One of the best pieces of relationship advice I can offer for couples around the holiday season is to establish a budget together – and stick to it! Money is a common source of conflict between spouses, and it’s likely that things are getting a little tighter around this time of year because of the added expenses of gifts and other festivities.

Relationship Advice for Talking about Money during the Holidays

Be as specific as possible. If you set a general gift budget, that’s a great start, but how much can you spend on each person? You both may have different ideas about who needs a present and how much to spend on each individual, so go through and make a list of everyone you want to give something to. Then break them up into budget categories. Maybe a list of people you will bake cookies for, a list of people who will get small gifts in the $15 to $20 range, and family members who will receive more.

Don’t forget to budget beyond gifting. Are you throwing a holiday party? Do you need a new outfit for the office party? Do you want to take advantage of a few great deals during the season for yourself? These things cost money, and you both should discuss them to make sure you’re on the same page.

Take a step back. As the Houston marriage counselor, I’ve found that one of the biggest obstacles people encounter when trying to talk about money is their tempers, so the relationship advice I offer is to take break from the discussion if things start to get heated. You should both be able to discuss your side of the situation in a calm way, and you need to be able to listen to your partner’s point of view and keep an open mind.

Stick to it. Once you’ve both agreed on a budget, it’s important that you both follow through. This shows your partner that you respect the agreement you came to together and will make money matters easier to deal with in the future. If you make a mistake and realize you’ve gone over budget, consider whether you can return the item and buy something else instead. Not possible? The best relationship advice for this situation is to be honest with your partner. Apologize, accept responsibility for the error, and look to see if there’s any place else you can trim to make up for the overage.

If you are having trouble talking about money matters during this holiday season or throughout the year, you can talk to the Houston marriage counselor to learn better communication skills and get relationship advice.