How To Budget Successfully as a Couple
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Creating a budget together is more than just the numbers. Find out how you two can create a budget you both love that will help you hit your money goals faster!
As individuals we all have our strengths, weaknesses, passions and different outlooks on life. This especially is true when dealing with finances as we usually prioritize our expenses according to our needs.
It is because of our different needs that couples so very often find it difficult to manage their finances together.
Couples and Budgets
Proper budgeting will lead to successful financial management regardless if you are doing it for yourself or with a partner. But how do couples get to budget successfully?
Be Honest with Each Other
For a relationship to prosper it should be based on honesty and trust. Without these important principles the relationship will not last.
When couples become serious in a relationship it is important to be open on all aspects of life, especially finances.
For some this might be a small stepping stone where for others this is a sensitive subject. Perhaps this is because one partner does not work or where poor financial decisions in the past have left the individual with allot of debt.
Feeling ashamed, many would rather withhold the information from their partner so to avoid judgment.
Regardless if you do not financially contribute to the relationship, it is very important to be a part of the budgeting process every month.
This will help both partners to form an understanding platform, and where different tasks could be allocated to form a well balanced relationship.
Determine Your Individual Financial Status
It is therefore very important that couples declare their current financial positions to their partners before tying the knot or when living together.
It will ensure that couples don’t blame each other later in life should their relationship be going through a rough financial patch.
It is each individual’s right to know how their partner has managed their own finances in the past. Some individuals will prefer to combine their finances while others want to keep their own accounts separate.
Financial transparency in a relationship is therefore important to ensure that proper budgeting is done each month as a couple.
3 Real Life Stories of Couples and Budgets
The following three examples are based on true stories and just highlight the importance of honesty and budgeting in a relationship.
Struggling with Debt
The first example is about a very close friend who got herself into short term debt over a couple of years, and before she knew it she could not handle the repayments anymore.
She made the right decision to swallow her pride and seek debt counselling. A proactive step in my opinion, and she will soon regain her financial freedom with sacrifices she had to make.
She had been honest with her partner when the relationship became serious and together they are working towards settling both their debt before marriage.
Surprised by Finances
The second true story is regarding a friend who finally met and married the woman of his dreams. She is a successful individual in the corporate world, but too has managed to get herself into short term debt over a couple of years.
Because their financial status was not discussed in depth, he only realised the severity of her debt after marriage. He felt cheated as he too was now responsible for helping to settle her debt.
As you can imagine, this is the basis of their arguments as he blames her for their financial problems.
Hiding Money Problems
The third example is of someone I know who had been married for nearly 15 years.
It has recently surfaced to only a few close individuals, excluding her husband, that she has committed fraud later in their marriage in order to have some financial relief each month.
Finances and budgeting became her sole responsibility after so many years, and she could not bear tell him the truth of her financial problems. Instead she is trying to hang onto her marriage and avoid judgment from him but now has gotten herself deeper into trouble.
In order to ensure a healthy relationship with your partner you will need to be frank and upfront about your current financial status. If the partner judges you more than providing the necessary support then the relationship is doomed in anyway.
Determine Goals Together
When a couple’s financial status has been declared, both individuals should advise on their financial goals, both long and short term.
With this in mind individuals can try to accommodate and work towards achieving their goals.
This might include deciding on how to settle current debt, obtaining a student loan, purchasing a home, vehicle etc.
Set Priorities as a Team
List your financial priorities and goals from most important to least. If there is current debt that needs to be settled, do a little more investigation and determine which debt has the highest interest and which debt is the least.
You will save money in the long run by settling high interest debt first, but if this is a large amount and you have smaller debt elsewhere, it might be better to settle the smaller debt first.
When the smaller debt is paid, ensure you add this monthly saving to the repayment of high interest debt.
There will definitely be a difference in what you deem as important compared to your partner, but this is where negotiation and compromise are important.
There are, however, certain aspects that one needs to prioritize even though it may seem as a grudge purchase.
Insurance is deemed a grudge purchase because you pay for something you might not benefit from for a long period of time. However, should the inevitable occur, having insurance, whether life insurance or asset insurance will provide peace of mind by providing financial relief.
As with any aspect in a relationship, compromising in the financial arena is just as important. We know we all have different needs and operate on different reward bases.
You might find it satisfying to save most of your income each month where your partner might feel that he/she simply needs to spend money more frequently on entertainment or retail shopping.
Negotiate and discuss on how you both can compromise on the matter in order to attain a happy medium. Respect each other’s opinions.
Share The Burden
Debt will be settled sooner rather than later when both partners are motivated and committed to repay it.
Not all debt is unmanageable, but if you realize that it has become too much, it might be a good time to see a financial adviser or a debt counsellor.
This is a refiner’s fire process and when working as a team will only strengthen your relationship.
Compile a Budget
The information provided above is the start to successful financial planning. Now you need to draw up an official budget on paper or a computer spreadsheet.
Excel works well for this purpose and can be adjusted accordingly without having to start over each time.
On the left of the spreadsheet list your income on top and financial obligations beneath it.
In the next few columns list the current and following few months next to each other. From here, under each month put the totals of your monthly expenses next to each category on your left.
After this is done you can add up your expenses and deduct it from the income in order to determine your net financial status.
It is a fact that individuals with such spreadsheets better manage their finances because it is visually compiled into an organised layout.
Discipline in compiling and discussing each month’s budget is the next important step.
Thoughts on Couples and Budgets
In order to budget successfully as a couple, each partner needs to respects each other’s views open-minded.
Compromise is key, including discipline to draft and discuss a monthly budget each month. Here is to the success of proper financial management!
This article was written by Timothy Ng. You can read more of his work at Credit Card Finder.
We’re fortunate to have very similar financial goals, priorities, backgrounds and statuses as a couple but communication is critical to keeping it that way. We have regular conversations to reassess priorities and to make sure things are going okay.
Communication is key with couples. It certainly makes it much easier when you two are on the same page.
Very well written post. My wife and I come from similar backgrounds, but deal with money in different ways. As you said compromise was key and we are currently very happy with the way of budget is playing out.
Excellent advice! After your budget is complete, use it. Post it on the fridge where you can both see it every day.
Nice idea about the fridge! My husband and I like to use Google Docs which allows us to share with each other.
Those real life scenarios are rough, especially the friend who committed fraud! My husband and I are open about our finances, because we’re making it month to month by working together. He knows about my debt, and I know about his. We have a plan, and sticking to it!
Glad to hear that you two are open with each other – definitely a way to keep everything on the up and up.
This is an excellent post! I agree with The Budgeteer – keep it posted in the open so you have a daily reminder of your goals and your progress. For us, the ultimate goal is early retirement and that means not only sticking to a short term budget, but making sure that we are both investing a healthy amount into savings and retirement accounts every month. However, since we both incurred a nice chunk of student loan debt, it’s been a little tricky. It’s all about team work!
Great post! BF and I recently moved in with each other, and I knew that he was frugal, but it turns out he’s not as frugal as I am, so we’ve been running into some disagreements (he disagrees with grocery shopping so often to get deals, and prefers to just shop once a week)- however, with time I’m sure these little differences will smooth out. 🙂