When you decide to move in together or get married, your finances suddenly become someone else’s concern. While plenty of couples choose to maintain separate bank accounts, communication and honesty about finances is also an important part of maintaining trust. As you build a life together, these tips will help you design a household budget that works for both of you. A good budget contains both short- and long-term goals. It should be flexible and easily adjustable to meet your needs and reflect any changes to your income. Learning how to maintain a budget as a couple helps strengthen your relationship and lay the framework for your future together.
Start Talking About Money Early
How much do you each earn and spend per month? There’s no room for secret debts when you’re sharing a budget with someone. Be open with your partner about how much you make, how much you owe and what your current strengths and weaknesses are. Overspending, having too many credit cards or falling behind on bills can quickly unravel a household and relationship if left unchecked. Set a budgeting plan before you start sharing an income or paying bills together. Your plan should include:
- Your separate and combined living expenses such as rent, car payments, health insurance and bills.
- Personal subscriptions and spending money.
- Savings contributions per person per month.
- Have Shared and Personal Goals
A happy couple should share a life but still respect each other’s individuality. This means setting up a budget that reflects your ambitions as both people and a couple. Figure out how much you want to put into your personal savings account each month, and match or adjust that to suit your shared goal. Stay on top of your progress using a mobile app, which can set reminders and automatically update you on any changes to an account. Have frequent discussions about your plans, and let your partner know if you make any changes. You still have full autonomy over your finances, but sharing a life with someone means keeping them in the loop.
Whoever earns more may handle larger expenses, or you could decide to split your contributions 50/50. Whatever works best for you is fine so long as both partners are happy with the arrangement. No one should be forced to sit on the sidelines while their higher-earning partner pays for everything, nor should someone be burdened with shouldering the bulk of a household’s costs. Contribute what is both reasonable and doable for your respective income levels; some couples keep their bills largely separate while others go in half and half. As long as you set clear guidelines and expectations from the beginning, you can avoid misunderstandings and unintentional financial mishaps.
Start Saving Where You Can
Long-term savings are built through commitment, practice and good financial choices. Identifying areas you can save the most over time is one essential financial skill every adult needs. Think about places you’re paying more than you have to. One of the most common is car loans. Refinancing your car loan can lower your interest rate and reduce monthly payments. You’ll likely have to pay less per month and save more on the remaining balance. The process is straightforward and looks something like this:
- Submit a short application. No credit pulls or changes are made to your current loan.
- Receive free quotes for lower rates.
- Examine your potential savings over time for each offer.
- Choose an offer that works for you, and get approved in a day or less.
This process can work for one or both of your vehicles to produce lower rates and a better budget. Review and discuss each option together before settling on ones that work for your current budget and long-term savings goals.
Revisit Your Budget Each Month
Set aside a time every month to pay bills, go over your expenses and review your current budget. Money talks may not be the most enjoyable to have, but they can be productive to both your household and relationship. Making space to talk about your budget together will also give you an opportunity to address any changes, concerns or thoughts that you might otherwise avoid bringing up. Think about different categories of your budget, and always cover the most essential subjects first, i.e. your mortgage, car payments, insurance, etc. Budgeting together this way will help you prioritize money in your relationship without making it a source of stress or conflict, not to mention being able to set yourself up for success with your future nest egg.