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Money has a funny way of sparking a number of disagreements, arguments, and even lifelong grudge-matches. No two people are going to see eye-to-eye on every aspect of money management, and since finances can be such a volatile topic, any money misalignment between two people can cause a great deal of friction.
Unfortunately, money arguments can often be much harder to navigate than your garden-variety disagreements.
Here are some of the most common money arguments you may have to deal with, and how you can nip them in the bud before they interfere with your relationships. (See also: 4 Money Fights Married Couples Have (And How to Avoid Them))
Friends with expensive tastes
We’ve all had the experience of not feeling like you can keep up with high-rolling friends. They might propose going out to eat at Cafe Riche where cocktails are $25 each and the entrees don’t even have prices listed — while you were hoping to share a pitcher of beer and a plate of nachos at the local dive bar where no one blinks when you pay with sofa-cushion change.
It can feel awkward to ask your monocle-wearing friends if you can change the venue, but going to their preferred spot to pick at the cheapest side salad on the menu is a recipe for resentment. Especially if they suggest splitting the bill evenly at the end of the night.
You may worry that you’re in for a fight no matter what you do, since pointing out the differences in your spending habits can end with hurt feelings. However, it is possible to get ahead of these potential arguments before they become a problem.
To start, you could simply state out loud that you’re working with a tighter budget than you’d like, so you’re hoping to have fun on the cheap. If that doesn’t feel comfortable — not all friends are at the “sharing their financial reality” level of intimacy, after all — then consider suggesting fun activities that are free or cheap, and simply bowing out of the reservations at Chateau du Moolah.
Finally, if you do end up tagging along to some of the expensive restaurants, ask for separate checks when you order, rather than wait for the awkward moment at the end of the meal. (See also: 5 Friend Types That Can Hurt Your Finances)
Misaligned spending priorities
A surefire path to an argument between married or cohabitating couples is when one person spends money on something the other person thinks is unnecessary. Whether the money is going toward education, a new gadget, groceries, or clothes, one person may feel that the other is being completely irrational. The spender might feel like the saver is either a buzzkill or unsupportive, while the saver may think the spender is irresponsible and doesn’t care about their future.
This kind of argument can be easily averted with separate fun money funds. Making sure each person has their own fun money can allow them to make purchases the other might see as unnecessary, without it becoming an issue.
It gets much thornier when larger spending priorities are misaligned. If you and your partner cannot agree on how much to spend on things like education, career needs, food, or the like, then having separate funds cannot solve the problem.
This is when it makes sense to talk about the basis of your spending priorities. If you feel strongly that you should pay for your child’s education and your spouse disagrees, taking the time to talk about what those actions would mean for each of you can help you figure out what you’re each trying to accomplish. Knowing the why behind your spending priorities can help you find common ground that will lead to a compromise. (See also: 4 Ways Couples Can Tackle Money Goals Together)
One of the most awkward money issues you can face is when a friend or family member asks to borrow money. You may find yourself feeling anything from shame at being unable or unwilling to help financially, to resentment for being asked in the first place. And if you do decide to loan money, you may find yourself silently judging every financial choice they make while you wait for repayment, and wondering when and how you can ask for the money back.
The best way to nip arguments about loans in the bud is to set clear expectations in advance.
To start, that means saying no if you’re unable to extend the loan. If you’re not in a position to lend money to your loved one — whether it’s your financial situation or your emotional situation — then you need to tell them that you can’t help them that way. Don’t say you can’t afford to loan them money, since that can be construed as an invitation for your would-be borrower to question every purchase you make. You can make it clear that you do care about their situation by asking if there are any non-financial ways you can help.
If you do decide to loan them money, treat it like a formal loan. Tell your borrower that you require a written contract with the repayment terms spelled out, including what will happen in case of a missed payment. There are free templates for promissory notes available online that can help you draw up the contract. Having this in place will make it clear to your borrower that you’re treating the loan as a serious transaction. These boundaries will also ensure that you preserve the relationship.
If your loved one feels affronted by these terms, remember that you don’t need to manage their reaction to your financial requirements. They are the potential borrower, which means you, as the lender, get to set the terms of the loan.
Don’t let money get in the way of your relationships
In a perfect world, money would never come between you and your loved ones. But in the real world, money disagreements can cause a great deal of resentment and distress. However, setting firm boundaries and talking openly about your priorities can help you keep money arguments from turning extremely ugly.
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