How To Reduce Money Stress In Relationships

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[The following is a partial transcript of this episode of The Scott Alan Turner Show. Listen to the full episode to hear this story, listener questions, money hacks, and inspiring stories of people that are changing their financial lives. Subscribe to the free podcast on iTunes or Google Play]

When Katie bought her townhouse, we were just dating at the time, I helped her paint the rooms. That was a lot of painting, especially the bathrooms where you have to cram your body into this tiny space to get around the toilet in the corners.

I had gone through my spending phase, the paycheck-to-paycheck, the debts, and I was Mr. Frugal, didn’t want to spend money at all. Katie is not a big spender, but when you put a super saver (me) next to a medium saver (Katie), anything she bought I would frown on and it would irritate me.

What? A new skillet! We already have a skillet!

We started seeing a financial advisor to help get our money in order. I can still see the room we were in, it had tan couches, there was a coffee table between us, I was still a bad dresser. Katie was frustrated at me being such a tight wad, and he asked her what she wanted. I just want to decorate the house, put up some pictures and some art, get a new TV. How much is that going to cost? he asked. She gave him a number, and he looked at me and said, Scott, give her the money, you can afford it.

It’s natural to have financial friction or some type of conflict with money. That’s because there are two kinds of people in this world. Savers, and spenders.
Some people think they might be in the middle, but they always tilt one way or the other. You can also have a relationship with two savers, and two spenders. But because there is a spectrum, one person might want to save more than the other saver. Or have different saving priorities.

  • One saver might want to save for the kid’s college, the other might want to save for a cruise, or retirement.
  • One might want to save for the downpayment on a rental house, one might want to save to pay down the current house.
  • One might want to save for Christmas gifts for all the family and the cousins, one might just want to save for the family

I always take the advice of people that are smarter or more experienced than I am, and at least give it a try.

So I said, ok to decorating.

And she starts coming home with bags of stuff, fake flowers, new shelves, picture frames. And before I would have looked at those bags and wondered how much did all this cost? And think it was a waste because I would never buy that stuff. But I had been set free from that thinking. Because now it was just a budget, and if you’re under the budget, buy what you want.

She’s all happy and starts throwing dinner parties. A house, a shell, turned into a home.

Here is a letter from a listener of the show:

Earlier this year my wife wrote to you and explained our financial situation, that over the last few years has improved significantly largely thanks to the direction and determination of my wife.My wife was so incredibly delighted because you mentioned her email on the show. She was so happy that you applauded our efforts, she truly smiled from ear to ear at the suggestion that we are crushing it! I am indebted to you for this. In a world that likes to make you mad and sad, there are too few reasons to smile – thanks for your encouragement and down to earth advice.

My wife has over time embarked on a number of missions around the house with great gusto and determination. She adopted a minimalist approach and de-cluttered our home (and our life). She has subsequently worked hard to set budgets in place for our outgoings, and we use an app to track our expenditure. She set targets for all the major categories, including my voracious appetite for coffee and eating out. I was initially very skeptical and reluctant, even cheating the system by withdrawing and spending cash and not declaring this. I figured that I earned enough, so why shouldn’t I spend my money on a few small details to get me through the day… but obviously she knew this

Maria stuck with me, and stuck at it. Increasingly she engaged me in the process and the rationale, but allowed me enough freedoms that I didn’t disengage or give up. We started to, together, articulate the rationale for doing this – we hope to pay off our mortgage in less than two years and have more freedom to make career and life choices. We work tough and demanding jobs in the NHS but we are well paid – something that we worked hard and studied over years to earn. We weren’t lucky – it wasn’t given to us in an envelope one morning (but we have had good luck along the way, as well as bad luck like anyone).

The point is, I guess, that many call in or write in and ask how they can convince their partner, family member to get on board with plans. I wanted to share my experience of this to send a message of hope to your listeners. I am as stubborn as the next guy, and no angel.
Over time I listened and found the central message ‘why’ we are doing this to be more compelling.

The central message of ‘why’ you do what you do can be very compelling. What’s your Why?

It was never about controlling me, restraining my spending or depriving me of the small things that I enjoyed. These were all things that I felt or worried about at one time or another.

I now work with my wife to

  • achieve our goals,
  • stick within our monthly budgets,
  • and try to earn a little more now and again where I can without unduly sacrificing on our limited time together.

We make decisions together about when we are going to loosen our financial belts a little more, as we recently did for my birthday party – I won’t say which one, it was a big one.

  • I am looking forwards to our future and feel like we are aiming for something.
  • We have an alignment.
  • I want the same for your listeners.

You know this already – a budget builds wealth, saving is important, and being debt free helps you sleep better.

but working as a team there is also

  • being in a position to get a better job or work somewhere else
  • having more money for other priorities like family or friends
  • hitting those big, big goals like a new house, college funding or retirement savings, retiring early

There are people in a relationship where the money fights suck. Maybe they can’t get their partner on board, or their not enjoying being with that other person because of all this financial conflict. There are people who have this mindset:

  • They make the money, they make the decisions
  • They are young, hot, and sexy, spend it now
  • Leaving and abandoning ship sounds a lot easier

The best thing about working together, is having shared goals and working as a team unlocks the power and potential of your income because you work as one.

You get everything done faster. You hit every goal quicker. You’re happier. They’re happier. We’re happier. You want to be happy, right?

Let me make sure you don’t make these mistakes I made.

  1. Being too tight with a penny and not having any life now
  2. Getting upset about my wife not saving as much as I wanted to save
  3. Not having a long term plan.

Think of it this way – a good plan that you follow, means you can just kick back in the passenger seat and let the self-driving car get you to where you want to go. You just punch in the address.

As I see it, you have three choices if you’re in a relationship where there are some conflicts about money. Spending vs. Saving.

First, you quit and go find someone else. It’s kinda like you bring your baggage. They bring their baggage. You find some of this new baggage is kinda neat. It’s the hardshell case, with the rolly wheels and the light weight carbon fiber frame. But then there is all this other baggage you didn’t know you were getting. There is an 80 lb back pack and what’s up with that. And then some of this other baggage, it looks a lot like that old baggage you were trying to get rid of. It’s more of the same.

Second, you could do absolutely nothing and keep doing what you’re doing. Which means you’re going to continue to get what you’ve always got. You’re life now is as good as it gets.

  • The money fights continue.
  • The broke continues.
  • The pulling in opposite directions continue

It’s kinda like well someone has trouble falling asleep every night and it’s probably from the double espressos they drink after dinner, but they aren’t going to stop drinking double espressos. Don’t expect to fall asleep quickly, right?

Or third, what would happen if you tried

  • where you work together as a team
  • with shared goals
  • shared dreams

and see where that takes you in the next 90 days. Imagine what life is going to look like, oh heck, 9 minutes from now if you just offered to change.

  • Let’s do that budget thing you’ve been nagging me about for six months
  • I know you stay at home with the kids, but this is our money, let’s figure out how WE want to use it
  • We’ve got the cash for the new kitchen table or gadget you wanted, let’s go get that this weekend

Of those three, which is going to be easier for you?


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