The Smooth Spender vs. the Savvy Saver
1. One of You Is a Spender and the Other Is a Saver
Why you fight: You have very different ideas and values when it comes to money. The spender feels constrained and the saver feels insecure. Couples often see only the negative side of their partners' financial habits.
How to stop: Learn to recognize your partner's financial strengths. Take buying a car as an example. While a saver may gravitate toward an inexpensive used car, the spender may want a new, more costly vehicle. To arrive at a compromise you can both live with, you want to combine the saver's ability to sniff out a good deal with the spender's ability to commit to a purchase.
The bottom line: Aim to make a better decision as a couple than you would as individuals. Before you make any big purchase, have a heart-to-heart about your needs and expectations, and set an absolute limit for how much money the two of you are willing to spend.
2. You Have a Single-Income Household
Why you fight: The person who earns the money expects to be in control of the spending; the non-earning partner in the relationship believes the decisions should be made jointly. This dynamic creates stress, conflict, and an imbalance of power.
How to stop: This issue really boils down to control, and marriage is a partnership. Using money to control your spouse -- even subconsciously -- can seriously damage your relationship. Start by broaching the subject at a calm time, not when you're arguing about money, and explain your feelings. One technique that can help is setting a specific dollar amount for each partner's discretionary spending, or agreeing that you'll discuss any purchase over a certain limit before making it.
The bottom line: This can be a long-term issue. If one of you breaks the new rules you set, talk about why you did so, and make adjustments. If you still find yourselves at a stalemate, consider enlisting the help of a marriage counselor. An impartial third party can help each of you understand the other's point of view.