Dealing with Relationship Differences in Where You Spend Your Money

Money. We love it. We hate it. We use it. We abuse it. We fight about it. We celebrate with it. It is a part of our daily lives in both seen and unseen ways. Managing our behavioral and our emotional response to money is challenging. When you combine the challenges that come with creating a strong couple relationship, with our relationship with money, things can get complicated even further.
Managing your money, emotions and relationship doesn’t need to be over-complicated. In 1993 Bernard Poduska, PhD, wrote a book called For Love and Money: A Guide to Finances and Relationships. In the first chapter he outlined six principles that were meant to stimulate basic thinking about financial management decisions in relationship.
For this article I want to focus on the following principle: “If your money is going toward something that you value, then you will usually feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. But if your money is going toward something you do not value, then you will usually experience a sense of frustration and futility.”
Applying this principle to an individual is mostly straightforward: When you spend your money on things you value, you will feel good about it. However, applying this to your relationship is where it can get complicated. Many of the money relationship challenges couples experience come because partners spend money on things that the other does not value. This can lead to frustration and relationship conflict.
It is unrealistic to believe that two people in a relationship will equally value where money is spent. However, there are 5 things couples can do to begin alleviating some of the potential relationship conflict surrounding money:
1. Openly communicate with one another about what you do value and search for common ground. Most couples, for example, can agree that having the necessities of life (food, water, shelter, transportation) are things that they each value. Agree to spend your money first on what you both value.
2. Identify what constitutes a large expenditure and agree to discuss the purchase with one another before making it. A “large” expenditure will be different for each couple based on your income and debts that need to be paid. It may take some in-depth discussions about your financial situation to be able to come to an agreement on what constitutes a large expenditure.
3. Seek to understand your partner. Try to understand why certain expenditures are valuable to your partner and keep in mind that “Nothing (No-thing) is worth the relationship” (Poduska).
4. Discuss savings goals with one another. Not all individuals in relationships value saving. For some individuals who don’t value saving, it can help to discuss savings as an expense that one person in the relationship values.
5. Identify money that can be used for discretionary spending by each person. Try to agree on how much money each person in the relationship can spend as they wish. This allows for each person to spend money guilt free without having to discuss it with the other person.


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