Financial Struggle

(Sharon Dominick Photography 2006)

How to Save Money While Building a Richer Relationship

By Lifestyle and Budget

Money is one of the leading causes of marital discord and even divorce. But according to Robyn Crane, a certified financial planner and author of the upcoming book, "How to Overcome Your Money Issues to Have a Richer Relationship," money alone isn't always the underlying issue. Instead, relationship rifts often widen because many couples haven't created effective strategies to talk to each other about money.

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According to Crane, money conversations often fail because couples come to the table with preconceived judgements about how money is being handled within the household. Most couples don't start out on the same money page and an attitude of blame or guilt can exacerbate an already tenuous situation.

"A lot of people just won't talk about money because there is an underlying fear," says Crane. "Money creates such heavy emotions."

The good news? Couples who want to build a richer emotional and financial base can learn to talk about their money goals, without undue emotional turmoil. How? Follow these four steps:

1. Embrace Transparency

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Couples often avoid money talk because such conversations, if conducted improperly, can aggravate uncomfortable emotions and heighten tension or anxiety. It's easy to see why money disagreements are so common. "Everyone is brought up differently," says Crane. "No two people see money the same way."

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Within her practice, Crane identifies six dominant "money types," which are shaped, primarily, by a person's experiences with money. Understanding the background behind why one partner hoards money and the other spends impulsively, for example, can be a stepping stone to building a long-lasting, trusting relationship. "If you understand your partner's money patterns," says Crane, "judgement falls away. That brings you closer together."

Further, getting clear about your patterns can have a positive affect on your savings account. "When you recognize your money type and what holds you back," says Crane, "then you're more conscious about where your money goes. Many couples start to make new choices, like to save instead of spend. Clarity about your money type lets you really think about what you value."

2. Develop an Aligned Vision for Money

When a couple's money vision is out of alignment, it's easy to overspend. Crane says she sees clients say things like "Well, my husband spends money on those things, so I'm going to spend money on these things." According to Crane, this rationale is just excuse-making. "If you don't have transparency and you're not communicating, you give yourself an excuse to spend money," she says. "You need to be on the same page with an aligned vision."

Following a set of money talk rules can help couples nudge their savings and relationship goals into alignment. Crane's suggested rules include: no judging, no blaming and no excuses.

"There might still be fear about how to pay the mortgage," says Crane, "but if you can let go of judgement and excuses, you're coming to the table with positive intentions. You start to take emotion out of the equation and your end result will be better."

3. Create a Long-Term Plan

The most effective way for a couple to pad their savings is to create their savings intention. Crane suggests couples ask themselves this: If there were no limitations, what would you do in the next five years? The next 10?

"The answers to these questions are the driving force behind why you should save," she says. "You won't save in the face of instant gratification unless you start to associate that with what you want in the future."

A flush bank account can feel emotionally empty unless a couple can envision the rental property, college tuition or dream vacation those hard-earned savings can provide.

4. Plegde Commitment to Your Money Goals -- and to Each Other

"People often have one foot out the door in a relationship. They're not totally in it," says Crane. "That's why 50% of couples are getting divorced." Instead, Crane suggests couples commit to each other -- and their goals -- at the 100% level.

Commitment problems, whether emotionally- or financially-based, are often derived from fear. That's why Crane suggests couples take a money vow.

With this, couples agree to look at their money together at regular intervals, to discuss their goals and progress, and to always tell the truth, even when they're afraid. "A daily, 15 minute chat to talk about money can help partners set intentions, celebrate successes and experience gratitude for what they've achieved," says Crane.

Even couples who follow these keys to a richer relationship can experience setbacks, particularly when faced with an unexpected disaster. But overcoming these can make the relationship even stronger, says Crane.

"If you can look at (setbacks) as set-ups for success," says Crane, "nothing can knock you down."

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How to save money while building a richer relationship