Budgeting & Relationships

two young adults in a relationship looking at their financial documents

Putting together a successful spending plan isn’t just about making the numbers work.  The process must also acknowledge the feelings and potential conflict that may arise when an individual, couple or family make significant lifestyle decisions that involve others.  A spending plan is most effective when everyone involved understands and is committed to its success.  Regardless of whether you are single, married or sharing a home with others, it is critical that you consider the impact that relationships will have on your spending plan, and vice versa.

Be Honest
Relationships often start with undisclosed financial issues, which negatively impact the relationship in the future.  It is essential that each person in a significant relationship discloses their financial situation prior to making a decision to merge their lives and finances. Although it can be embarrassing to reveal financial mistakes or challenges, it is much better to do so before a wedding or partnership is planned.  Once the facts are on the table, a couple can work together to resolve financial difficulties and focus on their common goals.

Consider Your Style & Goals
Money problems are often cited as the number one cause of divorce in America.  Some of the most common challenges include credit card debt, student loans, bad credit and poor saving habits.  Possibly a greater concern is a significant difference in personal money styles; for example, one person is a saver, and the other is a spender.  Remember that a spending plan is not about trying to hold your own personal ground; it’s about accomplishing common life goals together.

Some of the most common goals that inspire people to create and live within a spending plan are:

  • To eliminate debt
  • To buy a home or an investment property
  • To save for something special, such as a wedding ring or a vacation
  • To have children or to put children through college
  • To achieve financial independence
  • To retire by a certain age with a generous income

Set Aside Time
To create or discuss your spending plan as a couple, schedule a time when you are relaxed but not tired – a time without interruptions or distractions.  Several weeks before the meeting, decide what preparations will need to be made, and who will make them.  For couples, it is common for one spouse/partner to handle the finances, while the other manages other aspects of their life together.  Regardless of who pays the bills, each spouse/partner must be fully informed of the household finances.

Keep things together or separate?
Clients often ask us whether we recommend that a spouse/partner combine their finances in order to create and maintain a single spending plan, or support each person maintaining their own spending plan.  It has been our experience that couples who combine their finances, and work from a consolidated spending plan, end up having more success sustaining their plan and reaching their goals.  We have seen couples successfully manage their finances separately, but it has definitely been the exception and not the rule.

It’s okay to ask for help.
Conversations about money can be perceived as confrontational, even when they are not meant to be.  It is not unusual to become defensive, so try to listen and understand each other’s perspective with empathy.

If money-related challenges begin to negatively impact your personal relationship(s) or self-esteem, consider working with a behavioral health specialist.  A counselor may be able to help you and your partner work through the emotional process of navigating family finances.  Plan to set aside time for regular, brief meetings to discuss your spending plan, address unexpected challenges, and to work toward your common goals.

Consider All Parties
If you have children or other family/household members that will be impacted by your spending plan, include them in the discussion at a level that is appropriate to their age or situation.  You may even want to include extended family in your plan at some level.  It can be a strain if those outside of your household put pressure on you to keep up with them financially, such as more frequent dinners out than you can afford, expensive holiday gift-giving traditions or other unrealistic expectations.

Establishing a communication routine with your spouse, significant other, or family and close friends, can make the difference between your spending plan succeeding or failing.  Make every effort to remove emotions from your spending plan or money discussions.  Once a productive routine is established, you stand a great chance of managing your spending and making progress toward achieving your life or family goals.

Your Money Coach can also help.  Money coaches are compassionate and nonjudgmental.  They can provide accountability, help facilitate financial conversations, and offer unbiased guidance.  Call today to talk to a Money Coach.