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Money Matters: How to Manage Finances within Your Marriage

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Disagreement about how to handle finances is one of the main causes of conflict for married couples. Unsurprisingly, statistics show that it’s also one of the leading causes of divorce. While fundamental differences in how a couple handles their finances can create problems, the bigger issue seems to be that many couples aren’t willing to talk openly with one another about how to manage their money. Instead of having open communication about their disagreements, many couples are dishonest with each other or avoid the issue entirely, resulting in anger, resentment, and distrust.

If you and your spouse disagree about money, the first step should be talking openly and honestly about it. Listen to your spouse and let them explain their approach to finances and what their priorities are. Then share your own perspective and priorities without dismissing theirs. While it may seem obvious to you that your way of handling finances is better, recognize that your spouse is probably feeling the same way about their own approach.

Remember that a healthy marriage involves compromise from both parties. Micromanaging and controlling your spouse will only lead to resentment and potentially even more spending in the long run. Instead, work together to create a budget. By agreeing on a budget, you will have clearly defined guidelines for how much you are able to spend within set categories. This allows you to easily compare your actual spending against the budget you set for yourselves without ending up in a he-said she-said situation. A mutually-agreed-upon budget shifts the focus from you vs. your spouse to you and your spouse working together.

For some people, reporting every single purchase can feel stifling. One solution to this feeling is creating a “fun money” account within your budget for nonessential purchases. This is a set amount of money you’ve put aside for extra spending each month. This account allows for flexibility when purchasing gifts or other non-budget items without feeling the need to hide it.

When your spouse is open with you about how they are spending money, try to receive what they are saying well, even if you don’t agree with their decision. A harsh or negative response from you could make your spouse reluctant to open up in the future. Instead, use positive reinforcement to let your spouse know that you respect their honesty. If you start by saying something like, “I can see why you might think or feel that way, thank you for being honest with me,” you can go on to express why you’re uncomfortable with their decision without making them regret sharing.

Along with lack of communication, a common mistake that couples make when sorting through their finances is not seeking advice. Consulting with your personal banker is a great way to get an outside, objective opinion on your finances. Personal bankers are there to help you with financing options and financial planning, so it is wise to take advantage of their expert knowledge.

Another great resource that you and your spouse should look into is Dave Ramsey’s method for money management. Dave Ramsey offers classes, books, seminars, and practical tools for how to manage your money well. Taking the time to learn about financial management together can unify you and your spouse and potentially introduce you to an alternative way of handling your finances.

Money is a hot-button topic for many couples, but it doesn’t have to be. Like anything else in marriage, resolving disagreements about finances takes work, but if you can maintain open and honest communication with your spouse and remember that you and your spouse are on the same team, you can work through your differences and grow closer together instead of letting them pull you apart.