Marriage and money is a complex set of topics. Financial issues are frequently cited as one of the most common reasons for divorce. In a healthy marriage it’s not uncommon to have some disagreements. What’s important, however, is how you handle those disagreements and work through them as a couple. Kristin and I rarely fight about money. We mostly see eye-to-eye when it comes to our finances (even if I’m a bit more laser-focused on early retirement), and there are a few major reasons for that.
The Initial Money Talk
We had the money talk early. It was one of the first “real” conversations we had even before getting engaged. I knew a long time ago that I did not want to be with somebody who was irresponsible with money. It puts unneeded stress on a relationship, and would directly impede on my goals. Thankfully Kristin and I share the same values of working hard, saving diligently, and spending wisely. Our lifestyle has admittedly inflated, but not near as much as our income has together.
Having the money talk early was important because it set the tone for our relationship. I don’t mean that in a financial aspect; though it certainly did do that as well. Talking about money made us vulnerable. We put our guards down before we tried to pretend our lives were super luxurious to impress each other. That level of honesty doesn’t come easy to a lot of people, but it’s critical for a successful relationship to work. Conversely, lying about money and being dishonest about your financial situation is a lose-lose. It doesn’t help your financial position. Trust doesn’t exist in the relationship – or with yourself.
By being honest about our money, we’ve built a strong relationship of trust and open communication.
We talk about our finances frequently. As in pretty much every day we chat about it. Part of this is because we recently finalized paying for our wedding and we’re in the process of building a house. Both things are trying to push our willpower to save more, spend less, and be open and honest about our situation. That doesn’t mean we’re perfect. We sometimes forget things, but knowing that we are on the same page with each other helps.
We haven’t fully merged our finances yet, but when we do it’ll be even easier to see at a glance our entire financial situation. Having both of us involved in our financial journey means we are both working toward the same goals. When one of us succeeds, we both succeed; when one of us fails, we both fail. Frequent check-ins are good opportunities for us to celebrate our wins (like finally having enough money for our down payment) and vent about our losses and frustrations (like when the check for our photographer wasn’t mailed out until the day of our wedding due to a transaction error).
Cut Some Slack
We are both comfortable with cutting each other some slack. We aren’t perfect, and to expect each other to never spend a little bit more than they should have isn’t how we want to live our lives. To help with this, once we combine our finances we’ll have separate “fun money” accounts. This seems to be pretty common nowadays. 99% of our money will be shared, with a small amount each month for both Kristin and I to spend on whatever we want, without judgement from the other. That means lots of video games for me and lots of clothes, shoes, and saving up for a new bag for Kristin. And that’s perfectly fine.
We don’t really have any sort of “spending rule” where if one of us wants to buy something over $X we must check with the other. Our relationship is built on trust, not asking permission. But by cutting ourselves some slack and giving us wiggle room to deal with the silly things that we roll our eyes at, we’re going to opt for fun money accounts.
I fully expect this to change over the course of our marriage. It should change over the course of our marriage as our relationship evolves and we grow together. Our financial situation will not always be the same. We will get different jobs – or NO jobs! But no matter how our situation changes, we’ll continue to make mistakes and make decisions that might not fully make sense to the other person. The little things are fine to let slip. Cutting some slack to each other lets the small stuff not matter; it’s the big things that are important.
Kristin and I share the same goals. We share the same plan in life. What we want out of our lives for ourselves (neither of us want a life on the road, for example) jives with what the other wants. As we’re waiting for our house to be completed, we’re already talking about ways we can pay our mortgage off early. We both want to retire early and strive for financial independence. Because we both have the same goals, it makes hitting them as a couple easier.
We work toward these goals together consistently. Sometimes we get off track in a month, but our frequent check-ins help bring us back. Rarely do we ever both stray far from our goals. Having shared goals that we both want also gives us something to celebrate during our regular check-ins. If we didn’t have the same goals, reaching one would likely seem a bit anti-climatic.
There are many reasons that couples fight about money. But when you have open, honest communication, some flexibility, and are both working toward your goals, you can create a very strong relationship and some great momentum toward achieving those goals. By being honest with ourselves and each other, we avoid those uncomfortable fights that nobody wants.
Do you fight with anybody about money? What strategies have you used to help NOT fight with other people?