Let’s face it, talking to your significant other about money can be more than just uncomfortable and awkward; for many couples, it can become a downright battle. However, having open, honest, and consistent communication with your partner about finances is the most important step towards achieving a healthy financial future for your family.
Set aside an appropriate time to talk
When it comes to discussing finances with your partner, timing is key. One study found that 62% of married couples wished they had talked about money before their big day, yet less than half of engaged couples actually talk about their finances before the wedding. Prior to any major life change or commitment, such as moving in together, getting married, or starting a family, it’s critical that both parties are on the same page financially.
Set aside a specific time to talk about your finances. Since money can be a sensitive topic for many people, it’s important that you don’t blindside your partner. Give them enough notice so they have time to think it over and prepare.
Don’t play the blame game
Placing blame on one another will be counterproductive to achieving any sense of unity. Whether it’s taking on too much debt, overspending, or not keeping up with bill payments, remember that everyone makes mistakes with money. Rather than pointing the finger at your partner, identify problem areas and address them as something that “we” need to work on “together,” not as something the individual needs to fix on their own.
Come to the table with solutions
Everyone comes into a relationship with their own views and practices regarding money, so finding a common ground is critical to the success of your collective finances. The key is to come to the table with specific, realistic ideas that could help alleviate some of your financial concerns. For example, compare packages and price points from telecommunications companies, and consider switching providers to find something more affordable to bring your cell phone, cable, and internet expenses down. Or, discuss ways each of you could contribute to bringing in more income in order to reach your financial goals faster, such as taking on side projects that can be done on evenings or weekends, or perhaps taking on extra shifts at work. The point is to approach your conversations about money as constructively as possible and come up with real, practical solutions.
Work together to create a shared budget
One of the most productive ways to get on the same page financially with your partner is to develop a monthly family budget together. Write out all your monthly expenses, including rent, car payments, cell phone bills, and debt payments. Additionally, lay out all your variable expenses, that is, how much you intend on paying for things like groceries, clothing, entertainment, and so on. This is also an important step towards planning your savings, particularly your emergency fund. Decide with your partner what fixed amount of money you will allocate towards this fund every month and, over time, it will grow into a substantial financial buffer for unexpected expenses that may arise. Having three to six months saved up in your emergency fund for expenses will give you peace of mind should anything happen, whether it’s a car or home repair, a job loss, or an illness in your family. Remember, a little can go a long way, so even if you start by saving just a small amount, you can always add to it as your budget allows.
Using free budgeting software, such as Mint, can help you stay organized, focused, and productive as you build your monthly budget. These budgeting tools provide an outline of what an appropriate budget looks like, providing benchmarks on how much of your income should be allocated for particular items. For a detailed example on how to build a budget, check out this Budget Calculator.
Once you’ve created a budget, you’ve got to stick to it! You can keep each other accountable by setting up a joint chequing account and monitoring your collective spending patterns. Additionally, if you create your budget using a more traditional spreadsheet method, you can set it up as a shared online document on Google Sheets™. This way, you and your partner can log in to your Google Docs™ and consult your budget anywhere and anytime. Better yet, download the Mint and Google Sheets™ apps on your phone. Joint access to bank accounts, financial documents, and budgets is a great way to foster shared responsibility and improved communication regarding your collective finances.
Consistent, open, and honest communication with your honey about money will help you get on the same page, work as a team, and build a stable and successful financial future together.