How to be financially healthy together?
When you first start dating it’s all happy hours and cheap takeout and maybe an occasional concert or movie. As you get more serious, things like vacations, nice restaurants, movies, concerts and other date-type activities become less frequent. But money comes into play in other ways too.
Now that you’ve found the love of your life and are planning to share your life, it’s a great time to talk about money. Money is one of the top stressors in relationships (aside from in-laws), so taking steps to manage your money as a couple will help keep peace in your home.
If you have found your special someone and are planning to spend the rest of your life with them, then keeping finances separate might not be the best idea. Even if you never plan on cohabiting or combining finances permanently, bringing them into the open earlier rather than later will ease any future transitions should you choose to do so down the road.
Here are some money-saving ideas for couples that can help you get started on the right track.
1. Discuss your financial goals
It can be helpful to discuss your financial goals together. Do you both want to buy a house? Do you have a set timeline for saving for retirement? What are your financial goals? Discussing your financial goals can help you both understand what you want out of life and can help you prioritize your spending. It can also help you discover any financial red flags.
In the case that one of you has some big financial goals on the horizon but also has a ton of debt, you may want to discuss ways to pay off your debts so you can meet your financial goals.
2. Create a budget together
Now that you’ve agreed upon your financial goals, it’s time to create a budget. Create a budget together and discuss how you want to handle your spending.
When you first start dating, you probably don’t want to put too much pressure on each other to stick to a strict budget. It’s important to give yourselves some leeway to try out some new spending habits together. Once you’ve been dating for a while and have gotten to know each other’s spending habits, it’s a good idea to come up with a budget together.
3. Communicate about money
It’s important to talk about money. Chances are, you and your partner have different spending habits. One of you may be naturally more frugal than the other. If one of you spends too freely and you’ve tried to talk to them about it with no luck, it’s important to keep talking about it.
If you’re uncomfortable talking to your partner about their spending and they’re uncomfortable talking to you, go ahead and seek financial advice from a professional. You can go to a financial advisor or a financial therapist to receive advice without hurting your partner’s feelings. Talking about your financial problems can be uncomfortable, but it’s the only way to solve them.
4. Know where you stand financially
Before you start combining your finances, take the time to know where you stand financially. If you don’t know what your credit score is, get it. The sooner you know where you stand financially, the sooner you can start to improve it.
If you need to take a debt reduction course, do it before you start combining your finances. Having debt hanging over your head can lead to some serious financial issues if you’re not careful. You don’t want to be in a situation where you end up in collections or have to deal with garnishments.
If you have debt, work to pay it down before you combine finances with your partner. Ideally, you’ll have all of your debt paid off before you get engaged and before you move in together.
5. Discuss which debts are yours and which are your partner’s
It’s important to be upfront right away about which debts you have and which you owe on. If one of you has outstanding medical bills, a student loan, or car payments, it’s best to discuss that upfront.
You don’t have to go into a ton of detail, but it’s important to identify which debts you each owe so that you don’t end up hurting your partner’s credit by trying to pay off their debts for them. If, for instance, you co-signed for a loan with your partner, you may want to talk about how you plan to manage that. If you plan to co-sign on a loan, be sure to do all the research you can about what you’re getting yourself into.
6. Decide on how you’ll handle any shared purchases
If you share a car or decide to buy a car together, how will you split the payments? Do you have joint savings account to save money for a future purchase? Do you split grocery bills? It’s important to come up with a plan for how you’ll handle any shared expenses.
If you’re cohabiting, it would be a good idea to write down a detailed agreement about who is responsible for what, even if it seems silly. Whether it’s splitting utility bills, splitting household expenses, or paying for household repairs, it’s important to have these things clearly outlined. What happens if one person breaks a rule or forgets to do something they agreed to do? How will you handle that?
7. Commit to paying off your debts ASAP
If you are in debt, you and your partner must stay committed to paying it off as soon as possible.
A debt-free future is a great way to start a life together, and it will ease your stress a great deal. If you each have a different type of debt, decide early on which one you’ll tackle first. For example, if one of you has a car loan and the other has student loans, you may want to tackle the car loan first so that your partner doesn’t have a debt hanging over their head while they are in school.
8. Don’t rely on only one income stream
You and your partner both work hard for your money. If you’re bringing in a single income, you may be a little warier about spending.
If you’re both bringing in an income, commit to bringing in an equal amount of money into the household. That way, you can both contribute equally to the bills, groceries, and other household expenses.
9. Set up a joint account
As you get serious with your partner, it can be helpful to have a joint account. One of the best things you can do is set up a joint account to pay your shared expenses. This way, you can each contribute an equal amount to those expenses, and you won’t have to worry about forgetting to pay a bill or having one person foot the bill while the other person lives off their generosity.
Having a joint account can also help you build credit. If you use the joint account for bills that both of you need to be listed on, such as your utility bills, you can both build credit. If one of you has bad credit, this can be a great way to build credit together.
10. Track your habits and set new ones
It’s a good idea to start tracking your spending habits. You can do this with a notebook, a spreadsheet, or an app.
Tracking your spending habits can help you identify any spending or saving habits you’d like to change. You may find that one person is contributing more to household expenses than the other. Perhaps one person is spending too much on eating out. Whatever problems you find, you can then work together to come up with a plan for fixing them.
11. Discuss big purchases together
Do you and your partner want to buy a house? Do you want to buy a car? Do you want to adopt a pet? Do you want to start a business? If you want to make one of these big purchases, it’s important to discuss it with your partner.
If one of you wants to make a large purchase but doesn’t want to go into debt for it, discuss your options for financing it. If one of you wants to make a large purchase and you’re willing to go into debt for it, discuss your repayment plan.
12. Agree on who pays what and when
If you’re cohabiting, you’ll each have your spending habits and financial responsibilities that come with living together. At some point, you’ll have to sit down and come up with an agreement about who pays what and when. This is especially important if you’re living with your partner whose financial habits are different from yours. Make sure your partner knows what you expect of them and vice versa. You’ll also want to make sure that you’re both aware of your roommate’s financial goals and obligations.
13. Decide on what expenses you’ll handle as a couple
There are a few expenses you’ll probably decide to handle as a couple. Credit cards are a common one that you’ll likely want to combine. It’s probably a good idea for both parties to be on the card or cards in case there’s ever an error or you get a card declined.
You may want to combine your savings accounts, especially if you’re saving for something big like a house down payment or a wedding. You may want to combine your checking accounts too. This can help you track your spending easier and can help you avoid the temptation to overspend in your account. You may also want to consider combining your utilities, internet, cable and other services. Having one bill to track can make your life a lot easier.
14. Make saving money a priority
If you’re not used to a shared financial situation, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of spending for each other or going out on expensive dates. It can be tempting to start spending the money you’ve just combined in your account. But you have to remember that the goal of combining finances is to save money.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t spend money on your partner or each other. There are many benefits to having a shared checking account. But it is important to make saving money a priority. Start with small changes like bringing your coffee mug to work or bringing your lunch to work. You can also add a small amount to each paycheck towards your savings.
15. Commit to no-rush decisions together
When you decide to start combining finances, there will be a lot of decisions to make. Some of them will be easy and some of them may be a little bit more difficult. You can’t make rash decisions.
Before deciding on anything major, sit down and talk about it. Make sure you both understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Make sure both of you are on the same page and that neither of you feels rushed or pressured into a decision.
Don’t commit to a decision just because someone else wants you to. Don’t commit to a decision just because you want to make someone else happy. Commit to a decision because both of you understand the implications and both of you are happy with the outcome.
Couples come in all shapes and sizes, and they have varying financial situations. Couples who discuss money early and often are more likely to remain financially healthy throughout their relationship. Although money may not be the most exciting thing to talk about, taking time to sit down and discuss your financial situation with your partner is an important way to strengthen your relationship.