Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ask Wednesday: Ask Susan

Can you help me and my spouse? We are fighting about money!

By Susan C. Price

[Questions are followed by answers and then, inevitably by DID expect that...didn’t you?]

My spouse and I are fighting a lot about money. We are barely paying our bills right now and it is really taking a toll on our marriage. –Concerned about Money

Dear Concerned:
    Yes, the fighting about money adds to the pain of a “not enough” situation. Usually, money is about power...who gets to DECIDE, is it “our” money, or (cus i earned the paycheck) “mine”, etc.
    And it can be about organization style. If one person is organized and plans ahead…and another is “whenever,” getting bills paid timely is challenging. To the planner, it’s OBVIOUS that waiting makes the situation worse with late charges...but that’s not obvious to all.     Family history on how money is handled can confuse you both and what each of you thinks is IMPORTANT…can vary. In fact, each of your views of the world and “them” is involved. “The [insert: doctors, medical insurance companies, credit card companies] are all money-grubbing....I don’t trust them!!”
    No one person is usually right or wrong in the handling of money.
    Some situations I have heard about:

  • “My stepkids insist we need more soda. I was not brought up to drink soda, so I don’t think this is an important or urgent family expense”
  • “I see you have planned to pay all the bills, but I see no funds left for fun. That is not how I want to live.”
  • “I dont want to pay the whole bill off. We might not have the money next month.”
  • “That can’t be the charge for just two doctor visits...I know they tried to talk me into scheduling a whole bunch...maybe they are charging for that!” [That would be it’s usually NOT how medical offices behave and, yup, two physical therapy visits CAN cost $671.]
Some suggestions on how you can both begin to address this challenge as part of your overall situation:
  1. Agree to set aside some quiet alone time to talk together about where you’re at, and where you hope to be headed as a family. Discuss some positive and negative things that have happened to change your situation, and some things EACH of you has done to help improve the situation.
  2. Each of you take a few moments to list YOUR five top priorities within the family, such as: 1. keep the rent/mortgage covered, 2. have some fun (hint: there are inexpensive and very cheap ways to do this...if ya think about it…), 3. pay 50% of the gas and electric bills (someone needs to talk to the utility company and see if that will fly for awhile), 4. pay off $100 on each car loan each month....
  3. If you can’t readily, or without heat or slammed doors or raised voices, make the Family Top 8 list from these need to think about working on how you make decisions together.
    Some folks imagine that marriage is all about love and lust, but it is also very much about how you work together. If you are reaching an impasse with this fiscal work, perhaps it’s time to find a family counselor for both of you. Or just for yourself. You might need to learn how to communicate and work together. Local community centers, community colleges, and religious centers often offer free or low-cost classes on this topic. Not everyone is born knowing how to work together. And it ain’t easy. Hold your hearts in your hand and keep your tempers quiet.

[We would really like more questions to answer, so send ’em in….]
Copyright © 2014 by Susan C. Price
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  1. Thank you, Susan, for advising on the question, Can you help me and my spouse? We are fighting about money!

  2. You give some great suggestions! I know some people who can benefit from this.