If one of the top issues couples fight about is money, then a worldwide pandemic where uncertainty fills the air is certain to magnify financial disagreements. It’s to be expected.
Job layoffs and unemployment
Food and grocery shortages
Kids at home 24/7
Whether you were in a financial rhythm or not, the changes or potential changes can cause significant conflict. And it’s not because there’s too much or not enough money. It’s because you both have an opinion on what should or shouldn’t be done with the money. And there’s a good chance that you’re both certain that you’re right.
There’s some frivolous things that people can spend money on that are not helpful for the current situation. However, that’s not what I’m trying to address. The question is: How can we come together and make financial decisions for our family in the midst of the changes brought on by COVID-19?
Have Priorities Changed?
There’s an old saying, “If you want to know what’s important to someone, look at their bank statement.” It may be time for a discussion between the two of you regarding what is most important during this time of change and uncertainty. Prior to this quarantine, education, being debt-free, creating memorable experiences and family togetherness were tops on our list. We often tried to take advantage of several educational opportunities, feverishly paid down debts and would go all out to celebrate birthdays and holidays to create memorable experiences.
That’s changed—at least temporarily. Financial security, home improvement and family togetherness are top priorities now. We’re saving as much as possible and working on repairs as if we’re preparing to sell our home.
Family togetherness is in both lists, but it’s interesting how they look different when you are trying to save money instead of focusing on creating memorable experiences.
Couples that can come to an agreement on the current priorities take a huge step into making financial decisions together. Before deciding what to do with money, first agree with what’s important to the family.
As a Team, Assess Where You Are.
Basic questions to answer:
- Do we have enough money for all of our current and necessary expenses?
- Do we need to cut spending?
- Is it possible to increase our income?
The ability to answer these questions together helps couples lay a framework for working together. Notice, we haven’t made any financial decisions or judgments yet about what those changes should be. We’ve simply identified our priorities and our current situation.
We’re Not Making Enough Money. What Needs to Change?
First, look at each other and agree that you’re going to make it through this together. There may not be enough money because of a pay cut, a layoff, increased medical expenses or you’re subjected to a natural disaster. This may be the first time that one or both of you has ever been in this situation. Fear, panic and anxiety can begin to grab hold. Being in a marriage means being on the same TEAM. Not having to face new challenges alone. Hugs, Kisses, and Affirmation are priceless when the money is tight. Turn toward one another, not away from one another.
Looking at your bank statement and financial decisions for the last month or two is really helpful in knowing where the money went—especially when trying to eliminate spending on things that aren’t priorities. Discussing payment options and deferments is something that many companies are willing to do during this time of quarantine. Check out this great blog my colleague wrote about getting help when the money isn’t there.
The key is to look at all options with an open mind and be creative. It’s easy to be attached to certain practices. We can get trapped in the mentality that if we don’t do this thing we do every year, then we’ll ruin little Johnny’s life. Is that really true?
Phrases to Avoid When Working Together to Cut Spending
- We can’t cut that. This statement stifles creativity. You may ultimately land on some things that can’t be cut, but before using this phrase, you must exhaust all options.
- That’ll make them so mad. Changes often evoke emotional responses that we must learn to deal with.
- There’s nowhere to cut. This statement also stifles creativity. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Have an Open Mind. Be Creative. Work Together. Be Willing to Compromise.
Your preferences can’t always be more important than your partner’s preferences. If you’re constantly fighting about what to cut, you may choose to focus on increasing your income. You also may develop a system to alternate who chooses what to cut. This is probably going to be painful for all involved. But that’s OK, you’re doing it together.
Is Increasing Income an Option?
You may be surprised at all the industries that are hiring during this season: cleaning services, delivery services (both food and packages), grocery stores, and landscaping, just to name a few. You may be good at tutoring or making specialty items of value. This may be the time to market your services. They may not fully replace your income. However, it may be better than nothing.
Agreeing on the Assistance You Receive
Whether it’s the stimulus check, unemployment or any other infusion of cash, it’s important that the two of you agree about it before you spend it. You may likely have two different opinions on what to do with the money. Do we catch up on bills? Save it? Fix the car? Resubscribe to Netflix?
Don’t feel like you have to make the decision the moment you get the money. Just be sure to work together. My wife and I have made an agreement that any infusion of cash cannot be spent until we come to an agreement together. Look at your necessities and priorities and work from there.
Work Together—Communicate, Communicate, Communicate.
This can be an anxious time. We can be susceptible to scams, quick fix payday loans, predatory loan sharks, and addictions. Committing to connect with one another to talk about money, to talk about life and to talk about your emotions can heighten your emotional security and peace when you’re not sure if you can pay the light bill this month.
However, with the right attitude toward one another and a commitment to working together as a team, the two of you can navigate through anything and be stronger for it.
***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***