It is the end January and those finances may be getting a little tight! I know that money is one of the number one things that couples fight over. This is unfortunate. I think the root cause is partially a combination of a communication break- down, stress, and lack of trust. When you have all of these factors combined, it is easy to see how things can go “BOOM!” I have been reading some excellent budgeting posts from other bloggers, and finances have been on my mind recently.
I wanted to share with you how my husband and I communicate about finances and have honest and open discussions about it. We have been married for 13.5 years and neither of us remembers one argument over finances. To me, this is more of a “Communication” post than a budget post. Communication with your spouse makes ALL the difference in all aspects of your marriage. Sometimes it takes some work, but it is well worth it!
We have always shared all of our accounts. Both of our names are on everything. That means that it’s not “my money” and it’s not “his money” it is “OUR money.” We both know the online banking password, and we both can look at the records at any time. We are completely transparent about the finances. We just make statements to each other about it on a regular basis. For example, a discussion could look like this:
Me: I looked up how much your paycheck was today and I wrote it down in the checkbook.
Him: Ya? How much did I make?
Me: You got paid X amount.
Him: Ok. Have you paid the bills yet?
Me: Yes. I spent X amount paying the bills. We have X amount left.
Him: Thank you for paying our bills. Do you still need to get groceries?
Me: Yes, I still need to get them, along with some stuff for the house.
Him: Thank you, Beautiful, for making sure we have everything we need.
(Yes, he really does talk to me like that. What can I say? I’m a blessed girl!)
Notice that we both know how much comes in and goes out. He rarely questions me about a purchase, but when he does, I tell him the truth. We do not hide purchases that we make from each other. We both trust one another because that is part of being married.
Times do occur when we do not want the other person to know what we have bought until a certain time. Mostly this occurs around birthdays and holidays. We write gifts down as “Birthday Gift…. $XX.XX” While this may sound strange, this is pretty much a part of our weekly, if not daily dialogue. The money belongs to both of us, and we reason that both of us have every right to know where it’s going. Big purchases are always discussed ahead of time. I would much rather know that I am getting a new car than be surprised with one sitting in the driveway that comes with a $300/month price tag that I did not expect.
Weekly Cash Allotment
We both have weekly cash allotments. He uses his for gas for his commute to work, as well as whatever else he chooses. It may go towards a soda at the gas station, drive-thru breakfast, lunch out with co-workers, or whatever he wants. Often, he saves some of it too. I also have a weekly cash allotment that is “fun” money. I can spend it on what I choose, or I can save it. It is not a large amount, but even small amounts can add up to something if saved over a period of time. The things we purchase with our weekly cash allotments are usually not things that we discuss with each other.
This is very important for open and honest discussions about finances. When a mistake is made and too much is spent, there is no blaming the other person. The focus of the discussion should be “What’s done is done, where do we go from here? What is OUR next step? How do WE want to handle this?” Notice the “our” and “we.” This is not an “I wanted X and you spent the money that I was going to use it for! You need to pay me back! How could you be so irresponsible?!” type of discussion. Both people have to have mutual respect and trust for one another. Both people’s needs and wants are equally important.
Deciding what should be taken care of first should be a joint decision in which both people’s feelings should be considered. What’s done is done. Money spent is like a glass of water poured out on the ground. You can’t gather it back up again. Arguing about whose fault it is, will only breed resentment and hurt feelings. The focus should be on how to fill the glass back up or how best to use what’s remaining. Remember, you are a TEAM. You are in this together. If you are very mad, then postpone the discussion until you can speak rationally without emotions driving the talk.
There are two other things to remember about sharing finances and getting along.
1) At times, each of you will want to spend money on things that the other does not care anything about.
2) One of you will have to wait for what you want to let the other person get what they want.
For example, I really wanted to get independent hosting for my blog and move it here from the free WordPress platform. This did nothing for my husband. He had no interest in blogging at the time, but he is INCREDIBLY supportive now. It was Black Friday. (So we were about to be spending a bunch of money on Christmas!) I knew he wanted a new computer because his is on its last legs and keeps crashing. I was going to wait and let him get what he wanted.
We discussed it on a date night one night. We had a really good open honest discussion about it and I told him how much I was enjoying blogging and why I wanted to move to independent hosting. At his urging, I went ahead and bought the independent hosting, and here I am! He is still waiting for a new PC, but hopefully, it will come soon.
We both have long and short range goals for our finances that we discuss. The long ranged goals are like our retirement and college funds for our children. Short-ranged goals are more immediate like the car needs a tune-up and four new tires. The short-range goals are things that we both need to be aware of so that we can both plan accordingly. It works very well if we both know that X is coming up and we need to save money for it. It would not work so well if we kept that to ourselves and the other spent the money we had intended for tires.
The 3 things that contribute most to our discussing finances without fighting are 1) Transparency, 2) No Blame policy and 3) Joint goals. Financial discussions around our house are regular and we talk about it just as part of our daily lives. The discussion that I illustrated above, happens often. Financial discussions are usually part of our “how was your day” dialogue. To us, it’s just part of good communication and making sure that we are on the same page.
Most of all, when you discuss finances with your spouse, take the time to really listen to not only what they are telling you, but also how they feel about it. Listen to understand, not to respond. That is good advice for good communication in general. As I have already said, most of our financial discussions are not terribly in depth, although we do have those from time to time. The discussions about long and short-term goals are most likely going to be longer.
I am not a financial expert, and although I do allude to some financial advice in here, I am mostly trying to share with you how my husband and I communicate about our finances because I know that a lot of couples do fight over them. I hope that if you are in that situation, then you will find some of this advice useful.