Good relationships are built on compromise and understanding, but when you and your partner have conflicting attitudes about money, being respectful and patient with one another can be tough. Imagine that you squirrel away every last cent, but your significant other just can’t resist splurging on the newest iPhone (without having a free upgrade, natch). Well, fact remains that neither of you is likely to completely upend your core feelings on finances, so acceptance is the real goal.
Acceptance, though, doesn’t necessarily mean straight-up approval—and it certainly doesn’t mean one of you is “right.” Rather, it’s acknowledging that you harbor different perspectives on an issue that has implications on both of your lives. Before you freak out and mistake the lack of likemindedness for a stop sign in your relationship, just try and deal.
Whether you’re a new couple or a veteran duo, having the Money Talk is tricky—but important things tend to be, right? Keep reading to learn how to get on the same page—or, er, balance sheet—according to experts.
4 tips for have the money talk with your S.O., minus any awkwardness.
1. Make it romantic
Money talk and romance go together like, oh, a visit to the gyno and happy hour. But think about it this way: Finances serve as the foundation for so many tangible life milestones couples can work toward together to make their collective dreams come true. Think: first homes, dream vacations, early retirement.
“When you frame a big money talk around the goals and dreams you want to reach together, it can actually feel romantic,” says certified life coach Ashley Feinstein, founder of The Fiscal Femme. When you align your future financial goals and start working toward them together, staying on the same track becomes easier.
2. Stop being so judgmental
Having different stances on money and spending doesn’t mean an automatic demise for you and your partner. In fact, not aligning on these often very deep-seated views is super common. “Family history, personality traits, and life experiences all dictate how one manages and spends their money,” says psychologist Jude Miller Burke, PhD, author of The Adversity Advantage. “Someone who grew up with parents who were irresponsible with their finances, or [someone] who grew up in poverty may be very conscientious and modest with their own spending habits and have a lot of emotion connected to it,” she says. So, be open to listening and free yourself of judgment before you go in for a heart-to-heart. And keep in mind that your partner’s background is likely a huge part of why you’re so into them in the first place.
3. The limit does exist—so, set a budget
There’s a specific numerical threshold for making your jaw drop when you open a credit card bill and see a surprise purchase from your SO. Hint: It’s the same number that’ll spur an argument when you confront them. Feinstein says an easy way to avoid an ambush is to set a spending limit that applies to you both.
“It’s the amount at which you discuss an expense with your partner before spending it,” she says. “For example, if it’s $100, you agree to discuss any purchases over $100 with each other before making them.” Setting that simple ground rule is like an insurance policy that will eliminate a lot of future stress and surprises.
4. Throw a money party
Getting to a place where you can talk about your hard-earned cash without fighting is a huge accomplishment, but The Talk is not a one-time thing. “Instead of letting your finances take a back seat, create time in your calendar to have biweekly or monthly ‘money parties’ with your partner,” says Feinstein. “I call them parties, so it feels fun. Use the time to reward yourselves while checking in on spending, progress towards joint goals, and crossing any financial to-dos off your lists.”
So, pour some clean wine, put on some mood-boosting tunes, and then follow up the deed with a date night you know you can afford—because you talked it through.
Now that you know why it’s so important to talk money, here are six dos and don’ts for tackling tough financial conversations with your S.O. And here’s the exact salary that makes most people happier.
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