The couple money talk is hard to navigate. The first few conversations might be a total disaster. Trust me, we’ve been there. That’s why I’m sharing our best tips for talking about money with your partner.
A few things to keep in mind before you begin ‘the talk’. If you want to get on the same page about money as a couple, then you need to be willing to be held accountable. That can totally feel icky. But, it shouldn’t be a “look over your shoulder and watch your every move with money” kind of feeling. Instead, it’s about a partnership with your finances. If you’ve never done this, you need some tools to get started with the couple money talk.
1. Keep the first couple money talk light
The very first couple money talk shouldn’t feel like an interrogation. Nor should it feel like an intervention. Keep the first conversation light. Mention something like “Hey, let’s talk about our couple goals including our finances tonight.” Let the conversation flow naturally from there.
If that feels like too much, try saying something about your own spending like “I think I need to talk with you about my money habits. I’d like your input.”
A note to the spreadsheet lovers. I guarantee you that pulling out a spreadsheet and slapping it on the kitchen table will not end well for your first couple money talk. So if you’re the spreadsheet type, you’re going to need some patience and to take it slow. It’s going to be mostly talking for a while.
2. Define your big bucket list goals as a couple
Looking at your long term financial goals can be a really great way to continue the money conversation after your first chat. These goals can look different depending on where you’re at with your partner. Here are some examples:
- Your next dream vacation
- What age you want to retire
- Buying a home
- Having a baby
- Getting married
- Adopting a kitten
- Renovating your kitchen
All of these things will need some financial planning to make them work. They are also fun and exciting life events. This can make the money conversation you have just as fun and exciting. Take this from someone who didn’t ever want to talk about money in the relationship. However, if when we started talking about our life goals, suddenly talking about money seemed more of a team effort.
Most importantly it was easier for me. My mindset changed to “How can we make this happen?”. I had the courage to look at my student loan debt balance and where my money was going. Then I shared those things with my partner.
3. Look at your money personalities
If you’ve never read The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, I highly recommend it. Just like we have different ways of expressing our love to a partner, we have different ways we interact with money. Knowing your own money personality and your partners will help set your perspective for couple money talks.
You can take one of the many online quizzes to get started. Share with your partner. This should open up conversations about why you are a spender or a saver. It can really be a catalyst for looking at the “money baggage” or ideas about money you have internalized from growing up.
4. Create value categories for spending money individually
“You need to stop buying latte’s” is not a phrase that will fix any kind of couple money problems. The fact is, your partner is going to spend money on things you deem unnecessary. That’s why you each need to define three value categories for your fun spending money. Where do you want to spend money that you don’t want your partner to question?
Those value categories need to actually bring you joy. Or at least be something important to your life. For example, my value categories are:
- Going out to eat with friends
For me, self-care looks like getting a massage, buying a new skincare item, and my StarCycle membership. These things aren’t anything HisFI would spend money on, but I do. Charles, HisFI’s value categories are:
HisFI buys hella expensive clothing. Like $200 pants. Is it crazy to me? Yes. Is my $50 all-natural moisturizer crazy to him? Yes. But we no longer guilt each other about it. We actually get excited for each other when we buy in our value categories. That’s because we know how spending that money makes each other happy.
If you have a value category that aligns, like travel, it can turn into a couple money goal. We set aside a little each month for our next trip.
5. Track your spending and talk about it
Oh man. This is where accountability can actually start to sting a little bit. By now, you’ve had enough couple money talks about the fun stuff, that you can take a more serious sit-down. Here is how we first started tracking our spending:
- Set a period of time- one week or one month. We did one month to get a whole picture idea
- Track your spending – you can use an app like Mint or write it down in a journal
- After the set period of time, come together and talk about what you spent
When you go over expenses it’s a good time to talk about what you can cut. Do your subscriptions fit into a value category? If not ,can you cut them? Keep coming back to your long term financial goals. Remember that mindset “How can we get there?” This can really help steer the conversation away from blaming- which should never happen. You track to see your habits and change, not to dwell on what was spent.
6. Schedule a couple money date on a regular basis
It’s important that you don’t stop talking about money. Schedule money dates to go over expenses or check in on your financial goals. The dates should be fun. Maybe you go out. Maybe you grab a bottle of wine and cake. Actually make it a real date and talk about money.
7. Avoid guilt or shame with money by fighting fair
As you move towards goals and make money conversations a part of your life, you’re going to have a few fumbles. Fighting about money is ok, as long as you fight fair. Here are a few pointers to keep the fights from ending in hurt feelings and total shutdowns (from either partner):
- Don’t devalue what the person brings to the table. You each have a different perspective and it needs to be listened to.
- The amount of money each partner earns shouldn’t ever be a basis for a fight. If you make more- it doesn’t give you more of a say over where the money goes.
- Don’t make statements about the other partner like “You can’t spend that” or “You shouldn’t spend that much.”
Ask questions and stay open. Otherwise, a bad couple money fight could halt money conversations. That’s not good at all.
8. Make a few rules, but stay flexible
We have some rules about money that we have put into place after our conversations. They are to help keep us accountable and talking about money. They work for each of us the same- that way the power dynamic doesn’t get tilted. Here are a couple of our rules:
- If we want to spend over $500 in our value categories we talk with the partner about it to get their thoughts
- If we increase or change contributions to any savings, retirements, or brokerage accounts we talk about it first
These aren’t as much rules as they are ways to show respect for finances in the relationship. Your own rules may look totally different. That’s the beauty of partnerships.
9. Talk about the worst-case scenario
Talking about death, job loss, or a family medical emergency is never fun. These are the exact things you should talk about before they happen. That way you can have a clear financial plan.
- In the case of death, we have each other listed as beneficiaries on our life insurance policies and investment accounts.
- In the case of job loss, we built up an emergency fund to cover 3 months of bare-bones expenses.
- In the case of a medical emergency, we have health insurance, but our pets don’t. They are a part of our family and we would pay just about anything to save them, so we have a fund for this too.
Knowing where the money is and what we would do, helps us feel secure about the worst-case scenario. It unites us as a couple.
10. Your couple money approach should be open to change
Life is always changing. Your value categories will change and so will your goals. Be open to that. Don’t freak out if something doesn’t go right, because it won’t at some point.
You can make love and money work
See what I did there? 😉 It took us years to get where we are with our couple money talks. Literal years. We had to go through our old emotional baggage together. We had to fight a little. We are on the same page with money and major life goals because of our conversations.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments. What are some strategies you use when having the couple money talk?
I love the first point about keeping it light. Communication is definitely important. But the more you talk about a subject, the more it looms large, so hopefully the money talk is kept to a minimum. What works for my husband and I is to talk often about our goals — the Why of our money — and that keeps it future-focused, positive-focused and fun. We just became empty-nesters so we’re in a big travel time, so maybe that’s why I have fun on the brain!
Thank you for sharing! I agree that focusing on goals gives the conversations direction. We do this as well. 🙂
Thanks for the reminder to talk about the worst case scenario. It’s something I know we need to do but haven’t gotten around to it yet. It’s so important and at the same time also one of the last things anyone wants to think about.
Exactly. It’s a hard convo, but one that needs to happen. 🙂