6 Best Budgeting Tips for Couples

The most important thing you can both do throughout your budget planning and your entire journey to financial freedom are to remain on the same page. 

You both manage and contribute to your home and family together; neither of you would make a decision that affected your family (children or no) without first consulting the other. Your money should definitely be handled in the same way.

You can bring clarity and ease the tension around the talk of money when you both commit to something together. When you’ve both had a hand in creating your ideal picture of financial freedom, both parties feel an equal share in being responsible for making it happen. 

Whatever ideas you both create together will be way more significant than any idea you could’ve each come up with apart. It may take multiple disagreements and a few long nights of unending discussion, but if you stay respectful and blameless in your conversation both with the intent of providing for the other’s well-being, then it’ll be well worth it.

In this way, healthy communication is key in avoiding conflict. Your expectations of yourselves and each other are clear, as well as the exact goals you’re trying to accomplish. 

You’ll each learn what the other needs, what they value, and what their habits and money mentality are. As long as you stay on top of these factors and revisit your budgeting plan regularly and often, you have every reason to count on the communication skills in your relationship to flourish.

Best Budgeting Tips For Couples

1. Weigh Your Options

No two intimate relationships are the same, so you shouldn’t expect another couple’s budgeting plan to suit yours perfectly. There’s really no way around going through a bit of trial and error when it comes to how you’ll approach your goals and budget together. 

After assessing your different perspectives and money behaviors, expect to try on various budgeting hats, so to speak, until you find the fit that both suits you. 

If you both feel heard, respected, and excited about your futures together, then it’s probably safe to assume that you’ve found the right budgeting style for your relationship.

2. Don’t Simply Jump Into a Shared Budget

You don’t have to assume that because you’re a couple, you must combine and share every aspect of your finances. Your expectations, intentions, and actions should be verbalized, of course, but not every bank account or credit card statement has to have both of your names on it. 

This really depends on your values and commitments as a couple first. You can combine every single account, if you wish, but you can also keep every single one separate. You can equally have one or two particular accounts that are registered jointly, while keeping the rest separate. 

This mostly depends on how you are as a couple: Are you both career-oriented and successful in your respected fields? Does one spouse take care of all of the work on the homefront, while the other carries all of the financial responsibility? 

Recognize what kind of couple you are before jumping into a shared budget. While discussing the finances is a crucial factor in every responsibility, how you carry out the financial responsibility will vary from couple to couple.

3. Contributing to the Expenses

Here are a few ideas when it comes to the shared expenses, whether you decide to share the budget as a whole or not. 

After discerning the household expenses, including utilities and food (you may wish to include transportation but that’s up to you), you may decide to simply do a 50/50 split in which you each take on the responsibility of paying 50% of this category. 

There may be a big discrepancy between your two incomes, so it might be more realistic to have that split be more income-based. 

For example, if you make 30% more money than your spouse, then you probably want to pay 30% more of the expenses. You can also simply decide to split up the responsibility by category. 

Maybe your spouse is solely responsible for the mortgage, while you’re responsible for the food and utilities. After you’ve done a tally of your combined income and expenses ratio, but before you combine any accounts, do a bit of calculating to see what makes sense.

4. The Equitable Approach

In whatever approach you decide to take, the outcome should reflect your desired goals together, but should also be based on a system that benefits and protects the both of you. 

Regardless of each of your incomes and financial contributions, if the outcome of the plan doesn’t lead to a win-win situation, then you might want to go back to the drawing board. 

Caring for and respecting each other should be the foundation of the plan, even if there’s a fallout. While no one hopes for a split in the family, protecting each other should be a priority, even in the event that things don’t work out between the two of you.

5. Track Expenses Jointly and Often

Just like you’d set a reminder to go over your spending and transactions for the week, you should have that appointment be set together as a couple. Even if you believe your partner is better at handling the finances, and you trust them to keep you up to date with the plan, make the commitment to sit down and review the budget with them. 

If you’re building your financial futures together, you’ve got to go over the blueprints together. You can make an evening out of it in which you do something fun afterward or plan a date night. 

It’s a nice incentive to complete a task that’s generally not the most enjoyable thing in the world, and it’s a great way to nurture the relationship and discussion around money. Additionally, knowing that you have a fun activity afterwards will go a long way in keeping finance discussions compassionate and productive.

6. Listen and Communicate

This cannot be said enough, but keeping in touch with each other’s thoughts, reasonings, feelings, and hopes around money will cultivate trust and confidence in each other, as well as mitigate any tension. 

When couples are disappointed in each other in regards to financial matters, it’s usually because things were kept from them or major issues glossed over. 

It’s how deceived the partner might feel as a result of those issues being kept from them that causes the couple to be at odds, not the financial issues themselves.

Learning what your own aspirations, needs, and boundaries are and being able to express them respectfully will go a long toward establishing a solid bond in your relationship. Everyone wants to feel heard and be seen for who they are by their partners—remember this common ground when you feel like you’re getting nowhere with each other.

7. Focus on Your Goals

Both of you should keep your minds on prosperity and gratitude, and steer clear of past hurts and mistakes. By all means, deal with those hurts and mistakes, but if you find you can’t get past them, then you might have more pressing issues to deal with than your budget sheet.

8. Avoid Placing Blame

“No blame and no judgment” should be your mantra when reviewing your budget each week, but you also have to be careful to stay honest about how something is affecting you. This is how you grow as a couple and fine-tune your budgeting plan to fit the both of you. As long as you both care for each other and want to see the other person flourish alongside you, you’ll both be okay.

9. Don’t Be Tired or Hungry or Rushed When Talking About Money

This may not be an obvious tip, but money is a loaded topic in our society in and of itself. You want to be in a headspace that is calm, centered, and receptive when tackling the subject. Be on your best behavior together, until your best is the new norm.

What to Consider Before Merging Your Budgets

Take a second to “get real” with each other, and it might be a good idea to take an additional second beforehand to remind yourselves not to judge or blame the other. The goal isn’t to win an argument or figure out who made the biggest mistake. You’re getting real about your situations in order to discern which moves are the most efficient and safest ways forward.

1. Are You Comfortable With Each Other’s Financial Situation?

It might be a good idea to separately assess your individual budgets before taking a look at the numbers together. Determine what your income is versus your current personal expenses just like we talked about in chapters two and three. 

Also, take some individual time to think about what it is you expect of yourself and what you’re willing to contribute to the financial relationship. When you come together to look at each other’s notes, it should be with openness and understanding, but also honesty. 

If your partner is expecting something from you that you’re not willing to contribute, talk about it (again, without any judgment or blame). Talk with compassion about how uncomfortable your partner’s debt might make you feel, and offer up some solutions you think could help. 

It might be that your partner’s debt doesn’t phase them at all, and they’re willing to absolve you of any responsibility by excluding it from the budget, in which case they’ll deal with it by themselves. 

You’ll never know until you discuss it. If you leave your worry to fester, however, that worry could become the sticking point that causes contention later on down the line when it never really had to begin with.

Are Your Money-Handling Styles Compatible?

In going over everything from the plan, you may discover that merging your plans together isn’t going to happen as seamlessly as you thought. In this case, you should each assess where you’re willing to compromise. 

When it comes to varying budgeting styles, it’s important to keep the bigger picture in mind. Is how you do things more important to you than why you’re doing it? It could be that it is, and that’s okay. You might not be a long-term visionary or goal-oriented person, in which case how you get things done could be just as important as the goal itself. 

Again, talk about it! Can you compromise on style for the sake of the plan and the commitment you’ve made to each other? Don’t gloss over this question or assume that you even have an answer to this. Take some time to think through your answer, and how willing you are to stick by it.

Which Accounts Do You Keep Open?

A good way to tackle this portion of a budget merge is by comparing it to what’s called the “do we really need two toasters” problem by licensed attorney Evan Gautier. When comparing your individual budget assessments, you’ll find redundancies, in which case you can ask yourself, “Do we keep your toaster or mine? Alternatively, do we throw away both of our toasters, and just pick a new one together?”.

This could pertain to moving into the home of the partner who has the cheaper rent, or deciding if you should merge both of your emergency funds into a single account. Again, depending on your individual characteristics, expectations, and the goals you create together, you’ll come up with the style that best supports both of you.

Potential Challenges When Budgeting as a Couple

Needless to say, there will always be challenges when working together toward a common goal. No couple is without their spats and disagreements. The trick is to better learn from these disagreements what your relationship needs to flourish.

1. My Partner Doesn’t Want to Budget

In discussing the finances with them, try to discern what their needs might be. Is there a reason they find themselves adverse to budgeting? 

When you find yourself with a partner who doesn’t see the immediate value of setting up a budgeting plan, you might try appealing to their wants as a motive for them to get started. If they can see how a budget would directly benefit them, they might be more motivated to try. 

Together, you can try to find ways to make budgeting fun, like with the example of a fun activity and/or date night each week after your budgeting session. Understanding what it is that they like and are fearful of will go a long way towards getting them to move in a direction that benefits the both of you.

2. There’s a Feeling of Blame

Blaming or feeling blamed in regards to the finances usually stems from ruminating on past hurts or mistakes. This is where the step of forgiveness is crucial. Neither of you can change the past, and if you’re both determined to carry on in life together, then you’ll both have to come to terms with accepting what happened. 

You don’t have to condone what happened—the major purpose of a lesson learned is knowing what not to repeat again—but you do have to accept the fact that it happened. 

This can be especially difficult to do if you both are still paying for the mistakes of the past, but this is the hand you’ve been dealt. It’s up to the both of you to take stock of what responsibilities you have now in order to make your way to the future you’d like to have. 

Make that way with baby steps, particularly at the beginning. You know how difficult it is for you to change one of your own bad habits; give your partner some of the grace that you’d like to receive when tackling something internally difficult.

3. Not Being Involved or a Resentment of Being Told What to Do

If it’s taking your partner a long time to jump on the budgeting bandwagon, depending on the urgency of your financial situation, you might want to take that time with them. 

Creating a budgeting game plan by yourself might leave your partner feeling left out and uninvested in the plan. Likewise, making them subject to all of your decisions might leave them feeling resentful of “being told what to do.” If you’ve been budgeting by yourself for a long time, and your partner is finally taking some initiative in the area, be open enough to start your plans again or to take a different route to your goals than you originally intended. 

As long as the destination is what you both agreed on, you might find that a new way of doing things is more efficient or just more interesting. Be willing to start over not just with the plan, but with each other as well. Just like there should be no blame or judgment placed, neither partner should feel condescended to or belittled. 

This could easily occur if one partner has been taking the sole responsibility for the family budget for a long time. Even if you have a lot of experience, empty your cup and be willing to hear what your partner has to contribute.

Don’t always assume that you know best. Remember, you’ve been doing this for a long time mostly by yourself, so you’ve developed a system that suits you alone. When you first begin to include your partner and you hit a snag, ask your partner what they might need to make the system more conducive to the both of you. The problem might be the system, and not you or your partner.

4. My Partner Believes That Everything Will Work Itself Out

This one is a tricky one, because your partner might not be seeing the value of doing a budget, and you might have to be the one to reinforce a reality check. 

There’s no need to get into an argument, but to show how your decisions together have led you to where you are now. Just keep in mind the reminder not to dwell in the past or to place blame. 

You’re simply showing them the reality of your current outcome. You may even have to show your partner on paper how some of the financial decisions you’ve both made or neglected to make have resulted in a not-so-favorable reality. It might then be helpful to point out some of the simple and effective tweaks you can do in your budget to get you on a better track right now.

5. You Have Different Styles of Budgeting

As long as you both keep each other on the same page, you agree on where you’d like to go as a family, you’re each aware of your needs and wants individually and how those will be met, then varying styles of budgeting are the least of your worries. It’s a simple matter of combining and/or negotiating your styles. 

You should have rules that you each agree on, and you should each take responsibility for your own behavior in following the plan. Compromise where you can, and when you cannot agree, work to come up with a solution you can both live with while respecting each other’s space.

Final Words

No two intimate relationships are the same, so you shouldn’t expect another couple’s budgeting plan to suit yours perfectly. There’s really no way around going through a bit of trial and error when it comes to how you’ll approach your goals and budget together. 

After assessing your different perspectives and money behaviors, expect to try on various budgeting hats, so to speak, until you find the fit that both suits you. If you both feel heard, respected, and excited about your futures together, then it’s probably safe to assume that you’ve found the right budgeting style for your relationship.

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