It might come as no surprise that money can have a surprising effect on your love life, which the TD Bank Love and Money 2016 survey recently found. Whether you’re single, just started dating your partner or have been married for decades, your finances will impact your current and future relationship — either negatively, positively or a little bit of both.
If you’re having a hard time staying on budget or your partner has a different spending style than yours, you might already have encountered a few money disagreements. Luckily, there are some strategies you can use to resolve some of the discord and avoid money arguments in the future. Here are some crucial lessons you and your significant other should learn if you want to stop money from ruining your relationship.
1. Have the money talk regularly.
It’s important to have a strong dialogue about money — and to have it often. The TD Bank survey found that a whopping 78 percent of respondents in relationships who discuss money at least once a week are happy. So, it might not be a bad idea to apply this strategy to your own relationship.
“Couples who share their feelings about money and disclose what they make, how they spend and what they want to save for,aren’t just sharing money information,” said April Masini, a relationship expert and author. According to Masini, these couples are also sharing their feelings and goals, which is essentially the “building blocks for relationships.”
Talking about money with your partner might feel uneasy or awkward, but bite the bullet and just do it. Consider having a weekly check-in to review your financials together. That way, you can make a financial plan you can both live with and agree to. Set goals together, and keep tabs on your progress so both parties stay motivated to stick with the plan.
2. Keep accounts separate … or not.
The TD Bank survey also revealed 58 percent of couples have at least one shared back account, and nearly half of couples — 47 percent — also share at least one credit card.
If you’re still unsure about splitting your accounts with your significant other or wondering if it’s time to open up some joint accounts, it might be time to have the money talk. During the talk, consider the pros and cons of sharing accounts, money and credit cards.
For example, sharing a joint bank account comes with some great perks. A joint checking account might mean having to deal with fewer checking account fees, and it might make it easier to manage your cash flow. And more importantly, it can help you budget and save for shared goals, helping you become closer as a couple in the process.
“Money is a great commonality,” said Masini. “And when couples feel that they’re a team, sharing success and failures, they bond more closely.”
Then again, if your partner has terrible money habits, such as blowing through cash too quickly or taking out credit cards, you might want to postpone merging your finances until he or she develops better habits.
Determine whether you and your partner can handle the responsibility of managing shared accounts while staying on budget, or if it’s better that each person has their own account and credit card.
3. Be transparent about your spending.
Overspending is the No. 1 financial deal breaker for couples, found a GOBankingRates.com survey, which released earlier this year. A close second is being secretive about finances.
Being open and honest about your spending habits might not be easy for your partner — or you — but it’s necessary to keep your relationship together. After all, the last thing you want to do is commit financial infidelity.
“Financial infidelity is a big deal breaker in relationships,” said Masini. “Keeping secret purchases and transactions doesn’t instill trust, and it makes the person who finds out these secrets feel there are other secrets yet to be found.”
So, keep the lines of communication open, and hold each other accountable for your bank account balances, credit card spending and purchasing decisions. Encourage communication, and be prepared to confess any bad spending decisions you make in your relationship.
4. Share your financial differences.
It’s inevitable that you and your partner will have different views about money, including how it should be spent, saved and managed. But instead of keeping these viewpoints bottled up, share them with each other — or else suffer the consequences.
Relationship coach Jodi Schuelke pointed out how there might be a situation where one person has no interest in being part of managing money, but then gets upset when there’s a money crisis. She said to watch for “retaliation spending” — a shopping spree prompted by an argument or disagreement.
You can avoid a situation like this by just communicating. Be open and honest about your financial differences. If one person is a compulsive spender, and the other is more conservative, acknowledge these different money personalities and find a common ground that you can both feel comfortable with.
5. Talk about your personal relationship with money.
Everybody has their own personal relationship with money, whether it’s a positive one or a destructive one. If you grew up in a home where money was never a problem, for example, you might not have the fear of going broke as you get older. However, if you grew up poor or you have faced bankruptcy at some point in your life, that fear of not having enough might be driving some of your spending decisions today.
“Often, people mimic what they saw their parents do,” said Masini. “So if someone was raised by a stay-at-home mom, they may find value in that way of life — while others feel that parents should work and children should enjoy daycare. There is no right or wrong, but commonality — or lack of it — can mean the difference between success and a breakup.”
Knowing about your and your partner’s personal relationship or attitude toward money can make it easier to communicate and come to a resolution when discussing a money decision or an upcoming purchase.
6. Do your financial planning together.
Whether you’re putting together a retirement plan, thinking about buying life insurance, considering having kids or wanting to move into a bigger house, you’ll need a financial plan in order to make those important decisions with your partner.
For example, do you plan on having kids with your significant other? If so, you’ll want to sit down as a couple and list out all of the financial factors to figure out if you can afford to have a baby right now. You might find that you need to get a higher-paying job in order to afford child care expenses. Or, you might realize that you both should plan on moving into a bigger house to accommodate more people. That would likely require setting up a savings plan so you can afford a down payment on a mortgage.
If coming up with a financial plan on your own is too difficult, make an appointment for you and your partner to sit down with a financial advisor. A professional can help you review all of your options and teach you about the different plans and financial products that would benefit you and your partner in the long term.
7. Manage anger and frustration constructively.
Arguing over money could lead to the disintegration of your relationship. “Fights over money are epic, and divorces over not enough money are standard operating procedure, sadly,” said Masini.
But whether your partner has lost their job or you’re both just struggling financially to make ends meet, it’s still important to keep your relationship on an even keel during those difficult times. Don’t let your anger or frustration get the best of you. If you say something or do something exceptionally cruel, it might be hard for your relationship to bounce back.
Instead, recognize that there’s a money situation that needs to be dealt with. Then, address the problem constructively and work on solving the problem so you can move forward.
8. Look at money conflicts as an opportunity for improvement.
Even though fighting about money can be an emotionally charged event, and you might be tired of the ongoing disputes, consider shifting your perspective about what these conflicts really mean. DaveRamsey.com encourages couples to see fighting as normal and understand that these conflicts can be an opportunity to improve this area of the relationship.
A conflict can only occur when both parties have opposing viewpoints, so this is a great time to figure out each other’s money personality, as well as talk about your personal relationship with money.
9. Remember your future depends on today’s financial decisions.
Maybe you can live with your partner’s frugal spending habits or you’ve just accepted the surprises of a shopping spree showing up on your credit card statements. Whatever the case might be, it’s important to recognize that the strongest spending habits will dictate your future.
For example, let’s say your partner has a bad credit score because they have limited available credit and tend to pay credit card and household bills late. If that’s the case, it might make it hard for your partner to get any type of loan, which means you might feel the need to help by cosigning a loan. But perhaps your partner’s bad money habits haven’t improved and they default on the loan — how will that affect your finances? It could cause your personal credit score to fall as well.
The bottom line: Make sure you’re 100 percent on board with your partner’s money habits and spending style. Your future depends on the financial decisions you make today, so when it comes to spending and saving, a healthy balance should be a high priority.
10. Exercise some freedom with the budget.
At the same time, setting too many restrictions on spending or trying to work with a complicated budget can make the entire process of managing finances as a couple a frustrating one. Give yourself some liberties with certain expenses so you can both enjoy your hard-earned money while keeping yourself on track with your financial goals.
Remember that your budget is just a spending plan to help you prioritize your cash flow based on your personal goals. Whatever the purchase ends up being, you don’t need to fight about the finances — as long as you stay within your spending limits or budgeted amount.
Sydney Champion contributed to the reporting for this article.