Finances and money problems are the root cause of many arguments and can cause damage to a marriage. Going into financial discussions with the right goals and mindset might be the key to keeping things civil and making progress together as a couple.
Here are a few ways to avoid anger and arguments during financial discussions with your spouse.
3 Things to Remember About Money
Growing up in a household where money talks caused tension, I decided early on that I was going to do everything I could to keep money from being a negative subject in my future marriage.
I wanted to work as a team with my spouse to handle money, and in order to work as a team we needed to understand these three things:
We Make Our Own Money Choices
Life is tough, and money doesn’t care how we feel. Some people will have more, and others will have less. It can be a frustrating thing to deal with if we allow our emotions to control how we treat money.
We all make decisions that dictate the type of money we will earn throughout our lives. Our jobs and lifestyles are decisions we make in order to earn what we need to get by.
As a couple, we have to decide what sacrifices we are willing to make to create a lifestyle that supports what’s important to us. If we want to spend more, we might need to work more. If we want more time off, we might need to take the pay cut.
Money itself doesn’t care what we choose or how we end up feeling about the decisions we make.
In order to keep money from becoming a problem in our marriages, we have to be willing to hold ourselves responsible for making the most of what we have control over. It’s important to remember that bringing sadness/resentment/anger/self pity to the table won’t change what’s coming into or leaving our bank accounts.
Money Does What You Tell It to Do
The good news is that our spending decisions dictate where our money goes once we have it. Money doesn’t walk out the door when you aren’t looking. It is a tool, and tools can be used to do good things or inhibit us from moving towards our goals.
It’s our willpower and resourcefulness that will make a difference in how our tools work for us.
Some people choose to put money towards getting an education. Others will invest their money and attempt to grow it over time. Many people choose to spend some cash on new experiences and fun. None of these are wrong choices, but when we sit down to discuss finances as a couple, we need to be in agreement about what we are going to be telling our money to do.
I would argue that a discussion around money priorities should be happening before ever getting married (money/debt questions to ask before the big day). However, priorities change and life has a habit of throwing curve balls (medical bills, job changes, etc).
It’s important to revisit these questions and to communicate as a team what we will tell our money to do.
Money Can’t Solve All Your Problems
How many of us have thought to ourselves, “if I just had a better job,” or “if only we won the lottery” and daydreamed about all the problems it would solve? I know I have. However, much like any other tool in our life, money won’t make our lives perfect.
Choosing to practice contentment in the struggles and joys of everyday life means letting go of the childish belief that more money would mean a happy life. If we aren’t content when we have less, we won’t be content with more.
If we don’t learn how to make the right decisions when we have fewer dollars to work with, we won’t know how to make decisions with more money in hand.
Financial health as a couple, as a team, is setting priorities and working together to use the tools we are given to the best of our ability.
When we sit down to discuss finances and want to avoid arguments, we should avoid comparing our financial situation to those around us. We should instead focus on the tools we have at our disposal, and use them to move forward.
Talking About Money While Living on a Tight Budget
Reading this, you might be thinking that it all sounds easier than it is. That’s 100% true. Walking the walk is tougher than talking about it, but making decisions and setting yourself up to follow through on them (especially in regards to money) is incredibly satisfying.
If you’re living on a really tight budget, it might mean that there isn’t a lot of wiggle room or cash for those “fun” purchases.
We can fight through the urge to give up if we focus on seeing money as a tool.
If your neighbor had a broom and they were using it to wash their car, you would probably suggest to them that there are jobs better suited to the broom. Sure, they can probably get the car somewhat clean with the broom, but if they chose to sweep out the garage instead, their time and effort would be better spent.
Money is just like a broom and sometimes we are the neighbor. We might not realize that we’re using our tool for the wrong jobs, and that we could get a lot more done if we switched our focus.
Sometimes this means asking a friend or professional to take a look at our budget and see where we are using our tool (cash) inefficiently. Other times it means taking a step back and looking to see what people around us are doing with their money.
If we get tunnel vision when it comes to our finances, it is easy to spend years and waste a lot of money on things that are not necessary or good for our goals.
Money is Not a Reflection of Our Worth
In a literal sense, our money is a reflection of how many dollars we are worth. But in a much more important sense, our money has absolutely nothing to do with what is most important in life.
Many of us spend time trying to convince others that we are a) worth enough money to be esteemed by others, or b) tragic enough to deserve sympathy and pity from people with better luck.
Neither of these paths help us to grow as people or as partners in a marriage.
A healthy marriage between two people who are in control of their finances, are working to build each other up, and are looking for ways to serve others, is truly worth striving for.
Make money discussions as simple as deciding where furniture should go in the living room.
Get together, decide what you want to tell your money to do, and then make it happen. Once this becomes a pattern, you have so much more room in your mind to work on other important goals.
Money as a Tool Makes Us Better Friends
When Jordan and I were first married, we weren’t making much and we certainly didn’t have room in the budget for a lot of fun. Now that neither of us are in school, we’re running a tight budget to pay off loans, which means we still don’t have a lot of wiggle room.
Viewing money as a tool that allows us to work towards our goals has taken most of the stress out of our financial discussions. We have had the same budget for several months now, and our money works for us like clockwork.
Whenever an unexpected bill or larger expense pops up, we sit down, go through our priorities and tell our money where to go.
These discussions aren’t angry. They might force us to us take a deep breath and cut back on a few of our favorite things — but the challenge usually brings us together as a team.
We work towards the goal of getting back on track together. Even if it means a week or two of mac-n-cheese meals, we laugh and high five each other every day we make it through.
Our money as a tool mindset keeps us on track and keeps negative emotions around money from impacting our marriage. We get to be friends throughout the process, rather than two people forced to share finances.