A Couple's Guide to Money and Relationships
Do you want to bury your head in the sand when someone brings up the subject about money? While it's a natural reaction, the unknown will hurt you more than help you...especially in a relationship. It's necessary if you want to avoid arguing or worse, a break-up. Plus, there are ways to make the topic less painful - maybe even enjoyable. So where do you start as a couple?
Make it fun
Go on a "date" specifically to talk about money. Grab some brunch or coffee out or at home, as long as it's when you're both relaxed. Starting out the conversation when someone is stressed out is a bad idea. And the date doesn't have to be anything fancy or expensive; just make sure it's quiet enough to be able to hear each other.
Bring with you or have ready to pull up online bank and credit card statements. And if you're an overachiever and already have a budget set up, bring that with, too. It's important for both partners to have the full picture of your finances.
Talk about your money histories
Who taught you about money and what did you learn from them? It's helpful for each of you to understand where each other is coming from. Because it's likely you both had unique experiences with your families growing up. Some parents made an event about balancing checkbooks and emphasized savings, while others may not have talked about money much, if at all, around their kids.
Be up front about any money mistakes made in the past. Because guess what? It happens! Sharing will help you both learn from mistakes you may have made; plus, if you share it will help your spouse/partner open up as well.
Listen and set goals
Make sure that you really listen to the other person and avoid judging because we all make mistakes at some point. Find out what each of you are most concerned about and what your main goals are. If it's helpful, write down your financial goals separately and then trade with each other and talk about what you each wrote.
Decide what needs joint decision-making
I have said in a couple previous blogs that my husband and I always have a discussion about any purchase over $100, which has saved us a lot of arguments. So determine what the threshold is within your relationship and stick to that rule.
Don't have the one money date and think that everything is good forever. To be successful financially, you need to have regular discussions. Choose the right time for you - weekly, right after payday, etc. - and sit down and talk about what's happening with your money on a regular basis. Again, keep it casual and when you're relaxed.
And it will feel so much better being proactive with your conversations instead of only talking about money when there's a problem.
It might sound cheesy or too basic, but when your partner reaches a goal, stays on budget, or finds frugal alternatives, compliment her/him. Positive reinforcement is a great and simple way to help maintain good habits. Not to mention, who doesn't love getting compliments?
Don't be heroes
You don't have to figure out everything in one sitting; so don't make it a marathon meeting. The main objective is to get you both on the same page. In the end, what you do with money as individuals will affect the other person in a relationship.
If you and your partner or spouse need a little help getting started, LSS Financial Counseling is available. Our counselors will meet with both of you and help you create a realistic spending plan. Plus, your counselor will create an individualized action plan with concrete steps to take to achieve your financial goals. And if you have credit cards, we can provide the best repayment options to save you money and repayment time. Call us for your free financial counseling session at 888.577.2227 or get started online. We're here to help you succeed!
Author Elaina Johannessen is a Program Director with LSS Financial Counseling.