"I just can't stay mad at you..."
Whenever you have two distinct personalities living together in close quarters, there are bound to be disagreements on everything from the proper method of loading a dishwasher to the relative merits of Breaking Bad and Grand Theft Auto V. (Two guesses as to which one of us is the fan.)
But the grandaddy of all potential arguments is over money.
J and I have certainly had our fair share of money disagreements--and in fact, we may have taken some other couples' shares, as well. But at this point in our relationship, we generally are able to avoid money arguments--without simply renaming them "heated discussions." That's not to say that we always agree or that the house is lit entirely by rainbows. But we've gotten into a pretty good groove by following some important ground rules:
1. We have fun money, and we're not afraid to use it.
J and I each get fun money every month to spend however the heck we want. I tend to spend mine throughout the month on things like audio book downloads, office supply splurges, books, purses, etc. J doesn't touch his fun money for months at a time, and then spends a big chunk all at once on things like this video game steering wheel:
We each see the other's fun money spending choices as completely insane. Because I simply cannot comprehend spending such a large chunk of change on what amounts to a joystick, and J has often wondered if I have a secret goal of owning ALL the purses as some sort of bid for world domination.
But since our fun money is ours to spend as we wish, our completely different values for spending it don't matter in the slightest.
2. We encourage each other to purchase things that make us happy.
This particular tip would not work at all if either of us were natural spenders rather than natural savers. But since we are savers, we can both be very good about talking ourselves out of purchases that we really want. For instance, I love doing crossword puzzles, and will regularly purchase New York Times crossword puzzle books to have on hand for when the mood strikes (about twice or three times a day at my peak). While these books are not expensive (about $9 each all told), I have considered giving them up on a couple of occasions when money was tight. At those times, J has pointed out to me that I'm buying many hours of enjoyment for my $9, which is totally worth it--an argument that I can easily forget when I get too focused on frugality.
I will also cheerlead for J, as well, like when I told him that we could work together to save up for a long-distance motorcycle before he turns 40. He will often feel like his wants are frivolous when compared to the things we as an entire family need. Sometimes he needs me to remind him that we need a happy J, too, and that we can work together to make that happen.
3. We talk about expenditures before we make them.
I remember reading a while ago about a couple that did not make any purchases over $5 without first consulting each other.
To be honest, I thought that was crazytown, even though the couple had instituted this policy because they were trying to dig themselves out of some serious debt.
However, J and I do something similar. We make sure that we talk about medium and large expenditures together, even though the conversation is often just one of us saying "Okay, sure," to the other one. We also talk about how to allot windfalls, bonuses, and raises together, so that we're on the same page regarding where our money goes.
4. We daydream together.
One of our favorite road trip activities is listing all the places we'd like to travel to. We also forward each other articles about interesting destinations, great restaurants, upcoming events, and other fun stuff to do. That means we generally have our wants and needs aligned, and we have fun making plans for our money even if we have to say no to things now to be able to afford the cool stuff later.
5. We have each other's back.
It's vital to know what's important to your spouse and make sure they know that you are in their corner. While I know that J and I do this, the best example of this I've seen recently was from my brother-in-law David.
While my sister Tracie was visiting last month to meet BB, her beloved dog Pixie started having severe back problems. To make a long story short, it became clear that Pixie would have to have an MRI to find out if she needed surgery--and that the surgery would cost over $5000. My brother-in-law was the one to take Pixie to the MRI which indicated that surgery would help, so he authorized the procedure without talking to Tracie.
Basically, David knew that the poor dog was in unbearable pain, and he knew just how important Pixie is to my sister. Since they had the money, since David knew that Tracie would want to go ahead with the surgery, and since he knew that if they had the finance talk about the surgery beforehand that Tracie would feel guilty about spending the money, he gave my sister the gift of knowing that what was important to her was important to him, too.
Doing all of these things doesn't necessarily insulate us from all financial disagreements, but it certainly does help keep me and J on the same page. Even if I'll never understand why he insists on putting bowls on the top rack of the dishwasher.
How do you avoid money arguments with your spouse?