If you’re married, want to get married, or know married couples, then you know that finances can be a persistent cause of arguments, disagreements, and stress. Throw in the added strain of the holidays and you could have a financial and marital disaster on your hands.
But it doesn’t have to be that way: Here are 3 tips for this holiday season that may preserve not only your finances, but also your marriage.
1. Talk to Your Spouse or Partner
If you and your spouse haven’t discussed (fights and arguments don’t count) your finances in months or even years, it’s time to schedule a meeting.
Nag your spouse or whine about how they “never” help with the finances. In fact, avoid the words “never” and “always” completely. Don’t withhold information about your financial situation or personal spending (a “lie of omission”). Don’t belittle your spouse or their ideas, priorities and suggestions. Don’t wait until there’s a big disagreement to discuss your finances. Be proactive and discuss things before a big blow up.
Choose a time to sit down together in a quiet environment to talk. Be honest and upfront. Discuss your goals, dreams and priorities. Allow your spouse to do the same. If you’re the one who usually handles the finances, let your spouse know that you value their input and ask for their help in figuring out your budget. No matter how stressful your situation may be, try to keep things positive and relaxed. You’re a team, and you should always be working together!
2. Create Financial Rules or Guidelines
The best time to make a decision is before you actually have to make it. Take some time to discuss the “rules” of how you, as a couple, want to handle your money. These could be as simple as “no new debt” or as intricate as a complex budget.
Order your spouse to handle money in a certain way. Don’t put down your spouse’s family or the way they handle their finances. Don’t allow this to become a one-sided discussion where only one of you is making decisions for the both of you. Once you have agreed on your guidelines for handling money, don’t step outside of them without first carefully discussing the situation together.
Take turns discussing your financial goals and decide on your priorities together. Talk about the financial example each of your parents modeled when you were growing up. How has that shaped your view of money, possessions, spending, etc…? Explain why you feel certain financial guidelines should be in place and ask for your spouse’s input. Be flexible and cooperative. It’s okay if you don’t see eye-to-eye on everything, but you must make a plan you can both agree to.
3. Put Your Relationship First
At the end of the day, it’s just money! Your relationship is much more important. Always keep that perspective in mind while discussing finances.
Keep your finances separate: You’re a team now; if you have the attitude of, “I work for my money so I can spend it how I want to,” drop it. Don’t leave the financial responsibilities just one of you. Don’t try to manipulate and control the situation or your spouse. Don’t allow financial disagreements to become financial fights (and no, they’re not the same!). Don’t betray one another’s trust once you’ve agreed upon something.
Work together. It’s cliché, but two heads are better than one. Make a plan together; if you can’t reach an agreement, ask for the help of an objective third-party. Address valid concerns calmly and respectfully. Be sure to celebrate your financial victories together – large and small. Treat each other with absolute respect, kindness and consideration.
Family finances can be difficult to manage, and it’s important for you and your spouse to establish mutual ground from whence you can work together. It may be a burden, but many hands make light and easy work.
Who manages the finances in your family? Do you and your spouse or partner have a strategy? Do you keep an open stream of communication? Tell us what works for you – or what doesn’t – in our comments section below.
Have a tricky question Clint and Katy can answer about your finances?
Email it to Editors@PerkStreet.com
Clint and Katy Davis are PerkStreet Customer Columnists and founders of Davis Coaching. As financial coaches, their passion is helping people become and stay debt free! Their personalized coaching is designed to help you get your financial life where you want it to be. Like personal trainers for your finances, they can help you develop a specific plan to achieve your goals, and provide the expertise and accountability to get you there. If you’re ready to take control of your financial life, visit Davis Coaching online, check out the Davis Coaching blog, and connect with Clint and Katy on Twitter and Facebook.