One of the top reasons couples divorce is conflict over money issues. That could be due to stress over a lack of money, poor financial decisions from one or both partners, or problems with control issues.
Many times, however, it’s not the big problems that lead to conflict, but the constant daily ones. And many of these conflicts when it comes to money stem from disagreements about how to spend it.
We used to have quite a few of these disagreements, and it was starting to affect our marriage. We each had our own ideas about how our money should be spent, and we were facing an impasse where neither one of us was happy.
Until we implemented this one little practice.
Now we rarely fight over money, and the resentment over our spending that used to be a constant plague on our marriage is gone.
Read on to find out what we did that made all the difference.
**Links in this post may be affiliate links. This means that if you click that link and purchase the product, I may receive a small compensation. I am, however, committed to honestly assessing the products mentioned. Please read my disclosure policy for more details. **
Why is money such a big issue?
Many marriages struggle over money because one spouse is a saver while the other is a spender. Fortunately, we don’t have that problem. We are both savers, for the most part.
However, we each have areas where we like to spend. And unfortunately, because we are very different people with very different interests and priorities, those areas rarely coincide. He doesn’t want to spend money on books or clothes, and I don’t want to spend money on gun parts and ammo. That’s where the disagreements used to begin.
These disagreements would end up getting pretty heated. Our temporary solution to our inability to see eye-to-eye was to veto any fun, personal purchases. This was not a good solution, as it just made us cranky and bitter. This was especially true for Levon, who was frustrated that he worked long, hard hours without getting to enjoy any of the fruits of his labor.
We quickly saw that we needed to allow ourselves to enjoy our money every once in a while, so we went back to our system of buying what we wanted, with the added stipulation that we needed the other spouses’s approval for anything over $100.
However, the same arguments cropped up. He didn’t like that he had to get my permission to spend the money he worked so hard for, and I didn’t like feeling as though I had to beg for a little fun money. And because he was the major breadwinner, I often felt like I hadn’t earned the “right” to spend money, and that made me insecure and resentful. These fights popped up over and over, and sometimes got pretty intense.
Why was this such a big issue? Were those new shoes or shotgun shells really that big of a deal? Were they really worth fighting over?
Of course not, if it was just about the possessions.
But as with so many issues in marriage, it wasn’t about the tangibles. It went much deeper than that.
It was about the feelings and the fears behind it all. It was about feeling taken advantage of and fearing that we weren’t getting our fair share. It was Levon’s need for respect and my need for love being jeopardized.
Something needed to change.
I’m not even sure where we learned this, but we got the idea to put a monthly “free spending” allowance into our budget. Every month, I budget a certain amount for each of us to spend on ourselves. This is our money to spend, and the other person cannot comment on or refuse our choices. I may not understand his choices and he may not understand mine, but they are our decisions to make.
Whatever we don’t spend that month rolls over to the next month, allowing us to save up for major purchases that we otherwise would not be able to buy. I keep track of each of our “free spending accounts” in our budget spreadsheet.
How has it worked?
This new system has worked WONDERS for our marriage! We do still occasionally disagree over how to spend our money (my mini-goals for this month are going to further alleviate this issue), but those disagreements have lessened dramatically in both number and intensity.
What falls under the “free spending” category?
What constitutes “free spending?” Anything that is a non-necessity, is not for the good of the entire family, or that we have not mutually agreed to put in our regular budget.
Every once in a while we have to redraw the boundaries lines. Things start to creep into our regular spending, and we state our case to the other person for why they should be considered “necessities” or “for the good of the family” versus “fun spending.”
Sometimes we come to the conclusion that we need to make room in our budget for them, like when we added monthly allowances for clothing and family security. Other times we say, “No, I think that’s something that should come out of your free spending.” So there is some subjectivity, but those decisions are reached fairly quickly and easily.
How do we determine the amount?
Here is how we went about determining the amount to budget:
- First of all, we allot equal amounts for each of us. I have heard of couples who allow a larger percentage for the husband when he’s the major breadwinner, and I think that’s a bunch of bologna. (Sorry, not sorry.) Levon may be earning the more significant paycheck, but I’m working just as hard at home. My work at home, though it earns no income, allows him to do what he does and creates a nurturing family environment.
We both agreed that our free spending should not be determined based on the bacon we bring home, but on the work we do for the good of our family. And since we each have our fair share of responsibilities, we each have a fair share of the fruits.
- Secondly, we had to look at our usual monthly income and expenses and determine what we could afford to spend in this area. Having a free spending budget is nice because it allows us to spend on ourselves guilt-free, but it is only wise to do when you actually have the money to spend.
- Thirdly, we agreed that when we had a tight month or unexpected expenses, this would be the first line in our budget to be cut. Free spending is a nice treat; it is not a right or a guarantee.
Do you and your spouse often fight over how your money is spent? Do you each feel you have a perfectly reasonable request, but can’t convince the other? Is it leading to resentment and bitterness in your marriage?
Those were all true for us! When we started implementing a “free spending” allowance in our monthly budget, however, that all changed. Now we rarely argue over money, and we get to enjoy our passions and hobbies without guilt or fights!
Try this system, if you haven’t already, and see if it doesn’t work wonders for you. And be sure to let me know if you do!
You Might Also Enjoy:
- How to Budget the Right Way
- How I’m Going to Rock Our Finances in April
- My Favorite Ways to Save Money
- 5 of the Best Books to Fortify Your Marriage