I knew my fiancé and I would be a good fit financially pretty early on.
How? On one of our first dates, we discussed the fact that we’d both always been uncomfortable spending money.
So much so that when we were children, we both hated spending virtual money in video games. We would hoard all of our virtual earnings, despite the fact that it wasn’t real money. I’ll be the first to admit, we were strange children.
When we met, I was a freshman in college and he was a sophomore. Our incomes were very low, but we both worked as much as possible and saved whatever we could for the future. Because we had such similar financial habits, our first money fight didn’t come until a few years into our relationship.
It sounds silly now, but it was about groceries.
He wanted to stick to a strict $100 per week budget. I thought we should have a little leeway in our spending for essentials. Over time, he relaxed a little on the budget and I began to appreciate his efforts to not overspend or waste food.
As soon as we graduated from college we both started working full-time. Our living expenses were relatively low (as were our salaries) and for the first time, it felt like suddenly there was money that could be spent comfortably.
Well, you know what they say. More money, more problems.
I never expected us to disagree financially, but that’s what happened once we had disposable income and major financial goals to hit.
A study by Ramsey Solutions analyzed more than 1,000 U.S. adults to gain an understanding of personal finance behaviors and attitudes in order to better understand how couples communicate about money.
Spoiler alert: money was found to be the number one issue couples fought about. But why?
For starters, happy couples were debt-free couples. The larger a couple’s debt, the more likely they were to say money is one of the top issues they fight about, and 86 percent of couples married in recent years started their marriage with debt.
The couples who reported having great marriages were almost twice as likely to talk about money daily or weekly compared to those who said their marriages were “okay” or “in crisis.” They also frequently discussed their big picture money goals and dreams, not just the day-to-day financial issues.
Fortunately, my fiancé and I have no debt individually or as a couple. We also have an open dialogue about our finances. Phew.
After reviewing this study, I realized that we’re in-line with the habits of happy couples.
Over time we’ve found a new financial relationship that works for us and we almost never fight about money, here’s why:
We respect our differences
We’d been so financially compatible in the past that it came as a shock when we found ourselves disagreeing on how to manage our finances.
When faced with questions much bigger than grocery budgets, like how much money to invest and how much to set aside for an emergency fund, we realized it wasn’t as easy to get on the same page as we thought. Will we always agree with every financial decision the other person makes? Of course not, but we’ve learned to respect those differences.
When discussing money, we know the conversation isn’t personal, just financial.
This respect also means that even if we suspect the other may disapprove of a purchase, we don’t hide it from the other person. One in three participants who argue with their spouse about money have hidden purchases from their spouse. This seems like a bad path to go down, so we plan to stay honest about our purchases.
We try to compromise
One of the biggest financial disagreements we had was how much to spend on “unnecessary” expenses, especially travel.
After working throughout college and skipping semesters abroad and exotic spring break trips, I was ready to travel. Unfortunately, my fiancé was not.
He saw travel as something we couldn’t justify spending money on until we’d saved enough money for a house.
Finally, we took a trip together and he realized how much he loved traveling and that the expenses were worth it.
His ability to compromise and try something new made me realize I can make financial compromises for him too. He likes to wait a while before making a decision on a big purchase and that can frustrate me when I know we’ll be making the purchase eventually anyway.
But out of respect for his feelings, I now let him take his time deciding when to make a purchase if it makes him feel more comfortable.
One luxurious expense we’ll never fight about?
Buying pre-cut onions at the grocery store. Waste of money? Sure. Worth every penny to us both? You bet.
We make major financial decisions together
Even before we were engaged (we dated for about eight years) we tried to include each other on major financial decisions like budgets and investments.
Even though we managed our finances independently and had final say over our separate finances, it was important for us to have those big conversations together.
There was a time when I was spending too much money going out with friends and my fiancé was there to witness that. When I felt his frugality was getting in the way of us enjoying our lives, I voiced my opinion.
In some ways, it’s comforting having someone by your side to tackle these complicated decisions, but of course, working together increases opportunities to fight about money.
By respecting each other’s needs and goals, we’ve been able to keep financial friction to a minimum.
By being so open and willing to work together, we’ve been able to work through most of our financial differences.
We stick to a budget
A poll of over 2,000 adults by legal firm Slater and Gordon found that one in five couples said money was their biggest cause of marital strife and that money worries top the list of reasons why married couples divorce.
Setting a budget and sticking to it has helped us eliminate opportunities to bicker about money.
If we both spend and save the amounts we planned, then there isn’t much for us to discuss financially, unless a big change occurs like a new job or an unexpected large expense.
We split our living expenses evenly and even though we make different incomes, we’ve found that system works well for us.
We aim to meet a goal of spending about 30 percent of our incomes on our living expenses such as rent, car insurance, and food. Then we allocate 50 percent of our income towards our savings accounts. We use the remaining 20 percent for discretionary spending on categories like clothing, entertainment, fitness, etc.
Of course, the more money we’re able to allocate to our savings accounts, the better.
We celebrate each other’s financial success
Earning, managing, and saving money is hard work and we don’t take each other’s efforts for granted.
We both make financial sacrifices in order to keep our relationship functioning harmoniously, so it’s important to us to show our appreciation when someone gets a raise, meet a savings goal, or finds a great deal on groceries for the week.
We celebrate the little moments as well as the big and that keeps us feeling like a pretty unbeatable team.
Jacqueline DeMarco is a writer and editor based in Southern California. She has written on everything from finance to travel for publications including The Everygirl, Apartment Therapy, LearnVest, among others. In her spare time, she enjoys going anywhere she can spend time with animals.