Money Talk: Marriage Edition

Budgets & Banking, Family Finances
on October 9, 2013

For a moment, take yourself back to the worst day you had at work in the last six months. Now, visualize yourself walking through your front door after this terrible day at work ended. As your partner greets you, what if the first words out of his/her mouth were money-related? Would this cause a great deal of stress? Of course it would! But money conversations with your significant other aren’t just stressful on your worst day; they are also stressful on your best day.

If you care about your relationship and your financial future, then you need to know how to prevent turning a simple money conversation into a relationship black mark. If you want to make money a bright spot in your relationship, you’re going to want to do the one thing that you’ve never wanted to do: have a monthly budget meeting. Don’t let the name fool you, this meeting isn’t a horrendous math festival. This meeting gives you a chance to review last month’s spending, and look forward to next month’s expenses. The meeting should only take about 20 minutes, and it can prevent you from having negative money conversations throughout the month.

I know what you’re thinking. Yes, many online budgeting programs can perform all these tasks for you. The important part of the budgeting meeting is the discussion revolving around each expense. (Yes, each expense!) One person should man the computer, and the other person should read off each expenditure from the last 30 days. The first time you do this, it will feel like a root canal, but it gets better. I promise!

Most relationships lack the true accountability needed to get great results. And this certainly is no different when we are talking about money. A monthly budget meeting creates an environment that is perfect for meaningful—not reactionary—money conversations, and better yet, accountability. Nobody wants to make financial mistakes, yet many people do because no one is holding them accountable to collective goals.

If you happen to be in a situation in which one person is completely disinterested in the household finances while the other person does all the work, then this meeting will be a marriage saver. Here’s how you start:

“Honey, we need to talk.”
Tell your (disinterested) partner that you’d like to have a short money conversation this weekend. Always set the meeting a few days out. This gives the other person a chance to get their mind right. The meeting isn’t an intervention, so you can’t set it up that way. In fact, it might make sense to set the tone for the meeting by saying something to the effect of “I want to get your opinion on where I can improve financially, for our benefit.” Passive aggressive? Maybe. Effective? Yes.

How can you improve?
When the meeting time arrives, ask what you can do to get better. Ask what you do, financially, that bothers your partner. Ask what would make your partner happier, financially. Most importantly, listen. You can’t just wait to ask your next question. The answers to your questions will guide the rest of the conversation.

Like I said, the first meeting is like a root canal. But when you start seeing the direct results of your diligence, you will be hooked. Stick with it…you owe it to your relationship.

Peter Dunn, aka Pete the Planner, is an award winning financial mind who has authored 5 books, hosts the popular Pete the Planner radio show, and travels around the country teaching financial education. His signature wit will have you laughing as you learn. You can learn more about him at 

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