Marriage and Money: How to Avoid Fighting About Finances
I’m fairly certain that marital strife entered the picture right around the time the practice of bartering was replaced with the use of paper money. When we bartered, we all had the same power. As long as you had a skill or could make something, you could trade your skill or homemade items for what you needed to be happy.
Paper money, however, created an unfair playing field. People who worked in offices ended up with more power than people who worked in homes. Work is work, but today some types of work generate more paper money than others—and this can strain a marital relationship.
For instance, years ago, my husband and I used to get into power struggles over what was allowed to go on the bathroom counter. It took me a long time to trace the origin of those struggles to my role as the family breadwinner.
I had an unequal amount of the financial power, so it caused my husband to attempt to find power in other ways. Was it dysfunctional? Of course it was. But we’ve since gotten past it, and we did it by equalizing the wealth. As it turned out, the solution was quite simple.
3 Ways to Eliminate Fighting About Money
- We agree on big financial goals for the year. For instance, this year, one of our goals was to send me to Italy. Next year one will be to send my husband on a ski trip. We plan these big expenditures out ahead of time and we take turns benefiting from them.
- We split the family budget into four categories: what absolutely has to get paid (the mortgage, the utility bill, etc), what we will save (what goes into the 401K, for instance), what we really need as soon as we have the money to buy it (a new mattress for our daughter) and what would be nice, but really isn’t necessary. Again, we take turns benefiting from the last category, and we make an attempt to use that money on items that benefit the entire family.
- We have discretionary spending accounts. I have $50 each week to spend as I see fit. So does my husband. I don’t tell him how to spend his $50 and he doesn’t tell me how to spend mine. The amount of this discretionary account has gone up and down with my income, but the equality of it does not change. My husband’s share is always equal to mine. If we want, we can decide to pool our discretionary dollars and have a nice dinner out. If not, I might use mine to pay for a pedi and he might use his to buy a new shirt.
These three techniques have eliminated fights about money in our house. Maybe they will work for you, too.
Alisa Bowman is the author of the book Project: Happily Ever After, which tells the story of how she went from wishing her husband dead to falling back in love. She is also the creator of ProjectHappilyEverAfter.com, voted one of the Top 10 Marriage Blogs of 2009 and 2010. To find out how to enter to win a Kindle, a romantic getaway, and more, check out The Fabulous PHEA Giveaway. Connect with Alisa on Twitter @AlisaBowman and on FaceBook Alisa Bowman Writes.
Do you each have your own discretionary spending accounts? If so, how has it worked out? Where do you spend your money?