mounting up until it is too late. The best strategy for Avoiders is to take a class or read up on basic finances. Creating a budget is the best way to get familiar with the situation they were trying so hard to ignore. Because Avoiders tend to procrastinate, setting up automatic bill payment and automatic investments (where money is wired from a bank account to the vendor or investment account) is a helpful strategy.
2. Discuss the division of labor. Make use of your natural talents and assign responsibilities accordingly. Maybe one of you is efficient at bill paying, but the other is better at balancing the checkbook. You do not need to do all the jobs together, as long as you both remain informed. The same goes for recordkeeping and investing.
3. Agree on the ground rules. Obviously, no lying and no concealing are mandatory rules. Another good one: large ticket items need to be discussed before purchasing. Just make sure you agree on what dollar amount constitutes a large purchase.
4. Make sure long-term goals are in synch. For example, if you have been a stay-at-home Mom, your husband may be counting on you returning to work. However, secretly you may be dreaming of setting up your own business. Make sure you thoroughly discuss where you both see your lives in the near future. Now is the time to work any long range goals into the budget (such as laying the groundwork for a business, career change or early retirement). Be very specific about what you want saved and by when. That is the only way you can see if you are making progress.
5. Communicate regularly. Even if one of you primarily controls the budget and bill paying, you both need to review what is going on. Make a monthly date to discuss your money.
Keep in mind, as you put together your budget, there needs to be a regular amount allocated to saving and investing. Work first on creating an Emergency Fund, and then fund retirement. Aim to save at least 10% of your income, then you can get started on college savings. Together, you can fix your differences and work towards shaping your future instead of your future shaping you.