A budget is the pulse of your financial well-being. You check it anytime you feel unsure if you’re on track. When you’re in a relationship, your budget matters to more than just you — it matters to your partner, too.
But what if your partner doesn’t care about finances as much as you do? If you’re the saver in the relationship and your significant other is the spender, you might need to work out some kinks.
Here are a few ways to adjust your budget and communication in your relationship when you approach money differently.
1. More money doesn’t mean more power
If you earn more money than your significant other, you might think you have final approval over how money is handled. But a relationship is a partnership. Just because you make more money doesn’t mean your opinion matters more.
“If one spouse makes significantly more than the other, decide how much each will contribute to the joint checking account each month,” Itkin said. It might not always be split evenly, so make sure you’re both on the same page about what’s fair.
2. Talk about money early and often
If you’ve already talked to your significant other about finances, debt, and income, you have an idea of their spending habits. There isn’t one time to talk about money, though. Rather, there are many times.
“Before committing to marriage, you must discuss money,” Itkin said. “Schedule a ‘money date’ each month to review the previous month’s expenditures. In the beginning, a monthly meeting is recommended. Once habits get established, twice a year should be sufficient.”
Meeting with your significant other about money should be ongoing. If you’re ever unsure about where your money is going, talk to your partner about it at the money meeting. If twice a year isn’t enough for you, talk more often. Do what works best for your family and situation.
3. Be understanding, not disrespectful
If your partner spends money in ways with which you don’t agree, try putting yourself in their shoes. How did they get to be a spendthrift, and what do they know about budgeting?
You can start to educate your partner without talking down to them about how they handle their money. For one thing, they might not know they’re doing anything wrong.
“If one person is a saver and the other is a spender, there is bound to be bumps in the road,” said Misty Lynch, certified financial planner and a lead financial consultant at John Hancock. “A saver may feel the spender is sabotaging their goals and future with unnecessary purchases. A spender may feel that their partner is trying to be a ‘parent’ instead and resent all the limitations compared to when it was just ‘their’ money.”
It’s important to know where you both stand on your spending beliefs. That way, you can grow together without resenting each other.
4. Set limits and expectations
If you’re a saver and your partner isn’t, your budget should be realistic for both of you.
“Identifying goals can help a spender connect with a saver when it comes to finances,” Lynch said. “Spenders are capable of saving money, but they may have difficulty when it appears to be done without a purpose.”
Your budget should include all the required payments, such as your rent or mortgage and household bills. Showing your spender how money goes to certain things can help them understand the impact of being fiscally responsible. A joint account lets you both contribute to important responsibilities without playing the blame game.
Lynch and Itkin both recommend having three bank accounts: one for each person and a joint bank account.
“The joint account should get the bulk of the money as the relationship progresses and the common goals take center stage,” Lynch said. “Create a budget and determine how much each person needs to contribute to the joint account. The individual accounts are for each person to use however they want. That way, the spender is happy because they can make purchases without seeking approval or feeling guilty.”
5. Share values and be open to compromise
As a saver, you approach finances differently than your spender mate. If you’ve tried to work out a budget plan but neither of you is sticking to it, you might have to move in a different direction.
“Sharing similar values is an important key to harmony in a relationship,” Itkin said. “If you and your significant other are so far apart from each other regarding values over money, it might be difficult to sustain a long-term relationship.”
In the end, communication is key. If you meet often with your significant other about finances, your relationship with money and your partner can improve.
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