If a couple are serious, there comes a point when your finances have to become a little more entwined than who pays for the date. Usually this will happen when you move in together, whether that’s buying or renting a new place. You’ll be paying bills together, so you’ll need to have a good idea of your partner's finances and attitudes to money as they can begin to impact yours.
This can be an awkward conversation because we all have different approaches to money. You might be thriftier than your partner, or you may feel money is there to be spent. How we manage and approach these differences in conversation is something that we need to look at more closely, as many people can feel sensitive about money. You won’t agree on everything, but the key is to work out a compromise.
Staring the conversation
It can feel awkward to be the person to bring it up, but somebody has to, and feeling awkward and accomplishing something is better than just skirting around it and letting it stew. Sometimes bringing up the conversation in a more roundabout way can make it feel less like a serious meeting, and more like a casual ‘check in’ discussion with each other. Maybe a friend is going through a similar financial situation right now, and can be used as a frame of reference, or a starting point for the topic.
Leave judgement at the door
It can be hard to acknowledge that our opinions are just that – opinions. There is no right or wrong in this conversation. Everyone was raised to have a different relationship with money, so it’s important to try to understand where the other person is coming from. Stay away from judgemental, or insulting language, and accusing them of certain spending behaviours, unless they truly need to be addressed. This includes facial expressions.
Try to keep calm
This can turn into an emotional discussion, especially if money is an issue that has come up before. Feeling these emotions is normal, but getting angry or upset can get in the way of the discussion that needs to be had. Try to keep it to clear and logical topics and don’t let it stray to the emotional end of things.
Give them room to speak
Your partner will have as many opinions and stances on this topic as you do. Even though you my be the one bringing it up, this is likely something that they’ve thought about a lot too, so they need room to express those opinions alongside yours. Remember you are on the same team here, so interrupting one another isn’t helpful to anyone.
This is not the moment to bring other issues in the relationship up. If the conversation isn’t going your way, or it’s getting emotional, now is not the time to bring up issues like an unequal chore load, or old grievances. Keep to the topic at hand and try to keep emotion out of it.
Get on the same page
Discuss both of your spending habits, build a better understanding of where the other person in coming from. Keeping the channels of communication open is essential. Your opinions may differ and will depend on your financial situation. One or other of you may not currently be working, one of your incomes may be larger than the other’s. When it comes to spending, saving and sharing, it’s important to be on the same page, and discuss openly how the details of that will work. Money Advice Services (UK) have this handy list of starter questions to get the conversation going and getting a good sense of where you and your partner agree and disagree:
- Do you prefer to live for today?
- Are you confident in managing money?
- Do you think it’s important to keep track of income and expenditure?
- Do you like to shop around to make money go further or to buy on impulse?
- Are you open to discussing money?
- Do you feel it’s important to adjust non-essentials when life changes?
- Do you ask for help with your money?
If you’re working towards buying a place together or growing your savings, it’s important to have milestones to work towards, both long term and short term. If you have an end in sight, it makes the decisions along the way easier. If that end goal is kept in mind, then it will impact your in-the-moment spending choices. Plus, you’ll be on the same page about where you’re going with your finances and most importantly, what is important to both of you, whether that’s travelling, children or buying real estate.