Money Matters: 8 Ways to De-stress as a Couple
As P. Diddy once said, “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby.” Like the hip hop mogul, relationship experts agree, money is a big deal and cite it as the number once source of discord for married couples.
Not the most romantic of topics, talking about the merging and use of finances is often packed with anxiety. A 2014 Money Magazine survey showed that 70% of couples argue about money more than anything else in relationships, including sex.
And the fights are worse. “It takes longer to recover from money arguments than any other kind of argument,” says Sonya Britt, Kansas State Program Director of Personal Financial Planning and Assistant Professor of Family Studies, “Couples often use harsher language and the argument lasts longer.”
Though discussing your finances as a couple is essential in any relationship there’s no need for discord. We collected expert tips to to reveal the most important financial steps to creating a married harmony and bliss.
1.Work as a team
Married couples are in it together, which means neither partner should be left out when it comes managing finances. Jacqueline Curtis of Money Crashers recommends couples set aside time each month to review financial records and pay bills. “That way, you both know what to expect during the coming month, what you need to spend, and where you need to save,” she says. Jointly balancing the check book lets both partners stay informed and gives them a full understanding of their financial situation.
2. Find real meaning
“Money is much more than currency—it stands for control, freedom and dreams,” say the experts at Forbes. Often when we fight about money we’re really arguing about something else. That’s why it’s important for couples to assess what the green really means. Perhaps your partner grew up in an poor household or maybe overspending on a gift was supposed to be a grand gesture of love. Getting to the real issues will help uncover the reasons behind your partner’s spending habits so you can treat disagreements with sensitivity.
3. Set goals
When buried in bills and daily expenses, it’s hard for couples to remember the lives their former debt free selves once dreamed. However, the experts at Forbes encourage couples to remember “those dreams are what energize us as people, and what will bring you together as a couple.” Whether it was traveling the world, saving for a family, or owning a home, it’s important to hold on to and set goals together. This will help both of you plan your spending and saving as you work to make them a reality.
4. Don’t be in debt denial
Owing money and paying off debt can be a huge source of stress in anyone’s life, let alone for a couple managing joint expenses. Syble Solomon, financial expert and creator of the interactive tool Money Habitudes and Dr. Taffy Wagner, author of Bride and Groom Money Talk FAQ recommend tackling debt ASAP. They suggest couples sit down, calculate the debt they owe and together come up with a realistic plan to pay it off. Once you are back in the black, you and your boo can concentrate on more enjoyable things like that romantic getaway you keep talking about.
5. Equality is overrated
Often couples divide up expenses by having one person pay all the fixed costs (rent, car payments) and the other the variable costs (groceries, household purchases). However, this method does not necessarily guarantee expenses and bills are being divided 50/50. As the name implies, variable expenses change from month to month which can be a cause for resentment if one partner is regularly paying more than the other. Instead Solomon and Wagner recommend couples “divvy up the monthly expenses based on the percentage of income each person contributes to the household.” This way neither partner will have to contribute more than they can afford.
6. Stay chill
Financial journalist Suzanne McGee suggests couples approach the sensitive topic of finances in a calm, non-accusatory way. “Find easy ways to chat…that [don’t] sound like an interrogation,” she says, “Even planning vacations together can be a great way to begin to understand how [your partner] thinks about money.” Does your partner want to splurge on a beach front hotel or are they checking out rooms at the Holiday Inn? Are they only looking at five-star restaurant reviews? Have they investigated free walking tours? Talking about finances without talking about finances can help give you a better picture of how your mate approaches money.
7. Be independent
Money Magazine’s 2014 survey showed that 46% of the couples identified frivolous purchases as the number one money issue they fight over. This is because, most likely, you and your partner will have different habits and priorities when it comes to spending. For example, she may not understand his need for season game tickets, but equally as baffling to him may be her shoe collection. To resolve these conflicts, experts recommend setting a spending allowance for each partner. Some even suggest going as far as to have separate bank accounts for non-household expenses, that way each of you can spend or save without having to feel guilty. “It may sound counterintuitive to couples seeking romance and togetherness,” says McGee, “but it acknowledges the reality that the odds are against two spouses having identical financial styles, even those that share long-term financial objectives.”
8. Find strength in your differences
Rather than dwelling on the differences, “Learn to recognize your partner’s financial strengths,” says Solomon and Wagner. “To arrive at comprise you can both live with, you want to combine the saver’s ability to sniff out a good deal with the spender’s ability to commit to a purchase.”
James Cordova, a psychology professor at Clark University and the author of The Marriage Checkup agrees, “When partners are different, they can compliment each other, and it can sometimes be much more challenging for a couple who are like-minded.” Just as in life, your differences can make a relationship strong. “If you have two spenders, nobody’s worried about overspending,” says Cordova, “And if you have two savers, then nobody’s going to get a vacation.”