Reconciling Money Differences with Your Significant Other

My husband and I have different priorities when it comes to spending money. I enjoy travel and experiences. He prefers at-home entertainment and collecting high-quality action figures. Sometimes, when my husband looks at my spending choices, he becomes frustrated because it means that he can’t buy the latest to-scale figure from a movie. I occasionally look at his stack of Funko Pop figures and convert them into a trip to Europe.

Reconciling differences with your significant other, whether it’s about what to invest in, how to set up a budget, or where discretionary income should go, can be difficult. Money is a subject that comes with emotional baggage, and reconciling differences with your significant other requires calm and a willingness to compromise. Considering that couples who spent $20k or more on their wedding are 1.6 times more likely to divorce than couples who spent between $5-10k, it’s clearly important to acknowledge the role money plays in a happy marriage.

Start with Shared Values

Before you jump into differences, start with your shared values. My husband and I both want to build a good-sized nest egg. We also want to help our son with college and give to charity. Both of us enjoy eating out at nice restaurants and going to the movies. These are the items we start with when discussing money. We make it a point to base our discussions on our shared values, to remind ourselves that we love each other, and that our ultimate aims are the same.

We make it a point to spend money jointly on things we enjoy together, such as trying new restaurants and taking our son to the movies. We also like to buy TV series to watch at home together and attending sporting events. These are shared activities that we can base more of our spending on.

Recognize Your Spending Preferences aren’t Superior

Look at spending preferences from your partner’s point of view. If you start in a position that your priorities are superior to your significant other’s, you are already off to a bad start. Instead, try to understand why your partner has particular spending preferences. I used to think that my choices were “better” because they revolve around enriching experiences and buying lots of ebooks.

Once I considered my husband’s point of view, things changed a little bit. He saw my interest in travel as baffling because the experiences are fleeting. I spend the money, and come away with nothing tangible. His collectibles, on the other hand, are tangible items that he can look at whenever he wants, and that he can touch. He sees more value in that. Plus, if he had to, he could re-sell some of his items. Even at a loss, some of the money is recovered. That doesn’t happen with travel.

Realize that different spending preferences aren’t superior; they are just different. When you and your significant other both acknowledge the value in the way the other person spends money, you can build a stronger foundation, and be more willing to compromise and make sure your partner gets to enjoy his or her preferences.

Set Aside Discretionary Income for Each of You

As soon as your shared values are budgeted for, set aside an amount of discretionary income that each of you can use. My tendency is to save up my own portion so that I can go on a trip. My husband tends to spend his almost immediately. But that doesn’t matter, because that money is meant to be used on what we like best. We fund our shared values, and then, with what’s left over, we divide it up so that we can spend on what we want. That money is “judgment free” as far as the other person is concerned.

In some cases, you might need to meet half way. If one of you wants to put all of your extra income toward retirement, and the other wants to pay down debt, you may need to compromise and put some toward debt and some toward retirement. Remember that you both have a stake in the family finances, and that you need to find a way to allow you both to use your money in ways that fit with your needs and desires.

By Miranda Marquit, Contributor

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