February is a month of love. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it’s easy to celebrate all the beautiful moments you have with your significant other. But being in a relationship isn’t always hearts and roses. When cupid’s arrows aren’t flying, couples must navigate their finances. For many, this can prove difficult and even lead to conflict. Here are some easy financial tips for couples to make sure money doesn’t spoil the love.
Set Your Goals Together
Sit down with your significant other and discuss your financial priorities. Find out how your individual goals might sync up and figure out what steps you need to take to accomplish those goals. Would you like to pay off existing debt? Buy a home? Have kids? Own your own business? Travel the world? Save for retirement? There are many kinds of goals, so it’s important to find out which ones make sense for you as a couple and plan your finances accordingly.
Put All Your Cards on the Table
If you want to navigate your finances as a couple successfully, you must confide and trust in each other. Keeping financial problems hidden can hamper plans and potentially damage your relationship. Start out by putting all your information on the table, including debt, income, the types of accounts you have, any property owned, obligations and so on. Discuss the financial concerns you may have and any money differences you had in your previous relationships. Being honest and transparent will give you and your partner a better idea of what is important and how to develop a financial partnership.
Set Financial Meetings Once a Month
Discussing money isn’t always comfortable for couples, but doing it regularly will make it a lot easier for you and your partner. Try scheduling a financial meeting once a month to discuss your financial situation, your goals and your status on achieving them. If you’re having money troubles, brainstorm solutions together. These meetings don’t have to be long and they don’t have to be tense. Take a walk to a coffee shop and make it a regular, business date.
Build a Budget Together
Tracking your spending as a couple is vital. You need to know where your money is going, to create goals and build toward them financially. Start by creating a budget that sets amounts for expenditures and keeps track of what you spend each month. There are a variety of free apps like Mint.com that make this easy. At the end of a month, take a look at what you spent and see if those numbers match up to the budgeted amounts. If they don’t, work together to figure out why and discuss how to improve in each category. After talking about expenses, adjust the numbers or the spending categories for next month. When your numbers start lining up, you know you have a solid budget.
Set Up Joint and Separate Accounts
How to pool and share money is one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a couple. Not every couple does this the same way. Some opt to have a joint account, others prefer separate accounts, and many couples decide on a combination of the two.
The first step is to agree on what expenses should be paid together. Make a detailed list of the expenses you think should be shared as a couple. You should also take time to discuss how much discretionary money each of you will have to spend. Make a list of what kinds of things each of you might spend money on personally to figure out the discretionary budgets. Once you agree, spending based on the discretionary funds should not be judged or argued. Each partner in the relationship should be free to spend that money as he or she sees fit. Discretionary funds can be allocated in your joint account, or you can create separate accounts for this money to be deposited every month. Whatever method ensures that you won’t fight over spending is likely the best option for you as a couple.
Divide Financial Jobs
Take some time to figure out who should be responsible for paying bills, balancing accounts, monitoring credit and researching large purchases like a house or car. Do you want to do it all as a team? Or do you want to divide tasks? Creating a structure will make it easier to ensure your finances are in order and encourages teamwork. Start by having a conversation about what tasks each of you is good at, likes or doesn’t like and make a financial jobs list. When you have your financial meeting each month, you can report information relevant to the tasks you completed. You may need to try different options to find the best way to tackle your financial responsibilities. Don’t be afraid to switch things up.
Try to Save Money
Saving at least 10% of your income can go a long way toward realizing your goals as a couple. It can provide an emergency fund in case one of you loses a job or suffers an injury. A savings account can be used toward big purchases down the road, like a new home. It can also be used to invest in a retirement account. When you start talking about finances and make a budget, consider saving money early. The sooner you start, the easier it will be to realize all the goals you set forth as a couple.
If you and your partner need any assistance with financial planning, consider visiting a financial planner together for help.