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.
Kevin McHugh, publisher and money expert at financial comparison site, Finder NZ, spoke to Resimac NZ 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.
"Broaching the topic of money with an existing partner can be awkward at the best of times, but it's an important conversation to have. When it comes to communicating about your finances, honesty is definitely the best policy," says Kevin.
According to a 2019 Finder study of 2,216 New Zealanders a third (33 per cent) of Kiwis have hidden spending from a partner. Understanding how you and your partner define financial wellbeing will provide a strong foundation for your shared relationship with money.
"Everyone thinks about money differently. One of the most interesting things about personal finance is there isn't really a one-size-fits-all approach. Factors like upbringing, income, and personal goals will all impact how you and your partner instinctively manage money.
"Having different priorities is okay, but it's important that you're both aware of this and are comfortable with it," says Kevin.
Working out whether you and your partner are financially compatible is a great starting point. You can 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.
"Understanding your partner's current money habits, like whether they pay for items outright, put most purchases a credit card, or if they have any financial goals, will help you to get a feel for their financial priorities," says Kevin.
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 reveals the most commonly hidden purchases are clothes (13 per cent) and guilt foods (9 per cent). 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 yourself, be upfront and honest about it and work together towards a solution.
"Everyone has blown the budget at some point in their lives so try not get angry or frustrated, particularly if this is the first time. If your partner worries you might be angry with them, it could deter them from being honest with you in the future," says Kevin.
Kevin suggests the best course of action is to acknowledge that you made a mistake and think about how to avoid it happening again. You could also consider having an emergency fund to minimise the impacts of over-spending in the future.
"Many people think of a budget as a constraint but it actually gives you the freedom to spend your money relatively guilt-free. If your existing budget is not working for you, take a look at how you can modify it to better suit your needs," says Kevin.
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, Kevin advises that you can start to think about more serious financial commitments that are important to you both.
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, or not.
"Putting something in writing is a great way to stay accountable and motivated. Try to keep it somewhere you'll both see it each day and think about adding pictures of your goals to help you stay inspired," says Kevin.
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 Resimac. 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.