02/05/2013 06:55 pm ET Updated Apr 07, 2013

4 Savvy Strategies to Help Couples Manage Spending

For Women & Co. by Suzanne Rust,

Oh, couples. We argue about chores; we argue about sex; we argue about managing our children. But, most often? You guessed it: We argue about money. According to a survey conducted by the American Institute for CPAs, couples get into disagreements about money an average of three times a month. I wondered: Should we be communicating better? I reached out to financial author and expert Carmen Wong Ulrich, President and co-Founder of ALTA Wealth Management, for some guidance on how couples can manage spending. Her advice:

1. Remember that money is a loaded topic.
We each come into a new relationship with baggage, and that includes financial-baggage as well. Work hard to instead make it about the numbers, rather than emotions, and always communicate, communicate, communicate!

2. Vocalize and visualize spending goals.
Too often we save or spend just, well, just because. It's important that you have specific and defined reasons to save. The date you need the money, how much you can save every week or month, an agreed budget, and competing or impeding issues. Don't only talk about them -- put them in writing as well.

3. Give yourself autonomy: Get your own accounts.
First, make sure you both have not only a joint household account (or accounts), but your own personal accounts as well -- both checking and/or savings, and at least one solo credit card each. Most of us need to feel somehow autonomous as grown-ups, so having separate accounts makes us feel like we have some money of our own to do or purchase things without guilt. Make sure, of course, that your household expenses and goals are paid and fulfilled first.

4. Pick one of you to be the household CFO.
Preferably, this should be the one who is not only good at managing money and staying on top of things, but the one who also enjoys the process (well, at least more than the other!). But, being the CFO does not mean you 'rule' over the budget or savings. Make sure every month you have a sit-down or quick debrief on any red flags when it comes to spending, plus the good stuff, too, like a card paid off or a savings goal reached. And both should be vocal about disagreements or ideas for better saving/planning.

"Women tend to manage spending while men tend to manage planning and saving," says Wong Ulrich. "Learn from each other and keep each other informed. Women can learn to take more time to look up from the daily/weekly calendar and plan for the future while men can learn more about just how much being on a junior soccer team costs!"

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