Many couples in long term, committed relationships are great at discussing the “big” stuff early on. These include views on marriage, children, religion, and politics (to name a few) – you know, the deal breakers. Unfortunately, one topic many couples tend to give short shrift to is money. With 78% of Americans living paycheck to paycheck, it’s more important than ever for couples to be on the same page financially. Yet, disagreements about money remain one of the top predictors of divorce or breakups.
Hey, no one said mixing money and love was going to be easy.
While there’s no way to eliminate disagreements entirely, there are steps you can take to stop fighting with your spouse about money. Like any conflict in a relationship, open and honest communication is key. However, there are also some practical ways to ease the financial tension. If you’re currently in conflict with your spouse over money, give one of these suggestions a try.
Split Everything 50/50
Splitting costs down the middle is a tried and true budgeting method for couples. The easiest way to do this is to simply add up all your regular costs each month and divide by two. By having each person contribute equally to household expenses, couples can avoid feelings of resentment and unfairness from building up.
The only downside to the 50/50 method is it only really works if there’s parity between you and your spouse’s incomes. If one partner’s salary is significantly higher than the other ($10,000 or more), it can be difficult for the lower earner to match their partner’s share. Fortunately, if you’re in this position, there’s another way to make cost sharing work.
Proportional Income Splitting
In a perfect world, you and your spouse would have identical incomes and could each shoulder an equal share of the finances. The reality is, in most cases, one person in the relationship makes more than the other. Depending on how much these incomes diverge, it can be difficult (or even impossible) to split expenses down the middle. If you and your spouse fall into this camp, proportional income splitting may be a fairer option than the 50/50 method.
For instance, let’s say you earn $60,000 per year and your spouse earns $40,000. Your total household income would be $100,000, but your income accounts for 60% of that. Therefore, if you’re splitting costs in proportion to your income, you would cover 60% and your partner 40%. This way, you’re both taking on your fair, reasonable share of the budget, even if it’s not split down the middle.
Decide If A Joint Account Makes Sense For You
Depending on the relationship, joint accounts can be a great way for couples to manage their shared expenses. If you’re married or living with your partner, and trust one another (you’d think that goes without saying but you’d be surprised), joint accounts can help with:
- Paying your rent/mortgage.
- Budgeting for groceries and other shared expenses.
- Paying joint bills such as hydro and insurance.
- Saving for future plans (wedding, vacation).
Some couples worry they will lose their financial independence by opening joint accounts. However, there’s no reason you need to close your individual accounts. The key to making joint accounts work is being open and honest with your partner, and feeling secure in your relationship. Of course, you may have all these things and still feel a joint account doesn’t make sense. This is perfectly okay. Many couples get by fine keeping their finances separate. In fact, holding onto some financial independence goes a long way in helping avoid fights with your spouse about money.
Maintain at Least Some Financial Independence
When it comes to spouses working together on their finances, most advice encourages cooperation. For this reason, it may seem counter-intuitive to hold on to some privacy. However, having separate bank accounts can be healthy if used correctly. No matter how much you and your partner align on money, you probably aren’t going to have identical financial styles.
Maintaining a separate small account away from your joint one allows you to leave room for these differences. Having to run every purchase (especially the small ones) by your partner is a good way to drive yourself nuts and build resentment. A separate account used for incidentals lets you spend some of your money without having your purchases questioned by your partner. Just make sure you don’t overdo it.
Write It Down
Having the same financial goals as your partner is great, but it only means so much if you don’t put pen to paper. Verbal agreements are only going to get you so far. Start by creating a spreadsheet of your expenses and how they will be divided between you and your partner. This way, you’ll not only keep your finances organized, but have a visual record of who’s responsible for what.
It’s also a good idea to get clear on your long term financial goals by writing them down (but prioritize the budget if you have neither yet.) By getting everything down in writing, you’ll be able to keep each other accountable. It also creates a clearer idea of where your money is going each month. It’s a win-win situation!
Be Prepared to Compromise
Even if you and your partner have the same long-term financial goals, there will be times when you’ll have different ideas on how to spend your money. Unfortunately, money is a sensitive subject and we all have different ideas for how we want to spend and save it. Odds are, your spouse isn’t always going to see eye-to-eye with your financial goals. When this happens, it’s better for both parties if you have a healthy amount of flexibility and understanding for your partner’s ideas.
Of course, it isn’t healthy for one partner to always get their way at the expense of the other and this can create a whole other set of problems. What you do need is an ability to modify your expectations and not sweat the small stuff. Learn to compromise and work together with your spouse towards the goals that mean the most to both of you.
Work Together as a Team and COMMUNICATE
The truth is, none of these tips will be very effective if you can’t talk about money with your spouse. A 2018 survey from Policygenius found that 20% of couples don’t even share basic financial information with each other. Unsurprisingly, one in five of these couples had a partner ready to end the relationship over finances. A good way to think about it is that money is the same as any other challenges couples face. Just like you need to work together to raise your kids or divvy up the housework, your finances require open communication and teamwork.
If you’re not currently talking openly about money with your spouse, start by scheduling a set time each month to chat. Lay it all out on the table to ensure you and your partner are on the same page. If you already do this, great! But don’t get complacent. Maintaining an ongoing discussion with your spouse about money requires consistency and understanding. If you have an issue with how something is going, don’t let it fester.