Romance and finance often go head-to-head, and conflicts over money rank as one of the top issues that couples routinely face.
I recall struggling with this during the early days of my marriage. My husband is trained in finance and prefers to budget for everything – from small everyday spending to big purchases. I didn’t understand the need for this but went along anyway. Till today, we maintain a spreadsheet detailing our various expenses on a monthly basis, and we track everything from medical, groceries, to transport expenses. I have to say, it has helped me to manage money better.
While money is not a prerequisite to marital bliss, it is critical to set some money boundaries early on in your marriage to prevent it from snowballing into hefty debts and a full-blown crisis.
Here are 3 tips to help you get a handle on money matters.
1. Set clear expectations
Financial intimacy begins with open and clear communication to discover how we view money as individuals.
Conflicts about money are often underpinned by differences in our values and needs. One’s family history also plays a part in shaping our money values and habits. However, this is not to say that money habits cannot change.
Even before marriage, you can take steps to share your expectations and preferences with regard to money. By first understanding where each other is coming from, and considering your financial status as a couple, you can move forward to establish your ideal spending habits.
2. Decide on your priorities
A couple who is starting on their life journey together usually have some goals in mind, such as buying a home, starting a family, or career development.
It’s normal to have independent as well as shared goals. Discussing these hopes and dreams, and prioritising them, can help us come up with a joint plan and budget. It will also help us see the importance of managing our family finances prudently.
3. Be accountable to each other
Co-budgeting these days is made easier by spreadsheets and apps, so find a method that suits your needs best. Whether you choose to manage your finances separately or combine them, the key thing is to be accountable to each other.
It’s good to set some ground rules, such as setting a spending limit so that anything above a certain amount requires a joint decision. Also try to set aside a buffer amount of approximately 3-6 months of your total expenses, so that you have something to fall back on in the event of a sudden loss of income. Even if only one of you manages the family finances, work towards having regular updates on your financial situation so that you both understand where you’re at.
There’s no single best practice for managing money as a couple. Choose a method that works well for your situation and keep the communication lines open. Ultimately, the focus for couple finances is about respect, accountability, and caring for each other’s needs.
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