Your spouse likely has a few money habits that annoy you. And there are probably a few things about the way you handle finances that get on your spouse’s nerves. Unfortunately, these annoyances can lead to major conflicts.
“These issues can be very corrosive and can destroy relationships,” said Brad Klontz, a financial psychologist and author of the book “Mind Over Money.”
That is why it is important for couples to identify money habits that might irritate each other, and to recognize how those habits might hurt their marriage. Here are seven money habits that commonly annoy spouses — and how to address them.
Habit No. 1: Spending Too Much
The most common annoyance among couples is a spouse’s spending habits, Klontz said. If your spouse is a saver and you are a spender, your spouse might be frustrated that you are using money to buy things rather than setting cash aside for the future, he said.
Lauren Greutman now blogs about frugal living at I Am That Lady. But she said that in the past, she definitely annoyed her husband, Mark, with her spending habits.
“I tend to be very impulsive and would go and buy things without thinking them through,” she said. Greutman said her husband did not know the full extent of her spending.
When annoyance turns to conflict, financial infidelity can come into play, Klontz said. A spouse might start to lie about his or her spending, keep a secret bank account to make purchases, or rack up debt.
How to Address It
Klontz said talking openly is the key to addressing annoying money habits. Couples should start by interviewing each other about their financial fears and goals, what finances were like in their home growing up, and what their parents taught them about money.
“It’s extremely helpful for us to have the back story,” Klontz said. It can put your spouse’s habits — and your reaction to them — into perspective. For example, you might learn that your spouse is more interested in spending than saving because her father was always saving, but died before he could enjoy retirement.
Once you understand your spouse’s perspective, it will be easier to negotiate a compromise, he said. Perhaps you can agree on an amount your spouse can spend each month with no questions asked. Or you can find ways your spouse can indulge in retail therapy that won’t break the budget — such as shopping at consignment stores.
Having an open conversation helped the Greutmans. Eventually, Lauren dealt with her spending and started the blog.
Habit No. 2: Being a Tightwad
A spouse’s penny-pinching ways can also be an annoyance. “I would get annoyed with Mark that he had to sleep on every purchase decision,” Greutman said. “When picking out furniture, I wanted to go and get it right then. He wanted to sleep on the purchase, and that drove me nuts!”
Sometimes spouses who have not been overly concerned about saving money can become tightwads in response to the other spouse’s overspending, Klontz said. Then they start saying they don’t want to spend money on anything, he said.
How to Address It
Again, start with a conversation. It can help to understand what type of money mindset both you and your spouse have, said Phil Jacobson, a managing director of the Rockford, Ill., office of the financial management firm United Capital.
Most people fall into three money-mind types, he said:
- Fear — waiting for the other shoe to drop
- Commitment — wanting to provide for others
- Happiness — wanting to seize the day
So if you have a fear mindset and want to save, you could annoy your spouse if she has a happiness mindset and wants to spend.
You can identify the mindset for both you and your spouse by using the United Capital Find Your Money Mind tool. When you understand each other’s money mindset, it will be easier to address your differences. “Stress points come from not understanding,” Jacobson said.
Greutman said she was able to address her annoyance with her husband’s unwillingness to spend by taking the time to understand his approach. “I had to wait with him, and it taught me a lot, actually,” she said.
She added that she learned how sleeping on things before making a purchase can help you “make better decisions.”
Habit No. 3: Refusing to Participate in Financial Decisions
Some spouses annoy their partner by being unwilling to get involved with the household’s finances — whether it is creating a budget, setting financial goals or even simply talking about money. The nonfinancial spouse might assume that because his spouse is more interested in and better at managing money, he can leave the responsibility entirely her. But this might irritate the spouse carrying the financial burden.
Jacobson said that in some cases, the financial spouse’s approach to talking about money keeps the nonfinancial spouse from participating. The financial spouse might want to talk about strategies, while the nonfinancial spouse just wants to know in simple terms whether the couple has enough money, Jacobson said.
How to Address It
Financial experts generally agree it is OK for one spouse to handle the day-to-day finances. But the nonfinancial spouse needs to be aware of the couple’s cash flow and expenses. And both spouses need to play a role in creating common financial goals so they can align spending and saving.
The spouse who fails to show interest in the couple’s finances should be allowed to share his or her money goals first, Jacobson said. He makes his clients go through a process of ranking financial priorities so they can figure out what is important and start talking about it.
So, if necessary, offer your partner some examples of goals to get the conversation started.
Habit No. 4: Giving the Kids Too Much
Some spouses didn’t have a lot of material things growing up and want their children to have more since the family can afford it. However, the other spouse may be annoyed because she thinks the kids will end up with a sense of entitlement if they get everything they want.
Or maybe one spouse wants to help the children pay for their college education, but the other spouse would rather focus on saving for retirement.
It’s common for couples to disagree over how much to spend on their kids, Jacobson said. Annoyance can turn to conflict, though, if you do not get on the same page about how much support to provide to your children.
How to Address It
Start by discussing why one spouse wants to give the kids more. Then, negotiate a budget that makes both of you comfortable, Klontz said.
That might mean giving the kids gifts only on birthdays and holidays, but letting your spouse truly indulge them on those special days. Or it might mean agreeing to set aside money in a college savings account only if there’s enough left over in the budget after setting aside 10 percent to 15 percent of income each month for retirement.
Habit No. 5: Taking Too Much Risk With Investments
Some people believe you have to take big risks to win big. They feel the need to be aggressive when investing so they can make a lot of money. But others worry that taking too much risk can result in losing all that money.
Jacobson said he often finds that people take too much risk with their investment portfolios. Not only can this annoy the risk-averse spouse, but it also could lead to serious financial repercussions.
How to Address It
Investors usually are told to consider their risk tolerance — how much risk they can handle — when choosing investments. But Jacobson said a better approach is to find out what your risk “capacity” is — that is how much risk you need to take to achieve your goals.
For example, if you and your spouse are young and have decades before you retire, you can take more risk by investing in stocks or stock funds so your money will grow at a faster rate than inflation. But if you are closer to retirement and have built a nest egg, you might need to pull back on risk to protect your savings.
Habit No. 6: Giving Money to Others
In some marriages, one spouse might feel strongly about giving to others — to charitable organizations, a religious institution or friends and family who are less fortunate. But the other spouse might think of such giving as a financial handout and be annoyed by it, Klontz said.
A person’s willingness to give can depend largely on the lessons he learned about giving while growing up, Klontz said. If you were raised with the expectation that you have to help others — especially family — it can be a habit you are not willing to break.
How to Address It
Nobody should be expected to stop giving simple because their partner considers it annoying, Klontz said. But the spouse who wants to give should negotiate a solution that feels like a win-win, he said.
You could agree to give only a certain percentage of your income. Or you might be willing to give more of your time — rather than financial support — to help others, Klontz said.
Habit No. 7: Talking About Your Finances to Others
Money is often a taboo topic, but some people have no trouble talking about it. In fact, they might find that discussing finances is a great way to get tips from others about how to better manage money. Other people disagree about such openness, and might cringe every time their spouse talks about money.
“There’s usually a lot of shame associated with money,” Klontz said. “You have too much, or you don’t have enough.” And one spouse might not want a partner broadcasting that the couple is in financial need — or, conversely, that they have a lot more cash than their friends and family.
How to Address It
Your spouse might have to accept that you won’t stop discussing finances entirely because you are a talker by nature. But Klontz said you should have an agreed-upon list of people you can talk to about money matters. You also should have a list of people with whom you definitely cannot share financial information.
Instead of talking with others about your finances, consider getting advice from a trained professional. Couples who get counseling typically spend seven years fighting about something before attending their first therapy session, Klontz said. It is better, though, to get help sooner than later.
Most importantly, understand that while it is important to identify and discuss one another’s annoying money habits, you might not be able to eliminate them. “Give up trying to convert your partner to your way of thinking. Most of the time it’s not going to work,” Klontz said. “It’s more about learning to negotiate from a caring, understanding place.”