Budgeting Couples Financial Planning Relationships

How to be Honest with Your Partner about Money

How to be Honest with Your Partner about Money

Talking about money isn’t easy. When it comes to relationships, money is a topic with unique challenges.

Don’t get me wrong – relationships have plenty of other challenges. But we can all agree that money is one of the biggest of them – and certainly at the center of many of the others.

Here’s three common pitfalls to avoid when talking finances with your significant other.

Avoid covert contracts.

What is a covert contract? Think of it this way – it’s rule of engagement that one partner sets, while silently expecting reciprocation. When it comes to relationships, money is not tit for tat. Consider having separate fun money accounts so that you can each enjoy your respective hobbies without restriction.

Decide what money is going to fund your fun money account. $20 per month? Money from a yard sale? Whatever is easiest for you. Personally, I keep the revenue I earn selling books online. I use it to buy a bucket of balls at the driving range, pick up a snack or soda, or have a beer on the weekend with friends.

Talk about boundaries – don’t set invisible ones.

Sometimes, financial boundaries in relationships are like invisible fences for dogs: you don’t know it’s there until you’ve crossed it, and by then you’ve already been shocked.

To avoid these kinds of surprises, talk to each other regularly about your goals. Are you working towards the same ones? If so, then listen to what meeting them means to each other. Finding a common perimeter will become much easier.

Knowing the budget is your responsibility, too.

I joke sometimes that my girlfriend is the budgeter in our relationship. It’s not to say that I don’t keep track of what I’m spending. But by contrast, Lindsey is on our personal favorite budgeting tool, YNAB (You Need a Budget) multiple times per day.

To stay in the loop, Lindsey and I sit down a few times per month (we aim for weekly budgeting dates) to talk about what the next month of expenses look like. I can’t stress how important it is to do this: you need to know who’s getting paid, and when – not just what’s in your account today. The direct path to deep debt is paved by checking your bank account balance and thinking you have that money to spend. Avoid mental accounting – there’s software to do that for you! (Hint: it’ll do a much better job – I’m speaking from experience.) Bottom line: the money might be there today, but it’s both partners’ responsibility to make sure it’s properly put to work before being frivolously spent.

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