This ultimate guide on how to talk to your spouse about money (without fighting) will help you tackle your issues head-on. Avoiding the hard conversations only makes matters worse. Mole hills turn into mountains.
In fact, financial stress and conflict is one of the leading causes of divorce. Why?
- Often, there’s money imbalance in relationships
- Add in the plethora of emotions that can surround money – anger, shame, guilt, overwhelm, and fear – and talking about money with your partner can be downright daunting.
How to have a conversation about money with your partner
Article Key Takeaways: Focus on:
- Baby steps. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
- Shared goals! You are two warriors determined to make your dreams come true. Instead of being pitted against each other, think of it as doing battle against the outside world, together.
- Make it as enjoyable as possible. Call it a date night, order your favorite food, and put on uplifting background music.
Before: Understand Your Values
You both come from different backgrounds and life experiences. This gives each person a unique set of money scripts (beliefs and habits). Before diving in, it’s crucial to comprehend the personal values that shape your perspectives.
Think about and write down your reflections individually before you discuss them.
Assess Money Mindsets
How do they influence your spending and saving habits?
Write the Impact Money Has on You
Next, reflect on where money boosts your life and where money stresses you out. This gives you crucial insight into the ways that money influences your decisions.
How can you improve your life around money?
Identify Shared Financial Goals
Jot down your dreams and goals. When discussing, find common ground. What do you agree on? Perhaps it’s saving for a home, preparing for retirement, or establishing an emergency fund. These shared goals will become the cornerstone of your new united front.
Pro Tip: Use bold text to highlight these goals. Make them stand out as priorities in your financial conversations.
Determine Your Top Priorities
What are your top priorities and values? Money is intertwined with almost all aspects of life. If your highest priority is family or flexibility, make sure these things are part of the discussion.
Use the free worksheet to evaluate your money values >>
Before: Set Up For Success
You want this discussion to be productive! So, set clear ground rules before you start.
- Practice active listening (let the other person speak without the intent to interrupt or answer)
- Focus on goals
- Avoid the blame game. Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. Move forward as a team. Accusations put the other person on the defensive (and the conversation will be over).
- Remove the phrase “can’t”. Turn it into “how can we…?”
Move forward with the mindset that two heads are better than one. Listen openly and make sure both partners feel heard.
What if it’s a tough conversation?
We all have financial triggers – those things your partner does that drive you crazy. Strive to have an open mind about them and address them (cordially) if you need to.
Common ones include:
- Different spending habits. In many relationships, there’s a spender and a saver.
- Financial priorities: If your financial or life goals differ.
- Income discrepancies: A big difference in income can lead to power struggles or feelings of inequality.
Consider Your Space
Sit in a room in your home that’s open and comfortable. If you’ve been fighting about money often, opt for a money date at a restaurant or park. By being out in public you’ll both be more likely to remain calm. Just make sure you’re also in a location that gives you the privacy to talk about money matters.
Pro Tip: Pick a time when you’re both calm and relaxed. My husband and I once tried to have a serious money talk at 5 pm on a Friday. Can you guess what happened?
During: How to Talk to Your Spouse About Money
Start by talking about daily spending, then work up to retirement and life savings. Pace yourself. Forward progress is progress, no matter how small. You won’t figure everything out the first time. And that’s ok.
Draft a Budget
List your combined monthly income and expenses. Separating needs vs wants helps you figure out where your money is going. Use a spreadsheet or worksheet to organize these categories.
You can also try any of these budgeting methods:
- Reverse Budgeting. A great budget that prioritizes paying yourself first.
- Zero Based Budgeting: Start from scratch to give your expenses a thorough audit.
- 50-30-20 Based Budget: A percentage-based budget can help you set goals for how much of your money to put in different areas of your life.
Goal 1: Create an Emergency Fund
Just like with debt, savings requires both partners to be on the same page. Start by establishing an emergency fund, ideally three to six months of living expenses.
Pro Tip: Set a monthly direct deposit into your emergency fund account until you reach your amount. Set it and forget it!
Goal 2: Manage Debt
First list all of your debts from smallest to largest. This may include:
- credit card
- student loan
- home or other properties
This is the debt snowball method. It focuses on paying off the smallest debt first, gaining momentum as each balance is cleared. Studies show this one keeps people motivated (source)
Next, set payment goals. Determine the monthly amount you can pay toward reducing debt (going above the minimum payments). Challenge yourself, but also remember to stay reasonable. You’ll need to sustain this over time.
Track progress. Use a simple spreadsheet to monitor your balances or use the debt free trackers. You’ll love watching your balances disappear!
Goal 3: Build a Savings and Investing Plan
After you’ve done this step, focus on long-term savings and investing. Discuss how you want your retirement to look together, but also if you’ll pay for kids’ education, buy a house, take vacations, etc.
After: Keep It Going
Don’t just stop at a one-time meeting. Talking about money with your spouse gets easier the more you do it. As you open the lines of communication, you’ll be surprised at how uplifting these discussions can be.
Once you start making headway, seeing your progress is fun!
Plus, each meeting allows you to discuss what’s working and what’s not. And you’ll be able to celebrate successes and take care of financial issues quickly.
It doesn’t matter if it’s weekly or monthly as long as you’re staying consistent. At my home, basic money talks come once a month, at the same time that we review expenses in Mint.
Build in Systems
Establishing a system around your finances is important for trust and consistency. It can often be the key to following through.
- Organize your finances in a spreadsheet you both have access to. Make passwords accessible to both partners too.
- Put your money date nights on a recurring schedule
- Create simple spending rules. For example, anything either person wants to buy over $100 needs to be discussed first.
Track, Evaluate, And Adjust
As you review expenses together, you’ll notice discrepancies between expected (what you thought you’d spend) and actual costs (what you actually spent). Life’s not always a smooth ride. But that’s ok! Just discuss what adjustments need to be made.
Perhaps you need to reduce spending in one area to save more for something else. As long as you are tracking and meeting, this will be simple to adjust.
Financial conversations with your partner can be intimidating. Especially if one of you knows more than the other. But when only one person in the relationship is financially literate, it leads to an imbalance of power and resentment. You don’t feel like you’re working together as a team.
Discuss ways that you can learn together. Luckily, in many ways this is free!
- Pick up a book and have a book club discussion. The Psychology of Money is a great one to start.
- Listen to a finance podcast. Discuss it after.
- Play money trivia
- Check out the fun ideas for Financial Literacy Month or important financial terms to help you feel more confident.
- Get on the email list below and start learning in bite-size doses each week.
Learn and grow together. Your progress will skyrocket.
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