I have to admit, when I hear stats about how many couples fight about money, it makes me wonder what’s so hard about discussing money with your significant other? Apparently we’re in the minority but my wife and I have been completely open and honest about money since pretty much day one. Moreover, as time has gone on, it’s become even more obvious that we’re quite similar when it comes to financial philosophies. Of course that doesn’t mean that we don’t still talk about money often and ensure we’re on the same page at each turn. So how do we keep this line of communication open?
4 Tips for Discussing Money with Your Spouse or Partner
We discuss any purchases over $50
One of the first ways my wife and I hold each other accountable in terms of spending is to run any (non-essential) purchases that exceed $50 by the other partner. Now, this step isn’t necessarily a practice in asking permission as much as it is getting us to think twice about how much we actually need whatever item has caught our eye. Honestly this plan has worked so well that I find myself doing it for most purchases, even if they do come in below that $50 threshold. Sometimes it’s nice to have someone help you realize you’re about to waste money or endorse your splurge by seconding the stated benefits an item would bring. As a result, this little rule has worked out quite well for us so far.
We evaluate the true cost of large purchases
While our $50 rule is mostly for smaller items, every once and a while there may come a time when one or both of us is considering something larger. In recent year’s this has meant purchases like new laptops, furniture, and, most recently, podcasting equipment. Given the high dollar amount associated with these items, our analysis process grows much more in-depth as we consider the costs — the true costs.
What do I mean by true cost? Basically, when we’re looking at a major purchase, we not only evaluate the item itself but what we might have to give up to have it. For example, is it worth it to us to have a new couch if it means potentially skipping an international trip? It might be — but it takes us discussing the pros and cons to finally decide what makes the most sense for us and our finances at any given time.
We review our credit card statements
Many months ago, I wrote a post explaining why my wife and I maintain separate bank accounts for the most part. Given this arrangement, there are also certain credit card bills that one of us is “responsible” for paying. Despite this, we both still take an active roll in reviewing these statements.
Once again, this is in no way an attempt to catch the other breaking the $50 rule but is instead an effort to make sure that everything looks correct. Additonally it may lead to other conversations such as “do we want to renew this subscription service?,” “should we be cutting back on our dining spending?,” or even “oh hey, remember we should start using the Discover card for Amazon next month.” This is all just another part of our dual effort to stay on top and in control of our finances.
We set savings goals and automate additional savings
Finally another key to keeping on the same page when it comes to our finances is discussing our various savings goals from time to time. This includes assessing what money moves we should make such as determining what savings account should we be holding extra funds in to see the most benefit or deciding when its time to make a contribution to our IRA. However, on top of this, we do have a few automated savings tools set up that often enable nice little “surprise” money finds — akin to pulling a $20 out of an old pair of pants. Bringing it full circle, it’s these discoveries coupled with the knowledge that we’re meeting our goals that might mean that one of our “over $50 requests” can be greenlit or that we can finally pull the trigger on one of the larger purchases we’ve been considering. See, talking about money can be fun after all!
Contrary to popular sentiment, discussing money with your partner doesn’t have to be awkward, accusatory, or contentious. In fact, by talking about finances early and often, you can help prevent some of the issues that can even doom marriages and relationships. So whether you decide to employ similar techniques to the ones my wife and I use or develop your own “rules” and practices, the important thing is that you make mastering money a team sport.