Experts say the two things that most couples argue about the most are sex and money. While I can’t help you much with the former, I can share a few tips that might help with the latter.
My husband and I are both on our second marriage, and we had our fair share of disagreements over money when we first were married. Luckily, over the last 12 years working as a certified financial planner, I’ve helped many couples navigate the tricky waters of managing their finances together, and ultimately avoid fighting about money. I had a bag full of tips and tricks that I would suggest to these couples and I ultimately came home one day to propose we adopt some of the “best of the best” advice I had doled out.
Click to read more about six ways happy couples talk about money.
Making This a Partnership
While there’s never a surefire way to avoid all of the dreaded money talks you can have as a couple, we’ve found a way to remove the stigma from the topic of money. It’s gotten us on the same page and helped us create a true partnership around our finances. Keep reading for the two rules that we’ve put in place that have transformed our relationship. My hope is they will work in yours as well.
Rule No. 1: Set a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Spending Limit
I’ve found most couples at one point or another tend to argue over the amount that their partner or spouse has spent on an item. Haven’t we all been guilty of sneaking a purchase into the house so our partner wouldn’t see we went shopping? Haven’t we also been blindsided by a partner’s unexpected purchase?
Since we’re two different people, we’re also going to come into the relationship with two different ideas of what “expensive” and “affordable” means. We found an easy way to squash money arguments over the amount of money the other person spent on an item was to set a “don’t ask, don’t tell” spending limit. The rules are simple and straightforward:
- We can buy whatever we wish without talking to the other person for any purchase below $150.00 monthly.
- Anything we want to purchase over $150.00 requires a check-in with the other person to make sure it’s a purchase that we’re going to be OK with.
The numbers in the equation should be specific to you and your partner, but the concept is universal. This rule requires you as a couple to sit down and find shared goals around money and develop trust with the other person.
Rule No. 2: Create a Weekly 'Spending Plan'
The second rule goes out to anyone who isn’t a fan of the word “budget.” We decided since that word conjured up adverse reactions in our house, we’d throw the word out completely. Instead, we’d talk about our finances as a “spending plan,” or a “roadmap” — one that will get us closer to our goals.
Even for a money expert like myself, a monthly budget can be daunting and hard to keep up with. There’s a lot that goes on in a month, and it’s easy to become lazy and not pay attention to where your money is going. To remedy any arguments, we devised a weekly spending plan instead.
Here is what our weekly spending plan looks like.
- Each month, we figure out how much we can spend on our variable expenses, such as dining out, shopping, grocery, entertainment, etc.
- Once we have that number, we divide it by the weeks in that month and come up with our weekly spending limit.
- We then pre-pay our credit card each week for that specific amount and use the credit card during the week for all our expenses.
- Once we hit the limit, we’ve got a choice to make. Option No. 1: We accept we’re going over budget and we borrow from next week’s number, or Option No. 2: We stop spending for that week.
Again, the numbers don’t matter, but the spending plan keeps us both focused on our weekly goals and gives us a marker, so we’re not going over budget each week. Not only that, but it creates a partnership around our finances where we both can take ownership of our spending and, ultimately, our savings goals. That’s a win for any couple looking to get on the same money page.
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