My husband works in sales, and when he gets a commission check, I’m halfway to the mall before it even hits our account. But while my first response is to go shopping, the only -ing he’s thinking about is saving. We have yet to get into a physical tug-of-war over the check, but honestly, we’ve come close. Understandably, having opposing money philosophies is common in relationships; I’m thinking my situation’s sounding awfully familiar to all kinds of ladies out there.
To get tips on how to prevent differing spending habits from causing discord with your guy, I consulted dating coach Lori Gorshow and financial expert J.D. Roth of the personal finance blog Get Rich Slowly. If you find yourself in my situation, here’s how to cope …
Acknowledge your differences
Don’t go into a conversation about money without accepting that you and your partner have different approaches. Though you may be hell-bent on saving for an emergency, you don’t want your partner dialing 911 because he’s feeling smothered by your doing so. Money represents different things to different people, and regardless of whether you share your partner’s feelings about it, it’s still important to recognize why the need to either spend or save is so important to him, says Gorshow. Sometimes, simply showing respect for each other’s feelings is enough to fend off a fight.
Remember that your differences suggest different strengths
Some people hate looking at the big picture. They don’t care about retirement savings or interest rates, and instead, want a trip to Hawaii. Now, other folks like a nitty-gritty bargain hunt—clipping coupons, looking for sales and the like. “Let you and your partner be in charge of the stuff each of you is good at,” says Roth. By being in charge of your respective areas of expertise, you’ll both feel like valuable contributors to the relationship’s financial efforts.
Find middle ground
Roth stresses that it is important for both partners to feel involved in the household finances. “Many financial problems arise because one partner feels like he or she has no control,” he says. While it’s reasonable to agree on ground rules such as a maximum amount that a partner can spend without talking to the other one, it isn’t reasonable to forbid your partner ever to spend money on his Harley. This will only breed resentment, which can be toxic to your union, he cautions.
Put your shared financial goals first
You’ll always have some personal goals that don’t align with those of your partner, says Roth. “While this is normal, it’s important to make shared goals your priority,” he recommends. You might make it through the workday knowing that each paycheck gets you closer to that pair of skinny jeans you’ve been coveting, but it’s important to make sure the rent is paid before you even try them on. At the same time, remember you don’t have to sacrifice your spending personality to achieve shared financial success—you just have to reprioritize it. “Harmony happens when a couple is willing to put their shared goals ahead of their individual goals,” says Gorshow.
Know when to seek help
“In a worst-case scenario, it’s possible that a spending partner can lead a relationship to financial ruin. Nobody likes to think about this, but it happens all the time,” says Roth. To avoid going the way of Reese and Jake, stay informed about your shared finances and be open to seeking the advice of a relationship counselor or financial advisor if you can’t reconcile your spending differences.
Original by Colleen Meeks