Recently, I wrote a post about why couples should talk about money. But HOW you talk about money is equally important. Here are some tips for talking about finances with your loved one.
Budgeting for Military Families: How to Talk About the “F” Word (read: Finances)
Pick the Right Time
Don’t talk about a money issue during a fight, after a fight, when one of you is tired, when the kids are acting up….you get it, pick a time when both of you are awake, well-fed, rested and in a good mood.
Pick the Right Battle
Talk about goals, both short and long term. These goals can serve as a roadmap for your family. Short term can be anything within the next few years: paying off a credit card, saving for a vacation, or, in our case, saving up for a car to replace our ten years’ “new” one. Long term goals have a more distant horizon: saving for the kids’ college, post military careers, retirement.
Write down the goals if it helps you. How are you going to reach these goals? Be specific. “We’re going to save XX dollars for XX months so we can pay cash for a mountain bike.”
The only way to know where you are on your roadmap is to have a clear idea of your family’s income and expenditures. If you don’t already have a spending plan in place, you should start tracking expenditures now. After a few weeks of tracking spending, you should be able to come up with a budget and have an idea of how much you can save toward your goals.
You should be able to find some common ground on the larger goals, or at least come to some sort of compromise. However, you should also realize that you are different human beings and will not see (or value) things the same way.
That’s why in my previous post I suggested that each person have their own “me” money, even if it’s only a few dollars a month. It can be very liberating not to have to justify every purchase.
Know When to Get Help
If you can’t agree on priorities for saving or if you can’t figure out how to create a spending plan, you should consider getting help. Financial squabbles often lead to marital difficulties. Military families can go to their local family readiness center, which generally has a financial counselor on staff. Military OneSource can be a valuable resource, and offers financial counseling as well.
The most important tip, though it may sound cliché, is to just DO IT. (Talk about finances, that is.) Don’t be in a state of denial about your finances, don’t hide purchases in the back of your closet, and don’t watch your partner’s spending like an overly-critical hawk – have a frank talk about money and work together on your spending goals.