Make a date with your partner to talk about your finances

Love it or loathe it, Valentine’s Day was upon us once again over the weekend. So why not seize the opportunity to chat to your loved one about money?

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With the UK still firmly in lockdown, Valentine’s Day may have looked a little different this year.

But why not make the most of being forced to stay at home this February to strike up a conversation with your loved one about your finances? This could help both you – and your partner – get money calm.

A lot of couples struggle to open up about their finances, which can cause stress and put strain on the relationship, and our tips are aimed at couples who want to start the conversation.

We know not everyone has the opportunity to talk to a partner about their finances, so if you are struggling it’s best to talk to someone you trust, or get some professional advice from organisations like Stepchange and Citizens Advice.

Some couples struggle to talk about money

MoneySuperMarket’s latest research shows that while more than two thirds (68%) of British couples are ‘totally open’ about their finances, and one in five (21%) ‘try to be open,’ others find it a lot harder to chat about cash.

According to the research, more than one in 10 (11%) couples aren’t open about money at all, or avoid talking about it entirely.

London couples struggle the most to discuss their finances

Couples in the West Midlands have the healthiest approach to finances in their relationships, the research found, with nearly three quarters (73%) saying they are ‘totally open’ about their finances. They are followed by couples in the North East and Yorkshire (72%).

At the other end of the scale, those in the capital struggle the most when it comes to conversations about cash, with nearly one in five London-based couples (17%) either avoiding talking about their finances, or considering themselves ‘not open.’ They are followed by couples in the North West (14%).

You are not alone

As these findings show, money is a commonly-cited cause of stress in many relationships.

And even if money isn’t a cause for concern, a difference of opinion and attitudes towards it can cause stress – and ultimately friction – if you can’t agree.

Covid has made things even harder

While money has long been a tricky issue for many couples (which can include things such as keeping secrets, hiding money problems, or telling lies), things have been made even harder over the past 12 months due to Covid.

The pandemic has taken its toll on a lot of us mentally and emotionally, and it has also taken its toll on many people’s finances, too.

Don’t bury your head in the sand

Even though you may be tempted to bury your head in the sand when it comes to money matters – and especially if Covid has left you worse off than you were a year ago – it’s vital to address any issues you have.

You need to talk to your loved one about these worries. That way, you can work out what action needs taking.

Be more open

If you and your partner are struggling with your finances, now is the time to bring everything into the open – and bring things back to basics.

Sit down with your partner and work out the essential bills, how much you have to cover them, and what you have left. Look at ways you can work together to improve things.

By taking this first step, this should hopefully help you feel more in control.

Follow the golden rules

And there are plenty more simple steps you can take to get your finances back on track.

Here are MoneySuperMarket’s eight golden rules to help couples get money calm.

1) Strike up the conversation

While it may feel as though there’s never a good time to tackle your finances with your partner, your best bet may be to seize the moment and open the dialogue. This is especially important if something money-related is troubling you.

Communicating well about money is crucial for the health and happiness of your relationship. You need to establish these conversations as the norm.

2) Set a regular ‘date’ to talk about money

We can always find a reason to put off conversations about money, so get into the habit of making a ‘date’ every month to discuss your joint finances. You could even go so far as to write an ‘agenda’ of matters you need to discuss.

This should include conversations about bills, spending, big purchases you may wish to make, savings goals – and perhaps how to cut back to reach those goals.
Be sure not to shy away from addressing any money worries that either of you have.

That said, you don’t want to feel that this is a date you both dread, so try making it fun. You could have the conversation over dinner with a bottle of wine, as this may make you feel more comfortable and relaxed.

3) Establish some shared goals

A good way to get onto the same page as your partner is by thinking about your hopes and ambitions, and what you’d like to achieve jointly. Open up about your own money priorities for the short, medium and long-term. Let your partner talk about their priorities, and then set realistic targets together.

This might involve you wanting to save for a house deposit or home improvements, or for a big holiday. Equally, it might involve you saving together for a rainy-day fund – or putting money aside regularly for retirement.

With a shared aim, it might be easier to work out how you can reach that goal together. Set the expectations of who is going to contribute what, and work out your own ‘rules’ around your finances.

Understanding what matters to the other person and having common goals can be you in a strong position as a couple.

If you’re single, it’s a good idea to set goals too. By having something to aim for you’ll be much more likely to focus on what you want to achieve and set the money aside.

4) Share the responsibility

In a relationship, it can often fall to one person to manage the day-to-day finances and bills, or to have one person overseeing the budget, or saving for the future.

But rather than having one of you take the brunt of the financial decision-making, talk to your partner about splitting financial chores – such as paying bills, balancing income and expenditure, or building savings.

Having both of you involved can mean you make better decisions.

5) Talk about how to split outgoings

It’s a common feature in many relationships that one partner earns more than another. To avoid either party feeling hard done by or guilty, sit down and discuss how you are going to split the monthly bills, the annual insurance renewals, ad hoc house repairs, and so on.

Decide if you are going to contribute the same amount, or whether you will each contribute a different amount, based on your earnings. Reach a solution that both of you are happy with. And be prepared to re-visit this as and when your circumstances change.

6) Decide together if you want a joint account

As a couple, it can often make sense to have a joint account for shared ‘essential expenses’ such as the mortgage or rent and household bills, and then a separate sole account for your own spending.

But you’ll need to thrash out things such as what counts as an ‘essential’ expense, as opposed to a luxury – and be prepared for the fact you may have differing opinions on this.

Alternatively, you might also want to have money in the joint account for ‘fun’ things, such as dates and weekend breaks and other treats. But once again, you’ll need to agree on what the joint funds can be spent on, so both parties feel things are fair.

7) Understand the implications of a joint account

If you do open a joint bank account, you need to be aware that your credit history – and your partner’s credit history – will become linked.

With this in mind, it’s worth each of you checking your credit report so you can both understand the way lenders see you as a couple.

You also need to think through what will happen to your joint finances if you end up going your separate ways.

For example, you may want to apply to one of the credit reference agencies – TransUnion, Equifax or Experian – for ‘financial disassociation’ to ensure your credit reports are totally disentangled.

8) Don’t be afraid of asking for help

If either you or your partner are struggling financially, it’s important not to hide money concerns from each other. Tell your partner what’s worrying you – or be prepared to listen to what’s troubling your partner – and seek help together. If you’re not in a relationship, talk to someone you trust or seek help

There are also plenty of organisations offering free help, such as Stepchange and Citizens Advice.

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