There's no more emotionally charged topic than money. Except, maybe, couches. When it comes to matters of taste and finances, everyone wants their way.
Country vs. contemporary. Cash vs. credit. It's not that big of a stretch to see how couples come to blows over sofa styles and saving and spending. While flipping through the October issue of Home magazine, we happened upon some pretty sound relationship advice from a decorator. We've adapted these four decorating tips for two to apply to money management. Grab a throw pillow and settle in:
Instead of talking in the abstract, go shopping and point out things that you like and dislike -- and be specific. ("Love the Lucite table legs; hate the cheetah-print runner.") Same goes for money issues. List out your short-, medium- and long-term goals. (We bet a few will require some money needs to meet them.) Also write down what expenses (your own, not your partner's) that get your goat. Now exchange lists and read without judgment, please. Compare, combine, and compromise. Which leads us to...
Give a little, get a little
Compromising is much more palatable if you know you'll get your way in a few areas. He likes chrome, she likes oak. How about an oak sideboard with chrome Deco lamp? Same goes for budgeting. Come up with an amount each partner can spend every month without question. As for medium- and long-term expenses, come up with a plan that you can both live with and look forward to achieving.
Try a third party
When emotions run high in budgeting and wide-screen TV placement, get a neutral third opinion. Plug your plan into a personal finance program like Quicken or the planning tool offered with TMF Money Advisor. There's no arguing with the black-and-white numbers. And if there is, consider taking your budget talk public with a fee-only financial advisor. Nothing inspires civility like someone sitting across a desk in a suit.
Bring on the memories
Remember your first date? What did you do? How much did it cost? Who paid? And what was the rent on that first apartment that was such a dump? There you go, you're laughing and recalling the sweet nothings that drew you two kids together in the first place. Money doesn't have to be a sore spot in your relationship. Keep reminding yourselves of those strong bonds that attracted you to each other in the first place.
For couples money therapy, check out The Motley Fool's Guide to Couples & Cash: How to Handle Money With Your Honey. Now kiss and make up. And while he's not looking, go hide his mounted elk head in the garage.