Problems with finances can be one of the most stressful things on a marriage/partnership. Relationships are hard work no matter what, but combine that with having a different way of thinking about money and it can be a constant source of battling. When one person is cautious, likes to save and make sure the bills are paid and another wants to have fun, worry about it all later it can wreak havoc on the family.
Opposites tend to attract too, so many times this is the dynamic a marriage may find themselves in. The fun loving, free spirit that you fell in love with that helps you let loose a little is also the one that drives you crazy when trying to reach your financial goals. Is your relationship doomed or can you find common ground? The good news is you can work on this issue if both parties are willing to try. Here is a game plan of what you can try:
1. If money concerns you, try speaking up. Do it at a time when you are not angry, not fighting about money. Schedule a family meeting or better yet schedule a weekly or bi-weekly budget meeting. Even once per month can be helpful to set up a plan for the month. I recommend if you choose this to have a short follow up mid month just to assess how things are going.
2. Present a full picture of the financial situation on paper. List out income, a full list of bills and then categories for spending such as repairs, pet expense and fun. Any category that may pertain to your spending. I suggest setting aside for thing like repairs, travel, gifts, pet expenses and things that don’t occur every month. Also make a list of debt, including balances, interest rates and minimum payments. Many people are visual learners and this helps them to see the reality of all overall financial picture.
3. Focus on goals, not on what the person is or isn’t doing. Avoid pointing fingers or blaming anyone because it hinders progress. Instead focus on where you want to go. If getting out of debt is a goal, then create a plan such as when one item is paid to apply the money that was going to it to a different one. You can choose either smallest balance or highest interest rate. Discuss strategies and both partners get to have a say.
4. Compromise. A spender is not going to be able to never spend another dollar, so include a reasonable spending allowance in the budget for whatever they choose. Putting strict restrictions will only push someone to sabotage the plan and lead to more fighting over money. There should be no judgement either! If you feel what they spend money on is frivolous keep it to yourself and focus on something else.
If these strategies don’t work seek marriage counseling with a professional to try to work on the issue. If the debt is severe and you are not sure what to do seek out help from a financial counselor. A non-profit Debt Management Program may be able to help with getting debt paid off in five years or less. You may reach the NFCC (www.nfcc.org) at 800-388-2227.