How to become masters of your finances with your partner?
Managing money as a couple is not easy, yet most of us need to learn it sometime in our lives. If you work together towards your aims, you can be twice as effective than alone and you can support each other in your plans and resolutions (have you heard of the “Frugalwoods”?). But that requires you to formulate your goals, draft a plan, avoid emotionally charged arguments about money and have a good overview of what you are both doing with your money – regardless whether your primary aim is to pay off debt, save for a car or a holiday or retire early together.
Joint or separate accounts?
This path can contain many difficulties. One of them is the way of managing your finances: Is a joint bank account better, or should you each have your own? In past, joint accounts have usually been the practice, but separate accounts are becoming ever more frequent now. You should establish which option you want at the beginning. They each have their respective benefits and drawbacks.
A joint account’s profoundest positive is that you both can very clearly see how much money you have and how much you’re spending – together and each. However, you can achieve the same result by sharing data in the Wallet app, which enables you to share selected accounts, budgets and shoppings lists. It’s also not advisable to completely merge your finances if one of you has a debt or tends to have an irresponsible attitude towards money.
Separate accounts’ greatest advantage lies in knowing what’s “your own” and “partner’s” money. In case you don’t want or need to push towards some common goal together and your financial habits differ a lot, separate accounts can save you a lot of potential arguments. There is also the alternative of having a joint account where each of you regularly sends an amount of money you had agreed upon, and your own respective accounts for personal expenses. That way, you can save money for a holiday, house repairs or other joint expenses, and use your separately stored money for anything you need for yourself.
The amount sent to the joint account can be same for both partners or depend on their incomes; it’s up to you and your partner whether you agree upon fairness in the sense of contributing the same amount or in the sense of contributing the same relative part of your income. Both can work well – all depends on your agreement and financial needs. You may want to check your financial records from living alone to assess what option is most suitable for you. It’s important to discuss this thoroughly and calmly before setting off to any bigger plans.
The gift and curse of financial habits
Are you a financial hoarder, tiger or perhaps sloth? There are many types of financial management styles, call them whatever you want. Some people like to save every penny and contemplate even the slightest of expenses; some spend carelessly when they have enough money and then wait until reaching a good balance again; others may not spend excessively but don’t keep an overview of their expenses and do nothing about their money until they are very unpleasantly surprised when a financial emergency arises (apparently they’re not using Wallet!).
Regardless of how you tend to handle your finances, keeping track and planning are the keys to financial safety. You can accommodate so that you have an “extra” reserve for a bit of impulsive shopping – the important bit is that you know about this tendency and are able to plan for it while still trying to behave as responsibly as possible.
Countless arguments arise when partners have different spending and saving styles. You may dislike your partner’s impulsivity, while they may regard your financial perfectionism as unnecessary nitpicking. If your financial approaches differ dramatically, having a one account for joint expenses, nothing more, and your own respective accounts for personal expenses may be best. You should realize your differences at the beginning of your relationship and try to work with them, not against them. Make compromises but think realistically.
Budgeting together: Can it succeed?
Sticking to a budget is difficult even for one person. How much harder can it be for two? A couple may face coordination issues in joint budgeting. But that is a problem that can be very easily eliminated by having a shared budget, list of expenses and shopping lists in the Wallet app, which enables these and other advanced features in the Couple version. Sharing through a mobile app is most convenient as it enables you to have a good overview of your finances anywhere and anytime, compared to spreadsheets, which are sometimes unoptimized for viewing on mobile devices if they’re too large, or written records.
Budgeting is not sufficient alone for saving money – it doesn’t account for unexpected events such as illness, job loss or car repairs. However, it’s one of the pillars of good personal finance management, along with spending responsibly, investing smartly when you can and having a reserve for emergency cases. A joint budget can help you organize your finances better and save money without much special effort.
Emotion is not the enemy of reason – but use it wisely
A lot of conflict about money in a relationship stems from the so-called “basement thinking”. If we are tired or in a bad mood, we have a propensity to take things personally or interpret them in the worst possible way. It can be especially frequent when talking about money, because its lack can make us worried, afraid or sometimes angry if we saw our spouse spending a lot, while we had been trying to save more. Money can easily become a substitute problem for deeper relationship issues. On the other hand, it can also lead to those issues. That’s why it’s important to discuss money when you’re calm and have enough time to think everything through. Don’t try to push away emotion entirely – but beware of its darker side.
Money remains a sensitive topic in our society, even for couples living together, but it needs to be discussed in order to achieve responsible personal finance management. Even if you don’t have any joint accounts, you can share data with your partner. Each of you should know about every financial product you have: saving accounts, investment portfolios, insurance… Tell your significant other about them so that he or she can help you take care about them in case of emergency. Know where to find the legal documents if necessary.
Remember that with discussion and reasonable compromise, you can achieve a lot. And although managing finances together in a couple has some difficulties, its effectivity can be also increased dramatically by knowing that you’re not alone in your resolutions, that your spouse also tries to adhere to the plans you agreed upon, and that planning together gives you more flexibility in solving unexpected situations. Buying for two is also more cost-effective than maintaining a living just for one. You can also have complementary skillsets that let you save money by doing things you would otherwise outsource. To summarize: Managing money as a couple can become a shared superpower. Wouldn’t you like to gain it?
Next up is how to become financial superheroes as a family. Did you think your financial management inevitably changed when you became a couple? That’s nothing compared to the changes after you’ve had your own family. Make your family finance management a fun and successful adventure!
Download the Wallet app on Google Play.