How to Fight About Money So You Both Win [13 Tips]

Written by mwealthgroup
Published on October 31, 2023

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You've come a long way together - from meeting for the first time, your first date, getting married, experiencing the ups and downs of life, and maybe even your first (or fifteenth!) wedding anniversary.

Many chapters of your relationship have involved life challenges, but there's one hurdle that can trip up even the strongest bonds: money talks.

Rather than approaching finances as an issue to fight over, view it as an opportunity to fight for each other. We're here to guide you through navigating these difficult but essential conversations together. So, let’s get into our 13 tips for how spouses can mutually discuss money matters, address concerns, and align on financial decisions.

The key is not to fight against each other but rather fight for understanding and compromise. With open communication, honesty, and commitment to your shared financial future, you can tackle any money talk.

The top tips for talking about money include:

1. Schedule time on a regular basis to discuss


scheduling a time to talk about finances as a couple

Discussing finances is like having a regular fitness routine. You wouldn't expect to get in shape by hitting the gym once a year, and talking about money is no different.

Getting comfortable with talking about money (and not fighting about it) requires consistent effort.

By dedicating time each week or month to talking about your finances, you're making sure that it’s a conversation that becomes more comfortable each time. 

So, pencil in a weekly money chat with your partner. It could be as casual as a coffee date or as formal as a sit-down session. The aim is NOT to make it a chore but to incorporate it into your regular routine.

After all, consistency is key in all that you do!

Have an honest and open money conversation...

Need more tips on how to do this? Here's what the financial gurus have to say:

2. Set ground rules for financial discussions


  1. Make sure you mutually recognize the importance of these discussions for your marriage’s health.
  2. Pick a distraction-free, comfy location for these conversations.
  3. Choose stress-free days or times like a Sunday brunch or quiet evening.
  4. Use soft music or snacks to create a comfortable, laid-back atmosphere.
  5. Choose a regular interval, be it weekly or monthly, and stick to it!
  6. Start on a positive note and end the conversation with actionable next steps.

*Start small and short! Don’t start your talk with what’s wrong and causing issues between you both. Your first talk can even just be 5-10 minutes long. If you sense yourselves reverting to old ways, pause and come back to the talk the next day or week. 

With each talk, you’ll get further into the “meat and potatoes” of your money conversation, so to speak.

3. Start by talking about your money history


talking about your money history together

First, take a step back and examine your “money roots” to gain a deeper understanding of each other and how you grew up around money. Childhood experiences play a huge role in how you handle money as an adult. 

Your partner's history can offer useful insights into their spending and saving habits. In a way, it’s why you both do what you do when it comes to money. 

Questions to Ask Each Other:

  • What's your earliest money-related memory?
  • How did your parents handle finances? How has that influenced you?
  • Did you feel like there was always enough money, or did it often feel scarce? 
  • Can you remember when money was a cause of stress in your house? Celebration?

Note: Remember, this isn't a “blame game.” It's about understanding each other's journey with money.

4. Next, determine your “money personality”


We all have different personalities and approaches when it comes to our finances.

Did you know most of us fit into one of five money personality categories?

Understanding where you and your partner fit can be a game-changer. 

Discovering your money personality

Here are five distinct "money personality" categories:

  • Saver/Hoarder: If you're a Saver, you probably have an idea of where every nickel and dime you spend goes. Savers often are “spreadsheet” people and categorize their spending. Your cautious approach is admirable, as you often prioritize future needs over current wants. However, sometimes, it might mean missing out on some much-needed R&R or life's fun moments with your spouse or friends.
  • Spender: Spenders tend to love the adrenaline rush of making a purchase. Living in the moment, they often surround themselves with luxury. However, this can sometimes lead them down a path of financial strain.
  • Avoider: The ostriches of the financial world. If bills and bank statements give you the heebie-jeebies, you might be an Avoider. You tend to steer clear of financial talks and addressing bills.
  • Money Monk: If you’re a Money Monk, you tend to believe in the higher powers and often feel money can muddy the waters of spirituality. Your admirable value system sometimes comes at the cost of financial wellness, as they might forgo opportunities for wealth.
  • Amasser: If making money gives you a sense of purpose, you're probably an Amasser. Your net worth is intrinsically tied to your self-worth. 

Which money personality resonates with you? There's no right or wrong answer!

5. Self-reflect alone and with each other


First, give yourself time for self-reflection once you determine your money personality and money history. 

Ask yourself questions like:

  • Why do you feel that rush when you shop?
  • What fuels your urge to save relentlessly?
  • Why do bills make you want to shove them in a draw?
  • How is my money history impacting my approach to money presently?

Understanding how you personally relate to money can offer valuable insights into those little habits and decisions you make daily. 

Then, take time to share these insights with your spouse. When you share openly and vulnerably, it creates more understanding, respect, and open dialogues about money. 

reflecting about money in marriage

6. Create your own “money philosophy”


Now that you know your money personality, money history, and have taken time to share with your partner, take time to come together and plan out your relationship “money philosophy”.

Rather than trying to change each other, aim to celebrate and leverage these unique strengths.

Don't try to convert

The goal is not to convert your spouse into being like you in your approach to money. It’s about finding common ground.

Work together to figure out your strengths when it comes to money and how you can use those to complement each other in your marriage.

Building a shared philosophy 

  • Discuss your individual values around money. What does financial security mean to each of you? How do you think money should be spent or saved? Aligning on core values is key.
  • Write out your individual and shared finance goals - that European vacation or buying a home together.
  • Design a Budget: Make sure you both have a say in it, and there is a section allocated for debts (loans, credit cards, etc) as well as “set asides” (savings account to act as an emergency fund for unforeseen circumstances). Decide on "fun money" allowances. Having discretionary spending prevents feelings of restriction.
  • Determine your risk tolerance. Are you more of a risk-taker or more risk-averse? Finding the right balance can prevent future conflicts.
  • Be flexible and willing to compromise. Blend your money styles into something new. Meet in the middle rather than rigidly sticking to "yours" or "mine."

The magic lies in blending your distinct financial approaches into a cohesive money philosophy, providing harmony and shared joy in your financial journey. It's important to set and achieve mutual financial goals. This shift will reinforce the idea of fighting for a common cause rather than against each other.

7. Use the ABCs of money communication


Simple as ABC, right? When discussing finances try using this “formula” to communicate when something bothers you about how your spouse approached a situation:

A → B → C → = Success

A: Mention specific situations

B: Talk about actions that occurred

C: Share feelings without blame

  1. In (specific situation) → B. When you do this → C. It makes me feel

    Example: 
  2. When you’re out shopping
  3. And you apply for a store credit card
  4. It makes me feel unimportant that you didn’t include me in something that impacts our family’s finances

OR

  1. When you’re handling our monthly budget
  2. And you ask me about every single transaction
  3. It makes me feel like a child whose mother has to check on everything he does

*Pro Tip: When talking about money, some couples find it helpful to hold hands during the conversation. By physically connecting, this can be a powerful reminder that you're in this together, even if it’s a tense topic to talk about. Holding hands can help defuse tension and allow the conversation to flow with more connection.

It's important to continuously learn about each other's financial perspectives and evolve together.

8. Avoid defensiveness


Let’s face it: discussing money makes most people feel vulnerable and uncomfortable. 

As you sit down for money discussions, set aside any defensiveness. Try to approach each conversation with the aim of deepening your connection rather than 'winning' an argument. 

When you go in with the goal of listening and understanding, you leave yourself open to more productive, loving discussions.

9. Don’t undermine


Respect is an important part of marriage. Remember that you’re a team and in this in the long haul together!

  • Public Respect: Never undermine your partner, especially not in public or in front of the kids. When you do this, it decreases trust and creates a poor model for children.
  • Send a Text Instead: If the conversation turns into a fight or too charged, consider texting as a pause button to gather your thoughts. You can say something like, “I need a minute to collect my thoughts alone right now.” Then, come back to the discussion later.
  • Vent Wisely: Everyone needs to let off steam occasionally. If you need a breather, step away, but avoid negative conversations about your partner with friends and family.

Remember: In every money conversation, respect for each other is of the greatest importance.

10. Steer clear of criticism


Criticizing your partner during a disagreement often leads to defensiveness and prevents open communication. Instead of blaming your partner or pointing out their flaws, focus on the issue at hand. Stick to talking about your own feelings and perspectives rather than making generalizations about your partner's character or intentions.

Avoid using absolute language like "you always" or "you never" when describing your partner's behavior.

Talk to your spouse with the kindness and understanding you'd wish for yourself.

11. Assume less, ask instead


talking about marriage and money with spouse

Let's face it: You can’t read each other’s minds. 

So, when it comes to understanding your partner's perspectives, don’t just ass-u-me. Assuming your partner's perspectives or motivations often leads to misunderstandings. Instead, adopt a curious mindset by asking open-ended questions. "How do you feel about this budget?" or "What concerns you about our savings?" 

Give your partner space to share without interruption. Listen to understand, not to respond. Avoid jumping to conclusions. Asking, not assuming, strengthens joint understanding.

12. Own your actions and words


In every relationship, there's one truth that stands tall: We're all human, and humans make mistakes. 

Harsh words get spoken, and money gets misspent. What matters most is taking responsibility. Don't justify or downplay mistakes. Own up to them fully, then commit to learning from them. 

A sincere apology followed by changed behavior improves trust and respect. 

Of all our human flaws, refusing to acknowledge our errors erodes relationships the most. Take responsibility, then move forward with humility.

13. Seek external guidance when needed


talking to a therapist about finances

If financial talks repeatedly falter, consider involving a third party. 

  • A financial advisor can illuminate blindspots in your money management. 
  • A counselor can teach communication techniques and give you a space to practice these with the guidance of a totally objective outsider perspective. 

It’s not a weakness to need help. In fact, it takes courage and strength. Think of it as adding skills to better weather financial stresses together. 

Why do couples fight about money? (with strategies)

Living Paycheck to Paycheck

When every dollar is accounted for, financial worries can put even the strongest relationships on edge. Insufficient income paired with mounting expenses is stressful.

Action Plan:

  • Prioritize essentials like housing, utilities, and food. Temporarily reduce spending on wants until income increases.
  • Start a “set aside” fund; even small deposits help. Having some savings prevents desperation when surprise costs arise.
  • Explore ways to earn extra income. Can you monetize a hobby or pick up a freelance gig? Brainstorm options together.

Spending Habits/Shopping Addictions

One partner's excessive spending can cause the other to feel like they must control the finances, causing resentment in the relationship. 

Action Plan:

  • Create a joint budget that allows for personal spending allowances.
  • Discuss and set a limit on individual purchases before consulting the other.
  • Consider seeking financial counseling if spending habits lead to significant strain.

Poor Money Management Skills 

Without financial literacy, budgets and plans may falter. Confusion over handling savings, investments, and expenses can overwhelm and cause disputes between you two.

Action Plan:

  • Enroll together in a financial course. You can start with our financial literacy courses here.
  • Use a budgeting app or software to track and manage finances.
  • Schedule bi-weekly or monthly reviews of finances to discuss spending, savings, and any concerns.
  • Decide on the roles and responsibilities for managing money.

Debt 

Debt casts a shadow, impacting emotions and finances. Shame over debt can cause arguments rather than motivation.

Action Plan:

  • List all debts and interest rates. Rank by highest interest rate.
  • Devise a repayment plan, allocating a fixed percentage of income towards the highest interest debt first.
  • Celebrate small milestones like a lowered monthly payment. Mark progress to stay motivated.

Lack of Trust

Past money issues can undermine faith in a spouse’s judgment and transparency. Restoring trust requires proving reliability over time.

Action Plan:

  • Institute regular, non-judgmental check-ins on finances - transparency rebuilds trust.
  • Maintain a shared document or use a free tool detailing income, assets, and debts - visibility prevents surprises.
  • Agree on ground rules regarding financial openness and honesty. Honor them.
  • If patterns of secrecy persist, seek out counseling to uncover difficulties and establish trust.

Salary Inequality and Guilt

When incomes are unequal, negative emotions can emerge - shame, resentment, and anger. Fights arise over who earns more, especially if roles are reversed.

Action Plan:

  • Openly discuss feelings about income gaps. Airing concerns prevents silent simmering.
  • Frame finances as "our money" vs "yours" and "mine."
  • Divide financial responsibilities based on income but maintain joint decision-making.

Conclusion

When you talk openly and regularly about finances, this strengthens your marriage.

Having financial fights and discussions, even when challenging, are opportunities to grow closer and strengthen the marital bond through mutual understanding, teamwork, and fighting for each other.

Understand your money histories and personalities. Communicate with respect, and avoid criticism and assumptions. Take responsibility for mistakes. Seek professional guidance if needed, as finances impact relationships profoundly. With understanding and teamwork, money talks can draw couples closer rather than drive them apart.

Remember, it's not just about dollars and cents. It's about dreams, aspirations, and continuing to build a life together.

Cheers to love and financial harmony!

Talk to our team!

Navigating joint finances is complex, but you don't have to figure it out alone. The financial experts at M Wealth Group created an invaluable guide to financial unity in relationships. Buy the book now and connect with M Wealth Group for personalized guidance. 

We offer specialized services to help guide couples and families towards financial unity and success. Our offerings include customized assistance with goals like retirement planning, life insurance coverage, estate planning, and more. We can also help you learn how to "Be Your Own Bank" empowering you to take control of your finances and build wealth together.

Let's harmonize love and money in your life! Reach out to Martin & Chelsea Matthews and start strengthening your financial house today.

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