For many couples, money is a touchy subject that can lead to fiery arguments, resentment, and even divorce. Avoid fighting over the monthly credit card statement with these top tips on how to talk about money with your partner and debt-proof your relationship.
Okay, this is really important. To have a rational money talk with your partner, you need to both be in a rational state of mind. Talking finances only when one of you is livid at the other for spending $300 at the hairdresser, or hardware store, is not a good idea! Sit down with your hubby when you’re both feeling chilled (say on a Sunday afternoon with a beer outside) and calmly chat about your financial concerns.
Don’t avoid it!
If you avoid the sensitive subject of money, you can be sure that just like an old piece of fruit at the bottom a school bag, money issues in your relationship will only fester and get worse over time. If talking about it is simply a no-go-zone, then set yourselves a regular 1/2 hour ‘finance appointment’ to discuss numbers, and then get on with the rest of your lives. Think of these meetings as a dentist appointment – everyone hates going to the dentist, but the check up is necessary.
“You spent $500 on what?!”
One reason why money talks often explode into colossal fights is becausue we focus too much on blame for money mishaps, rather than working on ways to improve our spending in future. Leave judgement at the door and have an open-mind when talking about money.
Get down to business
More often than not, it’s one person in a relationship who’s lumped with all the financial admin. From paying bills, to reconciling credit card statements and forking out for weekend entertainment, it’s usually the household’s money manager who shoulders the burden. The first step to achieving a united money front is to share the admin and responsibility between the two of you. Treat your finances like a business where you’re both partners and jointly responsible for the accounts.
Money crunch together
Work on the budget together and then review it after a week to make sure you’re both happy with it. After you’ve put it into action, make sure you regularly talk about it to help you both stay focused on it and discuss any problems you may have with it – like your pittance of a clothing allowance!
Chat about your goals
Discuss your shared and individual saving goals. These might be short to medium-term, like saving for a new car, or long-term, like stashing money away for that romantic trip overseas and sledging at the mortgage to pay it off in 15 instead of 30 years (gulp!). Discussing your goals will let you to talk about your dreams and help you to both agree on which ones you’re going to work at realising (and to devise a plan on just how you’re going to do this!).
Audit your relationship
This is probably the most tedious and important step in debt-proofing your marriage. Gather all the bills, statements, receipts and any other financial paperwork together. But be warned, this may reveal secret spending, so you’ll need to refrain from loosing your cool with each other. Come clean and confess any spending sprees or financial sins you’ve each committed, so you can focus on moving forward. Make lists of all outstanding debts and upcoming expenses and compare these with your income – then make a plan on how you’re going to stay financially on top in future.
Send in a third party
If you and your partner simply can not have a civil conversation about money, no matter how hard you try, consider asking an unbiased person, like a marriage counsellor, to act as a mediator. Having another person in the room will force you to stay focused and not loose your cool with each other. If you choose a mutual friend, make sure you both trust this person wholeheartedly and feel comfortable discussing finances with them in the room.
Pop the bubbly!
After laying all your financial confessions, goals and savings plans on the table, you’ll probably feel utterly drained and exhausted. Reward yourselves for having gotten through it and make allowances for couples night out in the budget – go out for dinner the following night, or pop a bottle of bubbly to celebrate your commitment to better, stronger finances in the future and each other!