Five Tips for Handling Financial Disagreements in Relationships

couple-arguing-over-financesUnless you’re fabulously wealthy and plan to spend your time with your partner taking lavish vacations and relishing your financial acumen, money probably doesn’t sound like a very romantic topic. For many couples, money and financial issues come up only when there’s trouble, and some people steadfastly avoid discussion of finances until they’re several years into a relationship. Financial disagreements, however, are one of the most common causes of stress and arguments within romantic relationships, and play a major role in many divorces.

If you and your partner disagree about how to manage money, the time to deal with the issue is now. Waiting until there’s a major conflict can spell disaster for your relationship and your finances.

Use the Right Accounting System

Don’t allow yourself to simply fall into a financial management system. Take some time to figure out what works for you. If you have vastly different spending styles, try getting separate checking accounts. Use these accounts for discretionary purchases, and then put money for shared expenses—such as vacations or a mortgage—into a joint account. This way, you’re sharing expenses, but you have some discretion about purchases for yourselves, gifts, and impulse buys. If, however, one of you tends to overspend or keep secrets regarding money, a single shared account may be the best way to ensure you’re staying on track. Don’t be afraid to try several different methods until you find something that feels comfortable and right for you.

Be Honest

You might be embarrassed about all that debt you racked up in college, or afraid your partner will judge you because you like designer shoes. Lying about money, however, can doom your relationship—some money experts even use the term “financial infidelity.” If you’ve kept things from your beloved, it’s time to come clean. If, however, you’re beginning a new relationship and you’re unsure of when to share financial details, reveal them as they become relevant. But avoid lying, even if it means admitting you’ve made some mistakes in the past.

Make Shared Financial Goals

Developing a shared budget and long-term financial goals can help you both get motivated to rein in the spending and start saving for a rainy day. Sit down with your spouse and talk about retirement, investments, planning for kids and college, and how you’ll fund vacations and other luxuries. If you know how you want to spend your money, it will be easier to keep day-to-day financial issues under control. Sitting down to come up with a joint plan can bring you closer together, enabling you both to have a voice in your financial strategy.

Don’t Expect Compliance

There’s no single “right” way to manage money, and adopting a “my way or the highway” attitude can even be a form of emotional abuse. You don’t have to like or understand how your partner spends money. As long as he or she is not wrecking your long-term financial future, cut him/her some slack. Each of you should have some discretion when it comes to daily expenses and disposable income, and neither party should be allowed to act as financial dictator. When one partner takes control over financial decisions, it can lead to financial secrecy and chronic conflict.

Live Within Your Means

No matter what financial management strategy you choose, living within your means should be a primary goal. This can mean different things to different couples. Some might choose to aim for complete austerity, never buying anything extra until they’ve paid off every last debt. Others might work toward paying down student loans while building up savings to buy a house. If either of you is spending recklessly, however, it’s time to have a serious conversation about what it means to live within your means and how you can get the spending under control. It might not be a fun conversation, but it can save you from serious relationship problems down the road.


  1. Four tips to help communicate with your spouse about money. (2013, February 4). Equifax Finance Blog. Retrieved from
  2. Love & money: 25 financial tips for couples. (n.d.). Retrieved from

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  • rex wheeler

    August 26th, 2013 at 10:52 AM

    I don’t know why this continues to be such an issue for most couples, but as we can all attest to, it just does. No matter who you are with or what tricks of the trade you try money always comes back to bite you. I have in my life time been fiscally responsible and thrown money to the wind and have found women who have matched me dollar for dollar. But there are always going to be disagreements about how you spend no matter how good you try to be or how unwilling you are to stick to a budget. Unfortunately this is just something that I think is very hard for most couples to be in sync on a lot of the time and that can cause so many problems.

  • ashley

    August 26th, 2013 at 10:57 PM

    individual accounts along with a joint account is such a convenience.not that we hide anything from each other in the individual accounts but it does prevent the “did you really need those fancy shoes?” discussion.and he can spend his money the way he likes to,as long as the joint account isnt affected.

    this is an effective strategy that works well not just for us but also for at least four other couples we know.for those that are yet to try this – give it a shot.and for those that are doing this – cheers.

  • Blakely

    August 27th, 2013 at 3:57 AM

    This has been a huge problem for me and my husband for the whole time we have been married and I think that a large part of it boils down to it we were just raised in families with totally different ideas about money. He grew up ith parents who never wanted to spend a dime and thought that you needed to save everything while my parents spent before they had it, so it has been hard for the two of us to find some way to meet in the middle. Believe me I don’t want to emulate my own parents but we make good money and I think that we should be able to enjoy a little bit of it from time to time. But he wants to hoard it and do nothing with it but let it sit in the bank. maybe we need to do some financial counseling because this is really driving a serious wedge between us.

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