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When you’re in a relationship, you have to start thinking about how to manage shared expenses and budget together.
But combining finances isn’t as easy as it sounds, and even couples living together for a long time struggle to budget money together.
If you’re living together with your partner and are struggling to manage your household budget, I have 5 tips to help budget for couples living together.
Couples living together need to create shared goals and priorities, discuss your budget together often, create a clear plan for meeting your using your budget, make adjustments, and celebrate successes along the way.
No budget is perfect, but when couples work together and communicate often, managing your budget becomes a lot easier, and a lot less frustrating.
Why Budgeting is Important for Couples Living Together
Budgeting can be a really scary word for a lot of people. So let’s break it down to make it less scary.
A budget is simply a predetermined plan for how you want to spend your money. Think of your budget as a roadmap or your gps when you take a road trip. Most people don’t start a roadtrip without a bit of a plan of where they’re going or how they want to get there.
Budgeting works the same way.
When you don’t have a plan for all of your household expenses and how much money you want to save, it’s easy to spend every last dollar and feel frustrated at the end of the month.
Creating a budget for couples who live together is crucial to be on the same page financially and strive for the same goals.
A Few Statistics on Relationships and Money
- TD Bank: Couples who talk about money frequently are happier than those who don’t talk about money often.
- Ameriprise: 68% of couples who are on the same page financially describe their communication as “perfect” or “very good”.
But it’s also pretty common knowledge that money is a big source of fighting and conflict in many relationships. Getting on the same page will help you better track your expenses together and avoid some of these statistics.
- American Psychology Association Survey: 31% of adults report that money is a major source of conflict in their relationship, and it often goes unresolved.
- SunTrust Bank: 35% of respondents said finances are a primary cause of stress in their relationship
Benefits of getting your partner on board with your budget
Most couples would agree that effective communication is crucial. And when couples move in together, communication about money is one of the most important things to be on the same page about.
Before we jump into the benefits, looks look at some statistics on money and relationships.
Improving Communication with Your Partner
There are so many things to consider when you start budgeting with your partner. And most of them start with creating clear and open communication. You can read more here about why talking about money is good for your relationship.
Here are a few things I’m going to touch on and encourage you to talk about with your partner:
- will you combine your bank accounts or keep your accounts separate?
- will you split expenses right down the middle?
- who will be responsible for paying the bills and managing the budget?
- if you create joint accounts, whose banking institution will you use?
- what qualifies as a “big” purchase that you need to check in with your partner?
That’s just the tip of the ice berg, and we could create a separate long list for couples who combine finances and couples who keep separate accounts.
When I think about budgeting tips for couples, there are clear and major benefits for getting on the same page as your partner.
- you can reach your money goals faster (get out of debt or save for a vacation)
- your communication improves
- you can hold each other accountable
- you can choose what you actually want to spend your money on
- you learn to have hard conversations which builds resilience and intimacy
- you get to determine how much you want to spend on every single budget category
Challenges Couples Face When Budgeting Together
Couples face many challenges when budgeting together. In fact, you’ve probably faced a few of these challenges already if you’ve been trying to manage your money together.
Different Spending Habits and Attitudes Towards Money
For example, one partner may want to save money for a rainy day while the other wants to spend it on a vacation. Additionally, one partner might be more familiar with budgeting than the other, leading to disagreements about how much should be allocated to each expense.
The questions I mentioned earlier are such an important and natural way learn about each other’s habits and attitudes toward money.
My family didn’t really talk about money growing up but I knew we spent a lot of money. I distinctly remember my dad saying, “it’s just money” in my teenage years. That definitely rubbed off on me and was one reason I ended up with a lot of student loan debt in college. I didn’t know how to set financial goals or plan for the future.
If your money philosophy differs a lot from your partner, you’ll be happy you spent time talking about money to address your different spending habits. That way one partner isn’t spending all the money and the other partner is full of resentment.
Agreeing on Financial Goals and Priorities
I’ll talk about solutions to creating shared financial goals and priorities in a few minutes, but it’s so important for couples need to find a way to set financial goals together.
When you create shared goals, it’s also important for both partners to communicate openly and honestly about their financial goals in order to create a successful plan that works for both of them. When you have a shared vision for your finances that you create together, it’s so much easier to agree on your financial goals.
But if you don’t take the time to get on the same page as your partner, you might find it hard to compromise on lifestyle choices and figure out what is truly necessary and what can be sacrificed.
Finding a System that Works for Both Partners
This challenge gets down to the practical side of budgeting.
- will you use a monthly budget spreadsheet, a budgeting app, or pen and paper?
- who will be in charge of updating the budget?
- will you use the cash envelopes method or another budgeting strategy?
- how will you divide your income each month?
These are a few of the many important questions to answer as you try to find a budgeting system that works for both partners.
You can also look at a few example budgets I’ve made to help you start budgeting better.
Although budgeting together can be difficult at times, it can also bring couples closer together as they work towards achieving their common objectives.
Top 5 Tips to Budget for Couples Living Together
All couples will face challenges when learning to budget together. My hope is these five tips will build a foundation of open communication, trust, and intimacy. Then you can build upon this foundation and strengthen your budget as a couple living together.
Identify Your Financial Goals and Priorities
Setting goals is my favorite part of budgeting.
Like I said before, creating a budget as a couple helps you pre-plan how you want to spend your money. And that means you can prioritize spending money on things you truly care about, and cut expenses and stop spending money on things you don’t.
But you won’t be able to identify your financial goals and priorities if you don’t make time to sit down and talk about what your money values and priorities are together.
A great exercise for you to do with your partner is to spend a date night dreaming about what you want to do with your money. Dream about your 1, 5, and 10 year goals.
What do you want to accomplish with your money?
If you need inspiration to help get your creative juices flowing, here are a few pretty common money goals:
- become debt free
- go on more vacations
- buy or build a house
- be more generous with your money
- buy surprise gifts for your partner
- go back to school or shift to a new career
- send your parents on vacation
- have money to spend on your hobbies
I’m sure if you take 10 minutes, you can come up with a huge list of goals, values, and priorities you’d love to spend money on.
The best budgets are based on your goals, values, and priorities. When you create a values based budget, it makes it more fun to spend the money, and you feel a lot less guilty about it.
When you have shared goals and money priorities, you’ll have more success creating a budget together.
And when you create a budget together, YOU get to decide how much you want to spend in all of your budget categories.
Discuss Your Budget Together
Identifying your financial goals as a couple is a huge step in managing your household budget together.
The next step is to talk about your budget OFTEN.
A great strategy is to schedule budget meetings to make sure you’re both on the same page and you’re spending money based on your shared goals and priorities.
This might sound really corny, but it works. Even setting aside 15-30 minutes twice a month will help you stick to your spending plan and ensure all of your expenses are getting paid and you’re transferring enough money to savings.
Plus, there will be months when you overspend. That’s OKAY and perfectly normal.
When you have consistent budget meetings with your partner, you’ll be able to course correct and make adjustments for the rest of the month, and avoid spending more than you make.
A Few Important Money Questions to Help Couples Talk About Money
If you are nervous to bring your baggage into the light, don’t be scared by all the divorce talk earlier. The goal of marriage is happily ever after, not separating assets in divorce court. Ask yourself these starter questions to get the ball rolling.
- What is your attitude toward money? Are you a spender or a saver? Are you somewhere in between
- What is your current financial situation?
- Do you have debt? How much? What kinds of debt?
- How did you develop your attitudes toward money? Do you mimic your family habits or avoid them like crazy?
- Do you have a budget?
- Is it okay to lend money to family? To friends?
- Do you tithe or give to charity?
- Do you impulse buy or shop when you’re stressed?
- What are your thoughts on investing?
- Do you believe in saving? Are you open to creating sinking funds?
- What age would you like to retire at?
If you look at this list and get overwhelmed, don’t panic. If you’re not ready to tackle all of them right away, start with the first 3. You will still make huge progress in getting on the same financial page, even if you only focus on those!
Whether you choose just three or all of them, the most important part is ACTUALLY SITTING DOWN AND TALKING ABOUT IT. Leave the judgement aside and be open to hearing the good, the bad, and the ugly. Judgement and ridicule is a sure way discourage your partner from talking about money in the future.
It will be helpful to answer these questions on your own first, and then talk about it together. That’s what Jenna and I did, and it helped a lot.
Develop a Clear Plan for Achieving Your Goals
As a teacher, I’m a big fan of making clear, achievable action steps with my goals.
When you’re learning how to budget with your partner, you need to identify clear roles and rules for how you’ll handle money together.
For example, here are a few big questions that you need to answer as you start to budget together.
- who will be responsible for tracking expenses and entering them into the budget
- how are you going to manage your budget? Will you use paper and pen, a budget spreadsheet, or a budgeting app like Qube Money or Tiller Money?
- will you combine your incomes and add them together or keep your income separate?
- Will you split bills or split the rent with your partner?
- Who will have access to which accounts and assets?
These aren’t all the financial decisions you’ll need to make, but they’re a great starting point. When you make firm decisions on these questions, you’ll be more likely to follow through with your budget because everyone knows their role and how you’ll be working together to pay all of your monthly bills and manage your living expenses.
Make Adjustments as Needed
Every good budget is simply a reflection of your spending priorities. If you find that your spending and saving doesn’t align with your goals and priorities, it’s okay.
When you talk about money regularly, couples may decide to change goals, adjust spending in certain budget categories, and be willing to make changes.
For example, if you’ve already spent 75% of your date budget in the first week of the month, it’s smart to think of how you can try a few cheap date night ideas instead of lavish dinners out. Or you could try to lower a different budget category to off set the higher date night spending.
Everyone who manages their finances together and successfully budgets will go over budget at some point. But it’s important to keep trying, keep learning, and keep making changes that make the most sense for your family budget.
Celebrate Budgeting Successes
Celebrating progress and success is one of the best ways to stick to your budget and create motivation to reach all of your long-term financial goals.
When you pay off a debt in full, buy a bottle of wine or go on a date just to celebrate your success. It takes intentional, consistent effort to reach your financial goals and it’s a whole lot of fun to celebrate that hard work.
Plus when you go on a special date – whether it’s out on the town or a fun home cooked dinner – it’s a great time to reflect on all the progress you’ve made and the positive money changes in your life.
Celebrating successes is also a great way to keep dreaming and setting new financial goals. Celebrate where you’ve been and make a plan for what’s next.
It’s really easy to get frustrated, stuck, and disappointed in yourself when you try something new like budgeting with your partner. And you might want to quit.
So make a point to celebrate all the things you’re doing right.
How to Make a Budget for Couples Living Together
These steps are going to be really practical, and it might help to grab a pen and paper so you can get a head start on creating your own zero based budgeting template.
Here’s how to start your budget together:
- List all of your income sources and how much each one is
- List every expense – bills, groceries, investments
- Write down all of your short and long-term goals for savings
- Decide if you’ll split expenses or combine income
You can also decide if you want to have personal spending money, like a personal allowance for each of you. This was a game changer for our budget and something I’d highly recommend for anyone feeling like you need more freedom in your budget.
If creating a budget from scratch sounds overwhelming, you can get one of my zero based budgeting templates for just a few bucks. Or splurge and get the Done for You Budget and I’ll make a customized, personal budget for you and your partner.
In the end, it’s so important to make a budget for couples living together.
A budget will give you an intentional plan to manage your expenses and help you stay on track pay all of the bills, rent and utilities, and save money for what matters most.
- Create shared goals and spending priorities
- Talk about your budget and money philosophies often
- Make a plan for who will do what for your budget and who has access to each account
- Make adjustments as needed
- Celebrate your successes to stay motivated
Next up, now that you’re ready to budget with your partner, read about creating a 50/30/20 budget template in google sheets.