How to Have a ‘Financial Talk’ With Your Spouse Over the Holidays

Here are three tips for how to talk to your spouse about money problems over the holidays.

Approximately 31% of all couples have arguments over their finances at least once a month, according to an Ameriprise study. While this may be true, the real issue at hand is that you may not be having a financial conversation with your partner, especially during the holiday season. This could cause unwanted stress, and lack of communication could potentially damage your relationship in the future.

Here are some steps to get you started and help you avoid financial conflict in the new year.

1. Initiate the Conversation With Confidence

You might want to sit down with your spouse or partner over coffee to review your holiday spending plans to avoid a “debt hangover” after the holidays. Talking about finances can be difficult, so it is important to speak in a relaxed environment. Review one another’s numbers, accounting for how much each of you intends to spend this year and on whom. You may want to take a look at receipts from last year as a point of reference and go from there. You might even want to start the conversation by addressing your partner’s strengths with money and how much you appreciate all that they do for you financially (i.e.: paying the bills every month or helping out around the house).

2. Discuss Your Goals

Talk to your spouse about the pros and cons of saving money together instead of overspending on nonessential items and gifts over the holidays. You might even want to bring up how you would like to save up for a future goal together. If you or your partner continues to overspend, that goal may never be reached. You could even have a little fun with it and create a savings jar. Just fill it up until you reach your goal! (Curious about where your finances stand? You can view two of your credit scores for free, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.)

3. Come Up With a Plan

Create a holiday budget together, and consider writing down whom you plan to buy for and how much you plan to spend on each person. Once you have ideas on what you want to buy and how much you plan to spend for each person, make sure you do your research by comparison shopping. This might mean shopping online rather than in store, taking advantage of special store sales and clipping coupons.

You might also want to designate roles for you and your partner to take in the holiday shopping process where one of you is responsible for finding sales while the other takes care of the actual shopping. If you plan to shop as a team, you may not only save money but spend quality time together that makes the experience much more fun and enjoyable.

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4 Bad Money Habits That Can Hurt Your Relationship

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Money issues can cause arguments, stress and even divorce if they’re not addressed. In order to maintain a healthy relationship you should consider having mutual financial disclosure. Here is a list of some bad habits that can potentially hurt your relationship and tips for how to avoid them.

1. Avoiding Financial Conversations

The most important part of a relationship is honesty and trust. If you are getting serious with your partner, then you should consider sitting down and having a conversation about money before taking the next step. Speaking about your finances with your partner can be personal, however, if you plan to move in together and build a future, then you want to make sure you are on the same financial page. Ask yourself, Will you share a joint account? Joint credit cards? Who will be in charge of paying the bills? All of these questions should be addressed before taking the next step with your partner to avoid issues down the road.

2. Keeping Money Secrets

It is okay to keep some things personal from your partner, however, you might want to reconsider hiding financial secrets. If you or your partner has a large amount of debt, then it’s important that you let the other party know. (Not sure where your finances stand? You can view two of your free credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.) Depending on how serious your relationship is, you should be aware or have an idea of how much your partner is making and how much they are spending on expenses. If you are hiding some big financial secret from your partner, then don’t you think they may be wondering what else you are hiding? Avoid this and consider establishing some ground rules with your partner before getting serious; make sure you can trust them.

3. Not Using a Compatible Budget (for Two)

The first step to staying organized financially is establishing a budget. Now, you may be following a budget already, but have you redesigned your budget to include two people? Budgeting for one is not the same as budgeting for two. You may have more money and more expenses. You might even be sharing a credit card. Consider speaking with your partner about their budgeting techniques and combining a new budget for the both of you. If you notice that you are getting tight on money at the end of every month, then consider trimming some of the expenses on your budget. It might be difficult at first, but focus on staying positive and making compromises. If you are experiencing trouble with budgeting, then consider downloading an app to help.

4. Not Having Savings

Sit down with your partner and discuss your short- and long-term goals. Do you plan to take a vacation together in the future? Are you planning on paying off all of your student loans in the next five years? Consider coming up with a list of financial goals you both plan to achieve, pick one and start saving! Work as a team to reach your goal. It can be very rewarding once you reach your number and go on that tropical vacation you both always wanted.

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Here’s How to Tell Your Love Your Credit Stinks

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When you find yourself staring down a mountain of debt, you probably want to just find a cave somewhere and hide. But if the way you’re managing your money has the potential to affect your spouse or significant other, it’s worth talking about it, lest you suffer the fallout of financial infidelity later on.

While everyone’s financial situation may differ, the tips outlined here can help you get started with having that tough conversation.

Know Why You Want to Talk 

Before you sit down with your loved one, “you have to think about why it is you want to discuss this,” said Amanda Clayman, a New York City-based financial therapist who works with people around all aspects of financial behavior and their relationship with money. Ask yourself, “Why is it that you want to come clean about this? Do you want emotional support? Do you need financial help?” Perhaps you feel like you’ve been misleading, or even dishonest, in the way that you held onto this information or disclosed other information in the past. Whatever it is, knowing your own motivations will help you structure the conversation around what needs to be said.

Do Your Homework  

“To prepare, you really need to be clear on the situation,” said Clayman. “You can’t disclose the truth without knowing what the truth is.” Do as much of your own homework as you can before your discussion by pulling your credit report and doing an overall assessment of your finances. (You can view two of your credit scores, updated monthly, on Credit.com.)

Know Your Audience

“It’s a different conversation to have with your parents versus a person with whom you already share finances,” said Clayman. In other words, try to anticipate what you need to disclose to this person in particular. Is the way that you’ve been using your credit card affecting your spouse’s ability to put away savings? If so, you’ll need to be more upfront. If your spending is so out of control that you need to move back home with your parents to pay off the debt, you’ll want to choose your words carefully when telling your parents.

Be Direct 

“The best thing to do is bring it up as its own conversation,” said Clayman. “You want to be direct and honest, and acknowledge why you haven’t talked about [this subject] in the past.” You’ll also want to address any concerns you have about how your loved one may react — and how you hope they’ll respond. Offering some context can be helpful, said Clayman, since being honest is a step toward taking responsibility and hopefully putting yourself on a path to addressing your own financial instability and creditworthiness.

Being upfront about these emotions will also help the other person be aware of their own reaction as they hear this, said Clayman. What’s more, it will give them a sense of why you may not have been so forthcoming up until now.

“It’s not saying that you can’t have your own reaction to it,” she said. “It’s a way of keeping the relational context intact as you talk about something that can be surprising to some people.” She added, “If you’re to say, ‘I’m sharing this, and the reason I didn’t share it [before] was because I was worried you’d see me in a certain way or be disappointed,’ that way the person can address or refute it.”

Give Yourself Space & Time 

When having a talk like this, it’s important to do what you can to make the situation feel less overwhelming, both to you and your loved one. You want to be able to say what needs to be said — and ensure that you have space to do it. “Try to do this at a time when you’re not going to be interrupted,” said Clayman. Also, make sure there’s adequate time. “This is going to be really emotional and a little unpredictable,” she said. “Neither of these things will be improved by having too little time or quiet.”

Focus on Your Loved One 

Discussing your financial woes is never easy, but focusing on your loved one can help you stay connected, even when you feel yourself getting worked up. “Even when people disagree or there’s a breach of trust, look for ways that you’re still connected in other aspects of your relationship,” Clayman says. Reminding yourself of those things will help you get through the worst of the problem — and remind you what you’re working toward.

Remember, disclosing your money woes and/or lousy credit isn’t a time to unburden yourself of your worries and guilt. It’s about finding a way to work through the problem together. Not taking this approach can be destructive, especially if you’re not prepared for your loved one’s “anger, bewilderment and so on,” Clayman says. So take the time to learn where you stand and plan the conversation accordingly. Things may just go more smoothly than you expected.

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