You’ve found the one you love and have decided to get married. But while making plans for your shared life, you and your soon-to-be spouse discover that one of you is a spender and the other a saver. Luckily, there are ways to manage joint finances that will leave both partners happy. Here are some tips to help you successfully navigate your way to financial agreement.
Talk About Your Feelings Toward Money
Much of our approach to money is emotional: Money may make you feel anxious or excited, and managing it may fill you with calm or dread. Take some time before you get married to explore how you feel about money and why. Did you grow up in a household where money was tight—or one where you never had to worry about where it was coming from? Your upbringing will have a strong impact on your feelings toward money, and your future spouse may not always see things from the same perspective.
Consider a "mad money" line in your budget so each of you has some cash you can spend as you please.
If you understand the source of your own and your spouse’s point of view regarding money, you’ll be better able to empathize and communicate compassionately if you disagree on a financial issue.
Discuss How You’d Like to Spend Your Money
One partner may value designer clothes while the other might have an expensive hobby. You both may love to travel, want to own a home, or retire early. If you and your partner spend time discussing each of your desires, you will likely find some overlap. If you plan to save for the things you want together, then spend the money on an item or experience you both really value, you and your partner will walk away from the purchase happy.
In addition to saving and spending for fun activities, it’s imperative that you and your partner devise a budget together. The key word here is together: It is a negotiation, and if both partners sign on, you will have a solid plan for discretionary spending and how much to save for long-term financial goals, such as retirement. You can reassess the plan later if it isn’t working, but having an initial budget provides each partner with acceptable guidelines to build upon. Rather than wondering if you should buy the $50 jeans or splurge for the $150 pair, for example, you will know what's within your budget and head off a disagreement over your spending.
Budget for Unrestricted Spending
Consider adding a “mad money” line to your list of expenses. Pay your bills, save for emergencies and long-term goals as agreed upon, then give each of you a set amount of money to spend on whatever you wish. If you want a piece of jewelry or the very best headphones, go ahead and buy it—but only with your share of the “mad money,” not with the household money or out of your emergency fund.
The spender will have the freedom to buy whatever, and the saver can stash or invest their funds and won’t have to worry about not having enough set aside for a rainy day.
Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Professional Help
Whatever you do, don’t lie to your significant other about your spending or try to hide anything. If you feel you can’t be honest about money with your spouse, that just means you haven’t come up with a plan that works for you as a couple.
If you’re having trouble agreeing on a budget or a plan, visit a professional financial planner together for assistance in making a budget that will work for your relationship. Financial planners are not emotionally invested in your finances and will be able to help you decide whether that beach vacation, say, is affordable or a splurge you should pass on this year.
The Bottom Line
Savers and spenders in love can be a beautiful thing, so long as both partners have agreed to a plan and a budget and are able to stick to it. If one plan does not work for the two of you, try another. Financial planning is meant to make your lives easier, so make a plan and enjoy your marriage!