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Q. Whenever I buy something for myself, my husband criticizes me: "Why do you need another pair of expensive black shoes?" I'm not a reckless spender, and I buy things with my own savings. I hate being made to feel guilty.
Susan Heitler, Ph.D., a psychologist in Denver and the author of The Power of Two: Secrets to a Strong and Loving Marriage (New Harbinger Publications, Inc.) and its companion workbook, answers:
A. It can be hard to enjoy those smashing slingbacks if your husband is always carping about the cost. But it's important to realize that each of us has our own money personality: Some of us are spenders, some hoarders. For some, money means power and control; for others it means love and nurturing. To ease the tension, find a productive way to talk about this sensitive subject. Do it during a calm moment -- taking a walk or sipping coffee after dinner -- rather than when your husband is ranting about a new purchase.
Start by discussing each of your parents' money attitudes and how they managed financial issues. If they bickered, nit-picked, or avoided the topic, odds are you'll be tempted to do the same. Our families' financial backgrounds also affect our attitudes, so if your husband's parents were struggling while your parents were affluent, you will each be living by a different set of rules. With this deeper understanding, you can create a spending plan that's right for the two of you and head off future financial arguments.