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How to talk to your spouse about your budget

December 01, 2016

Discussing finances with your spouse can be a difficult conversation. You share everything with your significant other, but talking about money becomes uncomfortable. Sometimes, the discussion ends with feelings being hurt, even when you begin with good intentions. While you might be tempted to avoid budget conversations altogether, for the health of your finances and your marriage, it’s important to talk openly and regularly about your spending. See below tips for starting the discussion without arguments and emotional collateral:

Schedule a monthly budget review.

Taking your spouse off guard with, “Hey honey, I think we should talk about our budget” immediately leaves your significant other feeling attacked and defensive. It implies that your spouse created the budget problem. Instead of  waiting until there’s a major issue to talk about your budget, or bringing your budget up unexpectedly, plan a monthly budget review with your spouse. It can be as simple as spending 15 minutes looking at last month’s expenses or upcoming costs. Also, you can set aside a more involved time creating a budget or evaluating your overall spending habits. Having a designated time to go over your spending together keeps you each accountable and ensures that you’re both on the same page.

Don’t get hung up on bills.

Instead of focusing on bills, center the conversation around goals you and your spouse want to reach. Whether you’d like to save for a dream vacation, buy a house, or pay off student loans, talk with your spouse about financial objectives and how your spending habits will impact them. Focusing on goals reframes the conversation from how little you have to how you can make the most out of it. Talking about goals will necessarily involve talking about bills since you’ll likely have to adjust specific areas of your spending to reach your shared goals, but with a more forward-thinking perspective.

Consider a third party.

If your money discussions don’t really get you anywhere except in arguments, you might want to involve a third party to help moderate and advise. Financial planners remain an excellent resources for money management expertise. A third party could also be a financial workbook or class. Working through a financial book together, such as a Dave Ramsey study, or attending a financial planning workshop get the conversation started and leave you with practical steps for going forward when you and your spouse spend money.

Be understanding.

Money tops the list of sensitive topics. Understanding allows you to openly evaluate your budget and reach financial goals. Don’t attack your spouse for spending money or using money in a way you disapprove. Instead, be patient and empathetic. Try to understand your spouse’s perspective, and remember that their views on money and spending might be different than yours. Good budgets work for you by realistically managing money. Therefore, you should listen to your spouses thoughts on how to move forward before demanding changes. Remember: you’re in this together.

Evaluate your own spending.

It’s far easier to nitpick the flaws in someone else’s spending than acknowledge your own mistakes. If you see issues in how your spouse spends money, you may find spending discrepancies in your financial habits as well. Before diving into a budget conversation, honestly evaluate your spending. Uncover your weak areas. Ask "How can I improve?" Share these insights with your spouse, and they’ll be much more willing to be vulnerable about their spending in return.

When your spouse spends money, don’t let disagreements tear your relationship and your budget apart. Share your tips for discussing money with your spouse on our Facebook page.

Keep your budget and financial goals organized.