Married couples fight about money. A lot. A recent survey showed that 70% of couples argue about money. That’s more than chores, sex, snoring and what’s for dinner.
What are they fighting about? Here are the top five reasons:
- Frivolous spending (46%)
- Household budget (33%)
- Credit card debt (26%)
- Insufficient emergency savings (25%)
- Insufficient retirement savings (22%)
But certain couples fight more. Namely, couples with debt. Another study found that couples with debt argue significantly more (67%) about money than couples without debt (41%).
The obvious follow-up question is how to fight about money less. The answer is easy to state but hard to do: make a plan, track your plan, and revisit your plan.
Make A Plan
First thing’s first. Figure out where you are. How much debt do you have? How much do you typically spend? How much do you earn? What are your top three financial goals for the next year (e.g., pay off $10k in debt, save for a down payment, buy a car).
With this information in hand, create a plan to get there – i.e., a budget. Of course, you should budget to spend less than you earn. And, ideally, you should leave yourself some wiggle room in case you overspend slightly.
As part of your plan, don’t forget to figure out who is going to do what. Who is going to track your spending? Who will make sure the bills get paid on time? Who will make sure you have enough money in your account so that you avoid overdraft fees? However you divvy up the financial duties, try to split them fairly. According to a Honeyfi survey, couples who split financial duties evenly are happier, fight less, and have a better sex life.
Rest assured, your plan doesn’t have to be perfect. The most important thing is that you and your partner agree on a first draft of the plan.
Track Your Plan
The next step is to track reality against your plan. Are you spending less on dining and more on entertainment? Did you vastly underestimate your grocery budget? Or maybe you thought your take home pay was higher than it actually is? If you’ve never really budgeted before, expect the unexpected.
You should try to track your finances at least weekly. We’re a bit biased, but we’d suggest using an app like Honeyfi to do the heavy lifting. You just link your accounts, and let us automate and simplify your finances.
If surprises come up, pull up with your partner and figure out the best solution.
Revisit Your Plan
The last step is to revisit your plan, identify what went wrong, and adjust. If you’re spending more than you expected, drill down into the places where you were wrong. Can you bring that down? Or do you need to increase your budget in that category?
You might have to make tradeoffs – e.g., if you can’t reduce your grocery budget any more, maybe you’ll need to eat out less.
As you look for places to save, remember that your biggest expenses are also your biggest opportunities to save. So things like rent, car payments, and phone bills are often great places to start looking for savings.
Once you have tweaked your plan, go back to the last step and start again. Track your plan, see how it goes, rinse and repeat. When you get started, you’ll probably have to revisit your plan each month. But as you get better, you can do it every few months or maybe even once a year.
Sound simple? It is and it isn’t. It is simple to say. But it is hard to do. Remember, if others have done it, you can too. Just put one foot in front of the other. 🙂
Also published on Medium.