The INSIDER Summary:
- When working out who pays for what in your relationship, the key is communication.
- Make a plan that works for both of you and be honest about what you want.
- Set goals and make sure you’re both contributing.
Couples get into arguments about everything under the sun. From liking a hot person’s Instagram photos to the ending of “How I Met Your Mother” (my boyfriend loved it because he is wrong), there seems to be no topic off limits to quarreling couples.
Far and away the most common subject couples fight about is money. A study by SunTrust Bank found that 35% of couples cited monetary issues as the primary cause of stress in their relationship.
Luckily, with a little help, you can mange money conversations at any stage of your relationship.
When you start dating, anything goes.
The dreaded reach for the check on a first date has been a topic of conversation since the beginning of dating. And while it’s long been considered normal in heterosexual relationships for the man to pay on the first date, that’s no longer true in modern society.
For a first date, it’s safe to assume the person who initiated the date will pay. If you still feel more comfortable offering to pay or going Dutch on the bill, feel free to go for that wallet reach even if you were the one invited out.
When you’re in a new relationship, find a system that works for you.
When you begin dating someone more seriously, it’s not exactly fair that one person continues to take on the expenses of each and every date.
Once you’re an established couple, find a system that works for you. If you or your partner are comfortable splitting each expense 50/50, so be it. For others who are in a relationship with a substantial gap in salary, it may be worth discussing a pay-what-you-can model, Michelle Brownstein, director of private client services at Personal Capital, told INSIDER.
“There are a number of different ways to split up expenses once you’re in a serious relationship — there isn’t one way that is right for everyone,” she said. “I think that paying for dates and activities proportionally to what each person earns in income can work well from a financial standpoint. However, the key to any arrangement equally splitting, proportionally splitting, or one person paying all the time is communication.”
When moving in together, it’s time to have a serious talk.
Once your relationship progresses, your conversations about money should, too. When you move in together, you’ll inevitably have more expenses that you share and simply attempting to keep track of it in your head won’t work.
First, plan out how you’ll be splitting expenses — couples do this 50/50 or based on income. Next, find out who will be in charge of putting what in their name (rent, utilities, etc.) and how the other person will be paying them for their share.
Apps like Venmo or your bank’s payment applications are a good start because they allow you to keep a digital record of who paid what to whom. But if you want to take your money organization skills even further — and you should — there are plenty of tools to help you.
Consider downloading an app like Splitwise that will allow you to punch in what someone owes you or what you’ve paid them. It will keep a running tally, which can prevent owed payments from slipping your mind.
Or if you’re really committed to a low-tech solution, you can’t beat a whiteboard on your fridge.
When you’re married or in a long-term partnership, you should be completely open with your finances.
The biggest thing to keep in mind when you’re fully committed to someone is communication, and discussions about money should be no different. Discuss with your partner how you’ll be splitting up bills, if you’re okay with a joint bank account, and how you’ll view “your money.” Don’t hide your finances from them and be as open as possible.
Inevitably, you’re going to differ a bit when it comes to your relationship with money and that’s fine, said Brownstein. Just be sure you put your compromising and communication skills to the test.
“If one of you is a major saver and the other spends every dollar they make, you’ll need to communicate and likely compromise to some degree so one person doesn’t feel like they’re doing all the work for long term financial stability,” she said.
And whatever you do, don’t keep money secrets.
“The other component here is not keeping secrets,” Brownstein went on. “For example, if you have significant credit card debt and don’t share that with your partner, this could have long term consequences. Aside from having to keep a secret, your ability to qualify for a loan (like a mortgage) in the future may be harmed by your debt. Be open and honest so there are no surprises down the line.”
When planning for your future, make a concrete plan.
In the same vein, you should have a serious talk about your financial goals. Find out what each of you wants to save for down the line — be it a private school education for your kids, a new home, or a trip to Hawaii — and make a concrete plan to get you both there.
Whatever you want, remember that your partner is here for you and that you should both be working together once you’ve established that goal.
“Don’t force your goals on your partner and don’t try to control them,” Brownstein said.
“Work together instead of working against each other,” she continued. “Additionally, if you need someone to help you set goals, work with a financial planner to help focus the conversation.”
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