Live With A Partner? Here's The Money Talk You Should Make Part Of Date Night
For many couples, talking about money can be tricky. But if you live together or share any finances, it's essential to have consistent check-ins about where you are dollar-wise to be sure you're on the same page. Being open about money with your sig-o will help your relationship—and it doesn't have to be that serious or scary.
Taking what I like to call a "financial selfie" every once in a while can keep you on track. These can be done weekly or monthly, depending on your financial situation. Throw on some upbeat music, maybe pour two glasses of natural wine, and go over the following essentials:
How to take a financial "selfie" with your partner.
Keep tabs on all household expenses.
If you live with your partner, it pays to formally discuss who is paying for what at least once. Write down all of your combined household expenses (rent, utilities, groceries, pet costs, etc.) using a shared Google doc or spreadsheet. Note all the combined expenses in one column, how much you spend on each per month in another column, and who pays for what in a third column (including what is a shared expense or comes out of a shared account).
Save this doc so you can revisit as needed, making sure to go over it together after any significant additions in the household (say, getting a new pet) or changes in salary.
Be real with yourselves about housing costs.
Ideally, housing expenses shouldn't exceed 35 percent of your monthly income, whether you're living on one income or two. (On that note, I recommend reserving 70 percent of your individual take-home pay for your essentials like rent, food, etc.; 15 percent toward "end game" retirement and savings; and 15 percent toward fun stuff like shopping and nights out.) If your financial selfie reveals a higher percentage, it's a good time to discuss how that affects the rest of your budget. For example, is your housing pricey but located close to your job so you can save on transportation? If so, look at shifting some of the money budgeted for transportation into housing.
Set on staying where you are (even if rent is coming out to more than 35 percent) but aren't saving money in other areas? Then it's time to look at where you can cut back to accommodate your home's steep price tag. This might mean dining out only a couple of times a month vs. a couple of times a week. Be honest with each other about the fact that while luxurious meals out are great every once in a while, they can add up fast and get in the way of your other financial goals.
Ask how your groceries can go the distance.
Spending tons of money at Costco since you're now shopping for more than one? You may think you're saving big, when really that just means there's a more significant chance you're wasting food. Maybe a farm-share from a local farm is a better fit right now? Forgetting to plan out grocery trips and ordering in way more than you should be? Make a plan to go together once a week to make sure your moola is being spent wisely.
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Find the cracks where money is slipping through.
Weekly and monthly subscriptions can add up quickly, especially the ones that are $5 here, $9 there. Are you and your partner getting the most out of your Hulu subscription, or do you pretty much only watch Amazon Prime? Is that monthly wine box worth it, or would getting a box of wine do the trick while saving you $50?
From there, you can decide if you want to open a joint account.
After you figure out who is responsible for what, you might want to consider starting a small joint account for household staples. Think of it like "What's mine is yours, what's yours is yours, and what's mine is mine." Here's how to break it down:
"Yours" will include your partner's personal discretionary expenditures (aka fun stuff, like workout classes, clothing, etc.) and personal debt, like credit card and student loans.
"Mine" will include your discretionary expenditures and personal debt, like credit card and student loans.
"Ours" will include all household expenditures, like rent, utilities, car maintenance, groceries, pet supplies, etc. It also includes shared debt, like a mortgage or a car loan.
This is an excellent time to discuss how much you'll each be contributing from your separate paychecks and who will take the lead on paying those bills. When deciding how much you're both putting into the "ours" account, remember that everything doesn't have to split 50/50 necessarily. If you're bringing home a bigger paycheck than your partner, but they're better about weekly cleaning and laundry, maybe it makes sense for you to be putting a little more toward rent since they're pulling their weight in other ways.
Making sure to stick to what's "yours and mine" will help the household run more efficiently as no one has to wonder why you're $40 short for pet food that month.
Things come up, and they will...that's just part of the crazy world that is love (and money). I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Money is the No. 1 reason couples fight. But if you're being proactive and consistently checking in on your household finances frequently, it's pretty simple to keep things running smoothly. music to every couple's ears.
Nicole Lapin is the New York Times bestselling author of Rich Bitch and Boss Bitch and the host of the CW’s business reality competition show “Hatched”. She recently launched the online personal finance course The Money School, and her third book, Becoming Super Woman, is due September 2019.