Money doesn’t have to be a problem for couples who take the time to understand each other’s money mojo. In the early throes of love, it may seem unromantic to develop a money plan, but a practical approach to fiscal harmony can be the foundation to a lasting love affair.

Three steps to fiscal harmony in relationships:

Step one: Understand each other’s behaviour Like understanding your own money behaviours, it’s important to understand the money attitudes and habits of your partner. Step back and take an objective view:

(1) What drives your partner’s spending habits? Why do they feel the need to spend constantly or why do they fret over every cent they spend?

(2) Why do they want to control all the money decisions or why do they avoid all money matters entirely?

(3) Do they take a pessimistic view or are they overly optimistic about their financial situation?

(4) Are they a detail-focussed person who likes to keep track of the detail or are they a big picture person who gets exasperated with the finer points?

Money behaviour is usually driven by childhood experiences and life’s lessons, and not all of us have had a positive and / or rewarding experience. Understanding what drives each others money habits is the key to creating an arrangement that is effective and harmonious in the long term,

Step two: Finding the right system Individual accounts, or joint finances? Some couples are comfortable combining their finances into one or more accounts. Others might have joint accounts for joint expenses but retain a separate accounts also. There’s no hard and fast rule – it depends entirely on the circumstances and what you each feel comfortable with.

Spending time understanding each other and creating a realistic plan is likely to help avoid problems down the track – sit down together and consider the following…

(1) Sharing the expenses: Many couples automatically assume that expenses should be split down the middle, but it’s not always the case. It could be that you agree a percentage of salary to account for differences in income. The important thing is to discuss it and agree in advance so that you’re each comfortable and prepared when the bill rolls in.

(2) Paying the bills: Who is going to actually make the payments? Often one partner takes the lion share of this responsibility which can lead to resentment down the track. Take some time to agree the best approach – if you or your partner is happy to do all the bill payments, that’s great, otherwise split the tasks or maybe take turns.

(3) Pocket money: No one likes having to justify everything they spend. It’s just plain annoying. Set aside some pocket money that you each have to spend without care on whatever takes your fancy. Just as long as the spending is within the agreed amount, it is guilt-free and won’t cause arguments.

(4) Setting limits and goals: What are your common goals? Is it a home, investments, a holiday, a car, a nest-egg, money for your children’s education? What are your spending limits? Birthday presents, clothing allowances, entertainment? Sitting down and discussing where you are headed is not only motivating but it helps tease out any differences you might both have.

Step three: Stick with the plan Just like relationships, money management for couples has its highs and lows. There will be times when old behaviours reappear, feathers get ruffled and tempers fray. Even if you’ve had the conversations, learnt about each other’s money behaviours and set goals and timelines, let’s face it, life is busy and plans can get off course.

If you hit a bump, the only thing to do is maintain a sense of humour, go back to the original plan, sit down and have a chat about where you’re at and any changes you might need to make. Agree on the timeframe for regular reviews of the plan – six months, annually.

If you would like more advice on managing a harmonious fiscal relationship with your partner, check out ms money’s why saving is like dieting and budgets don’t work.

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