Here's a Valentine's Day Gift That'll Outlast Roses: Well-Ordered Finances

Valentines Gifts
Valentines Gifts

Let's face it -- if you're reading this, then you're probably simultaneously doing one of three things:

  1. Clicking around the Web, while on hold with your florist, who, with her hand cupped over the receiver and in a very audible stage whisper, is saying to her colleagues, "Get this -- someone wants to know if we have any roses left!"

  2. Slapping your forehead against your computer monitor before Googling "last-minute Valentine's Day gifts in (insert your city)."

  3. Smugly savoring a Necco Valentine candy, while other poor schlubs curse Hallmark.

Want some help avoiding the doghouse on this holiest of lovers' days? Go home early and present your sweetheart with a fresh, color-coordinated bouquet of organized financial files.

No, this is not a setup. While there may be more conventionally romantic ways to shower your loved one with proof of your everlasting devotion, roses and massage gift certificates expire a lot faster than do lovingly reconciled account statements and up-to-date files.

When your significant other fails to find the words to express their thanks for your thoughtfulness, simply explain that although money issues continue to be one of the leading causes of relationship strife, you're not going to let that happen to you two lovebirds.

How to Mix the Perfect Love-Money Cocktail

Need a few ideas to take the sting out of financial issues in your household? Consider these:

Reel in your significant other with some sweet talk. If your better half isn't interested in talking finances, lure him in with an enticing reward. What kind of couch, vacation, home, retirement, plasma TV does he envision? When you explore the possibilities that well-managed finances could afford, your reluctant partner is more likely to become a willing participant.

Sponsored Links

Split up ... your financial tasks, that is. Managing your money relationship is a two-person job. (Couched resentment is very unbecoming and can lead to premature wrinkles.) Take equal responsibility for keeping your joint finances on track. If you pay the bills, have him organize the financial files. Or consider an equitable distribution of other chores, and have your sweetheart take on some household task that you deplore in exchange for you tackling a money management task she hates.

Schedule a summit. The financial world is fond of quarterly reports -- go ahead and set a date for the inaugural event. Your State of the Union address should cover (1) the amount of money you currently have together, (2) the percentage of change from the previous quarter, and (3) any transactions (buying, selling, saving, overspending, getting a puppy). Doing this on a regular basis will keep you both in the loop and hopefully inspire more discipline for reaching your future joint goals.

Build a budget for two (or more). There are no hard-and-fast rules to budgeting that you must follow till death do you part. There are some rules of thumb, though. One of my personal favorites on budgeting is "The 60% Solution," proposed by author Richard Jenkins. It's a simple way for math phobics to organize their spending. He proposes that 60 percent of your income should go to "committed expenses" (mortgage, food, utilities, etc.), 10 percent for irregular expenses (your short-term savings), 10 percent for retirement savings, 10 percent for long-term saving and/or debt reduction, and 10 percent for "fun money." Consider this a starting point for your own budget; bend the rules to fit your own situation.

Along the way, come up with rewards for meeting some of your savings goals. Get creative. Oh, all right: Make it fresh flowers, if you must.

Motley Fool editor Dayana Yochim is the author of The Motley Fool's Guide to Couples & Cash.