Fighting over money is one of the most common causes of stress in relationships. The bickering and bitterness created by financial arguments can lead to a breakdown in trust and feeling as if your partner doesn’t understand or acknowledge your financial needs.
Although navigating finances with a partner can feel difficult, it is possible to come to an agreement that works for both of you. By being purposeful in crafting a budget, prioritizing communication, and regularly assessing what is working and what isn’t, you can create a plan for dealing with money issues that will reduce stress, build understanding, and might even bring you closer together.
Budgeting begins with taking a good look at where all your money is going. Review bank and credit card statements, note spending habits, and have an honest discussion about what is necessary and what can be reduced. Tailor budget items to fit your lifestyle and expend disposable income in a thoughtful way. A mobile app like Mint can help track expenses, set budgets, and provide helpful insights and data.
Spending a full day together mapping out a budget can be beneficial. For example, make a list of the combined monthly expenses such as rent, utilities, food, gas, streaming services, etc. and decide which person’s income should be assigned to each expense. If one partner makes more money than the other, they may want to take on more of the fixed debts, while still accounting for the smaller partner’s income. Align short-term and long-term financial goals to make sure both partners understand and support each other’s direction and priorities.
It may also be important to consider allowances. Consider creating separate “fun” accounts for clothes, entertainment, or anything else that is non-essential but drips little treats into your life. Separately, discuss and agree on individual expectations. Set up “need” accounts that span both incomes that cover things like groceries, utilities, and gasoline. With a better understanding of individual and mutual needs, it should be easier to come up with a system that works for both of you.
In addition to navigating numbers, communication and negotiation is a necessary component of successful budgeting. Schedule regular meetings - say, biweekly or every month - where you can review expenses and add or subtract adjustments. Be prepared to compromise and be open to suggestions. Discuss success, progress towards goals, and plans to pay off debt.
Compromise, check in, and trust each other. Growing to understand and appreciate each other’s spending habits is the key to establishing trust and moving toward common ground. Imagine that you and your partner are a team. Allow yourselves and the relationship to grow and understand that there may be days when financial decisions bring tension and frustration. Deep breaths, patience, and resolution are essential to maintaining a strong connection during difficult financial conversations.
Setting and following through on a budget can be difficult and even tedious at times, but the effort that goes into understanding and resolving financial differences can pay off in the long run. Working together to manage the often-unpredictable volatility of cash flow brings security to relationships and peace of mind in a lasting and meaningful way.