Trying to save money is an admirable goal, but it's important to avoid frugality that causes a marriage meltdown. You and your spouse need to be able to work together as a team to achieve your financial goals.
Money Problems and Frugality that Causes a Marriage Meltdown
Aside from sex, money is the most common source of conflict in a marriage. Whether you're struggling to pay your bills every month or simply disagreeing how to spend a Christmas bonus, some money-related arguments are completely natural. The problem occurs when one spouse takes frugality to a level that causes anger and resentment in his or her partner.
Saving Money and Your Marriage
Even if one person loves to save and the other loves to spend, it's possible to find a common ground for your financial future by keeping in mind a few simple tips.
Make a List of Priorities
When two people disagree about how to spend their money, the underlying cause is usually conflicting priorities. For example:
- Many women feel that spending money on expensive makeup and designer clothes is a justifiable expense because it helps them feel more confident and project a professional image at work.
- Many men have expensive hobbies, such as golfing or hunting, that they justify by saying they need a way to relax after a long and difficult week.
- Some people consider family vacations an important expenditure, while others prefer to stay at home and relax.
- Some people consider restaurant meals a great chance to socialize with friends, while others enjoy cooking at home.
These priorities aren't necessarily right or wrong, but they need to be balanced against other interests as appropriate. If you consider travel an important enrichment activity, for example, you may need to be willing to cut back on the amount of times your family goes out to eat each month.
Set Goals as a Team
The key to developing a commitment to frugal living is feeling like you have a goal to achieve. While some people find planning ahead to be second nature, others prefer to live "in the moment" and need some assistance brainstorming a list of their long-term goals. Examples of common financial goals for married couples include:
- Buy a house
- Plan for an early retirement
- Have one spouse cut back on work hours or become a stay-at-home parent
- Save for a child's college education
- Develop an emergency fund in case of sudden illness or job loss
- Pay off student loans
- Eliminate credit card debt
Setting goals is important because it helps minimize the feelings of unnecessary deprivation that are common in frugality that causes a marriage meltdown. For example, it's easier to start bringing your lunch to work instead of eating out everyday when you know the money you save is going to help you achieve your dream of homeownership.
Set Aside Some "Fun Money"
One of the easiest ways to avoid conflict in your relationship is to set up your household budget to accommodate a bit of "fun money" for each person. This can be as little as $20 per month or as much as several hundred dollars per month, depending upon your personal financial circumstances. However, there are no rules for how this money must be spent. It can be saved or used to splurge, depending upon the person's preferences. Even though you are married, you still want to be able to maintain a bit of financial independence.
Don't Be an Enabler
If you're the one who is making all the household purchases, paying all the bills, keeping track of taxes, and deciding on your retirement investments, you're allowing your spouse to be careless with your family's money. It's hard to develop a frugal attitude when you honestly have no idea what your finances look like.
Although some couples take turns managing the family finances on a month-to-month basis, this system isn't always practical. If you prefer, you can simply arrange to sit down together for an hour or two each month to discuss your budget and the progress you're making towards your long-term goals.