Struggling with Marriage Money Problems? 3 Simple Solutions
Inside: Common marriage money problems and three tips to overcome them.
My shoulders ached with tension as I sat at the computer, reviewing our joint checking transactions. I bit my lip and squeezed my eyes shut to hold back frustrated tears.
Sighing with despair, I realized that we didn’t have an income problem. No. What we had was a spending problem.
I reviewed debit after debit, anger and anxiety rising in my chest. Why couldn’t we get our spending in line?
Budgeting was so much easier when I was single. But managing money with my husband was a different story.
We had marriage money problems. Different habits, different perspectives. Managing the finances overwhelmed me, and I resented it.
Let me be clear – neither one of us were doing anything bad. We had simply combined finances without much discussion or intention, then carried on with our individual spending habits.
We made sure the mortgage and bills were paid and the 401k was deducted. Other than that, we didn’t communicate about money. And we didn’t have a plan.
After diving into the topic of financial education, I learned that money is one of the top reasons for couples getting divorced. It’s true. Marriage money problems are a huge source of stress for couples!
Before I got married, I never understood how money could wreak havoc in a marriage. But now, I totally get it.
And it’s not the money itself that creates the divide. Nope. It’s the way we communicate and handle money that causes the problems.
As Dave Ramsey says, you have to tell your money where to go. We weren’t doing that.
Not only were we not talking to each other about our money, but we definitely weren’t telling our money where to go.
We were just spending as we pleased. And unless you’re Richie Rich, that behavior is going to catch up with you at some point.
Recognizing individual money habits and taking intentional action is the first step to making your money work for you.
Your Past Impacts Marriage Money Problems
Growing up, I watched my adults all around me with their marriage money problems. The majority of my childhood was tainted with anxiety and fear about money. It led to a “there is never enough” mentality.
Sometimes, I still struggle with it.
In turn, that carried into my marriage. My husband also grew up in a family where money was tight.
Yet his mentality is different than mine. He does not stress about money. It blows my mind.
We came into our marriage with very different money perspectives. Which lead to us dealing with marriage money problems. It’s very normal, but also stressful. And so, we had a lot of money work to do.
We’re so much better now, after 14 years of working at it, because we have learned to identify triggers and communicate. We talk a lot about money.
I’m not going to lie – money still makes me emotional. I know I have my triggers.
But we’re at a point now where we can have very open discussions about our money and what we want to do with it.
But it wasn’t always like that. When we started out, we had to work through a lot.
Maybe that’s you, too. You might be struggling with money conversation and spending habits in your relationship.
There are a lot of different reasons couples fight about money. Do any of these sounds like you?
8 Reasons Couples Fight About Money
Different Money Personalities – Just because two people love each other, it doesn’t mean they have the same money personalities.
Two people can be incredibly compatible yet have extremely different views on how they deal with money.
Some people are spenders, and other people are savers. Some people never even give money a thought and some worry excessively about money.
We’re all different – and that’s perfectly okay. It’s just important to know how you’re wired so that you can both work together and find the middle ground that works for both of you.
Control Freaks – Let’s face it, some of us are a tad bit more controlling when it comes to money. Myself included. I’m a control freak about finances.
Some people like to plan their financial future and it may be hard to fathom someone else (like a partner) having control.
If you find yourself in a relationship where both of you want to be “in charge” of the finances but have different ideas of how that looks, problems can ensue.
Different Communication Styles – Often, it simply comes down to how you communicate about money. Money triggers emotions for some people. It might make you anxious. Or defensive.
When one person’s emotions start running high, the other person is likely to get emotional. Charged emotions, especially when opinions differ, can lead to conflict and misunderstanding.
Money History – Ooooohhh. This is a big one. How your parents spoke about and dealt with money makes a big impact on how you feel about and deal with money.
If your parents argued about money or fretted about finances, it could very well impact how you handle money in your own relationship.
Are you repeating your parents’ money patterns? It’s definitely something to explore.
Keeping Secrets – if one of you is often secretive or lies about how and where they spend money, that’s a problem. It blows up the budget which will throw you off your goals.
Plus, it’s just dishonest. It creates distrust and resentment over time. If someone is hiding aspects of their spending, it should be addressed.
Different Money Values – Couples can also vary on how they value money. One partner might have expensive taste and prefer to spend on some of the finer things, like expensive clothes, cars, or homes.
The other may prefer to live simply when it comes to material things and spend money on experiences, like travel and hobbies.
Again, neither one is wrong. But knowing how to communicate and accommodate for each other is important. Compromise is key.
Incompatible Saving Habits – If one of you is a good saver but the other struggles to stick to a budget, this can cause major conflict.
It’s nearly impossible to stay on track if one person isn’t sticking to the plan. But it’s also miserable if one person has unrealistic expectations about the budget.
You have to find middle ground here, too. Savers shouldn’t be too miserly, but spenders need to stay in check!
Income Earning Disparities – Sometimes, one person earns substantially more than the other. That person may feel like they have more say in finances, or should be able to spend more because they earn more.
Some couples address this by letting each person pay for bills based on the percentage of total income they earn.
Regardless of how you handle that, it’s important that each person have some money allotted for their own spending, even if one person earns less.
So those are some common problems. Now, let’s talk about solutions. Here are three intentional and actionable ways to reduce money conflict you can start implementing today.
3 Solutions for Marriage Money Problems
Listen to each other – My daughter came home from Pre-K one day and told me how little Harrison got in trouble for not using his listening ears.
I laughed hysterically at the time, but since then, “listening ears” has stuck with me.
In relationships, we have to use our listening ears, especially when we have different perspectives on things. Money is no different.
My husband and I started out with different views on spending. Over the years, I have learned to use my listening ears and hear his opinion about spending and saving.
By really listening and trying to see things from each other’s perspective, we have been able to resolve several conflicts and create goals that we both agree on.
Set limits and allowance – Setting spending limits and allowances lets you stick to your budget but still gives you financial space.
We set individual allowances based loosely off Dave Ramsey’s envelope system. We love it because we each have our little hoard of money to spend on whatever we want.
And it’s funny because we find that when we have cash, we hold on to it longer. My husband ends up squirreling away most of his “weekly fun money” and ends up with a nice little stash.
It also helps to set a limit that must be discussed before the purchase is made. It might be $50 or it might be a few hundred dollars – everyone has their own situation and comfort level.
You have to do what works for you.
Set goals together – It’s so important to talk about financial goals together. Yes, it’s a commitment to take time each week. It’s time-consuming.
But you can’t really know where you are going if you don’t have a road map.
Earlier this year, we decided to be more intentional about financial goals. In theory, we have a weekly check-in to discuss finances, goals, schedules, and menu planning to keep us on track with the budget.
We also review unplanned spending, including any oopsies with going off budget. Finally, we acknowledge things that are going right because we think it’s important to talk about our wins, even small ones.
These three actions put us on a better financial path. And I no longer get angry when I review our spending.
I encourage you to give these a try. And additionally, there are lots of other ideas and resources for couples wanting to manage their money better.
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Here’s a workbook we use weekly to track spending and plan for the week. You can get it on Amazon here.
Or check out some of these books to learn more about money management:
And if you’re looking for a simple, straightforward template to Breathe and Reboot your budget, download our free budget printable below.
Tracking your budget doesn’t have to be fancy. This quick and easy sheet lets you list your income and expenses in a straightforward way, so you Breathe and Reboot your budget and take back control.
Let me know what you think!