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How To Stop Arguments About Money

Mar 15, 2008
Have you ever had an argument with your partner about money? Has he or she spent more than they should? Have you over-spent and tried to cover it up to avoid a fight? I have developed a system to stop the arguments over money. I have been married for nearly 14 years and we never ever fight about money.

I will provide some simple steps for you to take to stop the arguments over money permanently but before I get to that I will make a disclaimer. If you are deep in financial trouble, go and seek professional help immediately. And for everyone, I don't know your personal situation so seek advice from your bank or financial advisor before doing anything. This article is education and should not be considered advice.

What causes fights over money anyway? Is it the lack of money? Perhaps if you just make more money, then the arguments will go away? I believe that this is never the case. In business, clubs, churches, community groups and even government there are always arguments over the allocation of money. Bringing in more money might fix things in the short-term but once your lifestyle adapts to the new income level, the same issues will arise.

There must be a way to allocate money so that money is set aside for those things that are important but not so that you have to walk around with a check-list on how much you have spent. Of course I am talking about a budget but don't switch off just yet! there are two fundamental kinds of budgeting:
(1) Accounting for what you spent
(2) Providing for what you need in future.

The most common form of budgeting is accounting for what you have spent. To me, this is like driving your car along the road only using your rear view mirror. Every time you see that the car has hit the dirt, you start adjusting the steering wheel to get back on track. Analogies aside, 1-2% of analytical people and accountants love this style of budgeting and no one else can stand it!

The other form of budgeting is implemented by larger organizations where they make provisions for future expenses. I am not talking about accounting tricks to save money on tax either. I mean that cash is deliberately set aside in a bank account to be used at a later date, for a specific purpose.

So how do I implement a forward-looking budget that provides for future needs and will stop arguments about money at home?

Firstly, I accepted the fact that both my partner and I must have a certain amount of "mad money" that is not accountable at all. We both have our own separate card account that is our own responsibility respectively. This might be ten dollars a week or it might be a hundred - that will depend on one's circumstances but the amount is regular and agreed to by both of us. No one should have to account down to what one did with a few dollars of change in your pocket.

Secondly, there might be regular things like purchase of food and is common sense that this would be the responsibility of one partner or the other and this would go into their card account as well. In our case, my wife is responsible for groceries, so that goes to her account. I pay for the children's sport from my card account.

Thirdly, there are regular expenses such as electricity, telephones and utility expenses. It may include rent or loan payments. Consider the bank fees and charges before taking the next step and shop around if possible but pay for all of these regular expenses out of a clearing account. I use a no fee, high interest bank account for this purpose. I call this a clearing account and that is where my pay goes (not my card account).

Finally, I use about 10 no fee, high interest bank accounts for other savings goals (or provision accounts). I transfer regular amounts from my clearing account into these Let me tell you about some of them. As an example I will also show how much I put aside each 2-weeks into these accounts and the annual goal.
Holiday Account - $40 x 26 = $1040
Car Registration and repair - $57 x 26 = $1500
"New Car Account" - $40 x 26 = $1040
Electrical, computers etc $20 x 26 = $520

The list goes on. I also have accounts saving towards a new home, gym fees and so on. I have a separate account for our investment property, with sufficient funds to provide for minor repairs and unexpected property expenses. The total above is $4100 and with a quick bit of math, the average balance would be $2050. At 7%, that is $143 of interest to me as a reward for setting aside the money that I am going to spend anyway.

Why does this work for me? It still takes negotiation to decide how much to put aside for holidays and so on but once I set up the payments I found that I have always had the money set aside for the regular bills. After Christmas, I had no credit card debt at all because our family didn't over-spend on what was set aside in a separate account. Right now, it is a little tough for us with unexpected medical bills coming in. I am negotiating with my partner where this money will come from.

When I go to the automatic teller (or use internet banking) I can see how much is in my card account and I know that I can spend it guilt free and consequence free. I know not to go over the amount in my card account. So if I want to take the family on a treat, then I know how much is available and so I can choose accordingly.

In a sense, I guess, I have turned the banking system around to do my budgeting for me. After all, isn't that what technology is meant to do for me?
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Bill Banisher
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