A typical money fight.

February 24, 2011 · 36 comments

Girl Ninja and I are pretty different. She’s reserved, I’m obnoxious. She’s beautiful, I’m not. She’s a “hope for the best”, I’m a “prepare for the worst.” Typically, our differences compliment each other, but every once in a while, we butt heads. This is especially true when it comes to money.

I love personal finance, I know significantly more about personal finance than Girl Ninja, and I’m a horrible communicator. Those three characteristics create some pretty interesting financial conversations. Here’s an example of what one such conversation might look like….

Girl Ninja: I saw this really cute duvet cover at West Elm that would look great on our bed. I think I’m going to get it.

Me: No you’re not.

And that, my friends, would be the extent of our conversation. Girl Ninja usually stops talking to me, and I usually don’t want to be talked to. She’s pissed because I didn’t even consider her feelings. I’m pissed because she didn’t even consider our pocketbook.

I know I’m the reason we fight about money. I admit fault. I often say things in a way that don’t represent the love and respect I have for her. Instead of saying “No, you can’t buy that duvet cover”, I should have said “Do you think the $70 that duvet costs is worth it?”

You see what I did there? Instead of TELLING Girl Ninja what she can and can’t do (like I even have that authority), I created an opportunity for dialogue. Maybe she’d respond “You know what, you’re right. It does seem like a bit much and I can think of a few other things I’d rather spend that money on” or “Well I really hate the one we have now, and I know that $70 is kind of a lot, but this one is worth it, and we’ll use it for years.”  Booya for being open minded. This is what i like to call healthy communication. And In a relationship, communication is king.

I’ve put together a short list of things I need to remember next time we talk money…

A) Just because Girl Ninja says she likes/wants something, doesn’t mean she is going to buy it.

B) She has an equal vote in how we spend our money

C) I knew she wasn’t as crazy frugal as I am when I married, how can I expect her to be different now?

D) That she is right.

If I just kept those things in mind (especially option D), we would literally avoid 99% of our money fights.

For the PF nerds out there: Do you find yourself getting caught up in the “I know more than you, so you should just listen to me” mentality? How do you combat your inner PF nazi?

For the free spenders: How do you put up with us PF lovers?

{ 35 comments }

1 ss4bc

Or….. set up a house fund that she can use to buy duvet covers and frilly pillows and just let her choose what is worth it or not with her $50/month or whatever.

You don’t have to be bad guy, the money does.

2 Crystal @ BFS

Exactly! I actually talked Mr. BFS into helping me create a realistic budget (we sat down and worked it out over an hour or so), and he actually started simply looking at OUR budget before buying stuff! I no longer have to be the bad guy! Woot for not being bitchy!

3 duddes02

I agree with A. She might just be saying she wants it and won’t actually buy it. She’ll probably realize she has no place to store the other duvet cover or that she’ll need to buy new pillow covers..etc. I always think (and say out loud) about buying something and I rarely do buy it.

I say to go with the flow and analyze it with her. I’ll bet you’ll both agree at the end. Even if she does end up buying it-at least you’ll be in the loop.

4 Kevin @ Thousandaire.com

By the same token, she knew you were super frugal when she married you. I agree that it always helps to work on a relationship and try to make things go as smoothly as possible, but if you can’t just be yourself with the person you married, then who can you be yourself with?

5 Mo D.

I agree with ss4bc and set up a house fund. Believe me, when you and GN buy your first home, having that separate account to furnish/decorate the new homestead will come in REAL handy! Hubby recently said “I can’t wait to toss out the circa 1984 dining room table and chairs”, and I agreed with him, but added “that’s the next thing we can start saving for if you like”… he appreciated that I didn’t say “not right now, it’s not in the budget”… I had put a more positive spin on by saying we should start saving for that next big purchase. You’re right, communication is key. Just remember that GN is working and contributing to the household income; a $70 duvet doesn’t sound (to me) to be that big a deal, unless she’s wanting to buy a new duvet every couple of months ;-)

6 tom

Ninja,

It’s taken my 3 years to learn how to deal with that situation. I used to say no and question every little purchase.

The biggest lesson I learned was not to question any purchase. It may sound like an incredibly hands-off approach, but if you keep her informed of your family finances and budget, you have to trust her to make smart financial decisions. $70 here and there is not a big deal. What is a big deal is creating a environment of distrust and resentment. From everything you’ve told us about her, she sounds like a very reasonable and frugal lady. You might roll your eyes at some of the silly things she comes home with, but I guarantee that if you tame your inner PF nazi, she will not make poor decisions and you’ll both be much happier.

7 Matt

Well said. Give your wife the freedom to spend, and she will align her spending to both of your goals.

8 Melisssa

Like everyone else said, set up a house fund. It’s rewarding when you do eventually get to spend it and you’ll have more time to think about what you reall need, and what you like / what’s worth the money. In time, the more she looks around, she may find that same cover or another item she wants for much less money. A frugal, thought out purchase of a much-needed item – I’d say that would be a pretty good compromise between both your personalities.

9 Lisa

Personally, I think you should relax a little bit. I don’t know what your “allowance” looks like for free spending, but $70 here or there is not the end of the world, especially when you consider your combined incomes and expenses. I agree with the posters that suggested setting up a house fund. Agree together how much money will be put into the house fund each month and then let her spend freely on duvets, throw pillows, vases, whatever. She earns money and has the right to spend on things she wants, even if you don’t think they’re necessary. Just smile and say “honey, that duvet is beautiful. you can spend the house fund on it if you want. you have great taste :)

My FI and I fight about things like this, and he can be a little like you…instead of saying “let’s budget for it” he’ll say “no”. It got to the point where I had to tell him that he is not my authority figure, that I am not subordinate to him in any way, that I earn money and contribute, and I have the right to spend on things I want. I ended up telling him that if he didn’t back off it would ruin our relationship. He’s backed off a lot, and it’s been the best thing for us!

I’m not going to bankrupt our family, and it sounds like GN won’t either. Just trust her!

10 Matt

my wife bought over $70 worth of Yoga clothes last night on top of $79 for a months pass to yoga. In the beginning I would have freaked out on her, but by now she knows where I stand on money, and spending habits. She will just need to adjust her spending for the rest of the month. Eventually if you allow freedom she will take responsibility for her own spending habits.

11 Larry

Lisa and tom have said it quite well. I suspect you’ll find that if you let GN a bit more slack, she’ll be less inclined to “overspend,” as there’s a good chance she’s challenging you to see how much rope you’ll allow her. I would suggest you both make a trip to West Elm this weekend and buy a duvet cover.

12 Money Beagle

I guess I’m confused because your other posts suggest you’re able to save a couple thousand dollars a month and that’s only going to get bigger for awhile. Explain how you can’t afford it. I know you can’t go out and spend every dime you have until you’re saving more, but there’s a difference between ‘let’s make sure we stay focused on our savings’ and ‘we can’t afford it’ because the latter suggests that you’re currently not doing much of any saving, which isn’t the case if I’m reading your blog correctly.

Sounds like a communications issue that’s pretty easily correctable if you kind of talk about how conversations like that should go and how you can both work together to make them more fruitful.

13 Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter

You need to work on finding a balance. My hubby and I struggled when we first got married because he had his own plans for money. We had to work on making it “our plan.” It takes a bit of compromising and love on both parts but then you are good to go. We really haven’t had a problem since.

14 LG

Point A could really solve a few problems in our household. I saw I love a lot of things, but I know full well that I’ll never buy it due to the lack of a) money and b) need. But of course my fiance hears “I love this great pair of shoes” and he envisions our apartment being overtaken by leather and suede!

15 Amber

I wonder if my future-hubby and I will be fighting over this type of stuff in a couple months. :) One thing I’ve always wondered when you write these type of posts is has Girl Ninja’s spending changed? If she’s spending the same amount that she did before you guys were married, shouldn’t this be okay? I think it’s especially okay if she’s still spending LESS than she earns … I dunno, I just know that my fiance and I both spend significantly less than we earn, and I think if you do that, than a little frivolous spending is totally fine by me. But everyone is totally different, too. :) You guys sound like a great couple though – at least you are always trying to work to make your relationship better instead of just being stubborn and giving up! :)

16 Sophie

Yes you will fight about money!!!!!!!! Of course! Unfortunately it is the top reason couples disagree or fight. I don’t have that problem often with my husband because of clear CLEAR CCCLLLEEEAAARRR communication. We ask each other before we spend over a certain amount. We make the other wait to see if that purchase is really wanted or an impulse buy. We talk it over. And we don’t judge. His computer parts don’t seem as important as my books or clothes, but not for me to judge, but we can talk about if it’s an impulse and if we can afford it.
I am in charge of our monthly expenses and he does taxes, loans, and other big projects like our 401k or insurance planning that I dislike. He likes those things and I like the everyday aspect of my role. I think we found a balance, which is the second key. Indulge- plan on it! But choose a discussed amount within your budget so there is no guilt. We spent $500 on a weekend getaway and then paid off 4k for our car AND put away 3k into savings all in one month. That’s balance!! But save and spend always with the heart of your marriage, and not your pocket, in mind. I won’t pretend I know it all, but I know what works for me and now I’m a practiced expert at it. You will be too!

17 Matt

I used to treat my wife like she knew nothing about money, and she felt degraded and disrespected. I have learned to become more open minded, and to talk through a purchase rather than be the person that makes the final purchase. When my wife wanted a duvet cover from west elm, I said, well we already have a duvet cover. Turns out the cover we had she no longer liked, and she would prefer to get a new one. It is important to understand the feelings behind the purchase, and the reasons why she wants something. If there is no reasoning at all, we can usually talk our way out of the purchase. Like you said, communicate, and do not make yourself be the final authority, but allow her the freedom to make financial decisions on her own.

18 Jeffrey Mitchell

Ninja, you need to have Girl Ninja watch the movie Fight Club with you. Specifically the scene where Tyler Durden brings up the question about the Duvet…it really serves no purpose as a possession. The quote was masterful, and after that point, I no longer wanted a duvet anywhere near my house.

19 Melissa

This is one thing I don’t have to worry about right now (an upside to being single!?!). I think the fact that you were able to evaluate your own behaviour towards your wife (and see how you might be part of the problem), and then modify it, is great. That’s what’s going to make your relationship work. Being yourself around someone is different from being selfish. I was in a relationship with a person who didn’t grasp the difference. And I was the money-nazi in that relationship. “Why would you buy a new TV when you have a really nice one already?” “Because this one is better.” We weren’t married so I really had no say. Had we been married I would have still had no say.

20 Sara

We keep a budget together, and $50 of it per month is for “household goods” which usually are decided on & purchased by me, and usually something for the kitchen. Since it’s part of our overall budgeting, my (rather thrifty) man doesn’t mind WHAT I spend it on, because he already thought of that money as “spent” once he put it into our shared account (we drain the shared account every month via paying for bills and things like this; that’s why we have it). Clearly your wife is like me, in that she’s constantly on the look out for things to spruce up your home and make it what we women consider to be livable, which you of course benefit from greatly. So maybe if you guys just put aside some money for household purchases on a routine basis, you won’t care what it ends up being because you’ll know the money is earmarked for that purpose!

21 Spend It Wisely

I too am the frgual one betwixt me and the wife and have had these very same conversations where my response was, although unconsicence, meant to end a conversation as soon as it started. And as a matter of fact, we have had the very conversation you and GN had. I walked away feeling like an @ss and she too was pissed. So, my lesson for this is that 1) I as a non-decorating type have learned that I have no business telling wife what to buy that is going towards the good of the house and 2) I love and adore wife enough to know she is not going to spend outrageously and has a well thought out plan when she brings it up. So, $70 is truly not a lot of money to spend on a blanket cover, if you don’t believe head over to Frontgate.com. It could be worse!

22 Paulette

Wow. Several comments mention her changing HER mind – ALLOWING her to spend – align her goals with YOURS. I think one pointed out the basic fact… Honey, you have no control over how she spends her money. Or yours for that matter.

You can certainly ASK her to go along with YOUR goals, as it seems that you don’t take any of hers into account (haven’t seen any), but she is well within her rights to blow you off and do as she sees fit. You married her, so presumably she isn’t a financial idiot. Stop treating her like one.

I am the financial guru in my home and hubby and I are in agreement on our goals and spending, but in no way do we try to control each others spending. We are partners – neither is perfect and we BOTH know it.

Good luck, sugar. Keep this up and you are going to need it.

23 Ninja

You sound like a winner Paulette :)

24 laura

I don’t think this is about a household goods fund, although I’m sure that’s a good idea to include in some couples’ budgets; the main thing is trusting her – not even necessarily to do what’s best for you/both of you financially, but to consider you and your goals in her decision. She’s obviously too decent a person with too much respect for you and your collective future to go nuts and burn through money like a maniac, but there’s a good chance you’re underestimating how much legit joy she may get out of some of the things she wants because you won’t get nearly the same out of them. I know that a $70 duvet can be the difference for me between waking up cranky and going to bed pissed off, and getting a little extra dose of happy every time I crawl in and out of bed. Same goes for shoes, and cosmetics, and whatever else for whoever. My boyfriend thinks I’m insane for spending money on decorative nonsense, but I know how much less stressed and crappy I feel when my environment makes me happy. Only she can decide if that is worth the $70 setback to your financial goals, because only she knows the value of it to her. It’s just a seriously heaping helping of trust – you know that your happiness is a factor in hers, so all you can do is trust that she’ll always consider you both in deciding what’s worth it.

25 Jenna

I think you answered your own question there. It’s all about open questions and conversation. There can’t be any “yes” / “no” conversations when it comes to couples and money.

26 My Money Mess

Ninja,

I think you should delete the word “No” from your vocabulary when talking to GN about money or purchases she wants to make. My wife is quite frugal, but she is also a woman. That’s not a dig at women, it’s just that women like different things than men do. Sometimes she wants to buy things I don’t understand the need for. Just because I don’t see the point of the purchase doesn’t mean the item shouldn’t be purchased. Whenever she’s wanted to buy something that’s a little pricey my response has always been, “Okay, let’s work it out.” Sometimes after we sat down and went over something she’d decide to delay her purchase by a week or a month or whatever so we could put the cash aside without messing with the budget too much. Other times I’d just adjust the amount we normally put into some thing else so she could buy whatever it was.

What’s always worked for us was taking the viewpoint that the question was not if she was going to buy this or that. That part was always a given. The only question was when or how it was going to fit in the budget.

27 NoDebtNewlywed

My husband and I had the exact same conversation when we first got married :)

We eventually figured out how to be financial partners, but that takes time, a few mistakes, a lot of forgiveness, and a deep sense of commitment and love for one another. We eventually also figured out that (sometimes):

a) my sprucing up the home and buying a duvet, a throw, throw pillows, etc. was one of the ways I tried to take care of us and make our first place our home, and
b) his “no” was his way of trying to take care of us (avoiding spending when not really necessary keeps our $$ in our pockets)

You can see that we just ended up hurting one another in our individual attempts to take care of “us.” No good. Create an allowance for household stuff (don’t be pejorative and label it for ‘bleach, soap, etc.’ but for the girly things that you and GN benefit from–throw rugs, toss pillows, scented candles, you know you like them!).

But the real issue is the communication–maybe try a task analysis chart/social script. No joke. You and GN sit down and come up with a plan of what steps to follow when you talk about money together (more detailed than your a, b, c, d.) For example (1) take a deep breath, (2) say/remember: $ can be spent, lost, burned. What GN and I have is worth more than that, (3) say to GN “tell me more about it/what you want to buy, etc.”, (4) say “thank you for sharing with me. Maybe I am misunderstanding this, but I have some concerns. Can I share them with you?”, (5) slowly state concerns, 1×1, (6) Invite GN to help you get on the same page. Write it up and put it on the fridge. When you talk about money–since you said you’re worried about the $$ and not her habits–follow all the steps on the chart. If you followed all the steps, put a sticker on the calendar for that day. Reevaluate and see if it was helpful. If you get X number of stickers, you and GN get something special (e.g. extra special date, etc.).

While it sounds juvenile and kind of cheesy (adapt it as you see fit, maybe you don’t want stickers, etc.), the active interest should be about growing in your marriage and communication–not both of you shutting down on each other. That’s no fun for either of you!

28 PDITF almost blog subscriber!

Your blog is HILARIOUS! I honestly go on for the laughs and maybe a little bit of the PF since im an ignorant college student! Go huskies!! I always looked up to Girl Ninja in highschool, she is awesome!

29 Rubee

Lolz.. we had this problem when we started merging our finances together. I used to question every single purchase that my now husband made and he was quite a spendthrift!! We overcame this problem by having a shopping pot and discussing any shopping purchases – whether it was a need or a want. It works great for us now!

30 undercoverkitty

Bf insisted we went to Bed, Bath and Beyond and it totally surprised me. Turned out he wanted to get new linens and duvet coz he wanted me to be comfortable (i was visiting) so off we went. It was strange seeing him in that setting as my bf and shopping dont really go together in the same sentence but i will always think of that moment with much fondness. It was the first time we actually bought sthg like that together!
Even tho quite honestly it wouldnt matter whether i’d like them or not (since i usually visit only twice a year) it still meant a lot that he valued my opinions and actually cared enough about me to want to get new linens and duvet even tho he HATES shopping! He asked what I thought and we decided which item we wanted to get. I left the final say to him, coz he’d be using the items most of the time, but he made sure I liked them before he decided if he wanted to get them. Pretty happy we both liked what we got that day, not to mention the 10 percent military discount we got! Total was 400 usd – 360 usd with discount :)

So my advice? Talk about each purchase w GN. Dont just straight up say no when she says something about future/possible purchases. Itd make her feel undervalued and degraded and last time I check, she contributes to the household too. And trust me, she’d be touched you actually care enough abt her to talk about $70 duvet!

31 CD Bank Rates Follower

You are right open communication is key in a marriage, especially when it comes down to finances. The best way to deal with PF savy people is to compromise and set clear expectations/budgets. I am sure that you are not the only marriage that struggles with this issue! Glad to see that you are taking steps to make it better :)

32 BRB

Sometimes we mention that we like things so that you guys can make a mental note for future gift giving occasions. We really like the item, but don’t want to spend the money ourselves or would feel better about it if we just received it as a gift.

33 Justin

My girlfriend and I are approaching engagement, and we have already had one major fight about money…its funny because we dont even live together, but you hear how financial issues can cause breakups and divorces, so I suppose we are trying to be proactive. I just recently started my own personal finance blog called http://www.moneyistheroot.com (which I intend on joining the Yakezie network as well), I plan on addressing this issue in detail as well. Good Article

34 Jaime

this is why I believe couples should have separate bank accounts…I wouldn’t want some guy to tell me what to do with my money, you sound pretty mean to her.

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