Budgeting For Couples: How To Split Your Bills And Keep It Fair
November 17, 2022
Relationships are a lot of work. As you develop your relationship with your partner, you’ll learn so much about them: their tastes, their habits, their dreams, their goals, and their flaws. It’s not clear which date to ask how they handle money, though, is it?
It’s a conversation many save for when they’ve started to make serious decisions about a life together, but it doesn’t always have to wait for that pivotal moment!
There’s a lot of value in discussing money with your partner. Being open about your finances can keep your relationship financially resilient and improve the quality of the relationship as a whole. Joint bank accounts are even associated with higher levels of relationship satisfaction!
But, like all relationship advice, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Your relationship with your partner is unique, and the financial side of the relationship should be what’s best for both of you. Let’s discuss some tips regarding budgeting for couples and how to set yourselves up for financial success.
Communication is key
Communication is a critical part of every aspect of a relationship, especially finances. If you’re not communicating your financial needs to your partner, it will likely lead to resentment over money down the road. This can be very damaging, so don’t be afraid to talk about money with your partner. They’ll likely want to talk about it, too!
Create a healthy space around talking about finances
Before anything else, you need to create a healthy space for talking about your finances. Many couples don’t discuss money because of the stress associated with it, but it doesn’t need to be this way.
First of all, honesty is always the best policy. It’s never okay to lie to a partner about your spending, as this can affect them directly. You also shouldn’t over-extend yourself financially by going along with your partner’s expensive date plans or shelling out on gifts if it causes serious disruptions to your finances.
Avoid shaming your partner for their financial habits. This includes topics like their spending habits, the debt they’ve accumulated, or their income. Not everyone is financially responsible as a default, so be fair to them. If you have concerns about the way they handle money, talk to them in a constructive way, offer advice, or talk about how their decisions make you feel or affect your livelihood.
You should also set healthy boundaries around when, where, and what you want to discuss. Now, this shouldn’t be an excuse not to talk about money, but it sets about expectations when you do.
Pick a day or time out of the week when you go over budgeting or plan your spending. No one wants to be blindsided with a “money talk,” and springing this discussion on them at an inopportune time doesn’t create a healthy atmosphere. By setting aside time for discussing finances, you’ll give yourself and your partner the time to think ahead and avoid hostility.
Discuss your financial goals
When communicating about finances, talk about each other’s financial goals. Share with your partner what you want to achieve with your savings. This may be setting aside a certain amount for bills, debt repayment, buying a car, etc. Sharing financial goals with your partner makes it easier for both of you to strive in the right direction.
Depending on how developed the relationship is or where you see it going, you may want to discuss long-term financial goals to work toward. This could be managing a mortgage, moving in together, starting a family together, or setting aside money for retirement.
Your relationship goals are very much tied to your finances, too. If you want to plan a trip with your partner for your anniversary, you’ll need money to set that plan into action. If you’re looking to adopt a pet together, you’ll need money for food, toys, and vet visits. You may even share a hobby that involves purchasing equipment together.
Be honest about your spending habits
Remember, honesty is the best policy. Surprises around spending will throw any financial plan you create together right out of the window. However, this isn’t only about money. Dishonesty in a relationship to any degree can take a toll on the trust that you’re building, and being dishonest about your spending habits is included.
Be completely open about how you spend your money. By sharing what you see as a necessity, your partner can better understand your needs and adapt to them. You can figure out frequent spending habits and create a better financial plan together that’s more in line with what you both feel is appropriate. Again, don’t blame your partner for these habits, as you likely have your own vices, too.
By being honest, you can determine together what you need to split and what you should handle individually. Not everything needs to be shared! If you go to the gym and your partner doesn’t, it isn’t fair to ask them to split it evenly. If your partner has a wine subscription and you don’t drink, they shouldn’t ask you to cover a portion of it.
Create a financial plan together
Create a sustainable budget that works for both you and your partner
If you’re living with your partner, it’s important to create a budget together. Start this by combining your monthly income to create a picture of how much you make together. You may not find it fair to do a 50/50 split of everything if one partner makes more than the other, so talk about how to split it up so each partner knows what they’re financially responsible for.
There are a number of ways you can split your expenses in more proportional ways than just going down the middle. Of course, if you make a similar income, splitting your expenses in half is reasonable. However, if you make 60% of the money in the house and your partner only makes 40%, you can work together to figure out a fair balance. It’s up to you and your partner to decide what’s equitable, but 50% of expenses may not be 50% of your income.
Also, decide which expenses during the month you’ll share and which expenses you’ll cover individually. Obviously, you’ll want to split expenses you share, like rent or groceries, fairly. For personal expenses or hobbies, though, be fair and cover what you use alone.
After you create your budget, have it available to both of you. If it’s a physical copy, hang it up in the house, like on your refrigerator. If you’re opting for a digital budget, share it with your partner so they can edit it alongside you. When you talk about your budget, it should be easy for both of you to reference it.
Talk about opening a joint account
If you’re in a serious relationship, it might be best to open a joint account together. Having a joint account can reduce a lot of the resentment one partner may feel about the other’s personal spending. It also holds you both accountable for your finances.
If you’re using a joint account, you may put all of your income into that account, or opt to put a portion of your income into the account regularly. Having a joint account, however, comes with some downsides. It can add to financial risk if something goes wrong in the relationship, and it can make personal spending more difficult and less private.
Choose what works best for your relationship. If having a joint account is more stress than it’s worth, there are alternatives to sharing expenses, like Venmo or Zelle. A joint account, though, can keep your relationship financially resilient and ensure both of you are making an effort to stay afloat.
Determine a shared savings plan to meet your shared financial goals
Two heads work better than one.
Creating a shared savings plan with your partner will make it easier for you both to reach shared financial goals. Think about it: if both of you are contributing to your savings, that’s double the money you’ll have saved!
You can start by participating in a savings challenge together. This makes it easy to keep each other accountable and work toward a common goal. If you want to make it even more competitive, you may decide on small rewards to give each other, like gift cards for coffee or sweet treats.
Create sustainable savings habits with your partner
Becoming financially resilient as a couple works to make your relationship stronger. By budgeting together, you’ll healthily communicate your needs. Planning savings goals together creates a common cause to work toward and keeps each other accountable, which strengthens your saving habits.
Need a little help? You could each try downloading SaverLife.
SaverLife rewards you for saving. There are monthly challenges you can work toward, and you’ll have the chance to receive cash prizes for saving. SaverLife gives you tips for creating a financial future together, and you’ll have a community of like-minded couples to interact with during your shared saving journey.
Interested in getting started? Join SaverLife today!