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Cameron Huddleston: How to lose a guy (or girl) over spending habits

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

February 15, 2016


Couples argue and end up going their separate ways for many different reasons. But money is one of the most common sources of friction. More than one-third of adults who have relationship stress said finances are the primary cause, more so than annoying habits, according to a survey by SunTrust Bank.

Thatís right: Your approach to finances ó spending, in particular ó could be ruining your relationship. So if you think he (or she) is just not that into you anymore, maybe heís just not that into your spending habits.

YOU SPEND TOO MUCH

A recent GOBankingRates survey found that the top financial deal breaker in a relationship is overspending. The conflict often arises when one partner thinks the other is spending money on something that isnít of value and feels that spending is taking away from a joint goal, said Renee Hanson, a private wealth advisor with Ameriprise Financial.

The key to preventing overspending from ruining your relationship is communication, Hanson said. Create a spending plan that covers your needs as a couple. Then, make decisions jointly about things you want that arenít part of the spending plan, she said.

YOU HIDE YOUR SPENDING

You might think youíre avoiding conflict with your partner by hiding your spending, but you could be creating bigger problems. For many people, being secretive about finances is almost as big of a financial deal breaker in relationships as overspending, the GOBankingRates survey found.

To avoid causing a rift in your relationship, you need to talk openly about your finances with your significant other so he or she can trust you. But, itís OK if you still want to maintain some financial independence.

"Everyone should have their own money they donít have to account for ó a Ďfuní account they donít have to explain," said Emma Johnson, a veteran finance journalist who blogs at WealthySingleMommy.com for professional single moms. Just make sure itís an agreed-upon amount if you and your partner have combined finances.

YOU HAVE A LOT OF DEBT

About 33 percent of those surveyed by GOBankingRates said that having too much debt is at least one of their financial deal breakers in a relationship. However, experts say itís usually not the dollar amount of debt thatís the deal breaker. "Itís the behavior that created the debt thatís the deal breaker," said Hanson.

Your significant other might be worried that if you canít control the spending that caused you to be in debt, you wonít ever get out of debt ó which will prevent you from achieving your joint financial goals. So, you have to be willing to change that behavior to preserve your relationship, Hanson said. And, come up with a plan to pay off your debt.

YOUíRE TOO CHEAP

Itís not always overspending that can ruin a relationship. Sometimes, not spending enough on your significant other ó whether it be gifts, travel and other "fun" things to do as a couple ó can be the deal breaker. Nearly 20 percent of those surveyed by GOBankingRates said that being too cheap is at least one of their biggest financial deal breakers.

If your tightwad ways are creating a problem in your relationship, you should have a conversation with your partner about why youíre reluctant to spend, Hanson said. Discuss your money story ó what finances were like in your family ó and your partnerís so you understand how your background affects your mindset. Then, agree on an amount to spend on "fun" each month.

YOU HAVE POOR CREDIT

If your credit score is low because of your spending habits, it might be doing more than just hurting your ability to get a loan ó it might be hurting your relationship. Of those surveyed by GOBankingRates, about 18 percent said that poor credit is one of their biggest financial deal breakers in a relationship. And a Federal Reserve Board study found that the greater the difference in credit scores between two partners, the greater the likelihood that theyíll separate.

"Plenty of people have gotten dumped by a girl- or boyfriend who doesnít want to get tangled in this mess," Johnson said. So if you have a lousy credit history, you should explain to your significant other why, she said. Then take steps ó such as paying down debt and making on-time payments ó to boost your score.