When your partner’s wallet wanders

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For the little ones, iPads are among the top 10 most popular gifts for both girls and boys, according to a Prosper Insights & Analytics survey for the National Retail Federation.

“Tablets and smartphones continue to steal more attention from today’s kids, leaving mom and dad with no option but to look for ways to get their children their own items — and leave theirs alone,” says Prosper’s Consumer Insights Director Pam Goodfellow in a release for the survey.

Even though they’re sure to bring huge Christmas Day smiles, experts say big-ticket items like electronic goodies shouldn’t trump the budget.

“Surprises are nice, but shocks aren’t. Few life partners are willing to trade a moment of glee for a year of interest. You can leave room for pleasant surprises by setting budget ranges,” Grenny says.

If you absolutely are sold on an item and willing to make an individual (key word!) sacrifice to get it, it is your prerogative, Greer says. But you’re potentially setting yourself up for an argument, too. An easy way to defuse the situation is to say, “You may be concerned, but it was really important for me to get this for you.”

However, setting — and abiding by — a price range for splurges can help partners feel equally empowered.

The problem lies when money is taken from necessary appropriations, like food and shelter, Greer says.

Here’s a simplified list of ways to discuss holiday finances with your significant other by Joseph Grenny, the author of “Crucial Conversations”:

Talk early. Find a time to talk early about how you’ll deal with this year’s holiday spending. Don’t wait until your spouse springs for a Harley to talk about limits.

Solve the right problem. Many couples don’t reach a resolution because they discuss the wrong problem. For example, if you discover your loved one has rented storage units and stuffed them with hidden binge gifts, the issue now is trust, not spending.

Communicate with love and respect. The most important key to solving problems with loved ones is to ensure they know that you respect and love them. When they know you support and respect them, their defenses drop and they begin to listen.

Be willing to be wrong. Approach the conversation with an open mind. For example, it could be that the source of your conflict is not a real budget limitation, but that you don’t value holiday gift giving to the same degree as your partner.

Hold each other accountable. Once you reach an agreement, find a way to routinely keep track of spending.

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