You can’t really change a person, but when you’re in a relationship and dealing with rose-colored glasses, it can be hard to recognize that fact.
When I first moved in with my now-ex-husband, we were both young and naive about how our differing backgrounds would lead to future chaos. He was a saver and I was a spender. Plus, our life dreams were completely opposite and we both thought we could “fix” each other over time.
Take it from me. Most of the time couples with such different views of how to handle money end up splitting up, which is what happened in our case too.
These days, couples are more likely than ever to live together, and even buy a home before tying the knot. This means you and your partner might have commingled finances, even if you do your best to keep things separate and you don’t have a joint account.
Rather than letting financial differences tear apart your relationship, consider these common problems and solutions to get ahead of the issue before it becomes a serious problem.
Having Different Money Values
After you’ve moved in together and taken off those rose-colored glasses, you may find that you and your partner have very different money values. It’s likely that you both place a very different value on certain types of purchases. For example, my ex-husband would rather spend $2 here and $3 there on things like snacks and Happy Hours, while I’d rather spend larger amounts of money less often on things like household decor and clothing.
Of course, it’s ok to want nice things, but deciding to go deep into debt so you can have a bigger house or a better car places extra stress on your relationship with your partner.
If your partner decides to buy a new car, and you have to pick up extra hours at work to make up the difference in your household budget, you may begin to feel resentful. Even if you’re not married and simply cohabitating, you may feel pressure to bring home extra money if your partner made a large purchase. The next thing you know, you’re fighting about money all the time.
Spending Money Differently
You may be the queen of scrimping, saving, and living frugally, while your partner spends freely as if money were water. If this is the case, you may find it nearly impossible to save money no matter how hard you work. You can try to cover for your partner’s financial lack of control, but eventually, the downward spiral of spending will overtake your income.
Putting Off Saving
Sometimes it isn’t the day-to-day bills that are the problem. What if one of you wants to save money and the other wants to go on an expensive vacation each year? That can spell financial trouble if one of you gets laid off or has a major health issue come up that puts you deep into debt.
The good news is there are steps you can take to avoid these and other differences you have with your partner and prevent financial disasters.
One of the first things you need to do as a couple is talking to your partner about your finances. Sit down together and talk about the money issues that concern each of you. Give your partner your undivided attention without interruption and ask your partner to do the same for you while you talk. Get financially naked before you consider cohabitation.
Talk about both short term and long term goals you each have and what you would do financially if an emergency came up. Create a budget. Review it regularly and acknowledge each other’s strengths, successes and weaknesses and how you can help each other improve.
If you aren’t married, you should still sit down with your partner and create a budget together to make sure all the bills are taken care of. But don’t forget that you should each handle most of your other financial decisions yourselves until you are legally married.
If one of you has a higher income, maybe dividing the rent payment in half doesn’t make sense for you and your partner. Instead, maybe it should be 60/40, or even 70/30. The point is to figure out what works for your situation and your budget. But you may have to be willing to give a little in some areas.
If you decided to share an account, determine a spending amount that’s ok for each partner to spend without the other’s “ok” on the purchase. This way you both don’t feel like you have to ask permission for every single purchase made on the joint account. But a spending limit also prevents the spendy partner from constantly going over budget.
Is one of you better at socking away savings than the other? Maybe that person should be in charge of saving, and other long-term goals you have. Conversely, if the other partner is better at buying stuff on sale, put them in charge of short-term savings and spending, such as monthly bills and buying groceries. Just make sure the division of responsibilities is agreed upon by both partners.
Hire a Financial Planner
If these options simply aren’t working, consider hiring a financial planner to help you work through your finances together. Having someone else help you can take some of the emotions out of the equation so you can simply look at the numbers.
As you can see, there are steps you can take to help you avoid financial disaster when you move in with your partner, married or not. Hopefully, by following these tips, you can enjoy a long-lasting and financially healthy relationship.