For Love and Money – Talking Finances with Your Partner

For Richer, For Poorer

Ah, love. Exciting and new.

So many possibilities. So much chemistry. The whirlwind romance, plans for the future.
Cohabiting, vows, babies — and no, it doesn’t have to be in that order (or at all).

But then there’s the bank account.

Do you have one, or maybe two? Does your partner have one? Should you combine them?
And before you even think about doing anything jointly, have you had that crucial conversation about money?

It’s so easy to fall in love, but why is it so hard to have a heart-to-heart with your amour about finances?

 

To Have and To Hold

Back in the olden days — a respected farmer would trade his eldest daughter in exchange for a decent milk-giving cow. And that was a good deal. Everything she owned (which most likely wasn’t much) would go to her new husband. And she was expected to honor and obey him. Love was not part of the equation. It was all about the money.

Okay, I might’ve just made most of that stuff up. But I’m pretty sure history kind of worked that way regardless.

The groom would get to have everything previously owned by his bride, and hold onto her dowry for “safe keeping”. That’s a lot different than how it works in our current day and age.

 

farm couple - For Love and Money - Talking Finances with Your Partner

 

Most of the time, both parties are earning their own respective paychecks before two become one.
As individuals, you’re managing money, paying bills and (hopefully) budgeting enough for a single person.

Even if you’re a single parent, you still have full control over where your hard earned money is going.

And then you pair up with another person, and the negotiation begins. They say money conflict is the second leading cause for divorce. One person may be a spender, while the other is a saver. Or maybe one partner gets in over his or her  head with bills or credit cards, and tries to hide it from the other half.

There are so many possible money issues that can cause trouble in paradise. Especially if the communication component is not there.

 

We think we know what we’re doin’ / That don’t mean a thing / It’s all in the past now / Money changes everything
– Cyndi Lauper

 

For Better, For Worse

My husband and I have been together for 20 years. And I will be perfectly upfront by saying we started those first few years incredibly poor.

I was one year out of college, and had a small-ish pile of student loans. He was a single dad of two young boys, living in his parents’ basement.

We had high hopes, and low assets. Or no assets, in my case. But we wanted to be a family.

He was living rent-free, but had minimal privacy and issues with daycare. I was living in an apartment and was just getting used to the whole “adulting” thing. Which is funny, because that word didn’t even exist in the 90’s. So I guess I was just learning how to be a “grown up”.

We decided the “smart” thing would be for us to move in together. That way we could split the bills, have a structured home environment for the boys and begin investing in our combined future.

So we bought a condo.

happy home - For Love and Money - Talking Finances with Your Partner

 

It was cheaper than buying a house, wouldn’t require a ton of maintenance and was located in a cute little town with a reputable school district.

Little did we know we’d be in over our heads.

Somehow, in our doe-eyed naive innocence, we’d vastly underestimated all of our bills and accountabilities.

Our condo had electric baseboard heat, and our first winter there was a cold one. Our very first electric bill was $950, just for a single month. Boy, was that an eye opener.

We quickly enrolled in our electric company’s budget billing plan.
And we learned to dress in many, many layers.  

These were days when fast food was considered a luxury purchase. When it came time to pay the bills, there was no budgeting for restaurant or entertainment expenses.

And did I mention the two toddlers we were entirely responsible for? It goes without saying their needs were the priority.

We were just a couple of young kids ourselves — and I had jumped directly into the fire, with an automatic family (something else I will fully admit I was not ready for.)

But somehow, we figured out how to make it work. Or at least we made it out alive, fairly unscathed.

There were some tense moments. Times we didn’t have money to pay the after-school sitter.
Awkward parent-teacher conferences where we were asked if we wanted to apply for financial assistance.

But we got through it.

In Sickness and In Health

Money was always an issue. The constant challenge of how to make our paychecks stretch until the next one came in.

I’d sit down at the kitchen table with our pile of bills and the checkbook.
And I’d slowly work my way through each and every envelope, watching the dollars and cents in our check register dwindle down to practically nothing.

Often times, we’d only have $50 remaining until our next payday.

That was our grocery money.
There was nothing left for anything else.

Ugh. Even now, my stomach is churning just thinking about it.

Back then, I vividly remember stressing about the price of toilet paper.

Yes, toilet paper.

It was more cost effective to buy the big multi-pack. A 12-pack of Angel Soft toilet paper would cost roughly $5.99, sometimes $4.99, if on sale at Walmart.  And that amount stressed me out.

Six whole dollars on one item?? Never mind that it was a necessity.
So I’d make our proposed shopping list, with an estimated dollar amount scribbled next to each item. 

And I’d somehow figure out how we could buy food, plus toilet paper, within our $50 budget.
To last for two whole weeks, until we got paid again.

I remember actually being thankful when Hamburger Helper packets were on sale at 10 for $10.
Ah yes, processed foods — horrendous for your health, but perfect for your pocketbook.

 

To Love and To Cherish

Over the years, we’ve been incrementally increasing our income as both of our careers have grown.

So now we have more of a buffer, and can actually breathe for once.

And because of this, I understand if my husband is hesitant to cut expenses.

We went without for so long, I can see how it now feels we’re “owed” something.

We both are making decent money right now, and he wants to finally enjoy receiving the bounty from all of his hard work.

I get that. I also like to splurge, every once in a while.
This girl would never say no to a spa pedicure — 

But I also know that nothing in life is guaranteed, including our paychecks.

We both survived some massive waves of layoffs over the years with our employer.
Some of our peers were not so lucky.

Isn’t it so much smarter to learn to live on less, and not owe a dime to anybody else?

That is the place where I would like to get to.

Yes, we can afford certain things like car payments, a mortgage, satellite television and a lawn service.

But do we really need those things?

My goal is to be happy with less.

To do something I really love. Which might bring me less income than what I have right now — but I’d be happier and less stressed. I’d have more time to be present, to be thankful, to be alive.

So how do we get there?

That’s the million dollar question.

 

I may not have a lot to give / But what I got I’ll give to you /
I don’t care too much for money, / Money can’t buy me love
– John Lennon / Paul McCartney

 

For All the Days of Our Lives

I wish I had a tidy little ending to this story. I’d love to be able to impart some wisdom, to demonstrate how to get you and your partner on the same financial page.

It goes without saying that communication is key. But even more than that, you need to know where your partner is coming from. Their hopes, their fears; their present and their past.

Because not every love story goes by the book. All relationships are different and unique.
But if you want to create your happily ever after, you’ll need to work for it. And compromise.

 

Well, all my lovelies — do you have any helpful tips or suggestions for me?
Are you and your partner on the same page financially? How did you get there?
If not, how do you maintain a balance?

Hit me up in the Comments —

Robin

Author

10 comments

  1. Even in the very early days of my now 7 month relationship, I could tell me and him would have MAJOR financial differences. He has a steady job, while I’m still struggling to find something. While he spends his spare quarters for arcades, I insert them directly into my savings. (Though I’m at a decent place now, i was in debit card debt for a long time: i’d spend more than I had, even if it was $2, and end up with $35 overdraft fees… In both Checking AND savings! Very glad I’m better with money!)

    1. I’ve totally been there, with the overdraft fees – They sure do find a way to get you! You barely exceed your balance, and then the fees start piling up, one on top of the other. All that money wasted. I’ve definitely learned from that lesson as well!

  2. My wife and I are totally on the same page financially. We have no issues discussing money. We even went over each other’s credit reports and took the Dave Ramsey class before we got married.

    However, I handle all the bills. While I tell her what the bills are and when I pay them, I’ve heard that this can be a bad thing in the event something happens to me. She could possible be left uncertain which bills to pay and how to pay them. It’s definitely something we’re going to have to work on.

    1. Yes, very true — I think that’s where you’d need one of those “in case of emergency” binders. I bought one, but have yet to fill it out — which I know needs to happen sooner rather than later! Because I maintain all of the bills, as well as the associated passwords. A lot of times I’ll get asked “hey hon, what’s my password for such-and-such?” or “which card should I use to buy xyz?” Sharing that knowledge is so important, because as they say, you never know when one of us might be run over by the milk truck (or beer truck, depending on preference)!

  3. Having a partner on the same financial page I think is more of a priority than almost anything else in the path to financial independence/retirement. Looks fade, but behavior doesn’t If you have a saver paired with a spendthrift you will never make any headway.

    When both happen to share the same philosophies such as not living for the moment but instead some sacrifice now to enjoy later, the journey and the end is much more impressive.

    1. Agree 100%! If one side doesn’t meet up with the other, or at least find a happy medium, we’ll constantly be spinning our wheels. And I’ll be the first to admit I’ve made my fair share of horrendous mistakes with money. But yes, we need to get this journey turned around and start heading in the right direction!

  4. When we were first married, my husband spent everything he made. To the point of bouncing checks. I was the total opposite – I saved everything. Over the years he’s come over to my side, but it took him losing his job, and his near death, to really see the value of having money in the bank as opposed to in things. Not necessarily the path I’d recommend.

    1. Liz, I can’t even imagine what your family went through during that time — so heart-wrenching, but glad he is now healthy again!
      Time is a funny thing, how it can change you. When our boys were little, we scrimped and saved (what we could, at least.) Now that they’re pulling in their own paychecks, it’s almost like there’s less of a concern for our own future well-being. I need to convince him that we’re important too. Because we are getting older, and we won’t always be healthy.

  5. 🙂

    This right here…”you need to know where your partner is coming from. Their hopes, their fears; their present and their past.”

    I think to get on the same page financially you have to be on the same page with daily life as well as with each others hopes and dreams…or you’ll always be pulling in opposite directions.

    I have a post that touches on this some – https://lifezemplified.com/strengthen-your-financial-relationship/

    1. Thank you Amy!🙂 That is such a great point – We’ve had multiple conversations about the “someday” scenarios: Like when the kids go off to college, when they graduate, when they finally (if ever) move out, and when we can eventually retire (some time way, way in the future…) But that “every day” discussion is where we definitely fall short. How to get from point A to point B. Thanks for sharing your post – I agree with your points on communication and trust. I need to communicate more, because my husband is almost too trusting. He knows I will make sure all of the bills get paid, but is less concerned with the details.

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