Controlling Holiday Spending (and Arguments about Money!)

by Norris Law Group on December 17, 2013

You and your spouse may spend more money during the holidays than during any other time of year—and this can lead to conflict. Michelle Bender, a NYC mother of two and contributor to Parenting Magazine, provides some suggestions as to “How to Argue Less About Money in Marriage,” citing the oft-used statistic that arguments about money are the leading cause of divorce.

1.       Remember that your relationship is about more than the bottom line. Bender writes that married couples rarely agree about money completely. Over time, one person may emerge as a spender and one as a saver, which may easily lead to disagreements over money. This does not, however, necessarily mean that you and your spouse are “a bad match.” If you remain aware that you and your spouse approach money differently, you can simply “face your differences and discuss them calmly.”

2.       Share your history. A good place to start when analyzing how and why you view money as you do is with your parents. How did they handle money? You likely exhibit many of their behaviors. A big part of how you deal with money today is based on how your parents handled it.

3.       Give a little credit. Even if your partner’s financial habits are different from yours, you should be able to find something to admire. For example, if your spouse is more of a “spender” and you note some pricy purchases for gifts on your credit card bill(s), rather than getting angry, try to find some good in it. Perhaps thank your spouse for so kindly purchasing gifts for your loved ones.

4.       Forget budgets; create a spending plan instead.  Sit down with your spouse and create a “spending plan,” rather than creating a “budget,” which may feel limiting and punitive.” Start by logging all of your family’s fixed monthly expenses (mortgage, car payments, utilities, etc.) and subtract that amount from your income. Then decide how much you can spend or save by figuring out what you need and must purchase (food, diapers, etc.) and what you can live without (such as buying lunch as opposed to “brown-bagging” it).

5.       Schedule “the Talk.” Set a time for you and your spouse to talk about money—and stick to it. Both partners in a marriage should always know what’s going on with the family finances. If you and your spouse discuss money matters at least once or twice a month, the one paying the bills likely won’t harbor any resentments about having to handle the money all the time, and the one not paying the bills won’t be able to ignore the family’s financial standing.

6.       Divide your stash. Bender advises having separate accounts for each spouse, in addition to joint family accounts. Each spouse should have complete power to make decisions over the money in his/her separate account, even if one spouse receives an allowance from the other. She goes on to suggest opening three separate accounts: one joint account, and one account for each spouse. Separate accounts are just that: separate. But each spouse should deposit equal percentages of your incomes (not necessarily equal amounts of money) to cover household expenses.

Attorney Graham Norris and his associates at the Norris Law Group serve the residents of Utah County and throughout Utah in the area of divorce. Contact them today at 801-932-1238 or online for a free consultation.

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