The burden of a mortgage, credit card bills, and other family expenses can be draining for couples. Studies show finances are the leading cause of stress in a relationship, and money problems tops the list of reasons for divorce. Frequent and effective communication can help keep marriages intact, and that’s especially true when it comes to managing money.
Follow these six tips to get your finances on track so you can spend less time stressing about money and more time enjoying your partner’s company.
Many married couples decide to combine bank accounts while others prefer to keep their money separate. Regardless of what you decide, spending should be transparent. As a married couple, you’re more than just roommates sharing expenses. Technology enables you to keep everything in one place, making it even easier to communicate spending with one another. And don’t be afraid to talk about more than just dollars and cents – share your long-term financial goals so you can save accordingly.
Understand your spending habits
People typically fall into one of two categories when it comes to how they manage money – spenders and savers. It’s OK to identify who is better at saving and spending in your marriage. While still preserving transparency, allow the “saver” to be the primary manager of home-based expenses. The saver can keep the spender in check and create a budget to better manage funds. Together, build categories like “grocery spending,” or “recreational spending” and agree on how much to allot for each category. Just remember to maintain a balance – the saver can keep the spender accountable, and the spender can suggest activities that are worth splurging on.
Have regular budget chats
Plan ahead and set aside time to have “money talks” when you won’t be distracted or interrupted – like on Sunday afternoons, or after the kids go to bed. These are generally short “checkups” where a couple can look at their spending in relation to their plan and discuss any upcoming expenses. Make sure to schedule these on a regular basis, such as every time you or your partner gets paid. These conversations can help make things less stressful if an unexpected emergency comes up.
Agree on how much spending freedom you’re both comfortable with. Identify a threshold amount for how much each of you can spend on bigger purchases. For example, it may be okay to come home with a pair of $80 shoes, but not an $800 home theater system. Without guidelines, one partner may feel frustrated about a big purchase, while the person doing the spending is in the dark about why the purchase was wrong. This threshold allows you to be proactive, thereby minimizing the chance of an unexpected incident or argument later on.
Save, Save, Save
It’s easy to use your debt as an excuse not to save. Make a list of small, doable goals – this can be as simple as putting aside $25 from each paycheck into a savings account. You could start by trying to save $1,000 for an emergency fund and then add to it on a regular basis. If you have a hard time leaving saved money alone, ask your bank to put restrictions on your savings account to prevent withdrawals. Just don’t forget to acknowledge saving successes as they happen.
Get financially fit
Admitting you need financial help can be awkward and embarrassing, but financial trainers are equipped to help you set a budget, work on your spending habits, or even moderate tough talks about money. These services are usually very affordable and the return on investment is high – on its own, the reduced stress in your relationship is worth far more than the price. Though you may be tempted to seek out advice from friends or family, those close to you may not provide the honest, objective advice you need to hear. A small investment in strengthening your financial health with the help of a trainer can pay off later on and help you and your partner avoid “learning it the hard way.”
If you and your partner are facing mounting financial difficulties, it’s important to make a concentrated effort to properly manage money together. From holding a bi-weekly budget meeting with your spouse to agreeing on ways to monitor spending, or even bringing a professional into the picture, you can work together to get your finances on track in no time.