Stop the money fight

Money is a hot button in many relationships. Here are 8 tips to avoid clashes over cash.

Still fighting about money? You’re not alone – money is one of the hot buttons in many relationships. Here are 8 tips for talking cash – without getting into bashing.

1. Set the date
Don’t talk about money ‘on the fly’ – one person may be distracted or having a bad day, which can lead to communication breakdown. At the same time, failing to talk about money can not only lead to arguments about financial surprises, but also to financial issues. So treat your “family corporation” seriously and set a date and time to sit down and go over things. Some couples make this a monthly take-out date and sit over spreadsheets or in front of a laptop with a glass of wine.

2. Do your homework
It’s hard to talk without clear information. Designate one person to provide the information about the month’s cash flow and any changes in family spending. Make sure each of you takes a few moments – maybe at the beginning of your money talk – to jot down a list of any unplanned expenses, expenses coming up, changes in income or payments, concerns, and of course goals and dreams.

3. Go one at a time, and repeat back
If your money discussion is going well, it’s probably not necessary to be too formal about it. But if you and your partner are deadlocked on some financial issues, it is very important to structure your discussion so that each person spends time listening, ensuring that they have understood, and being heard. Try going through one person’s list first. The designated listener should occasionally repeat back what she or he has heard, to be sure that there are no misunderstandings – but not to argue. Then that person reads his or her list, before any back-and-forth discussion takes place.

4. Consider the real issue
Money represents different things at different times – freedom, security, power, and love. If you find a discussion is becoming heated, ask your partner what their goal is – is it to save more or pay down debt to be secure? Is it a sudden need to spend money in order to feel more connected to a hobby? Likely most of the conflict comes from competing views on what the money represents.

5. Focus on your partner’s strengths
This can be a hard thing to do if you’re aware that the house insurance is coming due, the air conditioner may need to be replaced, and your partner wants to put a deposit down on an extra vacation rental for the summer. But each financial style has benefits – in the hypothetical case above, prioritizing rest and relaxation can be a real asset in a marriage over the long haul. It’s just fine to acknowledge those strengths, even if you ultimately don’t want to save or spend the money in that way. Express your appreciation of your partner’s approach before you explain why whatever he or she wants to do is really a bad idea.