Relationships and money: how to avoid financial disagreements

By Liam Thomson 22 October 2019 3 min read

When it comes to relationships and money, there is often an awkward tension when bringing up finances as a topic of conversation. Talking about money can result in disagreements, especially if left until a problem arises. Establishing your general guidelines and how you approach financial conversations can be a crucial skill for any relationship you’re in.

How much you earn, save, spend and invest can all have a large effect on your personal finances, as well as your partners. So, what happens when you start getting involved with a significant other and your finances start becoming a topic of discussion?

To avoid awkward conversations and beating around the bush, here are four easy tips that could help set you and your partner in the right direction when it comes to your finances.

1. Talk openly about money

Being frank about your personal money story can be daunting, but it doesn’t need to be that way. Like other personal topics you might talk to your significant other about, money should be no different.

The first step is acknowledging that money is personal and people can be sensitive about it. Not everyone has made smart decisions when it comes to money and describing them out loud can be kind of like a confession.

Listen to your partner if they find money difficult to talk about. And if that’s you, trust your partner to hear you out.

When the time feels right, discuss how as a couple you can put your finances to use. This might mean setting up a savings plan, opening a joint account (see tip #4), or being more aware of how you spend your money (separately or together).

Making time to sit down and review this every month or two can keep you on track and help avoid future financial disagreements.

2. Have goals, together

Breaking goals down into short, medium and long term sets the tone for how long it will take you to save in the first place. Consider prioritising the most important goals for your shared financial future. This could mean paying down credit card debt, buying a car, or even buying a house. It’s also a good opportunity to discuss any negative money habits you each might have.

From there, you can work back to nearer term goals (such as holidays or a new phone), diverting funds into separate savings pools from your long-term goals.

3. Spending limits

One of the most important things to remember when it comes to money etiquette in a relationship can be understanding how your individual finances contribute to a larger, joint financial goal.

Talk to your partner and consider a weekly or monthly spending limit that you can each use toward anything. This allows you to both have freedom when it comes to spending individually, outside of your usual budgeting.

Spending limits are there to help prevent you or your partner straying too far off track. Be transparent and feel comfortable enough to voice any concerns about yours or your partner’s spending habits.

That said, if you don’t feel comfortable instilling a cap on your spending, making an agreement to discuss any purchase over a certain amount could build up a healthy level of trust.

4. Open a joint account

This one is sure to put some people off, but hear it out.

When it comes to everyday spending (groceries, rent, bills, etc) having a joint account can be a simple and effective way to mitigate problems down the track. If you have trouble tracking who spent money on what purchases or keep a multi-page spreadsheet tracking spending down to the cent, chances are a joint account could be super helpful.

However, it works for you, both you and your partner could decide to transfer a fixed amount into the account each pay cycle. This would be enough to cover all the above-mentioned costs, with some spare change.

Sharing an account doesn’t have to be anything more than a way to share the financial costs associated with your shared spending. This can help avoid sticky situations when it comes to important bills that need paying and keeps an easy to refer to ledger on who has or hasn’t contributed.

In all, making sure you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to finances can be critical to avoiding financial disagreements. Ensure your money etiquette is respectful no matter your financial circumstances. Money and relationships can be make or break, so try to work together as a team in achieving your financial goals.

Relationships and money: how to avoid financial disagreements