One area that couples frequently struggle with is discussing money. It’s a topic that was unlikely openly talked about in many homes, which makes it harder for couples to create a money system for themselves. Our parents may have even had a great system but because they never discussed it, we assume money just automatically falls into place. While that’s certainly possible, the reality is it takes a bit of work and negotiation, but it’s worth the effort.
Money Transparency Isn’t Money Micromanagement
I firmly believe money needs to be transparent in a relationship, but at the same time, nobody likes feeling as though big brother is watching and every purchase is put under a microscope and open to judgement. This is where clarity and systems will become your new best friends.
Most people don’t want to ask “permission” from their partner to buy small things, like a cup of coffee, a pack of gum or to go out for lunch with a friend or co-worker. This is completely understandable. However, you still need to have a system in place where you can:
- Comfortably spend without needing to “report” back to your partner
- Stay within budget
This way no one gets the dreaded “denied card” message when they try to buy something or need to hide purchases.
Agree on the Big Purchases Together
Most of us would automatically agree that big purchases should be made together. Sadly, not everyone even agrees what a big purchase is! Set a dollar amount so you both know when you need to get approval from the other before purchasing an item. You both must agree to this and abide by the rules you set.
If you think the amount is too high or low or still feel micromanaged, don’t let those feeling fester and turn into resentment. Be honest and share why. Sometimes we’ve only had to be accountable to ourselves for a long time, and it can be hard to adjust from a “me” to “we” mindset. Other times we hold some childhood scars of watching parents fight over money that may make us either too passive or too aggressive. Be open, honest and supportive of one another. You will figure it out.
The Little Things Do Add Up
This is probably where most couples struggle. You want your money to be transparent but again you don’t want to have call your spouse or partner and let them know you just bought a cup coffee. Most likely, they also don’t want you to call and tell them that exciting news either. However, those little $5-10 expenses we feel are inconsequential in the moment, do add up over time.
Let’s say, you both spend on average $5 a day or a total of $310 a month on little things such as coffee, gum, a magazine, etc. When you consider $310, it becomes a much more robust number than $5, which didn’t seem like a really big deal. Again, $310 may be a reasonable number or you may be astonished to see you spend so much on little things. The power is knowing how you’re spending your money, so you can make adjustments, if needed.
Set Aside Some Fun Money
Start by reviewing where your money goes. Once you pay all your bills, including money for savings/investments, groceries, gas and entertainment, then take a look at your remaining discretionary income and set an amount so each person has as an allowance or fun money. This is the money each of you can choose to spend however you see fit. You don’t need to get permission first nor should you have to hide anything you buy with it either.
Whatever the amount you choose, it just needs to be accounted for within your budget, so you both can spend that amount without worrying that you’re overspending and creating debt or putting the other one in the awkward position of having their card denied. Again, if you’re uncomfortable with the amount, talk about it. Those little things we buy can mean a lot to us and it can initially be hard to give up. I find those who struggle with this often don’t have shared couple goals. If you have something you’re working towards together, it’s much easier to give-up once treasured purchases because you’re working towards something bigger and more important. Even better, you don’t feel deprived or any resentment towards changing your spending habits.
Financial Infidelity Is Often Unintentional but Still Hurtful
While there are definitely people who commit financial infidelity with malice, most of the time it occurs accidentally because we simply don’t have a system in place. There is no absolute right system, but the one that works best for you. It will take a little trial and error but don’t give-up. Some may think this is completely unromantic and a relationship killer. I disagree. This is a relationship strengthener. Get on the same page now, so you don’t spend most of your time arguing about money later as so many couples do. You may be surprised by how bonding these kinds of conversations really are and it’s a wonderful example to set for your children.
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