Managing money as a couple is complicated. Generally, you’ll either be two spenders, two savers, or one of each – and there isn’t necessarily a combination that works best.
You might think it’s a pairing of two savings superheroes, but what often happens in this scenario is that both partners are so frugal that they struggle to get comfortable with levelling up and playing bigger with their finances. If both are risk averse, things like buying property and investing become more difficult. Two spenders together of course has its perils, while one of each can bring conflict and misalignment of money values.
Here are 9 top tips for managing couples finances in blissful harmony:
1. Talk about money from the start
I’m not saying you should bring your bank statement to the first date, but openly talking about money, your relationship with money and what type of spender you are from the outset can really take the pressure off down the line. Open the conversation early so you know what page each other is on financially.
2. Don’t assume you have to combine finances
Whether you’re married, de facto or just dating, the stage of life you’re at bears no weight on whether or not you should combine finances. It’s entirely up to you. Some say marriage is the tipping point, others say as soon as you live together you should unite as a financial powerhouse. If that works for you, fine. But if it doesn’t, don’t force it. You can combine finances in a number of ways, from choosing to share a joint bank account for bills and keeping everything else separate, to fully sharing all your accounts and combining your salaries.
3. When it gets serious, consider your insurances
Life insurance is something worth considering while you’re young and healthy, especially if you have a partner. Life insurance will pay out a lump sum if one partner dies, and can help with the financial burden of the remaining partner having to live on a single income. This becomes especially important if you own a property together or have any kind of loan. Having life insurance that will at least cover the remaining balance on mortgages or loans is a great starting place.
Having tough conversations about insurance can bring up other financial questions, too, so buckle up and get ready to get serious.
Read: I asked a financial adviser what insurances young people really need.
4. Be honest, always
Honesty from the outset is key. Disclose all your debts past and present, whether that’s student loans, credit cards or maybe even business debts, and respect each other’s financial past. Whether you choose to combine finances or not is up to you, but regardless, you can still act as a financial team, and help each other out where necessary.
5. Consider a joint account for savings
Not only does this make it easier when deciding who will pay for things that are splurges for the both of you, it can help to work towards common savings goals together. It also prompts you to think about a future together, and opens the conversation to what you want out of life and the relationship.
6. If you earn drastically different amounts, play fair
This will vary from couple to couple, but if one partner earns substantially more than the other, special care needs to be taken. Without openly discussing how the disparities in your income will affect your life together, you run the risk of conflict. When one of you can afford fancy things and the other can’t, you might experience competitiveness or misalignment in what makes you happy. If you’ve got a big income gap, work out together the best way to close that gap. That might be the higher earner paying for food shopping or more of the rent, or using one income for day-to-day spending and the other for bills and savings.
7. Never hide purchases or expenses
Films and tv shows often portray this image of women hiding purchases from their male partners – and it’s gross. It’s outdated and redundant, nowadays, because women have their own jobs and their own incomes. For that reason, don’t get into the habit of hiding purchases or lying about how much you spent. It comes back to being a financial team, and accepting that you both have different spending personalities.
8. Respect each other’s financial personalities
Speaking of different spending personalities, respect each other’s! If one of you loves to spend big on fitness (and it’s within your budget!), don’t judge them for that if that’s not what you value. By allowing each other to fit the things they value into your spending routine, you can both live your best lives and be a power budgeting couple at the same time.
Likewise, if one partner is a spender and the other a saver, remember that one isn’t necessarily superior to the other. While the spender might need help making considered purchase decisions, the saver may need support in overcoming risk aversion and spending to add value to your lives. Respect your differences and leverage them to improve your collective financial situation.
9. If you don’t combine incomes, have a ‘kitty’ for household purchases
A common reason couples bicker is over pesky household purchases. Things like toilet paper or a new lightbulb can trigger a battle of ‘it’s your turn, I got it last time’. Having a pot of cash or a basic bank account or savings account that can be used to buy small incidentals is a great starting point for cohabiting partners.
Ultimately, managing money as a couple is personal and you need to find what works for you. Don’t be afraid to try new things until you arrive at a solution that maximises both of your preferences.
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