I can still remember sitting down with my then-boyfriend, now-fiancé, and having the relationship money talk. It wasn’t fun, it wasn’t exciting, but it was 100% necessary. It was before we moved in together and were trying to start a life as a couple—which is hard to do without talking budget. Like most relationships, it was inevitable.
Once you reach a certain point in a relationship, the topic of money is bound to come up. Whether you’re planning to move in together or are talking about your future, it’s helpful to work for a common ground when it comes to finances. All couples are different, but here are general points to cover:
Debt is tricky because it can be embarrassing to admit—whether it’s from shopping or student loans. If you have it, rip off the band-aid and come clean (as your SO should do, too). What’s important when talking about this, is to remember not to judge one another. No one is perfect! You can’t start watching every penny your partner spends—but you can talk about how to conquer the debt. Will the non-debt person help the other? How much money should be going towards the debt each month? Is there a way to limit further debt? All things you might want to discuss.
This is a big one, and one we personally didn’t see eye-to-eye on. I was raised by an incredibly frugal family, and my fiancé‘s parents lived less cautiously. So when savings came up, or the fact that he didn’t have one, it was a fight slash freakout on my end. What I didn’t realize was, neither is technically right or wrong—as much as I swore one was. The good news? Having the conversation forced us to better understand each other.
If someone is clearly “the saver” in your relationship, finding balance is the key to success here. The saver can’t have unreasonable expectations of “the spender” instantly adhering to the way they do things—believe me, I tried. But just like debt, having a communal target is a good idea, which involves meeting in the middle with the amount of savings. If you or your partner needs a push, put names on the savings goals. Label one “Euro trip” or “house with a yard,” as it’s often easier to save for something tangible.
Maybe you’ve never given this a ton a of thought, so having this conversation with a boyfriend or girlfriend is a great opportunity to look at where your money goes. If you’re into buying purses from all the high-end labels and your partner is more of a thrifter, it’s nice to talk this out before resentment builds up. Depending on what you’re both comfortable with, you may want to keep your own bank accounts for personal spending—or you may not. Just make sure that each person is hitting the agreed upon debt or savings amounts each month. If your spending habits are completely different and one person is upset about it, talking to a professional can help, which leads me to…
Talk to a professional
There’s a good possibility that you and your SO were raised to spend and save money differently (like we were), which is perfectly fine. However, with some things, touching base with a professional can be very beneficial. Talking with someone who is objective and trained can help two very different people find a compromise on how money should be managed. Make sure to do some research in your area to find someone both you and your SO trust.
Living expenses (whether you live together or not)
If you see shacking up in your future, talk about it! Discuss who is going to be responsible for what expenses and what kind of home you’ll be able to afford with a combined income. Do you both think cable is necessary? Where you can cut down? What’s splurge-worth to you both? Should you have a savings account for a home?
It might feel overwhelming and serious, but it’s also supposed to be exciting and a happy milestone for your relationship. So, although money is important and not something to take lightly, try to enjoy these new moments together.
Have you had the relationship money talk with your S.O.?
If so, what helped you?