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Could Fighting Over Money Be Good for Your Finances?

My husband and I don’t agree much about money. We have different spending priorities, and fights about what we should do with our money have been memorable over the course of the last 11 years. While we have some shared financial goals [3], much of what we spend money on — and the timing involved — is a source of contention in our marriage.

And, apparently, that can be a good thing.

Disagreements Can Challenge You Both to Think about Priorities

Not too long ago, I was lamenting, after yet another argument about how I don’t want to pay for a storage unit just for the purpose of housing action figures my husband never looks at anyway (they’re currently in Rubbermaid bins in the crawl space), that my husband and I disagree a lot about money. I was wondering if this was a problem, since we’ve been disagreeing about money for almost 11 years.

Luckily, I came across a post on the blog of the Wall Street Journal [4] about how fighting about money can actually help your finances. The writer of the piece pointed out that when you always agree about money, it can lead you to miss opportunities, and it can also mean that your assumptions are never challenged. In the end, that can mean fewer financial options down the road.

Disagreeing about money, on the other hand, forces both members of a couple to re-asses their priorities, and  to maybe even get out of their comfort zones a little bit. Even though I had serious buyer’s remorse when we bought our house a few years ago, I’ve started really enjoying it, and I’m glad we have a stable place to call home. And, thanks to my prodding sometimes, my husband understands that we can’t just buy a bunch of stuff all the time if we want a secure retirement.

Fighting about Money the Right Way

Happily, even though we still disagree about money sometimes, my husband and I have moved on from the knock-down-drag-out fights of our early marriage. Now we are much more civil. Sometimes things still get heated, but it doesn’t get too loud anymore. A lot of it has to do with two things that we have started doing before things get out of hand:

  1. Remember our shared goals: We start from a place of common ground. We want to save for retirement. We agree that we should pay our regular bills. We agree that our son should have music lessons and participate in other extracurricular activities [5]. Also, we both enjoy eating out. By remembering that we do have common ground, we start from the assumption that we both want what’s best for our family overall, and that the disagreements are over individual preferences. But it’s good to remember that we both want our family to succeed.
  2. Show respect for the other’s spending priorities: It’s been a long hard road, and we both still struggle sometimes, but we are both trying to show respect for the other’s spending priorities. I recognize that, for whatever reason, it’s important for him to have all the “Charlie Brown Christmas” ornaments right now, and he tried not to see my love of travel as a complete waste of money. It also helps that when I toted up everything, we discovered that we each spent almost exactly the same amount on the things we like in the past year.

Our disagreements about money have really encouraged us to re-examine our priorities as individuals and as a family. We haven’t let them destroy our marriage; instead, we are trying to use our disagreements to strengthen our marriage and our finances.

(Photo: Ed Yourdon [6])