It can be easy to get carried away by love, but that doesn’t mean that your budget needs to suffer while your head is in the clouds. Here are some tips to consider discussing with your partner to set your relationship up for success.
When you consider that an oft-cited topic of disagreement among couples is finances, it becomes easy to see that both members of a couple should understand one another’s financial habits and speak about their financial needs and expectations openly and honestly with one another. Like so much in relationships, communication is key. We’ve grown up surrounded by this sense that it’s taboo to talk about money, and surprisingly or not, that carries over into our relationships.
Money has so much emotion attached to it — how we use what we have can say a lot about our values. And if we’ve ever run into any challenges with it, such as making poor choices before we knew better (Hello, Sasha in early adulthood! You taught me a lot!), we can have a sense of shame about it. We needn’t feel ashamed — but we should recognize what lessons we can learn about ourselves from our financial habits, and resolve to make smarter financial choices, both for ourselves and our partners.
Recently I spoke with a friend who mentioned the biggest challenge in his previous relationship had to do with differing financial views. He said it felt like there was never money in their joint account for small purchases he’d enjoy (like a new video game), but there was always room for things he ex enjoyed (regular pedicures). This was especially frustrating for him given that he was the only one working to support themselves at the time.
He made a statement that sticks with me months later, that couples should develop a dating budget. It’s only the in the past year that I’ve really begun to understand how to budget, and have the discipline to live within my means and adapt my behaviors. (Though change is hard, it’s funny how much easier it is to change my behaviors rather than try to find other sources of income.) And I feel fortunate that I’ve been figuring this out while single, so I can feel sure-footed about my financial behaviors when I’m in a relationship.
As I consider the lessons I’ve learned both in my love life and in hearing about others’, I put together some Financial ABCs for the budding romance in your life:
Ask some key questions of one another.
- How do you like to spend your money? For instance, do you like to save up for big trips, or spend money on small experiences easily and often? How do you treat yourself with your money? What sacrifices do you make to spend on the things you enjoy?
- What are your long-term goals? Do either of you envision working reduced hours in the future, or working in a job that is personally fulfilling but financially unstable? What about starting your own business? How would you ensure bills are paid if pursuing your dreams involves a financial risk? Is home-ownership important to you?
- What is the difference between your existing financial habits and the habits you’d like to have in the future? Do you save money? Do you make a point of investing? What changes do you want to make to get there, and in what ways can we support one another?
- Do you have a budget? How might that budget be effected by dating, and how may it change as we get more serious?
Budget. No matter how much or how little someone is making, a budget is a good idea. At the very least, a budget should ensure that all your bills are paid, that you’re putting something away for the future, and that you have enough to enjoy yourself (at least a little!) in the present.
- If one of you makes significantly more than the other (or is comfortable spending more), how will you divide the bill for shared experiences? What will gift-giving for one another look like?
- Cheap dates can be more fun than expensive ones, if you have good company. Look for fun and inexpensive activities you enjoy through local blogs or through big-name coupon sites. Socially responsible daters in Seattle should sign up for the ideal network, which not only offers great deals on fun activities, but also gives back to local causes.
- When you agree on some joint financial behaviors that work well for you — such as nights out twice a month, and cooking dinner together or going on walks together for other date nights — hold one another accountable. Revisit your dating budget regularly to ensure that you’re holding steady to it. Dating often ends up increasing at least one person’s budget for entertainment, adn that can lead to feeling financial stress in other areas, or feeling like finances are unfairly balanced between partners.
Communicate. So much of relationships can be made or broken by being able to communicate with one another. Goals and needs can changes, just as circumstances can. A budget that works well at the outset may not work as well down the road. Budgets should evolve to be livable and agreeable amongst those who are involved.
By having these conversations early and often, it makes it easier to reduce the financial stress of dating and be respectful of one another’s long-term goals. It’s empowering to recognize your ability to work well together to respect one another’s bottom line, and it can be fun (at least, in Sashaland) to challenge one another to be financially responsible amid the throes of romance. Getting on the same financial page now will help reduce the possibility of disagreements about finances in the future. If you don’t feel comfortable discussing these matters with your partner, it could be an opportunity to examine if it’s truly the right relationship for you.
This Valentine’s day, give your partner the gift of communication. It’s priceless!
Sasha may be the shyest social person you’ll ever meet. She joined Verity in 2009, with a couple years in the Credit Union Movement already tucked under her belt (amidst coffee-making and bagel-slinging, running a non-profit, and trying her hand at farming).
An eternal optimist (except, you know, when she’s not), she enjoys exploring her surroundings and having adventures with friends; yoga, running, reading, writing, and good food. Though not a remarkable cook, she is nonetheless a sincere one and admits she’d be better if there were three more hours in every day. When not doing one of the many activities mentioned in the previous two sentences, she counts herself lucky to be peacefully at home, cuddling with her partner and their cat.