So, you definitely love the person you’re married to. They’re funny and loyal and sensitive and interesting and everything you’ve ever wanted. There’s just one tiny thing … not even worth bringing up really, but if you were going to bring it up you might say that they’re not, well, how should we put this. Not the best at money?
It’s easy to feel ashamed for even thinking this way. Money shouldn’t matter in love, right? It’s love! Love should be above things like money. And yet you still just can’t quite get over the notion that … wow, they are really not good with money.
The first and most important thing to grasp here is that you are not alone. First of all, most couples wrestle with money. It’s the No. 1 most common cause of conflict in a relationship. Second, and more importantly, there’s no need to be concerned. Differences in spending and saving are perfectly manageable, if you tackle them head-on. Just reading this shows you’re ready to take some real steps. In fact, this is why RELEVANT and brightpeak joined forces in the first place—to help you with all your love and money issues.
1. Figure Out Where You’re Both At
Your first step, unfortunately, is the least fun. You’re going to have to sit your partner down and have a real conversation about what you’re seeing. Maybe you’re already thinking, “I’ve tried telling him that he needs to be more frugal with groceries” or “I’ve told her to remember to pay her student loans.” This isn’t that. You’re not addressing the fruit of the problem. You’re actually getting on the same page about your respective money habits and the way you see the world of finances.
You’re going to have to be brutally honest with each other about not just your own attitude but how you perceive the others. You, reading this, are also going to have to be humble—and open to the possibility that your partner isn’t bad with money, they just see it differently than you. Actually, brightpeak has even more tips for how to navigate this conversation.
2. Budget Together
In many relationships, it’ll be pretty obvious which of you is better with money. One person might be great with money and the other terrible, or one person might be great with money and the other just pretty competent. In either case, it’s easy for one person to take the reins of handling the budget, the taxes, the spreadsheets, the invoices and all that. Easy, but not necessarily the right thing to do.
After you’ve had the tough conversation, make a budget together. Even if one of you is mostly just looking over the other person’s shoulder, this is a great way for you both to be communicative about your financial situation and to learn a few tricks in the process. The brightpeak IlluminateTM app is great for this too. You can build a budget, and it’ll even send your phone updates about how your spending is matching up to what you planned together. If money is a frequent source of conflict, you can’t have too many resources helping defuse those conflicts before they start.
Nobody likes to compromise, but it’s a lot easier now that you both know where each other is actually at. Understanding your partner’s actual financial worldview, and being understood yourself, means you can actually figure out how to navigate each other’s interests. He likes expensive shoes and she’s happy with whatever’s on the rack? Go to an Outlet mall and get the discount. She likes a fancy meal while he’d be happy eating baked potatoes every day? Set up a time at a nice restaurant and split an entree. This is a big part of what marriage is: working together to find something you can both live with.
If your partner is actually bad with money, this is going to be harder for you because you’re going to feel like you’re caving on your principles, and there are going to be points where you’re going to have to be firm. If a house is on fire, there’s no sense in trying to find a way to the exit that everyone in the family can live with. At some point, you may have to say, “Money is really tight and we cannot afford a new pizza oven right now. We just can’t.” By this point, you should have a budget that you both worked on and agreed to that you can refer to for a conversation like this. This will ensure that you’re not being a financial bully. You’re both working with the same financial foundation.
These steps won’t, by themselves, fix all your conflict. But they’ll set you on the right path for dealing with that conflict in a responsible way—a way that brings you together instead of pushing you apart. And since you definitely love the person you’re married to, isn’t that what it’s all about? Something like brightpeak’s TogetherTM app can be helpful here for not just this one real conversation, but setting up regular conversations down the road to bring you closer together.
Tyler Huckabee is RELEVANT's executive editor. He lives in Nashville with his wife, dog and Twitter account.