The Perils of Different Priorities
3. You Disagree on Spending Priorities for the Kids
Why you fight: You're not really arguing over private education versus saving for college, or designer duds versus second-hand shoes. What you're really fighting about are values.
How to stop: If you don't talk about the real issues, you'll keep having the same fight over and over again. A lot of these conflicts arise from the way each spouse was raised. For example, maybe you went to private school and think that will set your kids up for a successful future, while your partner went to public school and thinks that will make your kids more self-sufficient. Either way, just explaining the emotions underlying each of your beliefs will help you find common ground.
The bottom line: Try to reach a compromise. Always start by asking if you'll have to sacrifice anything to spend the money in question. If the conflict isn't about the expense, hash out exactly what is behind it and meet halfway. Maybe you send your kids to private school but have them buy their own clothing with allowance money, or send them to public school but pay for extracurricular activities to provide extra enrichment.
4. You Have Debt
Why you fight: Dragging around debt always causes stress, especially if you can't afford to pay it off -- or if you disagree with your partner on whether to save your cash for a rainy day or pay off your outstanding balances.
How to stop: One of the easiest ways to alleviate the situation is to tackle that debt. For which debts to pay down first and how to balance that with savings, see Resources, below. To get aggressive and take care of your debt once and for all, take our free Get Out of Debt Boot Camp (see Resources, below). Either way, schedule a time to sit down, crunch the numbers (how much debt you have, what kind it is, how much savings you have, how much each of you earns), and decide what's realistic.
The bottom line: You have to talk about your priorities; you might define security as being debt-free, whereas your partner feels safer with a hefty savings account. Once you understand each other, it will be easier to agree on an approach.
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