Most likely, you’ve had your fair share–and you’re not alone. Research has shown that financial burdens impact relationships at all levels of the socioeconomic spectrum and that finances are a prime source of disagreements.
So whether you’re arguing with your boyfriend, spouse, or parent, here are a few reminders for how to effectively communicate about money:
Different Strokes for Different Folks
Realize that you are two different people with different views about saving, spending, and making financial decisions. You may be a saver while your friend is a spender. Your spouse may see no issue with a $5/day latte habit whereas you see it as a lost opportunity to pay off debt. You may be a budgeting guru but your sister may be a budget buster.
The first step towards communicating about money effectively is recognizing that you both have different opinions, goals, and backgrounds when it comes to finances. This is important because in situations where you share a burden, like marriage and student loan debt, you need to be communicating together.
Once you’ve identified the various differences between yourself and the other person, embrace the art of compromise. According to Merriam Webster, the definition of compromise is the ‘settlement of differences by arbitration or by consent reached by mutual concessions.’ Write this down and refer to it as necessary, making sure to fully understand that compromise involves giving a little in order to reach consensus.
If your friend normally wants to go out to eat every time you get together while you’d rather cook at home, agree on a less expensive restaurant or skip the cocktails. If your boyfriend wants to take an exotic vacation but it’s not in your financial plans, suggest a long weekend away. The key is to meet in the middle as much as possible.
While meeting in the middle is one step towards effective financial communication, it doesn’t always ensure that financial bliss will ensue. If one person is always acquiescing to the demands of the other person, tension is bound to build up. Therefore, setting boundaries for financial decisions is crucial.
Whether it’s an agreement to discuss purchases over a certain dollar amount for married couples or an understanding that certain restaurants are out of reach for date nights, setting certain boundaries will help to ensure that each person in the relationship feels their voice (and preference) is being heard.
Much like a budget is not a ‘set it and forget it’ entity, financial communication must be regular. Set up a monthly budget meeting and having a 2-minute weekly check-in if you’re married, communicate your financial goals with your family members, or discuss your need to keep your budget in check with your friend. Regardless of the audience or message, financial communication should be on-going.
Boost Your Bottom Line
If you find yourself at a crossroads and your compromises are running dry while your boundaries are nearly existent and your budget is busted, it may be time to bring in some extra income. At the end of the day, working a bit harder in the name of financial security and relational bliss isn’t a bad thing: your relationships with the people in your life will bring you far more joy than money. However, it’s imperative to keep in mind that this statement is not a green light to spend your way into oblivion…
Despite any well-laid plans, there will inevitably be a speed bump in the road. By maintaining a realistic frame of mind, you will undoubtedly set yourself up for success with both finances and relationships. Arguments will happen; you will disagree with those who you love most. If you put in the work upfront, you’ll be able to weather any financial storm thrown your way—together.
Readers, how have you coped with conversations about money? Are you and your significant other compatible or opposites when it comes to money?
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him here and here.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.