Are You Fighting Over Money? Here Are the Top 3 Money Problems in Marriage

Are You and Your Spouse Fighting Over Money?

With 50% of marriages ending in divorce, every couple has an uphill battle as they work to sacrifice, cooperate, and unite as one. While some marriages are doomed from the start, it is possible to have a long-lasting, successful marriage if both spouses are willing to work through the challenges we all face on a daily basis.

Among the most common reasons for divorce are money problems and spouses fighting over money. With all of the stress associated with paying bills, sending your children to tuition-free colleges, and saving for a comfortable retirement and a sufficient emergency fund, it’s no wonder why money is such a problem for so many families.

So, if you’re fighting over money, what’s the reason your spouse is really mad?

In a recent survey conducted by AICPA (American Institute of CPAs), they discovered that couples average THREE money fights each month.

3 Most Common Fights Over Money (and Solutions)

While the majority of people’s money problems with never go away, you can work on finding a solution to many of them and reduce the amount you fight over money. Here is a list of the top 3 money fights and some suggestions I have to remedy the problems:

1. Differing Opinions on “Needs” versus “Wants” – 58%

The poll discovered that when a couple is fighting over money, the majority of the money problems, 58%, come when spouses disagree on “needs” versus “wants.”

For years of my life, particularly during my broke and desperate phase, I also struggled mightily with understanding what I really NEEDED. What I’ve found through coaching couples over the years is that as our society has changed, so has our definition on the topics at hand.

Years ago – before cable television, smartphones, and the internet – needs were simply what they really are: food, clothing, and shelter. However, as our world has changed many now believe we “need” internet within our homes, cable television, and a smartphone in order to survive.

While you may never get on the same page in regards to understanding needs versus wants, instead of fighting over money, I’d encourage you to sit down with your spouse and talk to them about your concerns.

What I’ve seen is that most spouses don’t care if their husband goes golfing on a weekly basis, as long as their budget is in line and they’re accomplishing other goals that are important to them. The reverse is also true: many husbands wouldn’t care if you go on a shopping spree as long as you’re not putting your family and their future in jeopardy.

Saying that, consider getting on a budget where each of you have a say in the amount that gets spent on various items. On top of that, I’d suggest that you each allocate a particular spending limit on “fun money” for the month. This fun money is given in equal amounts to each spouse on a monthly basis and they can do WHATEVER they want with it. My wife and I allow $60/each; I can go golfing (maybe once) or eat out on a few occasions with friends. However, when the money is gone…it’s gone.

2. Unexpected Expenses – 49%

The most common reason people in America go into debt is when a random bill comes; when this happens in a family, a money problem arises and spouses start fighting.

These bills are typically: repairs or maintenance to the house or cars, property taxes or personal property taxes, annual life/car/home premiums, children’s sporting events of field trips at school, or even Christmas expenses. Here at the WSL household, we call these expenses non-monthly expenses as they happen periodically throughout the year.

The way my wife and I have overcome this money problem is by having a “targeted” savings account where we save EVERY MONTH for the particular bills that come randomly throughout the year.

So, when you sit down and establish your budget as a household, you should also include any expenses or bills that happen in a given year. Once you’ve established those expenses, then you break them down into monthly payments and begin saving those payments in a checking or savings account. I’ve written a detailed post about discovering the traps in your budget; so read that if you’re needing some help planning for unexpected expenses.

3. Insufficient Savings – 32%

The study also revealed that couples fighting over money commonly fight about not having enough savings for emergencies.

While this isn’t always the case, I’ve particularly noticed that most women prefer a larger amount in savings than their husbands do. I’m not exactly sure the reasoning, but as Dave Ramsey used to say, ‘women are created with an extra emergency gland.’

There is something to be said for having a large pile of cash set aside for rainy days; it provides for a lot of peace and restful nights, and you’re not stressed out when a random bills comes due.

For those spouses out there that don’t understand why your husband or wife wants a large emergency fund, you don’t need to understand it…you just need to do it.

Isn’t it also ironic that money problem #2 would be eliminated if problem #3 was also taken care of? So, to sum it up, if you want to stop fighting with your spouse over money, then get a large emergency fund and 50% of your money problems will be resolved.

I’ve been fortunate to never fight with my wife about money. I’d attribute that to my early money problems and the struggles I had; after overcoming those issues, my mindset on finances also changed and now they closely resemble hers. On top of that, we have bi-weekly budget meetings and set goals (financial and personal) on a monthly basis.

Readers: do you often find that you and your spouse are fighting over money? If so, have you taken any steps to resolve the conflict and money problems?

About the Author

By , on Oct 12, 2012
Andy Tenton
Andy is a 30-something New Yorker who turned his financial life around. He took charge of his finances, got out of debt, and is now working his way toward financial success. He is the publisher of WorkSaveLive.com.

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{19 Comments}

  1. Matt says:

    Well, I think you’re all very lucky.
    It’s only over the last few years I’ve managed to get my financial life back on track, and learnt how to budget properly and be frugal. Unfortunately my wife is a good few years behind me on this, and it does cause a huge amount of grief. I’d definitely be much better off if I divorced her, but love is more important than money. Given time, I’m sure she’s going to come round to my way of thinking, but there’ll probably be a few more arguments before then.
    To help, I have recently opened a savings account for myself, and if, as this article says, that cuts out 50% of my stress/arguments then I’ll be very glad.

  2. Sneha says:

    Hi Andy,

    As i am not married yet but after reading your article i got insight about the things which i have to ignore and take care about so that i can enjoy my married life….!!!!

    Thanks

  3. My husband and I do not fight about money but that is also because we rarely fight. Although Emily states that it is statistically impossible, the people reading these types of blogs are probably just a small sample of a certain type of people rather than the general population.

    When I wasn’t working for a few months we were definitely stressed out about money but we still did not fight about it. We’re both laid back, we’re not big spenders and I manage the budget and he generally complies. 😉 If we were broke and in debt, I’m guessing money would become a contentious issue.

  4. Interesting post, I think it’s important to definitely consider how you and your partner’s financial views will line up. If my gf wasn’t ok with me busting out a groupon for dinner once in a while, I don’t know if we’d be a good fit 🙂 haha

  5. One of the things my husband and I have always disagreed on about as a “need” is our cable. I have tried everything in the world to get him to do away with his favorite cable channels and just go down to a basic plan or get rid of it completely. Unfortunately, it is just never going to happen, lol…and it’s definitely not something worth arguing about. So we’ve found other things for him to compromise on and that has helped us. I know better to not bring up cable though everytime we talk about more ways to save money!

  6. I wouldn’t say we fight but we do have disagreements occasionally. We talk it out and then agree to disagree or come up with a plan. Sometimes it is just a matter of splitting the cost or using our individual fun money.

  7. We never used to argue about money. We just spent it. Getting our act together resulted in some arguments, but when you’re on the same page and have the same goals, it works out. If you had no money when you got together with your significant other and increased income along the way, it can result in overspending for sure, which happened with us. Most people don’t have the conversation about how we’re going to plan our retirement when you share a house with three roomates and eat Ramen and frozen pizza for most meals.

  8. Pauline says:

    PF bloggers are not the usual crowd Emily 🙂

    I have lost a long term relationship to money fights, and am aware that I could not live anymore with someone who is not on the same page financially.
    It seems that around me people who talk openly about their finances with their spouse have a much stronger marriage.

  9. Wow, a lot of “people who don’t fight about money” in this crowd… statistically improbable…

    Well, we totally fight about money – every so often. We fight about ridiculous small details though, like which bank to use (took several months to resolve!) and how frequently to dollar-cost-average into the stock market, twice per month or once per week. We’re both competent and hard-headed and disagree over points of opinion but thankfully not fundamentals. We pull together as a couple more in times of stress and only fight when things are generally going well. 🙂

  10. Great post… it’s interesting to see the percentages line up.

    I suspect that those who fight about money, do so because there is not enough for one partner (or both) to sustain their spending habits. I’m sure there are always other reasons, but whenever my wife and I’ve disagreed on money it has always been when one individual wanted to spend and the other didn’t think so because there wasn’t enough $$. Having both partners on the same page is critical.

  11. Catherine says:

    We don’t fight about money but I’m way more frugal than hubby which can cause some disagreements. We’re still working on our financial communication…its evolving. I have to try not to suck all the fun/life out of him and he has to realize we can’t spend just to keep up with the Jones’.

  12. I’m so glad we are both cheap as hell. It makes it easy to stay on the same page. And luckily, when one of us actually wants something we typically agree on it.
    Good post! I know a lot of couples who fight about money- mostly because they have different priorities.

  13. We don’t fight about money, but we may have a disagreement every now and then when one of us thinks a purchase is a good idea and the other doesn’t.

  14. Michelle says:

    We don’t really fight about money a lot. We make sure o talk about money frequently in order to avoid any money related fights.

  15. Thad P says:

    The best thing we did before our marriage was go through a premarital counseling group. The issue of finances being a major cause of conflict was examined at length. It was very helpful.

  16. Erin says:

    I wouldn’t say my husband and I fight in any sort of real way about money. He does think I’m a little too frugal, though. He takes care of paying our monthly bills (he’s much more on top of things than I am), and I do the shopping and look for grocery deals, etc.

  17. Thankfully money is not something my wife and I fight about. We’re on the same page and have the same goals, so that is big towards helping us not fight. That said, I can empathize with couples that do. I’ve had several family members who had pretty severe financial situations which were just made worse by arguing with their spouse.

  18. Interesting that you just post this as my brother in law is going through the process of divorce with his partner. From what I can understand the split has been over a number of factors but one of the big ones was money.

    My brother in law recently lost his job and his wife was having to be the sole provider. I know this caused many arguments, but I don’t believe this is what caused the split although it certainly brought tensions to a head.

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