6 Tips for Managing Couples’ Finances in Blissful Harmony
Money is a complex topic. As a currency, it’s neutral, but our own individual beliefs, behaviours and identities cast an emotional loading over our cash. Throw this into the mix with a partner, and things can get complicated. Studies have even shown that over half of couples note money as their most significant topic of conflict.
We spoke to financial wellbeing expert Emma Edwards from The Broke Generation about ways couples can manage money harmoniously.
1. Talk about money early on
It can be tough to know when to bring up the topic of cashola with a new partner, but generally the sooner you start the line of communication, the better. We all have unique spending and saving personalities and we each have our own money script that informs a lot of our financial beliefs and behaviours.
You can include money talk in the way you get to know one another. Discussing how money was talked about in the home can help you gauge similarities and differences in your lived experience with money, which can prepare you for future opportunities and challenges in your partnership.
2. Consider all three parts of your relationship
Recently, Melbourne couples’ counsellor Jill Dzadey came on my podcast, and she said something that really stuck with me. She explained that in a relationship, there’s you, your partner, and the relationship itself. Thinking about the relationship’s needs (financial and otherwise) as a separate entity to yours as individuals can be really powerful when managing money.
3. Don’t assume you have to combine finances
Some couples feel pressured to combine finances almost immediately once things get serious. Personally I think this is an outdated norm that we are free to rewrite in any way we like. You can have separate finances and have a perfectly healthy relationship, if that’s what works for you.
4. If you don’t combine finances, consider having a ‘kitty’ for shared expenses
A common reason couples bicker is over pesky household purchases. Things like toilet paper or a new lightbulb can trigger a battle of ‘it’s your turn, I got it last time’. Having a pot of cash or a basic bank account or savings account that can be used to buy small incidentals is a great starting point for cohabiting partners with separate finances.
5. Consider equity over equality
While you don’t have to combine finances, for some couples who earn drastically different incomes, it can be beneficial. In this instance, it can be valuable to look beyond the simple 50/50 split of expenses. If one partner makes $100,000 and the other makes $40,000, splitting rent 50/50 isn’t as ‘equal’ as it sounds, because the lower earning partner has significantly less disposable income left over. This can interfere with everything from lifestyle choices to power dynamics in relationships. In these instances, splitting bills and expenses proportionately to each income can make things substantially fairer.
6. Be honest
Financial infidelity is a trope often portrayed in film and television, but it does happen in real life
relationships, too. Being open about your spending and your financial situation is important – and if you feel like you can’t be, there might be a deeper issue to address.
H&R Block’s MoneyHub platform can help you open the money dialogue in your relationship and make managing money something fun to do together. Set up a monthly or quarterly ‘money date night’ and check in with your spending (using the spending tracker) and review trends and insights to help you become a more financially-savvy pair.
Financial abuse is a form of family violence, and can involve one partner controlling spending and access to funds, or making important financial decisions without your consent. If you or someone you know is experiencing signs of financial abuse, contact the Family Relationship Advice Line on 1800 050 321.
Emma Edwards is the H&R Block small business ambassador and a finance writer and content creator based in Melbourne.
She runs her own digital platform, The Broke Generation, where she has open conversations about money and financial literacy, with an emphasis on the psychological aspects of personal finance.