Whether you’re married, in a civil partnership or a serious long-term relationship, managing your finances as a couple can be a difficult thing to do – at least, without having an argument every time one of you of raises the subject!
While there’s no right answer (as every couple and circumstance is different), you might find our tips for managing joint finances are a great place to start – and they could just help you avoid some of those possible headaches in the future.
To join or not to join?
Pooling together your financial resources into one joint account can make budgeting easier and streamline your finances, with both partners being able to see all incomings and outgoings.
If you’re considering merging both of your accounts, first make sure that you have similar financial styles and approaches to money. You may love your other half dearly, but if one of you is a super saver and the other is a secret splurger, then running everything from a joint account may not be the best option for you.
If you take the plunge with a joint account, it’s a good idea to agree a spending limit between you; whether it’s £50, £100 or £500, establishing a spending threshold means that if one of you wants to buy something above that amount, you’ll both have to agree to it first.
Find a compromise
If one joint account feels too risky, or if one of you has a poor credit history, you might wish to compromise by keeping your own accounts and opening a joint one that you both automatically pay into on payday.
The money in your joint account can be spent on collective expenses – such as rent or mortgage, food and bills – leaving your individual accounts free for spending on those all too important extras – like nights out with your friends or that new gadget you’ve had your eye on.
Avoid a power struggle
It’s often the case that one partner will earn more than the other, so keep in mind that 50/50 isn’t always the fairest method when it comes to using a joint account. Instead, you might want to work out how much you pay each month in relation to income – if one partner earns twice as much, for example, they can afford to pay a bit more into the joint account towards the rent or mortgage.
It’s important that both of you are happy with the final arrangement, to avoid disagreements down the line. Regrettably, 40% of Relate counsellors* say that more couples are splitting up than two years ago, with money worries being cited as the main cause.
Create a budget
The only way to avoid getting into debt and ensure that you have enough money to save for your future goals is to create a monthly budget – and stick to it! This may sound obvious, but it’s much harder to keep to a budget with two people’s spending to keep in check.
Review your joint expenses over the past few months to determine how much you’ve been spending, and whether that amount is too much. Once the essentials have been accounted for (such as rent or mortgage, bills, loans), you can look at other monthly categories for things such as clothes, entertainment and eating out - being sure to allocate money for unexpected expenses such as a car repair or a trip to the vets.
Build an emergency fund
Anything you have left over after your expenses have been covered should of course go into your savings - whether that’s savings for a home, a wedding, a holiday or even your retirement. This will ensure that you’re financially covered in the long-term and can achieve your joint goals as a couple.
If you can, it’s also advisable to put some money towards building a short-term emergency fund – money that can be kept aside should something unexpected happen and you need to cover your normal living expenses.
Transparency is key
Particularly true when it comes to your finances. Building trust can take time, particularly if you’re used to managing your own finances, but this is only found through talking about your spending habits, savings, assets and liabilities with your other half.
When you’re both clued up about each other’s financial situation, you’ll have a bigger picture of where you stand as a couple, and how much money you are going to have left over each month.
Have monthly ‘money dates’
Finding a suitable time to talk money can be challenging with everything else going on in your lives. You might find a monthly ‘money date’ will help to focus your minds and check in on the household budget while enjoying a glass or two.
With variables such as moving house, new jobs, rent increases, and changing future plans, your financial situation is evolving all the time. Taking an open approach to discussing your finances will make you better equipped for dealing with anything that comes your way.
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