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Nathan W. Morris is a financial freedom expert and author of “Your 33 Day Money Action Plan“, you can find more of Nathan at

The holidays are an emotionally charged time for many, and of course – emotions and money can sometimes create a big mess.
If there’s ever a time of year that we’ve really got to communicate with our significant other about our needs and wants when it comes to our money, it’s now.

I’m blessed in that my wife and I have long ago established very open lines of communication when it comes to money. That’s not to say that we don’t have a few glitches from time to time. We had one such glitch recently.

Different Perspectives

You see, the thing about the holidays is that we all have different backgrounds and feelings about them. In my background, holidays were never a big deal. I didn’t have a big family, so it was usually just my mom and I and frankly we were doing well if we got a tree up. Money was always tight so sometimes we had Christmas in January or whatever, it didn’t really matter to us. To some that’s tragic, to me, it’s quirky and I don’t really see anything wrong with it.

My wife’s family is huge. Nearly every one of them has a big Christmas. They go through a great deal of effort decorating the house, preparing large meals, and of course making sure that all the gifts under the tree are color coordinated. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s certainly very different from how I was raised and how I see the holiday.

You might fit into one or the other camp, or somewhere in between, but there’s no doubt that we all have different preconceived notions and beliefs about the holidays.

Defining”Simple” Differently

So what was our little “glitch?” Well, at one point this year, I decided on an amount of money that I wanted to dedicate to Christmas. I thought it was a reasonable amount considering we just got married and we are in the middle of a number of projects in our own household.

Essentially, I had resigned to “let’s do a simple Christmas this year.”

My wife wasn’t thinking anything different, but our definition of simple Christmas differed a bit.

So here’s what happened…

We were on our way home from my mother’s house when she asked a simple and fairly harmless question. “Can I use some of our Gift Cards to buy some gifts for the family ?”

She was thinking, simple Christmas, and let’s make use of something we already have (the gift cards).

The problem was, I already had allocated those gift cards to something completely different in my mind. In other words – she was threatening MY intended use of the money. We had never discussed the use of the gift cards, and so this was totally my bad for not ever bringing it up.

Worse, she was asking for an amount of money that I had (in my mind) dedicated to EVERYONE, not just these few people.

So, I did the responsible and mature thing and got upset, which in turn upset her.

After a little debate, we discovered that we were on the same page about having a simple Christmas, but we just had slightly different definitions and had never really bothered to communicate with each other about what we wanted to do this year.

So instead of having this conversation first, we got upset when we both came to the table with preconceived notions about what we were going to do… sadly, notions which didn’t necessarily match.

Learning to Communicate Effectively and Respectfully

Now obviously we got over it pretty quickly and the end result was that we got a plan together and now we’ll be able to “do Christmas” in a way that suits both of our goals.

That said, in many relationships, it’s this exact mechanic that begins to cause money fights. It’s not that there’s too little money or whatever, it’s not even the money. It’s the emotional needs and wants that are being served by the money.

So one of the reasons this little tiff happened between my wife and I, is that I wanted the money for a perfectly legitimate and emotional need – to provide for needs we had. She had emotional and legitimate needs to use the money to bless some of our family members. We didn’t necessarily disagree on either need or want, but at first glance – we did.

Therefore, as the holidays get closer, guys and gals, it’s time to start discussing the budget for the holidays with each other – before it results in a disagreement.

Take an honest look at the resources you can afford to allocate to the wants and needs you have regarding the holiday, and then figure out what you’re going to spend those resources on.

Whatever you do, don’t let emotions drive your decision making. Too many couples blow their budgets over the holidays thinking they need to spend more than they really do due to “family expectations” or whatever.

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1 comment add your comment

  1. Excellent description of how to work on a conflict. Start with discovering underlying assumptions and the emotional meaning attached to them. Then share.