For love and money: How to successfully talk about finances with your partner
Money can excite us, make us feel anxious, fill us with a sense of calm or leave a lingering feeling of dread. The emotional connection we have with money can strongly influence how we feel or talk about it with friends, family and partners.
While money can be a source of tension, ironing out how you and your partner discuss your finances, or talk about getting back on track after a bump in the road, is a relationship essential and the key to getting ahead financially too.
Bessie Hassan, money expert and Head of PR at Finder, spoke to State Custodians about common finance scenarios couples face and strategies to make sure any conversation about money goes smoothly.
Spenders versus savers
One of you is a spender who likes to indulge and treat themselves. The other is a saver and vows to set aside money each month for a rainy day. When the credit card bill comes in each month, you seem to have the same argument every time about spending.
"Communication is everything in a relationship and it is no different when it comes to money," says Bessie.
Working out whether you and your partner are financially compatible is a great starting point.
According to research from Finder, 61 per cent of Aussies consider themselves savers, while the remaining see themselves as spenders. Understanding the differences in how you and your partner define financial wellbeing will provide a strong foundation for your shared relationship with money.
"If you and your partner have different philosophies regarding money, it's important to talk openly and often, and to determine where joint decisions should be made," says Bessie. "With some simple foundations, spenders and savers can co-exist and be great partners."
You can also take one of the many online quizzes to see if you are a spender or a saver. This will help you gain knowledge about your financial habits and reveal how those impact your relationship. Taking these quizzes together can be a great way to open up conversations about how you both spend money.
"Biting the bullet and having an upfront conversation with your partner will help avoid issues and awkward situations down the track. Discuss financial goals together and be willing to be flexible so you are both on the same page," says Bessie.
Budget blowouts shouldn't become a blame game
A budget blowout or an essential buy? When you and your partner can't (or won't) see eye-to-eye on spending.
Finder's research has also revealed that more than one in four Australians (28 per cent) has lied or been lied to by a partner about their finances. When we have budget blowouts, it's common to feel embarrassed and want to avoid judgement from your partner but hiding over-spending from each other can often lead to more serious impacts on your financial health or relationship.
Even the best savers can be prone to a splurge from time to time, but how you handle these blowouts with your partner can be a defining moment in your relationship.
If you're confronting a partner it is important to avoid playing the blame-game. Understand why it happened and address the root causes in a constructive way. If you have indulged in a splurge yourself, be upfront and honest about it and work together towards a solution.
"It's not necessarily about sharing the details of every transaction you make, but it's important to build a level of trust so you can be confident you're working towards the same goals together," says Bessie.
Bessie suggests that factoring in a "blowout budget" can help minimise the impacts of over-spending and allow you to learn a lesson rather than get into financial stress.
"When working out your budget, factor in possible splurges so it comes as less of a shock when it happens," says Bessie.
"Giving yourselves a buffer will help ease the immediate financial burden and let you focus on finding a solution, rather than worrying about the fallout," continues Bessie.
If you've had a significant setback that could really impact your budget, consider challenging yourself to a no-spend month to help restore some balance to your finances. If problems continue, you're struggling to get back on track or you find it hard to talk about money without tempers flaring, consider talking to a financial professional as a couple on how to best move forward.
Staying on track isn't always easy
You both talk about money all the time but struggle to stick to the plan.
Once you understand each other's money habits and goals, Bessie advises that you can start to think about financial priorities that are important to both of you and work towards meeting them.
"Setting goals is only the start. Maintaining that transparency and trust between you is an ongoing part of a financial relationship that needs to be constantly worked on."
Whether you sit with a pen and paper, enter your data into a spreadsheet or use an online planner or budgeting app to stay on track, make sure that your methods work for both of you and that you discuss your progress when things are going well, and not so well.
"Don't let a few missed savings targets derail the plan you've set together. Stay open and honest about your progress towards those goals and don't lose sight of them. Success doesn't come overnight," says Bessie.
Transparent and honest money conversations between partners is a skill developed over time. The more frequently you and your partner discuss money, share your plans for the future and remain on the same page financially, the easier discussions will be.
The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author(s) and not necessarily those of State Custodians. The above is general commentary only and is not advice tailored to any individual's financial situation. We recommend seeking advice from a finance professional before implementing changes relating to your finances.