The budget conversation might be a difficult one to have, but it’s incredibly important. And finances are not a discussion you should have just once but rather on a regular basis. In order to improve financial issues, you first need to be on the same page and the same team. To do this, you need to align your goals. Then plan steps to reach those goals together. Don’t make assumptions about you and your partner’s financial status or spending style, talk about it. Decide when in your relationship it’s appropriate to bring it up. I say don’t put it off too long. I think you’ll find it’s important as you work together towards better personal finances. Don’t let money get in the way of your relationship, take it on together.
My parents have been my financial role models my whole life. They work so well together because they have the same clear financial goals. They communicate and keep each other in the loop. They make big spending decisions together. Most importantly, they both have a similar view of money. They both feel most comfortable living within their means, saving for the future, delaying large purchases until they could more comfortably afford it but still treating themselves once in a while.
So I’ve gleaned some information from them and their methods of healthy finances as a couple. These are a few steps you can take to budget with your significant other.
Set Financial Goals Work backwards. Don’t start with the nitty-gritty day to day spending. Figure out what your financial goals are and the steps you need to take to get there. Do you want to pay off debt? Save up for a down payment and buy a house? Save for retirement? Think short and long term to get a complete picture.
Financial Overview Discuss where you are at now with your finances. Discuss bank accounts, debt, and regular spending habits. Honesty is better in the long run here. Hiding debt or unhealthy spending habits can only pop up later as a bigger problem. On the flip side, be understanding if they bring debt or financial issues to the table. If you love them for better or worse, richer or poorer, than don’t criticize, support them as they work toward correcting those habits.
Make a Budget List your sources of income. List all monthly expenses. Subtract the expenses from the income. Spending more than you make? Find ways you can cut back or save money. Is there money left over? Pay off debt, create an emergency fund, contribute to retirement or other savings funds.
Keep Informed Discuss finances and your budget on a regular basis so you keep each other informed of any important changes or updates. Over time you might not need to go over it as frequently as it becomes more routine.
Celebrate Positive Steps As you work together toward your shared financial goals, celebrate milestones. Paid off a certain amount of debt? Have a date night out at your favorite restaurant. Created an emergency fund? Get a bottle of wine and watch a movie together. Missed a goal? Don’t get discouraged. Find ways to help each other. Make your lunches together Sunday night to avoid buying lunch at work and sneak a love note in there to surprise your hunny. Invite friends over to a dinner party with a theme, like all things Italian. Think wine and pasta and olives and bread. It might not be the same as traveling there in person, but it will be much more cost effective and still tons of fun. These things can serve as encouragement that being smart with your money doesn’t have to be dull.
Remember you’re in this together, through the good times and bad, lean times and times of plenty. Know the financial goals you want to reach, make a plan to get there, discuss it on a regular basis, and support each other every step of the way. More money doesn’t make a relationship stronger, but communication, honesty, transparency, understanding and love do. The couples that value these traits are very rich indeed.