Tax season can bring money woes to the forefront. For many partners, fighting over finances is a common source of friction. According to some reports, couples’ arguments about money tend to be more intense, problematic and likely to remain unresolved than other matters. But whether you are in a new or long-term relationship, you and your partner can learn to talk about finances in a healthier, more satisfying way, so you can both realize your financial goals.
Try these tips:
Choose the right time. Set aside a dedicated time slot for the “money talk” when you both feel calm and there are no interruptions or distractions (turn off the phone/TV and wait until the kids are in bed or occupied with offsite activities).
Don’t bring non-financial issues into the discussion. Take a time-out if things get overheated, and make a commitment to revisit the money talk later.
Learn your partner’s beliefs and experiences regarding money. Talk about where you each learned about money and its importance—spending, saving, and any fears. For example, one partner may believe that spending money on frequent vacations or events is more important while for the other partner, saving for the future is more important. Gaining this insight is the starting point for focusing on effective ways to spend money jointly.
Start tracking your current spending. Together and separately, knowing exactly where your money goes each day—right down to the lattes in the morning and the quick drugstore stop on your way home—is the first step toward getting on track with your finances. Check your bank and credit card company for online features that show you the breakdown of expenses. Or try out on an online tracking and management site like www.mint.com.
Make a spending plan. The word “budget” can feel like “deprivation” to some people. Instead, think about setting financial goals. Deciding together what goals you want to save for and what goods and services you want to spend your money on can make for a much more satisfying conversation. From there, it can spark creative ways to cut back. Can you meet friends for a hike instead of dining out, for example? You may also want to discuss how to control impulse buying, if that’s an issue. Some tips to curb impulse buying include paying only with cash or using just one single credit card you have to pay off each month or postponing your purchase for a week to see if you still want the item.
Share the role of “money manager.” It’s common to divide financial duties, like having one person handle the day-to-day household spending, while the other focuses on long-term savings and investing. But these roles are often in conflict with each other and this approach rarely resolves financial problems. A better approach is to trade these jobs once a month. Better yet, share them equally. This way, you are both sharing the fiscal responsibility as mature adults and resentment is less likely to build.
Set up a regular day and time each month to sit down, pay the bills and review your spending plan and goals. Irregular or unfocused talks can give the impression that everything is okay financially. Give yourself time for sorting through money issues where you and your partner aren’t finding common ground. Try to schedule something fun for after the meeting like a movie or bike ride.
Sum it up. Always decide what the next steps will be. This can help clear up any misunderstandings and ensure that a ball doesn’t get dropped. Consider putting your summary in writing.
For Health Advocate members
- If you’re a Health Advocate member with access to our EAP+Work/Life Program and are having the same argument with your partner about finances repeatedly, call us. Talking to a Health Advocate Licensed Professional Counselor can help you break out of unhealthy patterns. We can also connect you with a financial specialist to guide you with specific issues including debt management. It’s free, confidential and if needed, we can provide referrals for additional support.
- If you’re a Health Advocate member with our Advocacy services, contact us to speak with a Personal Health Advocate who specializes in behavioral health. The Personal Health Advocate can help you identify resources for help.