How to solve four common money problems faced by couples

Even at the best of times, relationships can be difficult. Although most of us seek true love and that tale of ‘happily ever after’, it’s a total myth that if you find just the right person to spend your life with, you’ll never experience any conflict.

Even if you are with a very special someone who’s really suited to you, it’s never smooth sailing all the time. But there’s something that really can spell troubled waters for many, many couples:

Money.

Plenty of us have heard of couples that have survived episodes of infidelity, but then fatally stumbled once the arguments about money begin.

In this post, we’re going to discuss some of the most common financial issues that are tackled every day by average couples – and what can be done to make sure these troubled waters are safely navigated back to dry land.

Debt

If one partner is signing up for loans during a relationship that the other then has to pick up the tab for, that’s obviously a breakdown of communication. But whether it’s due to education, cars, credit cards, houses or even gambling, many people actually go into a relationship with some issues relating to debt.

The key to keeping tension about debt to a minimum is to enact a policy of absolute openness and transparency. Speak about it as soon as possible. 

Budgeting & Spending

Budgeting and monitoring spending habits can be a prickly topic for couples. While budgeting is a great idea no matter what financial situation you’re in, two parties don’t often agree how their money should be allocated, spent and saved.

Normally, this is only a major problem if couples completely integrate their finances, but only one side of the bed makes all of the decisions. If it’s a source of major tension, one idea is to keep at least some of the money allocated personally rather than collectively. That way, it might be decided that the mortgage and bills are fairly split, and then some recreational spending is completely at the individual’s discretion.

It’s also important for each partner to recognise that the other’s ‘money personality’ is a fundamental part of who they are.

Income

How much each side of the relationship earns can also cause a lot of trouble, especially in these modern times where equality in the household is important and both sides are chipping in to run the house.

Most of the time, one partner will earn more than the other – and a great source of tension can result from not dealing with that inequality effectively.

As with many of these financial issues, the key is transparency, communication, and honesty – and a willingness to compromise. For instance, if one partner is earning less but doing more housework, it can be agreed that the actual household contribution is therefore pretty equal.

Another way income inequality can be dealt with in an honest relationship is in the weekly budgeting. If the total income split is 60-40, for instance, then maybe the higher earner can take care of a 60% share of the major expenses.

Read: How to handle finances as a couple

Saving

As briefly mentioned earlier, your ‘money personality’ really means a lot. To break it down really simply, you’re probably either a ‘spender’ or a ‘saver’.

But in the honeymoon phase of a relationship, this dynamic might not become clear until later – when the ‘saver’ is spiriting away all the cash, making the budget, and taking over how and when bills are paid and holidays are planned.

Actually, don’t despair: saver/spender relationships can actually be very prone to success, with one side providing the sense and the careful planning for a rainy day, and the other ensuring that some spending on fun things still takes place.

The solution is to compromise, and come to an agreement about what both parties think is a reasonable amount to save and spend every month.

Here at Clover, we’re dedicated to helping Australians like you feel empowered about your money, so take our free financial health check to learn how much you should spend, save and stash in 5 questions.

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Also published on Medium.