Why Couples Fight About Money

Updated on November 11, 2017
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Sadie Holloway enjoys discovering simple ways to stay organized and manage her time better at home, at work, and out in the community.

Plus tips on what you can do to improve your relationship with money.

Here’s some surprising information about why couples fight about money. And if your spending habits are one of the reasons you and your spouse are arguing about money, these tips to help curb your impulse to buy, buy, buy might help.

What do you do when one of you wants to break the piggy bank and the other one wants to save every last penny? To find answers to your marital money problems, learn more about why most couples fight about money to begin with.
What do you do when one of you wants to break the piggy bank and the other one wants to save every last penny? To find answers to your marital money problems, learn more about why most couples fight about money to begin with.

About 70% of married couples surveyed about their personal finances admit that they argue about money. But the nature of their arguments about money and how it impacts their relationships was somewhat surprising. For example, according to a recent article on money and love, when it comes to keeping track of the bottom line, 60% of husbands and wives reported that they check their bank balances more often than they have sex. Yikes! That doesn’t sound like fun!

And what do couples argue about when they fight about money? According to researchers, here are the four main causes of fights about finances1:

  1. Spending: 55%
  2. Saving: 37%
  3. Lying about money, deception: 27%
  4. Feeling excluded from major financial decisions: 11%

I can’t argue with points 3 and 4. I think that leaving each other out of the loop on money matters that could affect a couple’s financial stability can have a negative effect on the relationship. If you don’t think that your partner is important enough to include in big financial decisions, what else are you willing to keep from your significant other? Making financial decisions together empowers each person in the marriage. Being totally upfront and honest about money is not always easy, but if couples want to make their marriages work, getting comfortable talking about money is a must!

Do you go on shopping sprees without telling your significant other?

One of the reasons many couples fight about money is that they don't have open, honest conversations about the things they want and buy. If you are being secretive about your shopping habits, ask yourself why.
One of the reasons many couples fight about money is that they don't have open, honest conversations about the things they want and buy. If you are being secretive about your shopping habits, ask yourself why.

If it turns out that one of the reasons you and your partner fight about money is because he thinks you spend too much on stuff you don't need, you can take action to start curbing your impulsive shopping habits. Here are several tips to help you get your spending back on track.

1. Don’t leave home without a list. Create a list of items you are looking for before going to the store. Even if there is only one item on your list, write it down. That will be your reminder that you went to the store to buy ONE item, not twenty-five items.

2. Stay home and shop online. For some people, shopping online can lead to impulsive purchases, especially if they’re tired, cranky, and/or not sober. (Shopping online while drunk is never a good idea.) But if you are mentally alert, shopping online can be a great way to avoid impulsive purchases because you can do so much more research ahead of time before you buy something. It’s easy to set a maximum amount of money you are willing to pay for something and then organize your search parameters around those limits. You can bookmark items or add them to ‘save-for-later’ online lists so that you can come back to the item later after you have ‘slept on it’. When you shop online, it's also easier to discuss major purchases with your partner ahead of time and have a meaningful conversation about the value the purchase will bring to your lives together. Bookmarking items, comparing prices and reading reviews together allows you to be open and transparent with one another about what you are buying. Remember points three and four above? Couples often fight about money when they aren't open and honest about what they are purchasing.

3. Don’t settle for less. Let’s say you diligently research the items you want to buy ahead of time, write out a firm shopping list, and head to the store determined to buy only the things on your list. Sounds great in theory. But what if you get to the store and the thing you want is sold out or temporarily out of stock? Should you buy another item of lesser quality in order to fill the need that brought you to the store in the first place? You could, but in reality, doing so is just another form of impulse shopping. Sometimes it’s OK to come home from the store without buying anything.

4. Calculate your return on investment. Before you buy something, whether it be a pricey piece of jewellry, a designer coat or a new pair of shoes, do an honest assessment of how often you plan on using that thing that you want to buy. For example, buying a high-quality but more expensive winter coat that you will use for several long winter seasons is probably a better investment that buying a designer bikini that you will wear for a few days on a tropical vacation every five years. Likewise, buying a pair of diamond earrings that you'l only wear on special occasions because you don't want to lose it doesn't add up. (You have insurance to protect yourself from loss and theft, don't you?).

5. Connect your spending habits to something bigger than just you and your wants and needs. One of the best ways to stop spending money on things you don't need and in the process sparking disagreements with your spouse is to look at the impact your spending has on other people around the world. Unbridled consumerism in the first world can lead to poverty, exploitation. and environmental degradation in the third world. Instead of spending time shopping, spend time educating yourself and your spouse about how the two of you can work together to make the world a better place for everyone. Focus on spending money on shared experiences and adventures that don't produce waste. Volunteer together at a local food bank and appreciate the privilege you have of being able to give to others. Join a beach clean-up program and spend time outdoors together removing waste and trash from local shorelines.

Making time to sit down with your spouse to talk about your finances is one of the most important things you can do to improve your marriage. After all, when you can talk about a taboo subject such as money with someone, you can talk about anything!
Making time to sit down with your spouse to talk about your finances is one of the most important things you can do to improve your marriage. After all, when you can talk about a taboo subject such as money with someone, you can talk about anything!

Solving problems in partnership with the one you love is much more rewarding than spending money on stuff that just causes a build-up of clutter and resentment.

Footnotes:

1. These statistics were compiled by Money magazine (June 2014) and also featured in MoneySense magazine.

© 2017 Sadie Holloway

Comments

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  • Liztalton profile image

    Liztalton 

    13 months ago from Washington

    Fighting about money matters is all too common these days. My husband likes to spend and I like to save every penny we can. Sometimes it does cause conflict because we're so different. I imagine a lot of other couples have the same exact problem, they are just different people in how they spend and save. Great hub!

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