You have decided to get your finances on track, and you are tired of living paycheck to paycheck. You have decided that you will no longer spend money like to are a bazillionaire and you have been on the internet researching how to start a budget. But your husband wants nothing to do with it. Where do you go from there? How do you manage money as a couple?
It is time to manage your money as a couple. As a Financial Coach, I believe this is a situation that many couples find themselves. Americans are in massive debt. Many feel they are making way to much money to be so dang broke. There has to be a meeting ground within your relationship. Money is one of the leading causes of divorce and the main reason for fighting and resentment.
Combining Finances Is Personal
When you are in a committed relationship, whether married or living under the same roof, finances are a pretty important part of that relationship. How to manage money should come up – preferably BEFORE moving in together. How should couples manage money?
Should Married Couples Share Finances?
Separate Bank Accounts
Separate accounts come up regularly if both people already have a job where paychecks are automatically deposited. At that point, each person may be responsible for their debt. Bills may be assigned individually. One may be in charge of cable and groceries as well as their cell bill, student loan payment, and credit cards. The other may be responsible for electric, renters insurance, and their bills. And each month, they split rent payment. This way each person is entirely responsible for digging out of their debt. Allowing their partner inside of their financial business becomes more of a lesson in trust.
Joint Bank Account
Combining bank accounts into one joint bank account strengthens the relationship and shows the commitment each has to the other person. There is a tremendous amount of dedication to opening up 100% all your deepest darkest money secrets and knowing that you will have to work together to fulfill your financial goals. All bills and spending can come out of one account where both people have access to those figures.
Does Money Matter In A Relationship?
According to the top expert in debt elimination, the more massive the debt, the more a couple fights about money. Those who talk about money are more apt to say they have a great marriage and know how to manage money as a couple. According to this study by Ramsey Solutions, the survey findings include:
- Nearly two-thirds of all marriages start off in debt. Forty-three percent of couples married more than 25 years started in debt, while 86 percent of couples married five years or less started off in the red — twice the number of their older counterparts.
- One-third of people who say they argued with their spouse about money say they hid a purchase from their spouse because they knew their partner would not approve.
- Ninety-four percent of respondents who say they have a “great” marriage discuss their money dreams with their spouse, compared to only 45 percent of respondents who say their marriage is “okay” or “in crisis.” Eighty-seven percent of respondents who say their marriage is “great” also say they and their spouse work together to set long-term goals for their money.
- Sixty-three percent of those with $50,000 or more in debt feel anxious about talking about their personal finances. Almost half (47 percent) of respondents with consumer debt say their level of debt creates stress and anxiety
How Do Couples Deal With Finances?
Have a conversation about money fears as well as past money mistakes, beliefs, concerns, and goals. Break it down and chat about short term and long term financial goals.
Eliminate all distractions and be clear. Are you scared? How important is this to you? Be precise but not condescending. Are you excited about the prospect of not owing anyone anything? Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? It is time to have a conversation about money.
Next, I suggest you learn to manage money as a couple and make plans for three dates, The Dream Date, The Money Date, and The Budget Date.
Have A Dream Date
I love these meetings. It doesn’t have to be formal. You can go out for coffee or sit at home. You can be riding in the car or having dinner. Just open up the conversation to what your dreams of the future look like.
Don’t forget about retirement!
In ten years are you retired with a big old pile of cash? Or in 15 years are you traveling to Europe on a 14-day tour? Are you sitting by a beautiful pool while your grandkids play in 20 years? If money was no object, what would your future look like? If you could fulfill the IMPOSSIBLE dream, talk about it.
Plan A Money Date.
Write it on the calendar and see if you can make it a little it positive instead of negative. Instead of making this about the lack of money, decide this is the time when you will control the money instead of money controlling you.
Put the kids to bed and make some tea or have some wine. Sit down and go over the rules first. This needs to be civil, and issues need to be solved. A plan needs to be made. This is the second date in the money management process.
Ground Rules of a Money Date:
- There must be no blaming the other person. You have each done your part to create this mess, and you are going to have to work together to get out. Take responsibility for your actions.
- This also means no name calling. Zero tolerance for nastiness here. ZERO.
- Stay open. Don’t get defensive. This is about the “we,” not the “you” or “I.”
- Be open to compromise. There may be a lot of it here, and each person needs to be ready and willing to check their inner spoiled child at the door. We know we all have one.
- Honesty is important. Everything comes out. All the secrets need to end here. It is time, to be honest about credit cards and hidden money.
- Bring out all the paperwork to examine where all the money is going. This includes credit card and bank statements and if you save shopping receipts, those also. Open up your online banking to take a peek at what is going on there, too.
- The Budget Date.
How Do You Talk About A Budget?
Now that you have everything laid out and in the open, you have discussed money goals (both short term and long term), and you have had your dream date and your money date. It is now time for your third and final date, the budget date.
This is the date that might need a little prep from the one taking the lead on this. Whichever person is the nerd needs to do some research and figure out the type of budget works best. Who will take the lead and how do they work best. Is it an app like Every Dollar or Mint or is it good old fashioned paper and pencil?
What is a Budget?
A budget is merely a plan to tell your money where to go. There are apps to help you, and there are percentages to guide you. But it comes down to the math. If you have debt, that will most likely be where you need to focus.
But first, there needs to be a plan. Making sure the house payment gets paid, the heat and lights stay on, and the most basic needs are met. There are specific details that need to be followed to create your very first budget but know that it isn’t as bad as you think it is, but it is going to be a process.
Why do you need a budget?
Things will not just get better on their own. There needs to be a plan of action. A plan of action to tell your money where to go needs to happen every single month on purpose.
Many think of a budget as restricting. I believe it is quite the opposite. There are freedom and peace in knowing that you have money to pay the taxes and the electric won’t get shut off because you “forgot” to pay it.
There are techniques to focus on debt like the debt snowball or avalanche methods but let’s focus on the budget first.
This meeting will take place every single month. Make it a date. Financially plan for a special dinner and dessert. Budgets can be fun!
Retirement needs to be planned, too.
Remember to make a plan of action for how to fund this part of your life. Too many people have less than $100,000to retire on. This is something important to consider when looking at your numbers, getting out of debt, and planning a budget. Do not forget about your golden years!
What If Your Partner Is Not On Board?
I want to preface this part with the concept of doing a budget as partners. It is always best to work on the budget as a team and manage money as a couple. But sometimes that just isn’t going to happen.
Here is my story.
I am a nerd. I love to be organized, and I love to talk about and make budgets. I make printables to help and fill them out every month.
I remember YEARS ago when I wanted to have a budget meeting with my husband. My sweet husband works so hard. He rarely complains, he provides for our family. He is strong and wise, and he is truly loved.
But numbers make his head spin. Ten minutes into our budget meeting, his palms were clammy, there was perspiration on his forehead, and he went from red-faced to white as a ghost. He said after 15 minutes…I can’t. You just do it.
I made him agree that I would handle this, but he needs to let me. That means if I say we need more money, he works overtime And if I say it’s not in the budget, we don’t get it. Now, if there is something he wants, we save for it. If he wants something from Amazon, it goes in the cart, and I will budget for it and order it. There can be no ordering all willy nilly! So far so good. Over 21 years of marriage.
Don’t give in too quickly.
One person might be better at it than the other. One of you might have to take the lead and then allow the other to take part in as much as they can but…don’t let them off too easy. I suggest pushing back a little and being adamite on participating. One way or another, they need to take an active roll in the decisions. You are partners in this and you need to manage money as a couple.
What to do if there are serious money problems.
Depending on the severity of the issue, you may need to bring in someone from the outside to help you manage money as a couple. A coach, mediator, or even therapist depending on the individual situation.
Money is one of the leading causes of divorce. A Financial Coach can coach you through the budget process and help you find your direction. And sometimes, a marriage counselor might have the answers you are looking for.