Fights about money are some of the most common in a relationship.
There is undoubtedly something about money that the two of you do not agree on. And since money can be an extremely sensitive topic, it can get the argument heated very quickly.
There have been quite a few money fights along the way for me and my husband. Especially when we were paying off debt.
I think that’s one of the more trying times for a couple. Different viewpoints, no matter how small a difference, can feel massive when you are tackling a goal of paying off debt.
How it affected our relationship
A recurring fight for us while we were paying off debt was something as simple as my husband going to the gas station for a coffee. $2, right? No big deal?
But for me, those $2 expenditures added up. And since we were budgeting every penny we had coming in (and did not account for those coffee trips), it set us over our limit quite a bit.
In his head, a $2 expenditure was not a big deal. He left the house early in the morning, drove all around town, and worked 12+ hours most days. That $2 coffee got him through those long days when he worked overtime to bring in more cash.
To me, the nerd who fine-tuned on the budget every week, I was upset he was spending money we set aside for debt. Those $2 coffees came with $2 overdraft fees and a wonky budget spreadsheet.
Neither of us were being malicious or selfish, but we had our own viewpoints that differed from the other’s.
And that’s okay.
I’m not going to tell you that you two should agree on everything. Do you know how boring that would be?
No, you shouldn’t agree on everything. But you should work together to find a common ground. If you don’t, you too will end up with overdraft fees and a wonky budget spreadsheet.
First, the big picture
It’s a conversation that needs to be handled delicately. One that you should both have when you’re in good spirits (not already arguing!) and not feeling overly stressed.
The important thing to remember is that both people should feel like they have a voice and say-so in this matter.
Here’s what ended up working for us.
We started with the big picture. It’s important to be in agreement about what you ultimately want together.
An example would be where you see yourselves in x amount of years. Do you both want to be debt free and have a good chunk of change in the bank? Or even bigger picture: do you want to be debt free and be millionaires?
Agree on what you both want for your big picture view on your finances. Regardless of what it looks like to get there, find out what you want. Having this concrete goal will give your family the “why” you need to fine-tune things.
Once that big picture is set, you both need to come to the table with ways to get there.
You’ve come up with the “why”, and now you are coming up with the “how”. This part will be more difficult, because it’s not dreaming about what could be anymore, but how your lives might get a little challenging to get there, starting now.
Next, focus on the fine-tuning
This part may be challenging for those who don’t like plans and focusing on the small details. Hopefully, one of you already enjoys plans and details, or is willing to take them on for the sake of your finances.
You have to make a game plan. For some, it’s easier to work backward, starting with your ultimate goal. For others, that is too overwhelming, and it’s easier to focus on one step at a time, starting with your now.
Do you, as a family, want to have your debt paid off and have one million dollars saved by retirement? If so, let’s start with your paying down all of your debt except the mortgage.
Then, without a negative financial worth hanging around you, you can focus on building your net worth through investing and saving.
All of this requires diligent budget planning, so you know where your money is going and how much you can throw at your goals.
How it’s helped our family
When we first started, we were scared. Like, staring down the barrel at $100,000 in debt scared.
All we could focus on was paying the minimum balance on the debts, and even that was daunting.
One day, when I had had enough of being scared, we sat down and talked about our finances. We talked about what it would look like to pay off all of our debt, and the things we could do if we weren’t being held back by it.
That was enough to get us started. Just envisioning life without the tight collar of debt around our necks.
And the sigh of relief that came the day we made our final payment! I can’t even tell you. The feeling is indescribable.
We were free.
Here’s the bottom line when talking to your spouse about money
Talking with your spouse and agreeing on a game plan is possibly the hardest step in getting started. Like I mentioned before: money is such a sensitive topic.
But I can tell you that, through all the money fights we had about those silly $2 coffees, our marriage ended up getting stronger.
We made a goal and worked on it as a team. If you have played on any sports teams, in band, or got through a tough semester with a group of fellow students, you know what it’s like to accomplish a goal together. It solidifies your bond.
Go into your discussion with your spouse with that goal. Not to argue, but to make your marriage even stronger.