It might sound unromantic but talking about money with the person you love might be the best thing you do for your relationship.
Taking that step to move in with your boyfriend, girlfriend or partner can be such an exciting time in a relationship. Waking up together on the weekends and no more scheduling in time to see each other. What bliss!
Whether it’s something you’ve been planning for months or happened upon after a quick conversation, there is one thing every couple needs to talk about before making the move.
Yes, it can be a grossly uncomfortable conversation to have. Some couples can go months – even years – without even touching the subject.
Whether it’s differing priorities, spending habits or savings habits, everyone has a different relationship with money and there’s no one-size fits all. That’s why it’s important to learn where you and your better-half each stand, so you can set clear expectations and build a strategy that works best for the both of you - before you find yourself knee-deep in an argument over who’s paying for the groceries this week.
Here are a few questions to get you started:
Who’s going to pay the bills?
It’s surprising how many couples don’t discuss this. The ‘honeymoon’ phase of living together generally comes with a statement of “Oh, we’re just so happy together. We’ll just figure it out as we go along.” And then – bam. You start feeling resentful because your partner still hasn’t offered to pay you back for last week’s Uber home after their phone died and you’ve just paid for the groceries again. Yuck.
There are a lot of dollar bills flying around when you move in together. First there’s the stuff to keep the lights on – rent, mortgage, gas, electricity and water bills – and then you charter into groceries, internet, streaming services, petrol, parking permits, date nights, trips away… the list goes on.
It might feel gross – really gross – to have the conversation about how you’re going to pay for all of this. Will you split it 50/50 or will one person cover it and the other repay them? Or is there another way that you’d prefer to go about it? What if one person loves the convenience of home-delivered meals, if the other prefers to cook?
However you decide to manage it, talking about it together will set a clear expectation to ensure you’re both pulling your weight in a way that you’re both comfortable with. This is key in any successful relationship.
“Can you pick up some fruit on your way home?”
Incidentals happen. While it might seem like a small request, after the 12th time, they can start to add up.
Perhaps you came into the relationship with your own car and out of habit you find you’re the one who pays for petrol and servicing even though it’s predominately used by the both of you. Your partner hasn’t offered to pitch in and you don’t feel comfortable asking.
It’s easy to think that people should just know to offer, but unfortunately that’s not how people work. It might sound odd but some people just don’t think about those things. Which is why it’s important to be clear about any needs.
Swallow that uncomfortable feeling and be honest with what you expect and come up with a strategy together to keep the finances balanced.
Let’s talk about debt, baby.
Talking about debt could be the most important conversation you have as a couple.
Not only will you learn about your partners past spending habits, you will be forced to face your own - maybe you have debt accrued from a spontaneous overseas trip or it could be something more serious.
Australians have one of the highest rates of gambling in the world and many hide their addictions from their families. Talking about debt with your partner could be the lifeline they need – or you need – to overcome what can be a family-destroying addition.
If this is something that you, or your partner, are going through, you don’t have to go through it alone. Read this great resource on LifeLine for some information on how to take the first step to saying goodbye to gambling forever.
What are your goals?
Maybe you want to start a business together, build a house, travel overseas or have a baby. Or maybe you each have individual goals that you want to pursue with each other’s support.
Whatever your goals might look like, verbalise them and come up with a plan together of how you might be able to finance them.
Remember – this is about you.
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to couple’s finances.
In one couple it could work for one person to pay for some things and the other to pay for the rest. It another couple it might work best to split everything 50/50. Or, it could work for one person to pay for everything while the other shares the load in other ways.
The important thing is to have the conversation and set clear expectations to ensure that you’re both on the same page. Both to save any unnecessary arguments and to give you the best possible start to this exciting new chapter in your relationship.
If you are experiencing any form of financial abuse, we have established a specialised team who can help you, or your authorised representative, regain control of your finances. Our staff will protect your confidentiality and safety at all times.
You can also contact 1800-RESPECT (1800 737 732), a free, confidential family violence counselling service operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.