Married Couples vs. Bills: How to Budget to Avoid Conflict

couple arguing

When you and your spouse didn’t co-habit before tying the knot, chances are you’ve only learned about each other’s money habits after the wedding. This can be both good and bad, depending on what you discovered, and what you do to work out your differences.

Sadly, despite the rise of dual-income households, fights about money continue to persist between couples. A study by Kansas State University found that arguments about money belong to the top predictors of whether there will be a divorce.

Hence, if you’re already at each other’s throats over utility bills, then just imagine the disagreements you’ll have over bigger financial obligations, like your children’s education.

That said, let’s see the root of financial fights between couples, and ways to resolve them.

Top Couple Financial Fights

1. Saver vs. Spender

If you’re a believer of “retail therapy”, then you’re definitely the spender type. Research has shown that you’re likely to marry a saver, because they can make up for what you lack. However, this may only bring out the worst in you and your spouse, especially if your contrasting money habits start affecting your household budget.

For example, maybe you like soaking in a hot bath every night after work, racking up your water and energy bills. This will of course upset your frugal spouse, who’s trying to cut down on utility costs.

Thankfully, problems like this have an incredible solution fit for saver vs. spender couples. For your part, invest in a water-efficient buffer tank, so you can keep enjoying your hot baths without increasing your bills. In turn, your saver spouse will no longer nag that you’re putting money down the drain.

wedding rings

2. Power Play

Power play is common in couples where one spouse out-earns the other. The one with the higher income may assert dominance in financial decisions. While this makes sense, considering they’re the one paying more, it can make the other feel less valued.

A good solution to tone down power play is separating your savings. Manage a joint account that’s separate from your individual accounts. Then combine your joint expenses such as mortgage, insurances, taxes, and utilities. Take out money from your joint account to pay for them, but have the higher-earning spouse contribute more, such as in 60/40 method, for example.

Even if the other spouse is paying more, this will still stop power play, because you’re sharing the same burden. Just be ready to adjust when a certain utility bill increases, and compromise if you have to.

3. Keeping Financial Secrets

This issue can also be common in saver vs. spender couples. As a spender, you may hide that you obtained another credit card, or that you bought an expensive designer item. As a result, you may be forced to skip making a contribution for your joint account because you’ve run out of money.

And then a fight will ensue when you blow your cover. This could’ve been avoided if you’ve been honest from the get-go, or if you’ve decided on a system determining who pays for what.

Such system is called “free-for-all,” where you and your spouse agree to have different financial obligations, as long as you make contributions to your joint account. But to make this work, your spouse has to be willing to pay the bills, so you can focus on repaying your credit card debts.

Once you’ve sorted out your issues about utility bills, start talking about what you wish to improve in each other’s financial habits. Be honest in admitting shortcomings, but avoid being hostile about it. Establish short- and long-term financial goals, and strive together to achieve both. Save for the future, and you’ll also be saving your marriage.

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