Surveys consistently show that having different approaches to the gaining and use of money is one of the top three challenging issues for couples. Why do so many couples find their money issues hard to resolve when budgeting is a simple skill that can be picked up by anyone?
The answer is that our attitude and approach to money management is not simply about how we make and spend money.
In fact, arguments are usually about wanting the other person to honour our deeply-held values.
Couples can find it hard to resolve differences over money because the question of how to spend and use their finances inevitably calls out differences in their underlying values about how to create and use family resources. Most of us formed these underlying values most strongly when growing up in our family of origin.
What are your money values?
Money is for:
- Enjoying the things money can buy
- Accessing opportunities such as education and travel
- Security for myself and my family
- Gaining influence, power and status
- Escapism, retail therapy
- Feeling good about myself (self-esteem)
- Expressing love by buying gifts
- Helping others, having an impact
- Growing an inheritance and leaving a legacy
The first trap couples fall into in resolving money differences is that they focus on the money question. This is a symptom, not a cause, of their differences. Without talking about the underlying value differences the money problem will never be resolved satisfactorily.
That’s why in our marriage preparation courses we teach value-based decision making which applies equally to money as it does to all other areas
in a relationship.
Once couples have reflected on their individual money values and resolved their differences so that they can move forward happily, it might help them to start with these basic steps:
- Keep a Budget
Budgeting is a skill anyone can pick up or improve upon. It’s very difficult if not impossible to save without a budget. There are many different forms and lots of options emerging in software and apps so find one that suits you best.
- Minimise Lifestyle Costs
Most of our money over our life time goes into our small daily running costs. Over a 30-year working life, buying two cups of coffee every week day will chew up a staggering $75,000 of pre-tax income
- Ask Yourself What It Really Costs
Consider the lifetime costs of the things you buy, not just the upfront costs. One car might be similar in cost to another, but will cost lots more in ongoing costs such as insurance, petrol consumption, or more expensive parts.
- Be Careful With Debt
Debt is very useful, but few kinds of debt are sound. A mortgage is an example of a good one as a home is worth more over time (an appreciating asset), as long as you can comfortably meet the repayments. People get into problems quickly when they go into debt (often high-interest credit card debt) to live beyond their means – making purchases that are purely consumption items such as holidays, clothing, and gifts.
All debt, especially the latter kind, should be paid off as fast as possible.
Use a high-interest account that isn’t easy to access, to reduce the temptation to dip into it.
For more about values-based decision making for couples, click here
About Byron Pirola
Byron is the Managing Director of management consulting firm, Port Jackson Partners. He and his wife Francine are the authors of the SmartLoving Series and have been leaders in the area of marriage enrichment and preparation for more than 20 years.