You have found the one you want to spend your life with but how the heck are you going to start budgeting as a couple? Are you going to combine everything? Keep everything split? Money is one of the top five reasons that couples get divorced. The earlier you talk about money the better. My husband and I talked about it on like our third date. Not necessarily all our numbers but started to talk about our money habits, goals, etc. If you’re already married, it isn’t too late! Let’s talk about how to actually budget with a partner.
Being honest about your finances is so freaking important. If you have debt it is important to share that information so that you two can tackle the debt together as you work on your savings goals for the future. If my husband didn’t tell me when we were dating that he had six-figures of debt, it would’ve been a VERY different start to our marriage.
You might be nervous, completely normal. But remember you are talking to your partner. The person you chose and that you love. When talking about money, make sure it is at a time when you are both calm and not upset about anything.
One of the first things you need to do is discuss your numbers. Think about these as facts. The numbers will show your spending, saving and debt. Look at your accounts and write down everything. How much debt do you have? What kind of debt and what are the interest rates? What do you have saved? What does your checking account look like? Do you save for retirement? Now that is done, start thinking about where you want to go from here as a couple. I know this can be very overwhelming and might take multiple conversations but it is SO important.
Listen, I totally get it. When I started dating my husband he said he had around $100k of debt, mostly student loans. I came to terms with that and then when we actually looked at the numbers it was $154k. A littleeee more than $100k. It wasn’t that he lied. He truly had no idea since he was only paying minimums for years. Once we got the real numbers we could create our budget together.
Discuss Shared Financial Goals
You know your numbers and are ready to start thinking about your goals. Take some time to think about what your short-term goals are as a couple. Do you have a vacation that the two of you would like to go on? Are you saving for your wedding or honeymoon? Maybe you are looking to buy a car or pay off a car?
After you decide on your short-term goals, it is time to think about your long-term goals. Are you paying off student loans? Are you looking to buy a house? Save children? Saving for retirement?
Once these goals are decided, it’s time to prioritize. What is the most important goal for both of you? Which one do you think will be easiest to tackle first? Make these decisions together and create a vision that you both want for your future.
Not only is it important to discuss your goals as a couple but also the things you want as individuals. Your budget should reflect what is important to you as a couple and as individuals. Need help with this? Get my course Money & Marriage (take $10 off with code MM10).
Assess Individual Money Habits and Beliefs
In every relationship there is usually a spender and a saver. Talk with each other about your spending habits. Let your partner know if you are an emotional spender or if you are an impulse buyer. It’s equally important to know if your partner is an extreme saver or someone who feels guilty spending money. The two of you need to discuss any conflicts this could possibly cause in your relationship. Set up spending rules that you will both agree on before you make big purchases. You can decide to speak with each other about any purchases over a certain amount of money. Talk about what are your non-negotiables with spending and saving money. If you struggle with financial inequality (aka someone makes more, has more debt, etc.) my course Money & Marriage will help you through that.
Create a Budget
You have talked about your money feelings, discussed your goals and been honest about your numbers. Now, it’s time to conquer the B word….Your Budget!! Use your numbers to help you with this. Make a list of your income and expenses. Then decide together on your budget categories. Remember when you are making your budget to not make it so restrictive or you will both hate budgeting and probably won’t stick to it.
Establish Regular Budget Meetings
Scheduling a time for budget discussions is a way to check in with your partner about how the budget is working for both of you. A formal budget meeting is not always needed (read this blog post). Personally, my husband and I don’t do formal budget meetings but just keep our budget accessible and keep money conversational. Not every person is going to want to sit down and have a formal discussion. Do what works best for you and your partner.
If you do decide to do a budget meeting, make sure to have a pretty standard flow/routine for what you will discuss. Has anything changed since you made your budget? Did one of you get a raise? Did one of you take a pay cut? Do you need to add anything to your budget? Do you have any trips or extra expenses coming up? Did you have some debts paid off? If so, what are you going to do with that extra money? Will it go towards one of your goals? This is a great time to look at your goals. Are you progressing towards your goals? Is there anything that needs to be changed or added to your goals?
After you have made your budget and even had a check in with your partner, maybe you decide you need to delegate tasks to each of you. Who is going to pay the bills? Will you automate part of the process? Who is going to check in with your spending each week? Who will be making extra debt payments? Who will be tracking other expenses? Think about what each of your strengths and interests are when deciding on what budgeting tasks you will take on.
How to Handle Differences and Conflicts
Money can cause so many issues in a relationship. Take time to address disagreements or conflicts that you and your partner have about spending. Try to take the emotion out of it and discuss the numbers. You want to really listen to why the other person made the money decision they did. Is there a deeper issue that is causing the problem? So many things can cause people to spend or make mistakes with money. Give your partner grace and continue to work together.
Celebrate Milestones and Achievements
You have done the hard work. Budgeting, meetings, deciding on goals and taking the time to discuss your money issues. This is NOT easy but it will pay off in the long run. When you have reached a goal or are making progress towards your goals, CELEBRATE!!! That doesn’t mean go blow a ton of money but acknowledge that you worked hard and it is paying off. Enjoy that feeling of accomplishment with your partner and keep working towards your other goals. Maybe go on a nice date night when you pay off a certain debt or reach a savings goal.
Revisit and Adjust the Budget
Your budget is flexible. It will change. Keep reviewing and updating your budget with your partner. Look at your goals and see the accomplishments that you have made and decide on new goals. If you go over in a certain category, don’t panic. Revisit the budget and decide what adjustments you need to make.
You and your partner are a team and need to work together on your finances. Remember to have open communication and try to take the fear out of your money conversations. Use the numbers to drive your decisions and not your emotions. If you are like “but we always fight about money” or “this sounds great but how the heck do we actually do this”, you need my course Money & Marriage. I provide you with templates, videos, activities, and more to help you and your partner get on the same page with money so you can crush your money goals together.