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Funny Money: Arguing Over Money with Your Significant Other

piggy bank with hearts on itYou try your best. You soak in knowledge from personal finance blogs with catchy names. You live and die by a budget. You max out your Roth IRA contributions.

And none of it matters. Because no matter how good you happen to think you are with money, your wife/husband/live-in lovah will be certain that you are an idiot and they know better.

Still, you do your best to fight the good fight. When financial arguments come up, you do your best to hold your ground and get your way. For the long-term benefit of the relationship and the monetary well-being of the household. Certainly not to boost your own ego and personal needs.

Even if you’re a smug single, you’re bound to be sucked into a relationship one day, so you may as well read on and learn how to thrive when you find someone who adores you enough to mis-spend your shared money.

There are two ways to go about winning a financial argument: The reasoned, logical approach that I favor, and wild card-style guerrilla tactics my wife tends to stick with. Follow me through three pure hypotheticals, which are in no way based on real-life battles I’ve had with my wife:

SCENARIO: You’ve worked an extra job for three years to save up $10,000, which you’d like to keep stashed away in savings but your spouse wants to spend on an addition to the house.

Logical approach to save the money: You explain that the job market is volatile and that it would be nice to have an emergency fund to cuddle up with if the layoff fairy comes calling. You propose starting a fund to save for an addition, adding enough to it each month that you’ll be able to pay for it upfront within five years.

Guerrilla approach to build the addition: You steer every unrelated conversation to your obsession with building the addition. You tell all your friends and family that you are building the addition, fostering expectations that if the addition isn’t built, something must be wrong. You bring in contractors for estimates “just to see how much it would cost,” then tell them to start work before getting approval from your adversary.

SCENARIO: You’d like to bolster your retirement savings with whatever extra cash is left over at the end of the month, but your beloved would rather start up college savings funds for your small children.

Logical approach to saving for retirement: You remind her that, as the student loan payments you both are saddled with can attest, that there are other ways to pay for college than savings and that the kids should have to find a way to fend for themselves just like you had to.

Guerrilla approach to saving money for college: Reframe the argument as a guilt-inducing measure of how much you love — or don’t love — your kids. Then reframe the argument as a referendum on the importance of college education. Set up a fund with direct withdrawal before your opponent knows what hit him.

SCENARIO: You’re looking for ways to trim the budget. You suggest less frequent clothes shopping, which your spouse enjoys. She suggests less eating at restaurants, which you enjoy.

Logical approach to cutting clothing spending: Argue that new clothing isn’t necessary until old clothing has worn out. Point out that gutting the eating out budget would hardly pay for a pair of needlessly expensive jeans.

Guerrilla approach to eliminating eating out: Work yourself into a frenzy, accusing your loved one of hating your cooking. Paint yourself as the intrepid hero for doing all the clothing shopping for the household. Go off on hysterical rant about feeling as though you’re expected to explain to coworkers why you’re forced to wear rags.

CONCLUSION: In case you didn’t pick up on it, my point is that logic has no place when love and money intersect. The crazier and more confrontational you are, the better shot you have at winning. Maybe someday I’ll even learn that lesson myself. Hypothetically, of course.

Do you and your significant other battle over finances? Who usually wins?

Published or updated on April 24, 2013

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About Phil Villarreal

Phil Villarreal writes Funny Money weekly for Money Under 30. He lives in Tucson and works for the Arizona Daily Star. He's also an author, blogger and Twitterer.


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