For Richer, For Poorer? Tips For Managing Your Money As A Couple
21st January 2021
Whether you’ve said your vows or have just started living together, you might be at a stage where you’re now ready to share your finances with your partner. Not everyone follows through with the “what’s yours is mine” philosophy and for many, opening up to your partner about money can be one of the hardest obstacles to overcome.
It doesn’t matter if it's your first experience uniting your finances, or you’ve had a joint account for years, there are always ways to relieve any tension on your relationship and, importantly, keep the peace. Here you’ll discover our top tips for tackling your finances.
It’s no secret that communication is the key to a successful relationship and, of course, your finances are a huge part of this. Money, however, may perhaps be one of the most difficult conversations you’ll ever have, especially if it’s a relatively new relationship or the first time you have joint commitments. What we all tend to forget is that money is emotional. It’s important to remember that both yours and your partner’s ideas about money stem from your own individual upbringings and histories. Everyone is different but don’t use that as an excuse to avoid discussing the topic of money, no matter how difficult.
Sit down, order your favourite takeaway, grab a notebook and start opening up to each other - it’s much better to get everything out in one chat and document your answers, rather than smaller chats every now and then. If you designate a time to talk, you’ll have time to prepare yourself mentally, particularly if money is difficult for you. You must each be active participants, so speaking after work when you’re exhausted won’t work. Start with the basics: income, savings and debt to determine what you’re starting with. Next, outline any commitments you may have (e.g. giving money to family) and what your dreams and goals are as it's likely these will take a while to save for. The final part is about your spending habits: are you a spender or a saver, do you have a budget and are you comfortable investing. These will help you get on the same page.
Hopefully after the initial deep dive, you’ll feel more open sharing in the future, since you’ll need to have smaller, more regular chats going forward to avoid conflict depending on how you decide to handle your finances day-to-day. Life changes, splurges and unexpected purchases will happen, it’s all about how you communicate them to your other half.
How joint is joint?
Joint bank accounts aren’t for everyone, but they can definitely make it easier. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to give up your financial privacy though, as there are so many different ways to use a joint account. If you’re completely transparent, you can have all of your income going in and out of the joint account and set maximum spending limits where necessary. The alternative is to keep your individual accounts and share a joint account for essential household expenses. Opinions vary between couples on what counts under this, but the common response is just bills and groceries while everything else comes from the personal accounts. It’s important to note that this is entirely up to the both of you, you may decide that date nights, for example, come under joint expenses, so it’s worth making a list you both agree on.
If you do decide to open a joint bank account, you should both agree how much of your incomes will be paid into it each month. That could be all of it, a percentage or some other formula that you agree based on what you each earn, so that you both feel you’re pulling your weight and contributing fairly. Before you open the account, you should also keep in mind the impact of a financial association as it could affect your ability to access credit in the future.
Set goals together
Everyone has their own goals and ambitions in life, not to mention collective goals as a couple, so you should agree joint financial goals and how to get there. Mutual goals are the easiest to achieve as you’re both motivated to achieve them, so if you can find a way to align your individual goals, you’ll be all set. Spending habits and values vary: some people like to buy material objects, while others choose to spend on experiences - if you don’t agree, it’s still important to understand and support the other perspective.
Goals could include holidays or buying a house together, but could also be about saving for the future. One question to ask your partner is would they support you if you stopped working to pursue a passion. Realistically, this is something that happens, but it isn’t easy on the other person who shoulders the financial burden. If you have a career-based dream, it may be worth asking. Most importantly, always celebrate your achievements and completed goals and you’ll strengthen your relationship for years to come.
Teamwork makes the dream work
The greatest motivator to achieving any goal is to have someone hold you accountable. In a relationship, you have the benefit of just that so make the most of it. Work together to help each other get what they truly want. When it comes to managing your finances, play to each others’ strengths. One may be great at budgeting in the present, while the other may be better at forecasting big future purchases. You’ll both have a part to play that works for you.
Visualisation can also be an incredible motivating factor, especially when you share a goal. For a simple saving activity, why not start a joint money box? You’ll see just how quickly it can rise with both of you contributing, unlike keeping a piggy bank as a child. Use that as a symbol of your teamwork.