When you fall in love, money can the last thing on your mind. You're so intoxicated from your passion that little else matters – especially not a budget.
Yet money is an important topic to discuss in your relationship – sooner rather than later. I remember when I first started dating my partner, money didn't matter. But as we grew older and our lives merged together, money became a prominent issue. Both of us were battling student loan debt, struggling with stagnant wages, and embracing different spending and saving styles.
Money is a leading cause of divorce. For your relationship to flourish, talking about money with your partner is one of the best strategies.
But how do you broach a topic that feels like uncharted territory littered with land mines?
Try these tips to start talking about budgets:
Talk About Your Financial Upbringing
Some people were born with a proverbial silver spoon; some of us were lucky to inherit a tin can. Like it or not, we all have our own financial baggage that we carry into our relationships. To help “unpack,” sit down with your partner over a bottle of vino or a cup of coffee and ask about their financial upbringing.
What role did money play when they were growing up? How did it make them feel? When did they first realize that money was powerful? Was it a taboo subject at home?
My partner and I have drastically different financial upbringings, and it has been a source of conflict and misunderstanding. These questions offer insight into how your partner formed their relationship with money. Often, fights about money can stem from unrealized issues that we don't know we have. Conflicts arise when we don't understand our partner. Asking these simple questions can help start a real-life dialogue about your financial future.
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Discuss Your Dreams
Money is a tool to help you achieve your goals. Sometimes conflicts arise because a couple is not on the same page. The solution?
Sit down with your partner and discuss your wildest dreams, no-holds-barred. What do you want out of life? Do you want to quit your job? Travel to every country in the world? Retire early? Have four kids and a farm? Whatever it is, your partner should be the key person to know.
While all your dreams may not be the same, you can offer emotional support to help each other. For example, my partner likes to spend money on musical instruments, while I prefer to dole it out on travel.
Understand Your Financial Personalities
Everyone has a unique financial personality. What's yours? Your partner's? Are you thrifty or lavish? Is saving a chore or a pleasure? What is your investing philosophy? Do you have an investing philosophy?
Is money a stressor or a means to an end? Is your partner generous or miserly in nature?
When you start saving, ask some hypotheticals. “If you received $100,000 tomorrow, what would you do with it?” “If you found $100 on the sidewalk and no one was looking…”
Understanding each other's financial personality can help you create harmony in your relationship.
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Create a Plan – Together
Once you discuss your goals and understand each other's financial personality, it's time to create a plan. Money is a stressful topic, especially when we aren't managing it properly. If you budget, save together, and plan for your respective goals, you'll feel more secure.
Figure out how much you can save in the short and long-term. Look at areas you can shave in your budget to fund your life goals. Whenever there is conflict, revise the plan. Keep in mind that as life changes, so might your joint financial needs.
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