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Couples and money

by Tim St Vincent

Couples fight. It’s a fact of life; you can’t spend almost your entire adult life with another person and expect not to have a disagreement from time to time. Couples tend to fight about two main issues in life, Money, and “that other thing.” Many would think that couples fight about money as often as they fight about sex – they would be wrong. Recent studies show that couples fight about money twice as often as they fight about sex! Of people in relationships, 36 per cent are uncomfortable about talking to their partner about money, so it isn’t a surprise that money issues are responsible for 22 per cent of all divorces.

We have a workshop called Couples & Money. In it I often tell people that there are actually three individuals in your relationship: you, your partner and the money. You have a relationship with money, your partner also has a relationship with money, and the odds are very good that their relationship with money is very different from your relationship with money. This is often the root cause of a lot of the “money fights” that couples have. Your partner doesn’t think about money differently than you just to annoy you, they don’t spend when you want to save or save when you want to spend just to get under your skin. They think about money differently than you do. It’s very important to understand how you think and feel about money and how they think and feel about money. In a recent article on budgeting I talked a bit about money values. I will expand on that idea a bit here.

When you are thinking about spending your money, there is a little voice inside your head that says “Yes, this is worth spending money on” or “No, don’t spend money on that!” This little voice is your money value speaking. It is expressing how you value money and how you feel about it. It is your relationship with money speaking. This relationship can be about wanting safety and security (the Saver) or one where you want comfort and adventure (the Spender). Perhaps charitable work is important to you, so you want save so that you can give. We all have relationships with money, we all have money values, and we often have more than one. Sometimes they even compete against each other. If you’re in a relationship, it is doubly important to realize not only the money values that you have, but that your partner will also have a relationship with money and his or her own money values that may be very different from yours.

Some common money values are;

  • safety & security
  • freedom
  • choice
  • ability to give back (charity)
  • independence
  • comfort

Once you can understand and identify these money values in both yourself and your partner, you can start to work to find a solution to any differences. For example, if you’re in the classic pattern where one of you tends to save more and the other tends to spend more, you need to find a balance and the best way to find this balance is through a budget. In the budget the Spender can express their needs for the items they want to purchase, the budget will also allow the Saver to plan out how they will save for the purchase and to time when the funds will be available for the purchase. This allows for the needs of both the Saver and the Spender to be met. Of course, they both have to agree on the purchase itself!

Many people don’t like the idea of a budget and of saving; they believe it will restrict and control their ability to spend. The truth is actually the complete opposite. By working on a budget you will be back in control of your money. Without a budget your money tells you what you can and cannot do. A budget gives you control back and allows you to tell your money what it will do for you.

A budget helps you to save; the part that people don’t like is that they want to spend and enjoy their money. What many people often forget is why we save. Ask yourself that question, why do you save? What do you do with the money you save? Why, you spend it of course! The sole purpose of saving money is to spend money! Not to spend it recklessly though, but rather to spend it with a plan, and your budget is your plan on how to spend your money wisely. That being the case, let’s stop calling it a budget, that has a negative sound to it for some people, so let’s call in My Spending Plan! It helps me figure out how to spend my money now, and how to save, so that I can spend in the future. I don’t have a budget; I have a spending plan!

If you can come to understand your and your partner’s money values and work to express them through your budget/spending plan, then you will have taken a major step to reducing any fights you may have over money.

If you have questions or suggestions for future articles please contact me at the below number.

Tim St Vincent is a retired CFP and is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance with the Credit Counselling Society, a Non-Profit organization. If you wish to contact the Society for further information, assistance or to attend a webinar, please call 1-888-527-8999 or visit or

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