Balanced Budgeting: Combining Finances with Your Significant Other
As we know, money and financial stress can be extremely common issues for many individuals and couples. Your financial state impacts the way you’re able to live your life and contribute to society day-to-day. This is why it’s often challenging for couples to determine the best time to merge their finances, and how to do so without impacting their relationship in a negative way. When combining finances with your partner, it’s important to strategize together and take the proper steps that are agreed upon in order to avoid any unnecessary strain in your relationship.
Determine the Best Time for You
First and foremost, it’s important to have an honest conversation about timing. Discuss the positives and negatives of this decision and think about when you feel like this would be an appropriate step to take. Ideally, this conversation would happen early enough in your relationship that you both have time to reflect, instead of jumping right in and combining your finances. It will likely have more impact than you think, so don’t rush into this if you don’t agree you’re ready.
Some couples, depending on how serious the relationship is, combine their finances prior to marriage. There is no right or wrong here, but if you’re one of those couples, make sure you discuss what to do should the relationship end. How will you evenly divide your money? What would you do about pending bills for purchases that have already been made? This may sound strange, but without planning and open conversation, you run the risk of facing serious complications should the inevitable happen.
Marriage & Kids
Many couples prefer to wait until they’re married to combine their finances, as they have symbolized their full commitment to one another and are beginning their lives together. When kids are thrown into the mix, it can be hard to keep finances separate, so this often forces couples to unite their finances and work together to pay the bills rather than dividing them up.
Discuss Your Goals
In order to reach your full potential and feel proud of your life accomplishments, you must set goals and take actionable steps toward reaching them. Goal setting is a beneficial tool in any relationship and can actually strengthen your bond as a couple. Outlining something that is desired, creating a plan to reach the goal, and following through demonstrates accountability in one another along with loyalty, commitment, and dedication to an important cause. Discussing with your partner where you aspire to be financially in the next few months and years down the road can provide clarity and context for each other, so there is no room for assumption.
Be Open About Spending Habits
If you and your partner have completely different ideas of where your money should be spent, you might wind up facing some trouble in paradise. For example, if you decide you want to build up a savings account and set aside money for larger investments such as a house or car, but your partner is more interested in spending money on trips to explore and visit new places, you might want to hold off on combining your money right away. Don’t forget to discuss daily and weekly spending habits such as: going out to eat, shopping trips, leisure activities, or self-care. Spending what you think is a small amount of money probably has more impact on your overall finances than you even realize.
Utilize a Convenient Bank Account
When you first combine your money with your partner, it’s likely that you will be diligent in checking how much money you’re both spending compared to your earnings to ensure you’re on track and making this work as planned. Together, you might consider utilizing an online banking service to track your spending and account status at any time, especially if you’re traveling or on-the-go. Many couples prefer to use mobile banking as it allows them the freedom and flexibility to fit any lifestyle. Another perk is free money sharing options that you can use to send money through a mobile app to other family members or friends.
Understand Your Partner’s Debt and Current Account Status
If you feel confident that you’re ready to combine finances with your significant other, make sure you have a full grasp of their current financial state. This means knowing:
- If they have any outstanding student loan debt.
- Owe any credit card payments.
- The amount of money in their savings account.
- Their current income status.
Splitting bills is very different from combining finances, when you merge your money you take on one another’s debt and savings, for better or for worse. If you have any debt between the two of you, prioritize which debt to pay off first and how much of your income should be allocated toward this.
Budget Together, Stay Together
If you can master setting and sticking to a budget that works for both of you, it’s likely you will be in pretty good shape financially as a couple. Start simple, overcomplicating a budget can cause arguments and strain in a relationship that doesn’t need to be there. Instead, clearly map out your wants and needs together. Note all non-negotiable expenses like rent, mortgage, car payment, gas, insurance, utilities, grocery estimate, doctors appointments and so on. Add in the amount of loans or debt, if applicable, that you agreed to pay off each month. From there, you can determine how much leftover money you will have for the month and discuss the ways you both intend to spend or save that money.
There is not a best practice when it comes to money management for couples as each relationship is very unique. If you feel as though you’ve had all necessary conversations, you should feel confident that you are ready to take this next step together. The best way to successfully move forward is to continue to revisit your budget and finances as your lives change–while remaining open to communication throughout this process.