I’ve learned firsthand that money can cause contention in a marriage.
People say money doesn’t buy happiness. But money can certainly cause tension and stress in a marriage — depending on how much or how little you have and your attitude on spending it.
Growing up, money was never an issue in my family. My parents owned a successful business that abundantly provided for our family. We traveled frequently and lived very comfortably. My husband, however, grew up in a very poor family; he often wondered if he’d get seconds at the dinner table or new clothes for the back-to-school season.
While we were dating, money wasn’t a topic we discussed or worried about. We each knew the other’s financial background, but it wasn’t an issue because we didn’t share finances. But as our relationship progressed from dating to engagement to marriage, our financial backgrounds and upbringing started to play bigger roles in our merging lives.
I’ve learned firsthand that money — and your experiences with it — can cause contention in a marriage. It’s crucial for couples to discuss finances and ask each other questions about money as their relationships develop. Here are three tips on how to find financial harmony in your marriage, regardless of your background.
Discuss Brand Expectations
My husband and I have very different expectations about the quality of things we spend money on. I remember the first time we went grocery shopping together. I reached for a pint of Häagen-Dazs ice cream, and my husband was appalled because that was the most expensive kind.
Honestly, I hadn’t even thought twice about it. It was the ice cream my parents purchased growing up, so I just instinctively went to buy it. Another time at the grocery store I said I hated Lunchables, and my husband responded that Lunchables had been a treat growing up because they were so expensive.
While neither of these situations were earth-shattering, they highlight our different financial backgrounds and brand expectations. We’ve had to learn to compromise on which products we buy. If it’s something that can be purchased generic, we’ll do that to be more frugal. If it’s an item where brand names matter, we purchase that. We are constantly learning how to shop and spend money together.
Learn How to Travel Together
One of our biggest fights in the first year of marriage was choosing where to go on vacation and how much to spend on travel. Growing up, my family traveled to a different destination each year, whereas my husband’s family went on the same road trip over and over again.
Although we both have fond memories of these trips, my expectations for travel are different than his. I have a deep-seated desire to travel. I like spending my money on plane tickets to new places, delicious meals, and foreign adventures. My husband would be perfectly fine to travel to the same place and stay at the same hotel every year.
But because travel is so important to me, we’ve compromised on how we travel. I don’t need to fly first class or stay at five-star hotels, but I do want to spend money towards travel.
Set Spending Limits
My husband has the hardest time spending money because he didn’t have a lot growing up. He rarely purchases things for himself and often holds onto items when they should be tossed out. He even wore the same pair of shoes until his toes came through the top.
Although I have always had a healthy regard for my checking account balance and credit score, I do splurge occasionally. Throughout our first year of marriage, we’ve had multiple discussions about wants versus needs. When making our budget, we cover our needs first. Then, if there is leftover money, we can spend a certain amount without consulting the other or feeling guilty. This has allowed us to buy things we want, while also staying in line with our budget.