When it comes to love and money, it's no secret that communication is key. In surveys about the stressors in people's lives, money consistently ranks in the top and has deteriorated many relationships.
So, what's the best way to address a topic that can, at times, make people nauseous, uneasy and downright tongue-tied? The same way we address many other hard goals and tasks in our lives: prioritize, systematize and break it down into baby steps.
You're highly unlikely to make any progress on your finances if you and your partner don't talk about them. And you need to -- it's a long road ahead for both of you. So read on for a simple step-by-step guide to talking money with your honey.
How to Talk Money With Your Honey, in 4 Easy Steps
A money date is a time when the two of you get together for an hour or two to review your finances and have an open and honest conversation and what's transpired during the month in terms of spending, savings and goal progress. In many couples, one person takes responsibility for paying the bills. In others, finances are managed separately, with joint expenses divided 50/50. Or perhaps one of a host of other methods for managing the money may work in your relationship.
No matter what your situation is, make sure the two of you are chatting about the details at least monthly. Put your money dates in on the calendar for the first of each month, the last Thursday or whatever works for you –- just be sure to set it as a recurring meeting. And take it seriously. Open communication is key.
Your money dates should follow the same format each time with an option at the end to bring up any issues or concerns. Before your first money date, spend time separately reflecting on the goals that are most important to you as an individual, as well as for your household, and then come together to review and prioritize as a couple. Initially, you'll also want to spend time reviewing where you stand on spending, savings, and debt. You'll almost certainly want to map out a plan to cut expenses, increase savings or put more toward paying down debts in the future.
When prioritizing savings goals, it's best to turn future expenses for travel and vacations into monthly savings amounts to better track your progress and ease cash flow strain.
Your agenda should include the following points:
Review monthly expenses. Which categories are you above and under on?
Review progress on paying down debt. Did you add to balances, pay down debt, or stay even for the month?
Track goals. How much do you have left to save to meet your goals for emergency savings, retirement, travel and other priorities?
Make adjustments. Where do you need to change to stay on track?
As you would with any other meeting, take time to prepare on your own before coming to the table for a conversation. Review the agenda, jot down any issues or concerns you have and -- ultimately –- just breathe. Talking about money can bring up a lot of issues and anxieties in all of us. If something occurred during the month that you're not proud of, reflect on it. What led to the slip-up? Could it have been prevented? What steps can you take to better control things next time? If there's an emotional element to some of your spending patterns, talk about those with your partner as well.
The time is here to meet. Following through is the only thing that is going to get you comfortable with these talks and keep you in the habit of having them. Make them fun by including a glass of wine (but not too much) or some food as you crunch numbers. Set small incentives to reward yourselves for reaching goals. And finally, remember that you're a team -– there's no reason for either of you to be trying to handle the fiscal burdens alone.