Everyone has a different approach to money. Some are open about their finances with their partner, some aren’t. Some are impulsive shoppers, and some are frugal to the extreme. It’s not surprising that combining finances (or not) can put a strain on relationships, but it doesn’t have to be this way. With the right systems in place, any couple can mix love and money.
When exploring the biggest and most common money mistakes couples make, we noticed consistent pitfalls that can easily befall even the most dynamic duo. Fortunately, these mistakes are easily avoided with the right information. Let’s dive deeper into how couples manage (or don’t manage) money well.
The Biggest Money Mistakes Couples Make
They Don’t Talk About Money
If there’s one thing we hope you get out of this, it’s that you shouldn’t avoid the money talk. While it may feel uncomfortable to broach the subject, it will save you a lot of stress and fend off future fights and misunderstandings. It’s true: One study found that couples who talk about money weekly are significantly more likely to be happy than those who talk about it less often.
While you can totally bring up the topic whenever, we find it’s useful to schedule a time to talk about money with your S.O. That way, having the conversation is something you both choose to do rather than something you have to do only when a problem arises.
During the conversation, it’s important to be proactive and positive about the things that are going well. However, it’s also important to bring up any questions or concerns regarding money problems you or your partner may be dealing with. Is there anything either of you would like to change? This could warrant a discussion about avoiding common money mistakes with spending habits, saving progress, priorities, or how shared finances are being managed. Once you do schedule a time to talk, ideally once a week, it will be easier to bring up any comments or concerns about how you, as a couple, manage money. Remember to provide proactive, actionable feedback that is supportive and not accusatory.
Money Mistakes Happen When Couples Don’t Know Each Other’s Money Mindset
When you talk about money, don’t just talk about the numbers. Talk about how money makes you feel. That’s right — money makes each of us feel different things, and how we feel about money affects how we invest, save, earn, and spend.
Depending on one’s experience with money, people develop a money psychology or mindset that typically falls under one of two broad categories: “There will always be more money,” or “There is never enough money.” But there are plenty of other emotions that surround money too.
When you talk about each other’s money mindset, you can better understand why your partner spends or doesn’t spend money in a certain way, what having or not having money means to them, and more. It will help you get to know your partner better and see where you differ in your approach to money and why. This will help remedy present and future miscommunication issues and avoid common money problems as a result.
They Give One Person Total Control Over the Money
While you and your partner may approach money differently, that doesn’t mean one person’s way is right and one is wrong. Giving one person total control of all of the finances is a big money mistake, and it’s a common one that many couples make.
Even if one partner is “better” with money than the other, one person should not be one-hundred percent responsible for managing all of the household finances. Managing money is a huge responsibility and should not be saddled on one person while the other sits back and enjoys the ride. The possible downsides of taking this approach are many. One risk is that the partner handling everything becomes overwhelmed or resentful while the other partner feels unincluded or unimportant.
Being part of a couple means playing an active role in each other’s lives and at some point combining them, money included. Make decisions about money as you would any other important decision — together.
They Don’t Have a Plan
Not having a clear direction to take together, or flying by the seat of your pants through your monthly expenses with no long-term plan in place, is a common money mistake. If you are combining or plan to combine finances, creating structure early on can help avoid conflict. Designate who’s paying the bills, who’s managing the bank account, who is investing and where, and so forth, so that you are both assured that the “work” is getting done.
Another part of having a plan is budgeting. Regularly evaluate your budget together during those weekly “money talks” to ensure it’s working for both parties. You may want to set a monetary threshold for personal spending so you don’t have to run everything you want to purchase by the other person and vice versa.
If you want to manage your money separately from your partner, that’s fine too, but you do need to discuss that that is the plan and make sure you’re both on board. Plus, every couple encounters at least some shared expenses, so it’s important to have a plan for how you will handle those. How couples manage money well together is truly rooted in good communication, regardless of the strategy you choose.
They Aren’t Telling the Whole Truth
This goes without saying, but honesty is the best policy, especially when there’s money involved. It can be scary to be vulnerable with your partner, particularly about how much or how little money you have, money mistakes you’ve made, or your bad money habits, but it’s necessary if you’re in this thing for the long haul.
Honest communication will lead you down a financially content (read: happy) path in your relationship and safeguard you both against negative surprises down the line. This means you need to lay it all out on the table; we’re talking credit scores, account balances, debt, the whole smorgasbord.
The Big Picture
Look at it in a positive light: When everything’s out in the open, you can decide together what is the best path forward and rely on one another for accountability and support. If one partner has debt, the other partner can shoulder the burden, or if one partner has bad habits, the other can help them improve. If you take care to avoid these money mistakes, you’ll not only have a healthier relationship with money but a healthier and happier relationship with your S.O. too.