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How to Avoid Common Money Arguments

While it’s common for couples to have arguments from time to time, figuring out the most common cause for the fights can be an easy way to stop them from happening in the first place. As it turns out, a recent survey from the American Institute of CPAs discovered that money is the most common reason married or cohabiting couples fight.

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When you become a parent, it might seem like those arguments come more frequently, and perhaps even more intensely. With things like work schedules, day care payments and college funds on the line, there’s more of a chance to disagree over financial options than there were before kids came into play.

“Dealing with an argument, no matter the topic, generally follows the same steps,” says Olivia Mellan, therapist and author of Money Harmony. The first is to determine what you and your partner tend to fight about the most. According to Mellan, most arguments regarding children and finances take the following patterns:

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1. Spending too much on kids’ stuff. Often, one parent will want to overindulge on spending for the children, while the other worries about spoiling or considers spending too much money on toys and games a waste, says Mellan.

2. Not saving enough in the college fund. Parents might find their money personalities in one of two categories, says Mellan, which is either a “worrier” or an “avoider.” “Worriers want to do things like max out the college savings funds, while the other type just wants to avoid anything having to do with money at all,” she said.

3. Whether to pay for college in the first place. This is a big one, says Mellan, because some parents believe deeply that it’s their responsibility to help their children afford the college of their dreams, while others argue that children take school more seriously if they are responsible for funding some, or all, of it themselves.

4. What to do about inheritance. Often, parents argue over how much money should be left to children, or even whether or not any money should be left at all, says Mellan.

5. Teaching the kids financial responsibility. Another financial category that parents might find themselves falling into is the “planners” and the “dreamers.” The problem with planners and dreamers is that the planners tend to come across as responsible, while the dreamers could be considered fun, and when you’re teaching kids about financial responsibility, it’s important to be on the same page.

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If any of these arguments sounds familiar, don’t worry; the fixes are easy once you recognize the pattern of fighting, says Mellan. “What I teach people is empathetic communication, and the importance of not attacking each other,” she said. Once you recognize the problem, find time to have regular check-ins about the topic so you can hear each other out, and reward yourselves for following through. “Have a date night, or do something else fun so that gives you incentive to keep up with the tradition,” says Mellan.

During your meetings, keep a running of list of each other’s arguments and valid points. That way, you’ll always have something to look back on while you’re coming up with a solution. “It’s not always easy negotiating something that works for both people. But determining the problem, having regular money meetings and making a promise not to attack the other person will certainly put you on the right path,” says Mellan.

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