When it comes to love and money, the two do not have to be opposite sides of the coin. In relationships, it may be easy to agree on date night activities or blend your styles when moving in together. What’s not straightforward sharing expenses and safeguarding the money you’ve each worked so hard to earn in a fair manner. When getting serious with someone you love, how should you handle money matters without straining your relationship?
Examine Your Own Relationship With Money
So many of us enter serious relationships with unexamined money baggage. This could be literally that $50,000 in student loans your partner is chipping away at or that habit of charging more to your credit card than you can pay off at the end of the month. Before you can find ways to keep money woes from straining your relationship, you must come to terms with your own money mindset.
If you have a deep, unexamined discomfort with money, you may subconsciously overspend on things you don’t need or struggle to pay the bills on time. If you grew up working class, maybe you always have cash for emergency auto repair but feel uncomfortable spending money on entertainment. Or, perhaps now that you have some wealth you’re a person who gives big to charitable organizations, buys relatives expensive gifts, or leaves large tips for service, all because you want to share the relative wealth you’ve accumulated.
Odds are, your positive or negative beliefs about money shape the way you handle every dollar. Before you can talk to your girlfriend or boyfriend about handling money in the relationship, confront your own money mindset. What about your approach works, and where are you unintentionally holding yourself back from financial success?
In Love and Money, It Pays to Talk Things Out
Whether you’re moving in together or getting exclusive, talking about finances is a must-do, so it’s best to do it well. While there’s no one-size-fits all plan for successfully managing your money as a couple, an open and honest conversation that withholds judging each other’s spending habits is a good place to start.
Discuss your assets, debts, and relationships with money. You may be surprised to learn that even though you agree on so much, you and your partner see money very differently. It can be difficult for couples to talk about money, especially if someone is a saver and someone is a spender.
After finding common ground and areas of difference, develop a money plan. Come up with expenses you want to tackle together and what you’ll cover separately. If you live together, you’re clearly sharing the rent and utilities, is a 50-50 split fair if someone earns more? Likewise, if you are on a tight budget while your partner is used to ordering in five nights a week, does it make sense to share food expenses or keep them separate? If you don’t live together, perhaps sharing date night expenses is the extent of your financial commingling. Simply having this plan will help keep expectations clear and decrease potential stresses in the relationship.
After you’ve covered the necessary expenses, discuss ways to meet your shared financial goals. Perhaps you both have student loan debts to pay, or maybe you’d like to start saving for a down payment so you can buy a home. If you’re trying to save for a down payment, perhaps you both of you can put 5% of your income aside every month, each in your own separate savings accounts, set-up for that sole purpose. When it comes to love and money, having a concrete common goal can even strengthen and bolster a relationship as long as neither partner feels pressured to conform.
If saving for home together just isn’t where you’re at (yet), you might want to consider setting up a general “future fund” for both of you to contribute to. This fund can support anything from a romantic Caribbean getaway, to a nice dinner out for your anniversary, or a trip to Paris. For this fund, both partners should contribute equal amounts which are workable for each person’s budget. Of course, each partner’s own separate personal savings accounts and investments should be maintained. When it comes to love and money, doing so will inspire balance between autonomy and partnership.
The strongest couples don’t brush conversations about money under the rug, they talk about money in constructive ways. While it may seem daunting at first, talking about money and financial goals, and even setting some goals together can be a positive aspect of your relationship, one that ultimately brings you closer and helps you get on track for a prosperous, fulfilling future together.