Last month, I showed you specific steps toward the big money discussions. Now it’s time to talk about the small, daily talks that should also be happening. My husband and I have always been pretty open about money, but we didn’t really talk about it regularly when we were both in grad school and poor. We mostly just dealt with making sure we had enough to pay our bills. Then we determined to get out of debt. Once that process started, our infrequent talks about money became almost daily occurrences. At this point, we probably briefly discuss some aspect of our financial picture at least every other day.
When it comes to couples and money, landmines lie ahead, unless you both approach it with the right attitude. Here are my five tips for a peaceful transition from financial separation to daily chats:
Don’t Be Defensive
If you’re used to spending your own money and managing your own money, it might feel weird to “get permission” for a purchase, but don’t be defensive. Once you realize that you’re both working toward a goal, it’s easier to be open with your reasoning. Explain why you want something, how much it costs, and when you want to get it. If your partner disagrees, listen openly to the reasoning. It could be that the purchase can wait, or it might be that you need to find room in the budget for it.
Start by reviewing the last month’s spending and income. Again, no judgment. Don’t demand to know what your partner spent $20 on lunch or $50 on pants. Just review the categories and discuss anything that seems high.
Check the Budget Regularly
When we were first married, I would frequently check the budget because it felt weird to not know my daily balance all the time. At first, my husband would tease me about it and I got embarrassed, so I started sneaking peaks when he wasn’t home. Now he regularly asks for my input and I feel comfortable reviewing it anytime.
Offer Regular Updates on Your Progress/Expenses
Your updates don’t have to be long, drawn-out conversations. It can be a simple comment in passing. Something like, “We’re going to be able to pay an extra $100 toward our student loans this month.” Or, “We have to set aside $300 for my sister’s wedding next month.”
Make Money a Part of the Conversation
After you’ve gotten used to casual updates and checking the budget regularly, you’ll probably notice that money discussions become a part of your everyday discussions, without stress or anger. At that point, you’ll also be on the same page about your goals, aware of your income, and aware of your expenses. You won’t need to have long sit-down talks because they’ll arise organically out of discussions for other things. You’ll say, “I just sent the wedding RSVP. I’m going to buy a gift tomorrow. I’ll probably spend a $100. What do you think?” Your partner will agree or disagree, and then the matter will be settled as you move on to other things.
Start small by just talking about what you spent today if you’re not used to being open about money. Over time, those conversations will become just a part of your relationship, and your relationship will be the better for it.