It's what couples fight about most. Here’s how to end those cash battles for good.
In one corner, we have the mad-as-hell husband, wearing a scowl, shaking his head in disbelief and muttering to himself, "How could she do this?" He has just glanced at the couple’s credit card statement and discovered that his spouse went on a shopping spree after recently losing her job.
In the other corner, we have the wife, tight-lipped and wearing a look of defiance. Instead of explaining that she needed clothes to wear to job interviews, she's opted to pout and give her spouse the silent treatment.
Ah, money. We save it and spend it, but mostly we argue about it ... a LOT. In fact, according to new research from Kansas State University, couples fight over finances far more than they do over kids, sex and even in-laws. Worse, arguments about money are the top predictor of divorce. Yikes!
Why do so many of us clash over cash? For many, money is a hot button issue due to "emotional baggage" from our past. In other words, a person's background and upbringing can strongly influence how he or she views and spends money. For instance, maybe you grew up in a home where there was never enough money, while your significant other grew up in an environment where there was plenty and he rarely wanted for anything. As a result, you turned into a big saver and he emerged a big spender.
Even couples who come from similar backgrounds bicker over bucks, especially if one partner earns a lot more than the other.
Regardless of what causes the two of you to butt heads over spending the bucks you earn, here's how to call a cease fire:
- Discuss your different money styles. Explore how you each feel about money—and why: how it affected you growing up, what your parents taught you about it, and how not having enough (or having plenty) have molded your views and attitudes as an adult. Oftentimes, getting to the root of your partner’s feelings about spending and saving dough makes it easier to discuss a topic so many of us find touchy.
- Work as a team to make a game plan. Sit down together at least once every 3-4 months to set financial goals, develop a budget and agree on priorities. Next, determine what steps you'll need to take to reach your goals. Plan to reconvene periodically to discuss how things are going, what’s working and what tweaks you may need to make. And as your financial situation changes, revisit your plan and make any necessary adjustments.
- Share control. When it comes to money, neither of you should be the "boss." In fact, your smartest move is to take turns handling the finances. Consider alternating paying the monthly bills, for example. That way, both of you are aware of what's coming in and what's going out, thus avoiding finger-pointing, blame, and disagreements.
- Learn to compromise. If one of you tends to be a tightwad while the other is more frivolous, meet halfway. Once the bills are paid, divide what's left into thirds. Put a third into savings and divide the other two thirds between the two of you to spend (or save) as each of you wishes—no questions asked.
- Play "Let’s make a deal." Agree that neither of you will make a purchase that exceeds a certain dollar amount without consulting the other. That way, you're not forced to check with each other when making small purchases, which can breed resentment.
- Get help if you need it. If you can't agree on—or have trouble sticking to—a budget, seek expertise from a financial planner. Since a pro like this will be neutral, neither of you will resent his/her input.