For all of the issues that can come up in a marriage, one is far more common than all the others. It’s something each and every one of us has to deal with. We all stress about it…
The problem is MONEY.
No matter how much (or how little) we seem to make, the problems persist. Because a marriage involves two people who typically share finances, differences of opinion are bound to arise. Whether it’s how much to spend on leisure activities, how savings should be handled, who earns more, how much groceries cost, and on and on… Different outlooks on earnings and expenses can create some serious turmoil.
Honestly, it’s less about the dollars themselves, and more about the jobs we work to earn them, the luxuries and necessities we spend them on, and the varying levels of importance we give each expense.
Let’s look at a few of the most common fights before we get to the solution.
If one spouse earns far more than the other, or the family has one primary breadwinner, it can create an uneasy imbalance of “power.” This can even happen subconsciously – where the person earning the most money feels entitled to all of the financial decisions.
Alternatively, the person “without the power” can feel resentful or self-conscious because they aren’t contributing more. These feelings can go under the radar – you might not even be aware they’re happening – and lead to tension that causes unrelated arguments.
Having children is expensive. They need food and clothes, of course, but what about allowance, toys, extracurricular activities, and beyond? Deciding when it’s ok to buy a new toy can cause a disagreement… Figuring out how to save for college can lead to a full-blown fight.
Debt is a tremendous burden in the US. Married couples share some debt, but plenty of other debts are from before you said your vows. Old credit card debt, student loans, and the like become a problem for both of you when you combine finances.
Unfortunately, that can mean spending money on your spouse’s debts (and resenting it). If one of you keeps wracking up debt, it’s an even bigger issue – since you’re both responsible for it. Making payments is stressful, especially if money’s already tight.
While you and your spouse might have a lot in common, everyone’s a little bit different. Some of us are Spartan in our needs, living frugally and avoiding “unnecessary” expenses. Others are only willing to spend money on the highest quality items. Still others are thrifty throughout the year to spend huge sums on travel and vacations… We all have different ideas about the best way to use money to improve our lives.
If you and your spouse don’t see eye to eye, but share finances, this can cause some massive disagreements.
With shared finances and possibly disproportionate earnings, it’s tough to determine what belongs to whom – or if it even matters! It’s a similar division as the “power” mentioned above, but as it relates to certain items. Who is entitled to the last cookie? Who gets to drive the nicer car?
You won’t be able to truly divide everything right down the middle, and if you haven’t made some kind of plan (or aren’t making a point to be kind to one another), these issues can become major fights.
So… What can you do?
Fortunately, almost all of these problems have a simple solution: BUDGET.
The more you can set a budget, work through it together, and agree to make it the governing factor for your financial decisions, the less likely you are to fight about money in the moment.
The point is to lay everything out beforehand. When an expense comes up, you don’t have to fight about whether or not it’s a good purchase – you simply check the budget. If it allows for the expense, go for it. If not, stick to your agreement and don’t buy it!
This works with kids, paying down debts, vacations, and so much more. It won’t quite solve the “ownership” problem, but it does give you an opportunity to discuss it.
Sit down with your spouse and hash out a budget. Don’t give up until you’ve come up with something you both agree on. Afterward, commit to sticking to it! When conflicts arise (and they probably will), you have the document to fall back on. The budget has the final say.