If a couple is ready to dive into marriage or life partnership, they’ve ideally had the tough conversations ahead of time, wherein they found common ground on what could be deal-breakers. They have discussed and agreed on topics like religion, political points of view, children or no children, and finances before the plunge.
So what happens after you’re a few years deep into the relationship, and suddenly one or both of you aren’t holding up your end of the financial deal? Overspending or careless spending beyond your budget, refusing to create a budget, gambling or secret spending, and not communicating about your money are all common reasons couples fight over finances.
Here are three tips to help couples stop fighting over finances.
1. Create a Budget
At the beginning of each month, sit down together and discuss what you need to cover your bills. Create a budget on which you both agree. This exercise will allow you to see the numbers against your income, making everyone aware of what excess exists to save or spend. After reviewing that excess, determine what you need to save for future planned or unexpected expenses. Online tools can help households create and manage their budgets for weekly and long-term financial planning. Here are some to consider:
- Mint by Intuit – Mint is an app that provides a robust set of automated tools for tracking your finances. Among those tools is the one that makes this one of the best budgeting apps we tested: The ability to create multiple budgets to view your spending across different categories.
- Honeydue – Honeydue’s mantra, “Outsmart money, together,” indicates it is uniquely designed for couples. The app allows you and your partner to view your financial status in one app. Within the app, you can sync bank accounts, credit cards, loans, and investments. Note: To maintain full financial transparency, Honeydue may not be for you as it allows users to control how much or how little they share with their partner.
- Simplifi by Quicken – Simplifi is an easy-to-use, customizable app that helps individuals and couples stay on top of their finances in under 5 minutes per week.
- Good ole fashion spreadsheet by Google Sheets – If you don’t mind creating your budget from scratch, Google Sheets is a great, free tool for couples with which you can create and customize a spreadsheet that’s easy to share and accessible on mobile or desktop.
After you’ve established our budget, be prepared to communicate about any course corrections you might need to make along the way. To do this, create a judgment-free environment for the conversation. To help one another stay on course or to address an out-of-budget purchase, approach the conversation when you are both prepared and in a calm state of mind. To do this:
- Establish weekly meetings, and call them dates if you’d like, during which time you discuss your budget, your savings goals, and your recent spending in a planned, non-confrontational way. This exercise will help you get clarity and maintain a sense of reality and respect for your income.
- Offer opportunities to ask each other questions in a non-accusatory way. Approaching the conversation kindly will allow you to discuss adjustments you can make to your spending without fighting. For example, rather than yell at your spouse for purchasing a fancy, daily coffee ask, “Are there beverage items we could purchase at the grocer so we can make coffee at home some mornings?” Then show your spouse the price difference between making the items at home versus purchasing from Starbucks. Let them know the amount saved can support other important areas of your budget.
3. Set Financial Goals Together
‘Til death do you part is long-term, so it is important to set long-term goals to carry you and your partner through. Set a time annually to review your year’s savings. Evaluate that amount against what you need to save to accomplish your goals for:
- Family planning
- Home or vehicle purchases
- Medical procedures
Goal-setting discussions can be a fun conversation date to set with your partner. They are an opportunity to dream and talk about your future together. After these conversations, put your words into action by applying the amounts for each goal to your budget savings category.
Your joint commitment to maintaining strong, healthy finances will strengthen your relationship, too. Let these four tips help guide you before and after tying the knot to ensure you’re aligned with both of your heads above water.