Is Your “Worth-it” Line Different than Your Spouse’s? That’s Always Fun…

We all have a “worth it” line and usually marry someone whose line is different. I see this with couples all the time: one partner will wait until the gas gauge is near empty because she knows she will be near that super cheap gas station next Saturday. Or, maybe one of you decides to get a house cleaner to free up some time with family and decrease stress and the other sees it as a “waste of money” because, of course, you are both capable of running a vacuum cleaner.

If any of that sounds oddly familiar, what is happening is you both have a different line or standard for what is “worth the money” and what is not. Couples ask me to intervene like a referee on these things and the decisions themselves are seldom financial. Convenience may be worth the price for you, but not for your spouse. I do not know, I’m just a financial planner…

You have to remember that LOTS of other things have a value besides money and you and your spouse may assign values differently to non-money items like (by no means an exhaustive list):

  • Convenience
  • Peace of Mind
  • Prestige
  • Comfort
  • Security
  • Simplicity
  • Time
  • Efficiency

If you value convenience above all else, you will be willing to pay for things that make your life convenient (UBER anyone?). Your partner may think these things are not “worth-it” and would rather do the work herself.

You will not change your partner’s “worth it” line and he/she will not change yours. It comes from genes, family history, and personal experience. Sorry, no cure. You have to know it’s there and create some comfortable boundaries and processes.

Here are my 3 tips for staying out of the “worth it” ditch with your spouse/partner:

  1. Value more than money – when something like this comes up, ask yourself, what am I valuing and what value might I be missing? Anyone can count money, but is there comfort, security, or maybe time that we gain as a family and what value does it have?
  2. State your “must haves” early in the relationship – Know your own sensitivities, how much savings you need, how much debt makes you comfortable, or how much of a house you need. Articulate them as your needs, have your partner state his and find a compromise position.
  3. Be deliberate and avoid surprises– have an Annual or Semi-Annual spousal financial planning meeting (woohoo!!!) and decide what house fixes, car upgrades, vacations, children’s activities you want to do that year and estimate the cost. Here’s the big finish… SAVE FOR THEM on a monthly basis. If there’s money available, there’s usually no arguments.

You are not entitled to get everything your way in a partnership. That’s not news for must of us, but you can know the line you cannot cross for yourself and for your partner and negotiate a middle position.

Speak about things frankly. There are no good surprises in household finance. Nobody wants to be caught off-guard, shamed or made to make a quick decision. Simply, warning and preparing your partner will go a long way to showing respect and finding a compromise which will definitely be WORTH-IT.