The idea that opposites attract may work in a romantic comedy, but when it comes to marriage and money management, opposing opinions can lead to serious conflict. A 2010 study by American Express found that 30 percent of couples cited finances as the greatest cause of stress in their relationship, and another study out of Utah State University found that couples are 30 percent more likely to divorce if they disagree about finances at least once a week. So, if hubby likes to spend and you like to save (or vice-versa), what can you do to stop fighting about money?
Talk about money, preferably before you get married. Sure, conversation about credit card debt, spending habits and savings goals isn’t exactly romantic, but not having these conversations will come back to haunt you. The AmEx study found that only 43 percent of couples talk about their financial situation before they walk down the aisle.
If one of you is coming into the marriage with a lot of debt, make sure you both agree on a strategy to pay down that debt in the years to come. Which will be more important—getting that paid off or buying your first home? Do you agree on the amount you'll put toward the debt each month? If one of you receives regular payments from an annuity or structured settlement, you may be able to sell your future payments to a company that buys annuities for a lump sum of cash that you can use to pay down your debt.
When it comes to managing household finances, neither you nor your spouse should feel excluded. Exclusion leads to resentment. Resentment leads to hostility. And the next thing you know you’re in the midst of a fight. Budgeting software is not only a good way to manage your finances, but it also keeps those finances transparent. These programs and tools keep tabs on your spending habits and savings goals and automatically update with your checking, savings and credit card accounts.
Believe it or not, spendthrift and tightwad are academic terms used to describe people’s relationship with money. Needless to say, don't resort to name calling, no matter how psychologically astute it might be. More importantly, if you understand that you and your spouse are coming from opposite ends of the money spectrum, then you will have a better chance of meeting somewhere in the middle.
One of the easiest ways to avoid bickering and nitpicking over finances is for each spouse to have his and her own spending money. Let's call it an allowance. This way, if he wants to go golfing at an absurdly expensive (in her opinion) country club, it won’t be cause for an argument. The same holds true if she wants to go shopping for clothes she doesn't really need (in his opinion), but really, really wants. People spend money differently and on different things. Once you and your spouse accept this, there’s no reason to climb into the ring for another round of money fights.