Money is a topic that comes up regularly in almost any relationship. No matter your situation, there is a good chance that you have been talking about money with your life partner. Unfortunately, money is often a sore spot. Many studies have indicated that money is the number one issue that people in a relationship argue about. In fact, it’s also the number one reason why couples separate. From lying about money to overspending, or simply taving too much debt, not being on the same financial page can crumble even the strongest of foundations.
Money Can Ruin More Relationships Than Marriages
Money troubles can destroy far more relationships than just marriages. My parents had a financially tight decade (or so) early in their marriage, since they had to help provide for my grandparents. In fact, my dad famously changed careers. He gave up on his chosen profession because the new job offered him about $65 more a month. At the time, that was a significant increase.
I still remember them telling us the story of how my dad asked all his siblings to chip in. Everyone else seemed to have one reason or another not to help out. My parents never outright complained about it, per se. However, you can bet that all the extra money troubles drove a wedge between not only my grandparents and my parents, but also my dad and my his siblings. It actually took a few decades for my dad to reconcile with his brothers and sisters. To be honest, I’m not sure if my mom ever really got completely over it. I can’t blame her, either, since times were really tough for her and Dad at that time.
Why Overspending is a Problem
The good news is that fixing one issue will most certainly fix the vast majority of things that people fight about, while significantly relieving the rest. The root issue for most money issues is overspending.
Think about it. Why do you have too much debt? It’s because you overspend. And when are you tempted to hide a bank account or credit card from your spouse? It’s when you don’t want to be judged for your spending. It always goes back to spending. Overspending stresses the bottom line. That, in turn, puts the screws on every close relationship affected by that spending.
That’s Not All…
Overspending is a big problem. Not only will it stress you out as an individual, but it will also create unnecessary tension in your relationship. When you spend more than you make, you start to feel anxiety because you can’t meet your bill obligations. You worry about how you’ll buy groceries or whether enough money will be in your account when the next automatic payment deduction comes out. These situations cause a great deal of stress. That stress will, naturally, cross over into your relationship. You are likely tired, stressed, and in no condition to speak rationally to each other. It’s no surprise that many people cite money as a reason for divorce.
Let’s be honest here about the issue of secrecy. When do you start to wonder how many bank accounts your spouse has? I bet it’s when you’re stressed about your own financial obligations and want your partner to help out more. If money never stresses you out, do you really think you’d care that much about whether your significant other has one or three credit cards?
Not Overspending Could’ve Helped My Parent
So what about my parents? It didn’t seem on the surface that my parents’ troubles were caused by them spending too much. But I can definitely tell you that overspending was the root cause here as well. How? Although my parents never really had any extra money to overspend, the whole problem started because my grandparents were over spenders. My grandparents didn’t always have a good relationship. Eventually, they refused to live in the same place. Instead of having to rent one apartment for the couple, my parents had to pay for two separate living quarters. As a result, they basically lived in poverty for years.
The kicker is that my grandfather used to make really good money as a tailor, back in the day. Unfortunately, he blew most of it by renting a nightly room in a high-end hotel just so he could gamble with his friends. Yikes! Talk about overspending on frivolous things!
How to Stop Overspending From Ruining Your Relationship
If you want to keep overspending from ruining your relationship, it’s important that you take a step back. Try to assess the situation honestly. Don’t be afraid to have a conversation with your loved ones about money (that doesn’t involve blaming each other). Take a look at your past spending together and identify problem areas.
You should also talk about your priorities as a family. In many cases, overspending comes because you aren’t tracking your spending or you aren’t spending according to your values. Pay attention to where the money is going. Then determine whether or not it’s helping you reach your shared goals. If you can have a conversation about shared goals and put together a plan to help you reach them, you’ll probably come together as a couple and stop spending more than you should.
Get That Game Plan Ready
Create a plan that allows you both to spend a little bit on what you want while emphasizing your shared objectives. Make small goals that are achievable in a reasonable amount of time so you can feel more accomplished instead of having really big goals that can take years or decades to meet.
Have a conversation about what matters to you both and you can begin working on the habits you both have that are making it harder to reach your shared goals. That way, you’ll have less stress in your relationship and you’ll both be less prone to overspending.
Tips for Sticking with Your Spending Plan
Of course, coming up with the plan is only half the battle. Once a game plan is set, it’s ultimately being able to keep with it that will get you the results you are looking for.
Otherwise, you are only going to go back to square one and have the cycle repeat itself. For those who are struggling to stick to a spending plan, here are some ideas that can help you stick to it:
Focus on Improvement
Instead of focusing on your failures, make it a point to look at your improvement. Are you making better spending decisions overall? While you want to learn from your mistakes, there is no reason to dwell on them. Instead, focus on the progress you have made and congratulate yourself for doing better this year.
When you focus on the improvement that your new spending plan has resulted in, you will be re-energized and fired up about being able to do it all over again. This way, you’ll be more likely to re-commit yourself to your budget.
Look Forward to the End Result
Hopefully, you have a purpose for the money you are freeing up. Maybe it’s to get out of debt, save for a down payment on a home, or pad the retirement nest egg. The goal itself doesn’t even matter as much, because just having something to shoot for is one of the best ways to stick with a spending plan. When you know that your money is serving a purpose, it’s easier to see the big picture.
Look forward to the end result in order to stick with the plan today. Think about how good it will feel to have all that debt paid off. Remember that your current plan is going to result in achieving your nest egg goals. Consider that your current budget is in place so that you can go on that great cruise. Look forward to the end result to help you stay motivated.
Show Gratitude For What You Have
A lot of the time, we struggle with our current spending plan or budget because we wish we had something else. Instead, show gratitude for what you already have. Strive for contentment. Keep track of the great things that you do have and learn to enjoy them. I’ll let you in on a secret. If you can’t be happy with what you have, you likely won’t be happy by getting more.
Be grateful for your family, your health, and the home you do have. Learn to be content with your 55-inch TV instead of always wishing you had an 85-inch screen. Take pleasure in the ability to go for a bike ride with your kids rather than dwell on the fact that, right now, you can’t go to an amusement park. Your attitude can make a big difference. The bonus is that your example will also teach your children to value the simple things as well.
Look for Ways to Earn More
If you find that you are constantly outgrowing your spending plan, it might mean that you should look for ways to increase your income. You can get a second job or start a side hustle in your free time. The idea that you will be able to adjust your spending plan after you start earning more money can help you stick through a current budget that is giving you trouble.
Remind yourself that the current plan is just temporary. Most of us can stick through something we know will come to an end. Your restrictive budget is only temporary until you improve your income. Remember that and you will find it more bearable.
The Bottom Line
I wish it was different but it’s true. Money troubles have a way of wreaking even relationships rooted deep in love. Luckily, you’ll be able to keep the stress under control as long as you keep your spending in check.
For those who are struggling with this, you first have to create a safe environment to have the money conversation and ensure that you are both committed to changing your spending habits. It would be awesome to come up with a common goal to work towards together as well. Once the plan is set, then it’s just a matter of following through.
You can do this.