How to Talk about Money with your Spouse
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Probably the subject line here makes you cringe.
How to talk about money with your spouse? Maybe it is your significant other? Or partner?
This can be a touchy and difficult conversation to have. Especially when the talking leads to fighting, which just escalates the emotions even further.
So, how can you talk to your spouse about money without fighting?
Or how can you move past the elephant in the room (money) and make progress together on your money goals.
We will dive into tips to help you talk about money with your spouse in an open, honest, and loving way.
Obviously, the main writer here is me – a women, so most of this will be from a women’s perspective, but today is extra special because my own husband will be writing about the guy’s perspective, too!! That way you can see things from both sides!!
Notably, I am not a marriage or relationship counselor and there may be deeper issues beyond just money that need to be dealt with. So, it may be necessary to speak to a counselor. Don’t feel shameful for seeking counseling. It can be the best thing for your heart and your life.
Importance of Discussing Money in Relationships
There is enough stress about money. Your relationship should make you happy (even though not every moment is a happy dance; there will always be hills and valleys in a marriage). You don’t want the discussion of money ruining or affecting your relationship. You want money to help you to achieve what you want to do together.
Money is one of the top reasons for divorce.
Ouch. That hurts.
Money is dividing up couples all over the country and with the divorce rate at an all-time high, it is something that needs to be dealt with BEFORE it gets that breaking point.
- Almost 50 percent of all marriages in the United States will end in divorce or separation (credit)
- Divorce has doubled since the 1960s (credit)
- Financial problems is the #5 reason. (credit)
- Arguing is the #3 reason. (credit)
- Lack of commitment is the #1 reason for divorce. (credit)
Those statistics are incredibly sad, but the truth is the truth.
We need to learn how to communicate how we feel about money and how money works in a marriage.
And a little side note…more and more people are opting not to getting married as the marriage rate is decreasing each year. But, that doesn’t mean the arguing and financial challenges are any different for someone is living with their significant other like they are married.
Why Discuss Money in Relationships
Obviously, learning how to constructively talk about money is important. Then, you can enjoy money and life. That right there is what Money Bliss wants everyone to learn.
Life. Money. Enjoy.
Early on in our marriage, we had more heated discussions about money. Two different worlds were combining on what to do with money. Me the spender and him the saver. There were many discussions we needed to have in order to move forward.
The key shift in our discussions about money happened when we finally agreed on how to budget money.
A budget that we both could live with and were happy to see the outcome of living below our means. That was a game changer for us.
Today, the main money discussions happen when we reach our current money goal and it time to set our new money goal. My husband and I tend to agree on many of our financial issues since we already worked out the big ones early on. But, we are a normal couple and still have our disagreements from time to time.
This is why discussing money is key for your relationship to be successful. In order to build a strong foundation, you must uncover how you feel about money, how you want to spend money, and how you want to save money.
Don’t give up on discussing money.
You need to establish some ground rules, which will we get to shortly.
How to Talk about Money with your Spouse
You may be wondering or chatting with your friends on the question of “How do I talk to my husband about money without fighting?”
There is no right or wrong way to talk to your spouse about money. You know each other the best. You know how each of you will react.
The key is consistency talk about money without arguing.
Don’t be like the couple in the picture above.
You will find your groove and how you manage money together. I promise. We did and so can you. Just show a little patience starting out.
Let’s learn how do you start a conversation with your spouse about money?
But, first, here are some great tips to help you out:
1. Develop Rules
At your first money discussion, create your ground rules when it comes to money. This would include when and how you would discuss, where and in what setting, and how you would handle disagreements.
Write up these ground rules for both of you to remember.
Here are some basic ground rules when discussing money:
- Set a time and place to discuss money
- Avoid using the “you” (especially in a blaming tone) statement to start off discussion points
- Talking stick (pass a stick back and forth so both people have the opportunity to speak and be heard before being cut off)
- Don’t immediately place blame (not worth it-forgive and move on)
- Keep a running list of things to discuss in your financial binder. (This will eliminate the fights in the heat of the moment)
These rules are super important to make sure you don’t hurt the other party in the heat of the moment.
Oh, man! In a heated debate, empathy is the hardest thing to start with. However, it can be transformational.
Simply put, empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
It means to step into the other person’s shoes and see the situation from their perspective. Understand the emotions they are feeling and experiencing. Emotions are real feelings and also strong feelings. That is okay. It is how you project and move forward with your feelings that matters.
Empathy is something I personally struggle with and have to work hard each day with my words.
So, in your next money huddle, work on trying empathy first.
3. The Other Point of View
Whenever we tried to discuss money and how to make a budget, it always lead to disagreements and not making any progress. After working through this (and it took awhile too – more than a year), the bottom line was my hubby wished he could provide more financially. It wasn’t about where or how we spent money. It boiled down to he wished the income pot was bigger.
Looking at things from the other point of view is important.
It helps us to develop empathy (that word again) and figure out how to come together on the money decisions.
At the end of this post, we will dive more into the women’s perspective and the men’s perspective.
For now, just remember, each of you are created differently and have different perspectives. Over time, you will work together to create your financial perspective in regards together. That is powerful and when great things can happen together.
4. Schedule a Time
Plan a scheduled time to discuss money. Both parties are aware that this conversation is happening on such date and time.
Spewing comments during the big game, a favorite TV show, or as someone is heading out the door is not the time to talk about money. Period.
Personally, I like to call it a money huddle or a monthly huddle. A time dedicated during a specified time frame to discuss money and your budget.
Right now, start scheduling your time and be consistent with it. Maybe pull out your favorite snack as a treat during the conversation.
Fun Scheduling Ideas… Many times most couples have to eliminate some of the fun extras they enjoy to reach living below their means. So, your monthly huddle might be the perfect time to enjoy some of your favorite treats. Just remember to finish the task at hand first!
5. “Your Word”
This is something I learned with my kids and has been helpful in our family.
Ahead of time, everyone picks a word and when that person feels big emotions overtaking them, then they say “their word” and get a timeout break immediately.
Conversations about money are immediately halted before anyone will regret what they will say.
This gives time for both parties to have a moment to process their emotions, think clearly, and come back in a better state of mind to continue the conversation.
Take a moment and decide on “your word” before the argument heats up.
6. Think Us First
- What is the end goal of this conversation?
- What is the life we want? How does money relate?
- How should we handle money?
- Are we putting the “us” first? If not, what is getting in the way?
A relationship is supposed to bring you together – not tear you apart.
Drop the “me” and “you” words and replace them with “we” and “us.” You are in this thing called life together. Don’t forget that.
7. Don’t Judge – Look at the Numbers
Oh, the temptation is real. To judge the other people.
Don’t do it. Period.
Let the numbers speak for themselves.
Those numbers are the black and white. The opinions behind them are just that opinions and judgments. Leave those out of the conversation and look at the numbers.
Work together to decide how to overcome the obstacles facing you. Remember, the “us” mentality.
Also, you can’t change the past, that is water under the bridge. So, there is no point in judging the situation. It will only make the hurt feelings worse and the goal is to not become one of the debt statistics.
Focus on the numbers (aka Net Worth).
8. Come Clean and Admit Mistakes
We’re not perfect. Thank goodness we are capable of giving and receiving grace!
There are times we have bought something or done something that we regret. We have two choices: 1) keep hiding the reality or 2) admit the mistake. While admitting the mistake is awkward or uncomfortable, we might as well just do it and move on to better and brighter things.
Is it OK to hide money from your spouse?
I wish I never have heard from people that they are hiding their financial situations from their spouses. But, I have. The lady who is terrified of sharing the amount of credit card debt she has racked up behind his back. The man who can’t control his spending and is using cash advance loans to maintain his facade.
These secrets have the ability to destroy your personal finances and confidence in your spouse. However, we still have the grace and forgiveness available to all of us. That is great hope!
The beauty in these situations mentioned above is how the other party has responded. They were grateful to know what the other party was struggling with so they didn’t have to be alone anymore. They were able to come together (the “us” from above) and figure out how to overcome these mistakes and move on.
I know it is difficult to come clean, but there is hope and the sooner you can admit your mistakes, you can move on.
9. Remember the Big Picture
This is so important!
If you don’t know what you want together, then you are just creating a recipe for financial disaster. During one of your money huddles, spend time on developing your joint money goals.
The BIG PICTURE is so important when discussing money with spouse!
For us, personally, we have two overarching money themes: 1) to work only if we want to work and 2) to travel consistently and not wait. While we haven’t accomplished our first money theme, we are striving towards it each year because we know our big picture. As for the second theme, that is the reason we paid off our debt. You can read more on our reason to become debt free.
You need to know your big picture to help guide your individual spending. What matters most…
- A $5 transaction
- Your current “us” money goal
Use this thinking when making daily decisions when spending money. Think about what the other person will think if you aren’t putting as much thought on how and what you spend money on.
Many times, a fresh start is exactly what you need.
10. Unified Approach to Money
You need a game plan. Something you both can agree on. Something that is your guiding compass.
Besides a big picture mentality and money goals, you also need to come to a unified approach to how you spend money. I know you don’t want to hear the word…
You need a budget that you both can agree on. Something that is decided upon ahead of time.
This budget will help you look at just the numbers and not judge. (remember tip #7)
You can look through your spending at the end of the month and see the black and white of the numbers. Did you spend more money than agreed upon? If the answer is yes, then come clean and admit the mistake (remember tip #8)
This is where everything will start coming together. All of the tips on how to talk about money with your spouse. Happens in this step. Right here. Right now.
This unified approach to money will keep you out of the divorce statistics.
Keep fighting for ‘us” and remember the big life picture.
Bonus Tip… Slush Money – Personal Spending
Oh my! This is key in any relationship with money.
Each person gets their own set amount of money to spend any which way they please.
Their slush money gives them freedom and autonomy to make their own individual decisions about spending their money. They key in that last sentence is “their” money.
This isn’t the place to criticize how they spend their money. It is their money and you both decided on the amount.
Stop the fight and move on to the bigger money decisions and your joint money goals.
Related Reading: 4 Rules and Advantages of Slush Fund (Pocket) Money
The Women’s Perspective:
As women, we like to talk. We like to discuss. We like conversation. It is just how we are wired and how we think.
Sometimes, I am guilty of thinking my husband should talk about this money situation with me. But, he thinks we have already moved on and made a decision. And I am left thinking there is more to talk about.
In our household, I spend probably 90% of the money. I am in charge of paying bills and buying anything we need. So, most of the spending decisions all fall on me.
To make sure things are fair, I like to talk about my spending habits with my hubby to make sure they fall along the same lines as what he would want. Over the years I have learned, as long as things are paid, everyone is fed, money is left over in the bank, and we are progressing to our money goals, he is a happy camper. (I do have the best husband ever.)
But, it may not be like that for everyone and I understand that and empathize with you.
For instance, what should you do when your husband won’t talk about money?
For some women (I hear your emails), you don’t have the support like I have. That is a difficult situation to be in. You want to make changes, but everyone else isn’t on board and they are holding you back.
During this difficult season, try and make the changes that you want to do and keep working on what you want to accomplish. Your hard effort won’t go unnoticed.
Over time, it is well worth the effort to learn how to talk about money with your spouse. I promise you!
The Men’s Perspective (written by my husband):
I do not enjoy talking about money. It’s uncomfortable! It is humbling! No matter how much is earned, it’s never enough. Yes, that is a worldly answer, but it is my default mentality. I cannot get away from it.
When I discuss money with my wife, my default mentality assumes control. This discomfort carries through the conversation, so I need to be aware and manage my thoughts behind my communication and body language. Thankfully, our basic needs are met, so we there is not daily stress (especially since we paid off our debt). Most importantly, we have never yelled or argued about our finances – a little heated yes, we are normal.
My precept: spend less than you earn, donate, save and invest the remainder. It is that simple.
I realize that not every man has the same perspective of money like me. But, I am more of a natural saver.
Ultimately, you’re in this together.
Let’s be honest, the majority of us would like to be able to buy whatever we want, whenever we want. I drive past a Ferrari dealership several times during the course of the week. Owning a Ferrari would be pretty awesome. However, spending recklessly without care is misguided.
For me, I look to what this behavior would teach my children. Our goal is for our children to have their “Money Skills” honed by the time they’re adults. If you don’t have children, what does impulsive spending teach your spouse, partner, nieces/nephews, cousins, friends, etc.
Ultimately, you have influence over someone in your life, so model money self-discipline.
Joint Perspective to Work Together (written by my husband):
Below are some ideas to begin a conversation with your spouse regarding money:
1. Schedule time for “Money” conversations. I would recommend at least once per month. These conversations can take several forms:
- Establish monthly spending amounts (maybe even include some slush money)
- Reconcile the amount of money allotted versus how much was spent. There will be months where you spend more and months where you spend less. Just have a conversation.
- Estimate future expenses
2. Establish both short and long term goals. Write these goals down, so you can see them every day. This will make it so you know what you’re working towards.
Learn how to make your first money goal together.
3. Determine your “Needs” from your “Wants.” Anytime the thought of spending arises, is it a “Need?” A “Want?” Just because you have a coupon or there is a sale, does not mean you have to spend.
4. Establish “Emergency Funds.” I call these the “Big Murph” and Little Murph” Funds. “Murph” is Murphy’s Law – Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. You need to make these a priority, but it will take time to fully fund these accounts. Start small and build both.
- “Little Murph” would be unexpected car expenses, home expenses, etc. Learn more about sinking funds.
- “Big Murph” would be savings that will cover you for more than six months. Learn more about rainy day funds.
- Don’t forget to have a basic emergency fund.
5. Find a way to celebrate as you accomplish your goals.
It is possible to learn how to talk about money with your spouse! You have to start somewhere. The sooner, the better.
The Refusal to Cooperate
No matter how hard you try… you cannot get your spouse to cooperate with you. They are holding you back from what you are trying to accomplish. You feel like you take 2 steps back only to be pulled back 3 steps.
This is a tough situation and I empathize with you.
Just remember… You are making progress. Those are 2 steps forward. You could be a collective of 5 steps backwards. It feels like you are treading water and going against the tide. But, you will get there. Have faith. Keep going.
Don’t be afraid to share what you are doing. Your goal is to improve your personal finance situation, right? In the end, they don’t like this concept because the other person has to decrease their spending or come to grips about their own money mistakes. They may not be ready for that. At least not yet.
Hold onto this… They are not ready YET.
Set your money goals and tell the other person what you are doing.
Stick to your budget. Live below your means. Do what you can control to make your situation better. You are doing this for you, too.
Just keep your head above the water. Keep working hard.
Let’s go back to that word – YET.
Many times, it takes the other spouse a longer time to come on board and help financially. In some cases, it may take weeks. Others it may take months. While other cases, it may take years (and possibly a few creative solutions to make things work).
They need to do it on their time and in their way.
That is what will take you from being successful to jointly finding success together.
Are You Ready to Talk about Money with Your Spouse?
This discussion will be really awkward at first. But, it is something that must be done. There is no point in delaying the inevitable.
The more you talk about money, the more normal it will be become.
Learn how should married couples handle money or those in a relationship.
Just like riding a bike. You have to start somewhere before you hit coasting speed. It will take trial and error to find out what works for you.
For my husband and I, money conversations are very simple because we have become so engrained with our money goals. The vision is OUR VISION. We know what we want and what we need to get there.
Today, we have a unified approach to money. We both know it. And honestly, our kids have picked up on it as well, too.
Find financial success with your spouse!
That is what we want for you. Learn how to talk about money with your spouse. Have the conversation be as comfortable as discussing the weather.
Don’t give up.
You are worth it. Your relationship is worth it.
Now that you know how to talk about money with your spouse, make sure you follow through.