Around 50% of marriages end in divorce with financial problems often being one of the leading causes of divorce. You probably spend a lot of time with your partner. This means money conversations are bound to come up and you may even split some bills together. It’s important to learn how to budget successfully as a couple and get on the same page financially. There are plenty of budgeting tips for couples out there to implement.
I’ve only been married for a few years so I don’t have all the answers, but I do know my husband and I went through a lot of trial and error in order to get on the same page financially. To avoid this, here are 6 best budgeting tips for couples that I’d recommend for anyone looking to share their lives and finances together.
1. Set Shared Goals
If you’re married or in a serious relationship, it’s important to set goals together. This could mean goals for your life, work, finances, etc. Even if you’re not setting specific financial goals, most goals will involve finances in one area or another. Want to buy a home in a few years? You’ll need to discuss saving for a down payment and preparing your credit. Thinking about taking two to three vacations per year? You’ll need to discuss how you’ll budget for this.
While most conversations about goals will lead to money, it’s important to make sure you’re setting goals together so you can determine how you’ll reach them together. Managing your money should be equally important to both of you. However, if you are forcing your partner to pursue a goal that they don’t really care about, that’s where you’ll likely run into budgeting issues. If there’s no shared goal, then your partner won’t really have any motivation to budget, track expenses, or make financial sacrifices.
Setting shared goals may also require some compromise and this is good as well. You probably don’t want to do everything your way and run the risk of having a conflict with your partner later down the line. This is why compromise is so important.
2. Get to Know Each Others’ Preferences
Have you taken the time to ask your partner how they’d like to budget? This is a mistake I see most couples make. Maybe they watch a Dave Ramsey video or have their own set way of budgeting and just assume their partner will follow along. It’s crucial that you stop and get the other’s person’s input so you can see how they like to do things.
For example, I’ve always been a pen-to-paper budgeting person but my husband has often preferred the convenient benefits of apps and automated systems. Since I am more into budgeting and finance, I initially assumed he would just start doing things my way when we got married. Again, this is where you may want to compromise.
Ask your partner how they like to budget and if they don’t budget, try to narrow down which tools or strategies they’d like to start using. For example, you or your partner may like to budget every dollar so a zero-sum budget using a tool like YNAB might be helpful. Or, let’s say you may want to convince the other person to start using a percentage-based budgeting strategy like the 50/30/20 budget. I recommend choosing a budget style to try for 30 days then reassess from there.
3. Consider the 3 Bank Accounts Strategy
Decide how you’ll combine finances as a couple or if you’ll each keep your own separate bank accounts. This may be difficult to decide if both of you have been managing your finances independently for some time. However, you may find that completely combining finances and throwing everything into one pot is easier to deal with. Or, you may prefer to keep some financial independence.
One of the best budgeting tips for couples is to consider the 3 bank accounts strategy. This means you have:
- One account that you primarily use
- One account for your partner to primarily use
- A shared account that you can both use to pay joint bills like your utility bills, rent or mortgage
The key is to make sure all three accounts are connected and joint so you can easily transfer funds back and forth. Plus, having joint access to your 3 accounts eliminates secrets when it comes to finances in your relationship.
4. Have Regular Finance Dates
Track your spending and discuss any updates to your budget by having regular finance dates or money meetings each week. My husband and I usually have a bigger money meeting at the beginning of the month to discuss finances and goals for the next 30 days. Then, we have smaller finance dates during the month to hold each other accountable and check-in.
It’s important to create a comfortable and non-judgmental atmosphere for both you and your partner to discuss money and remain on the same page. It’s also the perfect time to determine when you should check-in, make changes to your budget, or plan for a sudden upcoming expense.
For example, if a bill arrives in the mail that week and it’s higher than expected, a money meeting or finance date could be the perfect opportunity.
5. Prioritize Saving and Make it Automatic
More money problems tend to arise when you don’t have savings lined up. Avoid this as a couple by prioritizing savings and making it automatic. If both of you work, consider saving 5% to 10% of each of your incomes and placing it in a joint savings account. Set up automatic transfers so that you’re saving without even thinking about it.
Another way to prioritize saving is by setting up sinking funds for planned future expenses. This could include expenses like holidays, birthdays, car maintenance, and more. Also, discuss how your budget might change depending on certain situations or times of the year. If you are your partner are planning on having a baby, you’ll want to set aside money regularly so you can cover future costs associating with growing your family with ease.
We recently found out that my husband has more of a seasonal job and there are slower months. As a result, we plan to have him start saving around 20% of his income during the busy season so we can have more of a financial cushion to fall back on during the leaner months.
6. Don’t Be Afraid to Switch Things Up
Finally, don’t be afraid to switch things up. This is probably one of the best budgeting tips for couples. Life is constantly changing and so it makes sense to expect unexpected events and changes. Your budget should be flexible as well to adjust to life’s changes.
If you find that something is no longer working, switch it up and try a different budgeting style. When you and your partner realize you’re spending more money in a certain area, consider creating a budget category for it. Over time, you’ll find your groove and narrow down exactly what works for you. Plus, you’ll also be better at streamlining your financial management and trying out new things as well.
These 6 budgeting tips for couples will definitely help you get off to a great start. Realize that budgeting is necessary to successfully manage your money and meet your goals – especially if you plan to share a life with someone.
What are your favorite budgeting methods and why?