From The Christian Science Monitor

How couples can talk money without a blowup

Discussions about money are among the most common communication struggles for couples, as they can easily unravel into fights. Learning how to properly navigate these discussions is an important component of any healthy relationship.

By Kurt Smith, NerdWallet JULY 12, 2016

Learn more about Kurt on NerdWallet’s Ask an Advisor

Disagreements are a part of every relationship — especially financial ones. In fact, discussions about money are among the most common communication struggles for couples, as they can easily unravel into money fights. Learning how to properly navigate these discussions is an important component of any healthy relationship.

Because money is such a divisive subject, you must remember first and foremost that you’re on the same team as your partner when approaching a money discussion. If you’re in a committed relationship, you shouldn’t think of money as “my money” and “your money,” but rather “our money.” View any disagreements with the partnership in mind.

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Maintaining that team mentality when dealing with finances is crucial to successfully addressing challenges. Here are five more ways to help build teamwork and prevent a blowup when discussing finances with your partner.

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1. Plan it

Set aside a day and time to discuss finances with your partner. Beforehand, you should both create and share a list of things you’d like to talk about. This will help both of you come to the meeting prepared and be productive. With an agenda decided in advance, no one will be caught off guard about a topic.

2. Recognize that you might not see eye to eye on money matters

We all view money differently based on how we were raised and saw our parents spend and save. Have an honest conversation with your partner about your experiences with saving, debt and credit cards. You will most likely need to find methods of handling money that meet somewhere in the middle and can be acceptable to both of you.

3. Be transparent and admit your faults

No one is perfect, so don’t pretend like you have it all together when it comes to money. It’s difficult to admit mistakes, but being in a relationship requires vulnerability. Talk about missteps you’ve made and what you’ll do differently going forward. If you’re honest with your partner, you’ll build trust and security in your relationship.

4. Think of money discussions as a chance to grow

Money matters don’t have to cause arguments. Your mindset plays a big part in the results. Think of your money discussion as a chance to get on the same page with your partner and start working together to reach common financial goals. Start generally by talking about your spending and saving habits and whether they’re satisfactory. If not, create a plan to change that.

5. Plan something fun afterward

Talking about money can be difficult and stressful. Plan to do something fun together when you’re finished with the discussion. This will help allow you both to relax and enjoy each other after dealing with a hard subject. It will also remind you of why you’re together and why being partners with your money is good for both of you.

Healthy and happy

In order to maintain healthy and happy relationships, we must learn how to have productive, respectful and healthy conversations about money. Honesty, transparency and vulnerability go a long way in determining the outcome of these financial discussions. If you have your partner’s and the relationship’s best interests at heart, you’ll have a solid base for talking about money without a blowup.

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Kurt Smith is a financial and relationship counselor at Guy Stuff Counseling and Coaching.

This article also appears on Nasdaq.

This article originally appeared on NerdWallet.


1.) Look at all of your expenses in the past month.

2.) Put them into lists, labeled "Needs" and "Wants."

3.) Look at your large expenses in the past year, and put them into those lists.

4.) Ask yourself why you put each one into their respective lists.

5.) Are all of the items in the Needs list things you would need to stay alive?

6.) If not, then put all others into a third list, titled "Want a lot." (This is not entirely pointless. I have seen people put a satellite dish or a boat in the Needs list.)

7.) Add up the cost of the recent Needs, not counting the not-so-recent large expenditures.

8.) Does the number in the total exceed your income for the month? If so, start work on planning how to keep income and Needs at least equal.

9.) If your income was greater than the cost of your needs, then how far will the surplus go to buy your wants?

19.) Pick the wants you would spend money on, and add up the cost until they do not exceed your surplus income (also called "disposable" income.)

20.) Recognize that you can not buy the other wants without doing without some of your needs.

21.) Have your spouse do the same exercise, momentarily keeping it private from you. When you have finished, compare your lists and see how much you agree. Where you do not agree, ask why not? See where you can compromise.

22.) Hopefully, your disagreement is only in the Wants list, and not in Needs. If you disagree on Needs, discuss why the disagreed items are needs.

23.) For some people, I could ask, "How much do you spend on cigarettes?" Do you need cigarettes to stay alive? How much do you spend on cigarettes in a year? Once you have a number in mind, what could you buy with that much money?

24.) What other Wants have a powerful attraction for you? What would your life be like without them? How much money are they costing you? Would you want to take steps to remove that expense?

Do you think you are richer than you really are? I have seen people in a hot checks class complain that this wants and needs list was for "welfare types." Yet they were there because they had spent more money than they had. (By writing a bad check.) If they were so rich they didn't need to know this, they wouldn't be there.

If your income is less than the cost of your survival needs, two strategies would be to reduce your spending or to increase your income.

Does your spouse work? Could s/he take on a job to make up the difference, at least temporarily? Could you work two jobs? Perhaps one could be part time, or one could be on your weekend. Are there public benefits that could make your income stretch?

Could you sell something? Perhaps your second car or your motorbike or a boat? Could you take on a roommate or rent out room in your house? Could you move into a smaller house or with family? Do you have any possessions you don't really need, that you could get a fair price for?

Could you eat cheaper food? Always make meals at home rather than eating out? Eat less meat? (An adult needs about as much protein as you would find in one hamburger patty per day. If you eat a grain and a legume in the same day, your body will combine the amino acids in those foods to make a high-quality protein.

The grain is in any kind of bread, cereal, corn, barley, oats, or rice. A legume is a bean, a pea, or a peanut.

Consider that some very good foods are also cheap. That includes peanut butter, oatmeal, potatoes, rice, beans, onions and cabbage.


Could you buy some of your clothing in a thrift store?