Girl bands of the '90s seemed to have a lot of suggestions when it came to how to talk to your partner about money, with songs like TLC's "Scrubs" and Destiny's Child's "Bills, Bills, Bills." Seriously, if all it took were a coordinated dance routine and a midriff-baring leather top, I bet we'd all be a lot more eager to bring up this topic.
The truth is, though, no one wants to risk offending their partner or making things awkward by talking about money. This becomes increasingly urgent if you and your partner are thinking of moving in together or getting married in the future, but it's worth talking about long before you get to that point.
Even if you and your partner aren't that serious, you probably still go on a handful of dates each month that cut into your spending. Problems arise when you disagree on how much you should be spending on the relationship each month, who should pay for your dates, and how you can each maintain control of your personal budget.
Unfortunately, Nicki Minaj is done paying off random college students' student loans, so the rest of us have to come up with alternative ways to finance our futures. The first step? Getting real about money with your partner.
How Can You Tell If Money Is Becoming An Issue Between You And Your Partner?
A good way to assess the financial stability of your relationship is to ask yourself how sustainable your financial future would be with your partner, based on its current state. Ideally, you should feel comfortable knowing that you and your partner will be able to support your lifestyle for the duration of your relationship.
"Any financial behavior that makes you uncomfortable — whether it's your partner constantly leaving you to pick up the check or you charging nights out to your credit card that you know you can't afford — has the potential to become an issue between you and your partner," millennial money expert and author of The Broke And Beautiful Life, Stefanie O'Connell, tells Elite Daily. In both situations, one partner feels like their financial contributions to the relationship have been stretched thin and the other person doesn't seem to care to pitch in. If you or your partner feels anxious when it's time to plan a trip together or pay the bill after dinner, money is already an issue in your relationship.
Tonya Rapley, founder of My Fab Finance, adds that a more explicit problem might be catching your partner in lies about their finances. For example, if your partner agrees to pay for half of your upcoming vacation, but backs out at the last minute, claiming they never agreed to spend that much, they probably have financial concerns of their own that they aren't sharing with you, which means it's time to have the talk.
How Can You Initiate A Conversation About Money With Your Partner Without Offending Them?
Honestly, talking about money with your partner might be even more awkward than talking about what you want to try in bed. But Lesley-Anne Scorgie, personal finance expert and author of The Modern Couple's Money Guide: 7 Smart Steps to Building Wealth Together, says it's as simple as asking, "Hey, do we have a budget this week?" and if you do, following that up with, "Are we on-budget for this week?" Both questions prompt your partner to reevaluate your spending habits as a couple and, hopefully, be more conscious of what you spend your money on throughout the rest of the week.
If this approach seems too direct, you can start by mentioning how hard you've been working to save up for your next trip away or to be able to pay off your student loans after graduation. This way, you're letting your partner know that you want to be more responsible about how much money you're spending and on what. "The easiest sign that you're not compatible is whether or not the person you're dating is respectful toward you and your personal, financial priorities," says Scorgie.
If they don't quite catch on, invite them to try out some of your simple saving techniques, like agreeing to stay in for dinner a few nights every week. An aptly-timed invitation to be more financially responsible seems more like a thoughtful gesture on your part as opposed to a complaint or accusation about their spending habits, which is what you want to avoid.
What Are Some Solutions You Can Come Up With Together To Address Your Concerns About Money?
All couples in committed relationships should establish a money-management plan, even if it's as simple as agreeing not to spend more than a certain amount on any given activity each week. Naturally, this plan will look a little different according to what stage of your relationship you're in.
"If you're not serious with each other yet, set parameters and expectations for the types of dates you'll go on and what's expected of each partner [as far as their financial contributions go]," says Rapley. The couple who enjoys attending music festivals together might agree to splurge on one out-of-state festival per semester, while settling for cheaper, local concerts in the interim months.
Once your relationship becomes more serious and you develop more joint financial responsibilities (like purchasing gifts for friends), Rapley recommends scheduling casual money talks so you can "check in with each other to ensure that your romantic and financial goals are still aligned."
Try downloading personal-planning apps like Mint and YNAB that you can use as a couple to help you come up with a system. Both apps allow you to allocate a budget for spending categories, like dining out and having fun — the two most important activities in any relationship, right?
Remember that both partners should be committed to maintaining your mutual financial goals. The sooner you resolve your money issues, the sooner you can get back to having fun together by planning cute at-home dates and brainstorming DIY gifts for your next holiday together.
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