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When Spouses Aren’t on the Same Spending Page

Insights

Tips for Aligning Your Marital Money Attitude


Many married couples split household tasks and responsibilities, choosing to divide and conquer in an age of unprecedented busyness. For example, one spouse might handle grocery shopping while the other does all the yard work. One spouse might do daycare drop-off while the other handles the kiddos’ bedtime routine. It’s an effective and efficient way to run a household, especially if both spouses work. When it comes to money issues, however, these topics are best tackled as a team.

Spending, budgeting and other financial issues can cause stress and anxiety, so many couples avoid these topics. However, since money issues are one of the leading causes of divorce, it’s important to work through the uncomfortable topics and get on the same spending page.

Here are five tactics for making sure you and your spouse agree on household spending and avoid money conflicts:

Start an open and honest dialogue. 

Too many couples assume they’re on the same financial page without really discussing whether their views are aligned. Oftentimes, an emergency like a broken furnace or unexpected medical bill can bring to light significant differences in spending and saving habits. Before a stressful, surprise expense derails your relationship, sit down with your spouse and have an intentional conversation about money. It’s helpful to review your finances, establish a monthly budget and determine your savings goals. This gives you the opportunity to learn what the other person is thinking, compromise where needed and stand on firm financial footing as a couple.

Know your total household cash flow.

It’s difficult to agree on a spending plan if you don’t have a full understanding of where your money goes every month. This can be difficult if one spouse handles all the bill payments, or when both spouses divide and conquer payments with little or no communication. Choose a time to sit down together and review each bill, total amounts owed and due dates. This allows you both to gain a better understanding of the total household cash flow from month to month, and it also ensures either spouse can confidently handle the household finances in case of emergency.

Be transparent about your assets – and your debts. 

Financial secrets can be terribly damaging to a marriage, and they tend to show themselves at the worst possible times. They can cause stress, hurt and financial strain. If you and your spouse have accounts in your own names, be open about them. Consider adding one another as cosigners on loan accounts and discuss any debts and plans to pay them down. When you proactively tackle these issues, you’re more likely to have a positive outcome.

Set a monthly budget – and stick to it.

When you mutually agree on where your money goes each month, both spouses are protected from having to be the one to say “no” to a fancy dinner out or the latest souped-up smartphone. When you’re both responsible for setting your spending ground rules, you protect your relationship from succumbing to resentment. 

Ask for help.

It’s common to be unsure where to start with household budgeting, especially if you and your spouse have different perspectives. Personal finance and budgeting apps like Mint and Acorns can be useful in helping you ask the right money questions and clarifying your monthly budgeting needs. You can also take advantage of automated bill payments and retirement contributions, if your accounts allow it.

If you aren’t able to bridge a spending gap with your spouse through the methods listed above, a financial advisor can be a useful resource in facilitating dialogue between you and your spouse and uncovering where your disparate attitudes about money come from. If you find yourself in this scenario, let’s start a conversation today so that you and your spouse can make the most of your life together with the money you have.