Published in: Banks | July 8, 2019

8 in 10 Couples Have Argued Over Purchases. Here's How to End Those Fights for Good

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Have you argued about spending with your significant other? Most people have. But that doesn't need to be the case.

Couple looking at bills in dismay.
Image source: Getty Images

A recent survey conducted by The Ascent found that 82% of couples have argued over purchases. This probably comes as no surprise. Anyone who has been in a relationship has likely rolled their eyes over something their partner wanted to buy.

Arguing over items you wish to own may be the norm, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. In fact, frequent money fights can undermine your relationship. Financial issues have consistently been a leading cause of separation or divorce.  

You don’t want your purchasing habits -- or your partner’s -- to put your love at risk, so it’s important to find a way to overcome these disagreements. The good news is you can end fights over purchases for good.

Just take the four simple steps detailed below.

1. Agree on financial goals together

Setting a budget and spending limits is hard when you focus on what you’re giving up. Rather than approaching money discussions based on things you can’t buy or can’t do, decide together what you want to do with your cash. If early retirement or buying a home is important to both of you, set these things as joint goals.

Once you know what your goals are, work backwards from there. Figure out what it would take to accomplish them and put this into your budget first.

Do you need to save $500 per month to build up a decent-sized down payment to buy a house in two years? Put this in your budget. After accounting for joint financial goals and necessary purchases like groceries, shelter, transportation, and childcare, see how much money is left over. Then decide together what you’ll do with it or divide it up. Some couples may like to spend their own shares of the “extra” cash.

2. Give each partner some leeway

65% of men and 47% of women told us their relationship prevented them from owning an item they wanted to have. If your partner keeps you from buying things that are important to you, conflict is inevitable.

Unless one of you wants a Ferrari when you’re on a Ford budget, you can usually find ways to allow each partner to buy the things that matter to them. And you should allow both yourself and your partner the freedom to make purchases that won’t break your budget.

To avoid arguing over every purchase, give each partner some “fun” money. They can do whatever they want with that money -- without question. This way no one feels like they can’t have something just because their partner doesn’t want them to buy it.

Allowing this freedom just makes sense. 61% of survey respondents said they bought something they knew their partner would be unhappy about. Among those people, 4 out of 5 ended up having an argument over purchases with their partner.

If your partner is going to buy things you aren’t happy about, you may as well plan for that up front and avoid the argument that will otherwise ensue.

3. Be open and honest with your partner about purchases

The Ascent’s survey showed that 67% of men and 73% of women have committed financial infidelity, or been dishonest with their partner about money matters. The most common lies were

  • hiding a purchase price,
  • hiding a purchase that was made, and
  • lying about either a price or a purchase.

When you hide things about money, you never learn to deal with conflict and find compromise. And your partner will be that much more angry if they discover your dishonesty.

Instead, make a point to have regular conversations about what you’re doing with your money. Share openly with your partner what you’re doing with shared assets. These open conversations allow you to discuss big purchases you want to make before conflict arises. And they can give you the room to find compromise so you’re both happy.

You’ll get used to working things out together if you do this often enough. Eventually, you'll be able to have these discussions without anger or hostility creeping in.

4. Make a commitment not to judge

You want to encourage communication and to be honest and open with your partner so you can discuss budgeting and spending. To do this, you can’t treat your partner’s purchases with scorn.

You may not be crazy about your partner’s comic book or shoe collection. Or you may think it’s silly to spend so much on a purse or a sports jersey. But you shouldn’t treat your partner’s splurges as any less worthy than your own.

If you respect each other’s desires as individuals, you’ll want to find ways to let your partner buy things that are important to him or her. And your partner will do the same for you. You’ll both be happier with the freedom to buy what matters to you and with the way you work together to use your money for your shared enjoyment.

Put an end to money fights for good

The love you have for your partner is more important than any object either of you wish to own. So it’s worth the effort to find ways to end fights over purchases for good.

You can find a way to create a peaceful joint financial situation by taking four steps:

  1. Work together to set financial goals.
  2. Allowing each partner some fun money to spend.
  3. Discuss purchases honestly.
  4. Commit to not judging each other

If you can do these things, your relationship will be stronger because of the compromises you made together.

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