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13 Essential Couple Money Tips for Financial Harmony

Sophie Simons
July 25, 2023

Even if a relationship is thriving and healthy, some topics still have the potential to create a divide between two people. Finance is one of those subjects. How couples save, spend, and the way each earns are primary components of the partnership and whether it progresses with or without conflict.

The way a couple communicates regarding money expresses respect, value, and confidence each person has in the other to contribute security and comfort to the relationship. 

While you won’t have a heavy conversation about combining income from the moment you start dating, finances should be a topic you touch on from the beginning. This is so the other individual can make a conscious decision as to whether dating is something they want to continue pursuing.

For example, if one mate is unemployed or has an incredible amount of debt that they have difficulty keeping up with, that’s something to be aware of upfront. You can then decide if this is something you want to work through with that person to help them overcome or if you prefer to find someone more financially stable. 

13 Essential Money Tips For Couples

When you start to date someone, their financial situation might not be impeccable. In fact, most times the subject of money is taboo when meeting and getting to know a new person. However, when deciding to see them on a more frequent, possibly exclusive basis, it’s essential to learn a bit about the other person’s financial standing.

Do they have a job? What is their debt status, and are they responsible for their finances? How someone is now with their money will impact your future if you pursue a deeper relationship, possibly an engagement or even marriage. 

It’s better to know now better decision-making as to whether you want to help your partner work through their financial challenges and overcome these or if you want to move forward to a more financially healthy relationship. Here are some tips as you move through each stage of dating to ensure you move forward healthfully together.

1. Minimal funds

In the beginning stages of dating, neither of you will be financially established. In fact, you’ll likely have minimal funds making. That means having a good time “on a dime.” You can take a walk on the beach, cook for each other, take in free concerts in the park, or enjoy an ice cream cone date instead of a full dinner out.

It pays to be creative. You’re showing the person you’re considering for the future that you want to have fun but build financial stability at the same time.

2. Responsible behavior

Many people find quirks and eccentricities the most attractive features of their new dating partner, which is what separates them from everyone else.  However, it’s wise to pay attention to financial behavior instead of overlooking possible flaws in this regard. 

The individual could be loads of fun; maybe there’s an incredible attraction between the two of you, but are they financially responsible? What's driving you to move forward into a more meaningful bond? A major component that should be considered before making a serious commitment is their fiscal mindset.

3. The future

While you might be in the starting phase of your dating relationship, at every stage, money plays a role. Everything you do will have a price tag. It’s essential to discuss your life goals to see if these align. Perhaps you want to buy a forever home early in life, but your prospective partner doesn’t see settling into a house until much further down the road.

Maybe your mate wants to get more established in their career, develop solid savings, grow an investment portfolio, and consider a house and family closer to their middle age. That doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t want to have a serious companionship, but they see the commitment differently than you do.

You can either choose to make your financial objectives compatible or move on with others who see the future in a similar light.

4. Joint expenses

If you decide to move in together, there are a lot of financial decisions to make before you take that step. Nowadays, people who choose to take that step are creating agreements to clarify their intentions with the arrangement so there are no financial disagreements. It’s almost along the same lines as a prenup and will be enforceable in court.

It seems like a drastic step to take, but each person heading into any partnership goes in with a vested interest. Unfortunately, if things go sour, both people could have a substantial amount to lose, everything they went into the partnership with, causing them to have to start over with nothing.

It happens all too often. While no one goes into a loving couplehood with the idea that it will end, it’s essential to protect what you’ve worked diligently for as an independent person.

5. Without the agreement

If you choose to go into the partnership without an agreement, you’ll need to make distinct arrangements upfront regarding who will be responsible for which debts. Before incurring joint debt, determining who will be responsible for making those payments will be a priority. 

You can choose to split the installments, or the person who signed as the primary borrower will be responsible for the full payment. Regardless of how you set it up, if the relationship were to end poorly, typically, the debt would be assigned to the person who signed as the primary borrower, whether you have it set up that way or not.

Thus far, these are instances where you’re in a dating situation, not engaged or married. Here are financial suggestions for couples when engaged or preparing to marry

6. The wedding

Instead of going into debt for a lavish wedding, the suggestion is to save until you have a sufficient amount to pay cash for the nuptials you want. No one wants to start their life together in debt. An extravagant ceremony and lavish reception can create a substantial outstanding balance, particularly if no one is helping with the event.

Nowadays, parents are stepping aside because of the great expense involved. The couple is usually on their own. Considering just starting out, many are unable to put on a large, expensive affair without obtaining a loan or maxing out a credit card, or a few. That can leave a couple in debt for years, causing strife from the start.

Instead, opt for something you can readily pay for out of pocket and have a bigger event when you can afford the expense.

7. The gifts

Typically, with a wedding ceremony, guests contribute monetary gifts. These can be put aside to start an investment account or high-yield savings that can later be used to purchase a home or start a small business, an investment in your future.

 It can be tempting to use the money to enjoy a good time on the honeymoon, but then all that cash is gone with nothing substantial to show for it. Before the ceremony, it’s wise to reach out to a financial counselor to discuss options for a possible windfall. This way, you’ll have a plan and won’t be tempted to run off with the money after walking down the aisle.

8. A financial workshop

If you’re newlyweds with no knowledge of finances, it’s wise to research to find help on how to manage these, especially in the first year of marriage. This is considered the most difficult for a married couple to navigate. 

Whether you find a workshop, attend a webinar, or consult with several financial counselors until you find one with whom you feel comfortable guiding you toward your future goals, you’ll need help instead of trying to go it alone in the beginning. 

While more people are waiting to marry until later in life when they’re situated in their lives, some kids are marrying as young adults who are not fully established yet in a career with good income and minimal debt. At this stage, savings are often not set up, and neither one has a place of their own, and budgeting is an unfamiliar concept.

A reputable, trusted financial counselor can help you get a solid foundation to start your married life. Too often, kids who start out without some kind of assistance don’t make it too far beyond the first year without separating. The tribulations associated with money and finance are too great regardless of their love for one another. 

9. The investments

As individuals, you already have a start with your financial future. Many people have established themself in a career and, hopefully, have savings, and nowadays, some have created an investment portfolio to carry them into retirement. When getting engaged, a discussion will need to be had as to how to move forward with your individual fiscal endeavors. 

Some people choose to keep finances separate but open a joint account that each contributes to. That often works well in meeting joint goals but keeping each person’s financial independence.

Other people merge their accounts, which would mean working with a financial advisor to align a joint investment portfolio to meet future objectives, establishing a single high-yield savings account with each as primary account holder, and assessing debt so a monthly budget can be set up and managed with both individuals aware of the money that goes out and all that comes in.

10. Play up the positives

In each partnership, there are positives and negatives when it comes to financial behavior. Typically, one person tends to spend more freely while the other person prefers to save. When working on a budget, handling the checkbook, and paying bills, it’s important to celebrate the unique challenges of each person instead of criticizing these eccentricities.

The budget should be set up to allow the spender the opportunity to indulge their habit within their financial capacity. In that same vein, the person who prefers to save should be allotted a specific amount from the budget to either put aside for the savings account or use for investing purposes.

In either event, no one should be internalizing financial concerns. If the saver feels as though the spender is being destructive with the finances, that’s a conversation that should be had constructively. The spender should also feel comfortable in having a discussion if they feel restricted from the household income.

Open, transparent, vulnerable communication is crucial for a healthy, thriving, and stable relationship, particularly when it comes to finances. When discussing concerns, talk to your partner, ask for input and support, and compromise on moving forward toward a healthy financial future.

11. Set goals

When getting married, the two of you will have distinct life goals you will be working toward. These will be touched on before walking down the aisle to ensure you’re on the same page. Developing a timeline for when you plan to reach these happens as you grow in the marriage. Typically, you’ll each want to become established in a career.

Depending on the age that you marry, you may or may not have already checked this box. For those who have achieved their career goals, the next step for a married couple is considering a more permanent location to set up their home and possibly purchase a house or apartment. 

Some couples might collide on goals if one is further ahead in their accomplishments than the other. It’s essential to compromise, determine what you can wait for, and, possibly, what you’re willing to forgo to align with your partner’s dreams, especially if they’ve supported yours.

12. Compare notes

Consider the financial challenges you’ve faced in past relationships, or if this is a remarriage, look at the difficulties you had with your first spouse and discuss these openly. This will give your current spouse a window into the apprehension they sense. 

Perhaps you’re unsure about merging finances, maybe they’re spending habits make you uneasy, or the fact they want to restrict yours. They might have a saver’s mentality. In any event, communication is key to developing a new mutual financial relationship apart from what you were used to.

It’s critical to allow your mate the benefit of the doubt. This person is not those other individuals you had a poor experience with. It is possible to make a financial situation work with another person as long as you let yourself be vulnerable with what’s happened previously and understand your new mate is as invested in having a positive financial future as you are. 

It requires compromise on both sides and could require financial counseling not only to get you both on the same page but to teach you how to set up a mutual, reasonable budget, join your finances effectively, and bring together individual debt successfully if that’s what you choose to do.

13. The kids

If you remarry into a relationship where your new partner has children from their previous marriage, this can sometimes cause a few financial difficulties between couples. It takes a concerted effort to not allow the kids to come between you. In many situations, children are less than happy about a parent remarrying, and can make the situation difficult, resulting in disagreements.

When the kids live with you either part-time or full-time, it’s important to establish some ground rules upfront on how you will share the responsibility of the children and how these expenses will be handled. As a rule, your partner’s ex-spouse will be sharing in the kids’ financial responsibility. 

That typically means medical and dental coverage, school, extracurricular activities, and primary needs. 

In some cases, an ex-spouse doesn’t handle their responsibility well, if at all. That leads to problems in your new marriage because your partner is having to handle the whole financial load causing a strain in your marriage. 

This is a matter of how you see the issue. It doesn’t have to be considered a major problem if you don’t view it in that way. Some new spouses look at it as if this is their new family, choosing to adopt their stepchildren if that’s a possibility. They take on the kids’ financial responsibility without finding it to be a challenge or difficulty. 

Other newly married allow the new financial responsibility to come between their partner and themself, sometimes leading to the relationship not working out. A priority is to avoid letting the kids feel as though it’s their fault or that they’re a burden to anyone.

Conclusion

Money and finances are powerful threats to even the strongest relationship. When you don’t have a strong financial foundation as a couple, the partnership will often have difficulty surviving. In order to develop this base, you have to compromise, openly communicate, and have a solid understanding of your partner’s financial personality. Are they a spender, or do they prefer saving? 

With each of these components aligned, you’ll be better prepared to develop an effective budget, work to merge individual debt, and discern how to come together to achieve your future goals. It’s not easy, it’s not supposed to be, but it’s very possible.

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Sophie Simons

Sophie Simons is a leading psychologist with a passion for enriching relationships. Through empathetic counseling and insightful guidance, she empowers couples and individuals to foster deeper connections, resolve conflicts, and create lasting harmony. Sophie's expertise in relationship advice has touched countless lives, making her a trusted source for building fulfilling partnerships.

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