So, you are a couple—yay! You found someone whose weird complements your own, and you are doing weird life together. It’s just you and your partner, against the world!
Except you won’t get very far without money.
If you are going to share your life with someone, you cannot avoid talking about money. With an open, honest approach, and two-way communication, money talk can actually draw you closer as a couple.
Because Talking About Money Isn’t Really Talking About Money
When you talk about money you are sharing your hopes and dreams; you are exposing fears and unearthing expectations.
Talking about money with your partner involves wrestling with issues of identity and family history, and articulating the life you want to live.
Be Intentional About The Life You’re Living—Together
Now that you’ve hitched your wagons and are riding off into the sunset, you need to decide where it is you are going exactly.
In order to be satisfying and sustainable, your relationship (and on its heels, as a very close second—your finances), must meet your needs and your partner’s needs.
Of course, you will have shared priorities. (If you don’t, you may want to look into that!) But it’s unrealistic to expect that you and your partner will always want to spend money exactly the same way.
Committing to budgeting together, as partners, doesn’t mean abstaining from all the things you love, giving up all your hobbies or having to compromise all 365 days of the year.
In fact, allowing for each individual to have some freedom—designated money to spend however they want, without judgment, nagging, or sarcastic commentary of any kind—is the secret to making it work.
As you budget, discuss your goals, and decide what’s most important to you as a couple, there are three sets of priorities you must address:
“IN FACT, ALLOWING FOR EACH INDIVIDUAL TO HAVE SOME FREEDOM—DESIGNATED MONEY TO SPEND HOWEVER THEY WANT, WITHOUT JUDGMENT, NAGGING, OR SARCASTIC COMMENTARY OF ANY KIND—IS THE SECRET TO MAKING IT WORK.”
Yours, Mine, And Ours
We aren’t suggesting you think of your money as separate or maintain separate accounts—in fact, quite the opposite.
We believe that if you’ve joined your lives, and you’ve committed to doing life together, you should join your finances and work toward shared goals. However, you also need to build money into the budget for the priorities you won’t share. Here’s how to strike the fine balance:
STEP ONE: DREAM AND PLAN
First, you need to sit down and talk through what is most important to you as a couple—the big stuff. Don’t make assumptions. Don’t be defensive. Just an honest conversation about what you want.
Do you want to own a house? Or move to a different neighborhood or city?
Do you want to have kids—how many?
Does one of you want to stay home with the kids? What kind of childcare are you comfortable with?
Is travel a priority or would you rather remodel the bathroom?
Do you still have student debt? Do you plan to pay for your kids to go to college?
Talk about it all. Figure out where you are on the same page, and where you need to dig a little deeper.
STEP TWO: LOVE WHAT YOU LOVE
You also need to talk about what is important to you as individuals and how much money you want to set aside, each month, for your “fun money.”
The beauty of “fun money” is that it requires no explanation or guilt or compromise. If you want to spend it all at Starbucks—go for it. If you want to save it for six months and buy a new pair of skis—enjoy! It allows you to support each other’s priorities, equally, and within reason, without sacrificing your larger, shared goals.
As a result, everyone feels like they have some breathing room, and they can stick with the budget for the long-haul. When you remove guilt, resentment, lying, shame, and bitterness, you avoid most of the fighting people do about money. If financial success and stability are all about the long game (and they are), fun money is your insurance.
STEP THREE: GET IT ALL OUT THERE
Sometimes we aren’t trying to be dishonest or hold back, but we haven’t actually worked it all out ourselves. That’s OK—but this is a good time to dig deep, ask hard questions, and be honest about what you really want.
Expose Expectations—Are you expecting your fun money every month to be $10, $100, or $500? Is going out to lunch every day at work a given? Do you think travel is worth day-to-day sacrifice or do you prefer to live large and staycation? Is debt an option for—a car, a trip, an education, a home? What expectations do you have that may or may not be the same as your partner?
Address Challenges—Is one or both of you bringing a lot of debt into the relationship? Does one of you make a lot more money and/or does that matter? Do you hate your job and want to quit without any prospects? Does your partner want to go back to school?
Question The Status Quo—Do you have to buy a house—is that what you want? Do you want to have kids? Do you need a car? Do you prefer more freedom or more money? Would you rather give your children gifts or experiences? Just because everyone is doing something, doesn’t mean you have to do it. What you and your money do is 100 percent up to you and the more financial control you have, the more your options multiply.
STEP FOUR: SET & OUTLINE GOALS
After exposing, addressing, and questioning, it’s time to get down to the brass tax: what are your shared goals? What are you working toward? When do you want to get there? Don’t be hand-wavy about it. Put a line in the sand. Cheer each other on. And make decisions in support of your goals. There are your goals and your dreams—you are making progress with your partner—this is good stuff!
See, Budgeting Can Be Fun!
You are dreaming and bonding! And building a future! Hopefully, you’re starting to get excited about all the possibilities, prioritizing with your partner! To add fuel to the fire, we bring you the YNAB Cootie Catcher—a conversation starter/game to get you going!
Discover What’s Most Important To You & Your Partner
Remember in elementary school when you would fold, write, and imagine what might be—your very future dependent on the fact that green is a five-letter word? Same concept, but less guessing and more planning.
Print and Fold the YNAB Cootie Catcher and have debating priorities and planning your future!
If you can’t remember how to fold and/or play—or your childhood was sadly absent of all Cootie Catchers—the videos below will help refresh your memory.