With money being cited as the leading cause of stress in a marriage, it’s becoming more important for couples to find ways to improve their communication around their finances.
When I sit down with couples in a coaching session, we often look at what causes arguments, and some ways to prevent them. Here are 5 easy systems I often use to help improve communication and prevent money fights.
1. Budget Personal Pocket Money
Pocket money is the number one thing I encourage married couples to have. This is not an allowance, but an agreement that each of you has some money that you can spend as you see fit.
For example, if you decide that each of you has $100 a month of pocket money, you can spend that on anything you choose to (within the marital boundaries, of course). That means if a package shows up on the doorstep from Amazon, your spouse is not asking, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, how much did that cost? Where did that come from? We didn't budget for this, what are you doing?"
You both agreed $100 is yours to spend how you like, and you chose to spend it on something from Amazon.
2. Set Milestones
If you have a lot of debt, it can be… well, overwhelming. It’s important to set some milestones together keep the energy alive.
Go through your debt snowball and mark some “checkpoints.” I recommend starting small and then making them bigger as you go.
Maybe the first milestone is set for after you pay off your first debt, and you decide to celebrate by going out to a nice dinner. Then your next milestone is set for after you pay off $10,000 in debt, and you decide to go on a weekend trip.
Talk about what those milestones look like now so that you have something you're working toward and a common goal together.
3. Define Restaurants and Entertainment
Decide what falls under the categories of restaurants and entertainment. When does something go under pocket money, and when would it go under restaurants or entertainment?
I personally recommend if you are together, it comes out of the restaurant or entertainment fund. If you're not together, it comes out of your pocket money. If you go out to dinner as a family or as a couple, it goes out of your restaurant budget. If you go out for lunch on your lunch break at work by yourself, that's where it would come out of pocket money.
Too often one spouse burns through a restaurants fund by going out to lunch at work, and the other spouse gets angry. Putting this system into place can prevent a lot of those arguments moving forward.
4. Split Cash Envelopes
This is one of the most common questions I get when it comes to cash envelopes:
"We're using cash envelopes, but I do most of the shopping. However, sometimes my husband stops on his way home from work for milk, but doesn’t have the envelope. What do we do?"
The answer? Split them up.
Let’s say you budget $500 a month for groceries. If one of you does the majority of the grocery shopping, take one envelope and put $400 in that envelope. Then put the other $100 in a different envelope and give that to the other spouse. That way they have money with them and can stop at the store if they need to, but the person doing the bulk of the shopping has the bulk of the money.
5. Create Visual Aids
Finally, I recommend creating visual aids. Create a vision board, a Pinterest board, or write a list that outlines your whys.
My wife and I had a Pinterest board titled “Debt Free” full of things we wanted when we paid off debt. When I wanted a garden hose, instead of going out and buying it, I tossed it into the Debt Free Board. We had a puppy who ate holes into our bed comforter. We really wanted a new comforter. We added it to the Debt Free Pinterest Board. We just kept adding things as we wanted them. Anytime we saw something that didn’t make sense to buy right away, we added it to the board.
Find a visual aid that you both can look at together. If you have a list, hang it somewhere where you'll see it. Visit it and discuss it regularly so you always have your eyes on the prize.
Feeling like money is putting a wedge between you and your spouse? I specialize in helping couples get on the same page with their money so they can finally put a stop to money fights. Email me at email@example.com to schedule a free consultation.