In almost any relationship when you bring up the topic of finances or money, you’re sure to be met with opposition. Many couples indicate that finances are the number one reason they have stress within their relationship. “A third of Americans in a relationship believe they are the saver and their spouse/partner is the spender. In contrast, only 21 percent would cop to being the spender and admitting their spouse/partner is the saver. – Suntrust Banks. Let’s focus on ways to help alleviate this stress by focusing on ways to talk with our spouses/partners about finances.
Before you even begin your financial discussions, make it a rule that there will be no finger pointing throughout the entire discussion and that you will both be open minded and allow each other to speak and explain their side of the equation. Make sure to do this when you can carve out some distraction free time. It’s hard to have a crucial financial conversation with the kids asking you a million questions, or when your spouse is preoccupied because they have a big project due.
What is your debt philosophy? Financial disagreements often arise from different views of debt, from how much to use a credit card to the term and amount of a new car loan. Ask your partner what they consider an acceptable level of debt and see how much it diverges from your answer.
Creating an environment where both sides can speak freely, without judgement, is crucial to establishing open communication, which makes it much easier to dig in and get to root of any would-be financial struggles. Maybe one of you is hiding deep financial secrets, now is the time to come clean about them.
Once you have laid out the ground rules — it’s time to dig in!
Set Financial Goals
It’s important for both sides to be on the same page when it comes to finances. In a recent SunTrust survey conducted by the Harris Poll, a third of Americans in a relationship believe they are the saver and their spouse/partner is the spender. In contrast, only 21% claimed they are the spender and their spouse/partner is the saver. If you have one party that just wants to spend everything, while the other wants to squirrel it all away for emergencies — you’ll have nothing more than 2 upset people and mounds of disagreements. Sit down and hash out realistic goals that you both agree on.
Do you want to have all your debt paid off in 5 years? Have you always dreamed of having a Christmas Club or Vacation Club account? Discuss your dreams together and use those dreams to help plan your financial future.
Create a Working Budget
Once you know where you want to be, its time to figure out where you are. Comb through and lay out all of your monthly expenses and create a monthly cash flow plan or budget. What are you actually spending on a monthly basis? Are there any areas that you can shave your expenses, such as your cable/satellite bill, cell phone, monthly subscriptions, expensive coffee habit, etc? I will admit I LOVE having one type of coffee, but it is also one of the more expensive brands. That is one area where I knew if I stopped going out every day for coffee, I could easily save $100 a month. Now, I only go out for my coffee when I have a gift card.
After you know what you’re spending every month, figure out just how much you have coming in every month.
Make a Plan
Now that you know where you’re at and where you want to be, it time to make a plan that you both agree on. If you have money left over at the end of every month, what do you plan to do with it? Too much month left at the end of your money? How are you going to fix that? Is it time to take on a second job or do you need to shave expenses somewhere else?
Plan a Date
In order to keep the lines of communication open, and the financial secrets at bay, plan a date every month for you and your spouse/partner to discuss your finances. This is important so that not one person is in sole control of the finances and each knows exactly where you’re at financially. Meeting once a month will also give you a clearer picture as to how close you are to reaching your goals and if something in your budget or your goals needs to be adjusted.