If you clicked on this post to get advice from a financial expert, I am not one of those. Sorry to disappoint! I don’t have a business degree, nor do I run a “Get A Rich Quick” website. But—and I swear it’s a big but—I’ve been married for five years and we have joint back accounts. Those are my credentials: Five years of talking about money with my husband. It’s no degree, but it’s about as real as it gets. We’ve come a long way when it comes to our communication skills around money.
We got married when I was 24. We were both starting our careers, which meant we were both broke. We, quite literally, started from the bottom. Financial anxiety, extremely high rent prices, and a (un)healthy dose of limiting beliefs around money did not make for breezy conversations in which to plan and manage our finances. The word “money” came with a load of shame and a lot of fear. Though it took some time to realize this, most of our conversations around money stemmed from a constant state of fear—we were scared to fail, felt pressure to succeed, and wanted to “get ahead.” All of this was the perfect cocktail for massive arguments.
If you think this is the part of the story where I tell you we’ve become millionaires and I’m about to spill all my secrets…sorry to disappoint again! We are not in a seven figure bracket. We do, however, have a savings account with actual money in it and say adult things like “when we buy a house next year.” But most importantly, we’re able to have productive conversations about our finances, something I never thought we’d be able to do.
Chances are you’ve probably had an argument with an ex, your significant other, or even with yourself about money; you’ll most likely agree when I say that there is no worst feeling than arguing about it. Money brings up all sorts of emotions and doubts—in my case, a lot of self-worth issues and an overload of limiting beliefs that stemmed from my childhood. In short, it always made me feel really shitty.
Fast forward five years. I’ve worked through a lot of those limiting beliefs and we never argue over money anymore. It was a rocky road to get here, but through a lot of trial and error (seriously though) we have become pretty solid money communicators. There can be a lot of shame or secrecy associated with discussing money openly, so I figured I’d share some of the things that have helped me out. What up, #digitaltent.
Not every couple has a joint bank account like we do, but I think these tips can be useful ways to reframe how you communicate about The Big Stuff within your partnership or about the ways you talk to yourself about money. Of course, with all that said, if you’re looking for financial advice (you know, from an actual expert), you should probably book an appointment with a financial advisor.
Here we go!
Choose Your Communication Method Wisely
In the beginning of our marriage, my husband or I would start money conversations out of the blue—usually right before Game of Thrones (never a good time!) or after one of us walked through the door after a long day, hoping for a warm hello or a chance to chill. Inevitably, we got nowhere.
We needed a very clear signal that we were about to have a hey-let’s-talk-about-our-finances talk. Picking the right time to talk face-to-face was difficult so I tried a different tack: e-mail.
Instead of surprising my husband with a financial concern during dinner, I’d list the #facts of our current situation, mention upcoming bills, ask questions, and add my suggestions. I’d end with, “let me know when you can chat further” (I know, so professional) and hit send.
The emails worked. My husband had time to digest what I wrote, and when he was ready to talk we’d schedule a time to have a productive conversation about next steps. Emailing allowed enough time for the initial frustrations around upcoming bills or unexpected expenses to settle. By the time we sat down to discuss action steps we were actually talking, a.k.a. getting shit done.
Elect A Leader
At first my husband and I both tried to manage our finances. After a couple of frustrating years, my husband finally looked at me and said: I need you to take charge. This simple sentence completely transformed our process: It gave me permission to own our finances and unburden him of the pressure to follow up on minute details. When we both tried to do it, things fell through the cracks. Taking charge meant I was able to truly own it. If an issue arose, I’d type out my email and together we’d find a time when we could productively talk it out. Even if you have separate bank accounts, having simple rules around who is in charge of paying rent, communicating with your landlord, opening the mail, etc., can be incredibly empowering and stress-reducing.
Set Budget Rules
This was a hard one. My husband likes sports betting. I like shopping. Neither of us understands each other’s pastimes, but we respect each other enough to be okay with that. In order for this to work, we’ve had to set boundaries on what we can spend. This might sound restrictive, but it really boils down to respect. I wouldn’t spend $500 on new clothes without telling him, and he wouldn’t place a $500 bet without letting me know. We’ve set a maximum spend on these hobbies that feels acceptable to both of us. Anything over, we talk about it and make the decision together. At the end of the day, we all like different things and therefore like spending money on different things; our partners shouldn’t be telling us what we can and cannot do. That said, to avoid frustration, resentment, and arguments, my husband and I showed each other respect by setting limitations on our hobby spending. This created a level of trust that was necessary for healthy financial convos.
There Is No “I” in Team
So cliche, so effing true. When my husband and I used to argue about money, it seemed like we were each advocating for #TeamMe. But, as a couple, money conversation are really about bettering your joint future. It seems simple, but when both of us realized we were on the same team and had the same goal, it profoundly changed the way we communicated. It has helped us make better short and long term goals and keep our individual and collective needs clear.
Look At Your Limiting Beliefs
“Money comes easily and naturally to me.”
The first time my friend Brit said this to me I got chills all over my body; I was so far removed from that mindset. Mine was closer to: Making money is hard, and I am not worthy.
Money in my childhood was a complicated topic. Long story short: We either had a lot of money, or we had nothing. As a young, impressionable kid, this made me feel like money was always something that could easily be taken away from us. So, unconsciously, I feared it. Simultaneously, I knew what it felt like to not have money, so I feared that, too.
Though it took four years to connect these childhood anxieties to my current beliefs and fears around money, I felt a huge release when I made the link. I viewed money through a fresh lens that affected the way I viewed and spoke about it. I put a Post-it on my bathroom mirror that said: “Money comes easily and naturally to me.” I would repeat that to myself while brushing my teeth. Eventually it caught on, not only for myself but also for my partner. By working out my subconscious, toxic beliefs around money, my partner felt encouraged to address some of his own limiting beliefs. This, more than anything, has helped us the most. When we removed fear from our conversations, talking about money really wasn’t that scary.
Here’s the truth: Money conversations can be hard; they usually brings up a lot of stuff. Addressing reasons for the fear-driven madness around money, setting budget rules, and changing our communication methods helped me and my husband drastically shift the way we thought and talked about our finances.
It was a process. Big, heavy beliefs don’t change overnight; learning to be patient and celebrate the little achievements along the way also really helped.
My husband’s dear grandmother, Florence, gave us the best marriage advice before she passed:
Remember that you both come from different families with different values and beliefs. Respect that. Respect that you’re different people and therefore, have a lot to offer. Respect your differences. It’s what makes you stick it out all those years.”
This 96-year-old grandmother-wisdom has stayed with me. She was talking about marriage in general, but it applies to our finances, too: We both come from different families and have been fed different beliefs about money, but if we respect each other’s processes we’re moving in the right direction.
Another source of wisdom in all this? Abraham Hicks. If you’re feeling stuck, listen. I promise, you won’t regret it.
If you have any great money tips, or also have a great communication tip to share, please comment down below—we want to hear from you!