You and your spouse are tight. You’ve got your catalog of shows you love to chill and watch together. You communicate with words and phrases built over the years of your marriage. And insider jokes? The two of you share these naturally by text throughout the week.
But then…there’s money.
It seems to be this huge thorn in your otherwise rosy relationship. One of you might be a saver, while the other tends to spend more. One of you has to take on more of the financial management burdens and secretly wishes the other partner would step up and help more. Both of you are holding a few money resentments.
I’ve heard these issues and much more from couples who, otherwise, are in really good relationships.
If you’ve ever felt like managing money with your spouse is as hard as selling a peanut butter and pickle sandwich, then keep reading.
I’ve got several strategies for how you can get on the same money page as your spouse – no matter how bad the point you’re starting from is.
Also see: Free couples financial meeting workbook
3 Strategies to Get You on the Same Money Page as Your Spouse
Strategy #1: Sync Up Your Numbers
Sometimes not being on the same page as your partner has a quick fix – you literally need to both be looking at the same set of numbers.
Not while in the same room, mind you – Money Dates and money meetings are where you can get together and discuss important money issues.
I’m talking about simply each of you having access to the same numbers and screens so that you’re both on the same page about where the money is going, and how much is left.
Budgeting apps for couples are an excellent resource for this, and many of them are completely free. You each sign up for the app on your smartphone, and many of these apps give you each the freedom you want as far as what you want to share with your partner, and what you don’t.
Meaning, if your couple’s money management system is not a fully combined one, you can still get a lot out of sharing a budgeting app with your partner.
Imagine being able just to tap an app icon on your smartphone the next time you’re headed to the grocery store to make sure there’s enough in the account (plus, to catch up on any money tasks/money chores that were assigned to you).
Strategy #2: Rethink Your Money Meetings
I like to call money meetings between partners Money Dates (or if I’m particularly cheeky Money Quickies).
That’s because any time you can get alone with your partner should be kind of enjoyable, right? If you look at your weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly money meetings as Money Dates, the process suddenly seems way less intimidating.
And, dare I say, fun?
There are several ways to make your Money Dates an awesome excuse to engage with your partner.
- Pairing Money Date Night with engaging foods that get the two of your closer – such as fondue, or nights when your meal-prep service is delivered so the two of you can cook together.
- Keeping things light by showing a money movie afterward (also, a great way to spark conversations about money you otherwise might not have). Movies like Money Pit, Wall Street, and Confessions of a Shopaholic are good options.
- Spending part of the Money Date allowing each other to daydream about how you’d like to spend money in the future.
- Holding at least one annual financial planning Money Date per year. I like to call these the State of Your Financial Union, and I’ve got a free marriage financial planning worksheet to set your entire date up.
Look for opportunities to take the stress out of talking about money with your spouse, and you’ll get one step closer to being on the same page about it.
Strategy #3: Get to Know Your Partner’s Money Values
You’ll save yourself a lot of trouble trying to figure out why on earth your partner did X with your money if you simply ask them – while both of you are not locked in a money battle – what their money values are.
My personal definition of Money Values is “the rules and guiding lights you use to maximize your money so that it can support the life you want to live.”
And they mean everything when it comes to how we perceive money, how we want to spend money, how much money we want to save, etc.
For example, one of my core money values is security. I see money and security as almost the same thing. My husband, on the other hand, equates money more on the convenience/freedom side of the Money Value spectrum. Meaning, he is okay with spending it more frequently to upgrade his personal life or our family life.
Do you see how these two Money Values can not only cause arguments but also explain why I am a saver, and my husband is more on the spender side of things?
Yet, when we talked about our Money Values and understood where each of us was coming from, it changed everything. Suddenly, I knew that my husband wasn’t just spending our money frivolously, but rather that he was trying to make our lives easier in some way. And he could then understand my need to hoard money as a way to protect our family from future financial upsets.
We both respect one another more now.
So, I want you to take one of your Money Dates just to explore what each of your Money Values is. Get to know each other in a different way – and see if you can’t understand your partner’s money behaviors better afterward.
Getting on the same money page with your spouse is a worthy goal – one that’s going to take some time. Just implement one of these strategies from above, see the difference it makes in your couple’s money management, and then move onto a different one. The progress you can make in just a few short months is well worth the effort it’s going to take upfront to alter your course.
Amanda L. Grossman is a Certified Financial Education Instructor at Frugal Confessions, where she helps Chief Family Officers (CFOs) control their finances so that they can save money to live their life by design. She’s a featured blogger at the Houston Chronicle, and winner of a 2017 Plutus Foundation grant to create the Mt. Everest Money Simulation: A Kid’s Money Educational Adventure.