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Getting better at talking about money together is about getting better together.

8 Things couples can do to talk about money better

Practical ideas for happier conversations between savers and spenders.

In my earlier article, I spoke about, How to begin talking about money with your partner. In this article, I'll look at practical tips to build on those earlier conversations.

When progressing any potentially sensitive conversation, take it slow.

  • Learning about another person’s attitudes to money matters begins with respect for honest differences in opinion and different approaches.

Don’t expect to try and quickly understand years of a person’s experience, with just one single rushed or distracted conversation.

Read in this article


1. First seek to understand, not to change - because we all have histories

When you don’t relate to something your partner has said about their own money journey, a helpful question to move the conversation along may be;

  • Can you help me understand that more – it’s not an idea that I grew up with?

If the conversation dissolves into something uncomfortable, realised you’ve stumbled across a sensitive area.

  • Take a break and when appropriate perhaps approach that topic from a different direction and instead ask them why that particular issue was sensitive for them.

The good news is, when we approach conversations about money matters from a respectful attitude of respective differences and just seeking to understand why, rather than educate about how, couples with different money attitudes and values can make their relationship a success.

2. Accept that you're both different

Understand that difference means just that.

  • It doesn’t mean one person is right and the other is wrong.
  • Understanding different financial personalities can be equally valid, can open up more respectful money matters conversations.

You can agree to disagree and providing you can recognise your own individual attitudes, you can work to find a way to meet in the middle.

3. Draw up a budget (we call them spending plans)

There’s a skill in knowing how to Budget Like a Baddass and budgets don’t have to be dollar driven but can be percentage driven and still get you where you want to go.

  • As well as helping set a clear picture of your overall financial health and showing how much is left after paying bills, it’s hard to ignore a budget takes the guesswork out of a lot of financial discussions.

Hypothetical conversations are more likely to become emotionally charged and based on opinions so being armed with the facts about your numbers can help you both make good decisions better.

Pro Tip: If you are totally anti-budget (or as we say spending plans), simply remember do a 90-day track of your spending at least once a year, to make sure you don’t lose the skill.

4. Set a spending limit trigger

When it comes to bigger purchases, determine ahead of time the dollar amount that sparks an automatic money discussion between you and your partner (or even just you and your best mate).

  • It could be $100, or it could be $500.
  • For any item over that price, commit to talking it over (or sleeping on it) before you make the purchase.

If you both still agree about it in the morning, go forth and spend—guilt-free!

5. Allocate a judgment free spending limit

If money is tight, and especially if one half of the couple enjoys a frivolous spend at the two dollar discount store, (hardware store or cosmetic store – whatever is your thing) make sure to allocate a specific amount for judgment free personal discretionary purchases.

  • Depending upon your circumstances try and keeping the value consistent.  Committing to a judgement free purchase amount, will reduce feelings of resentment down the track.
  • Savers get a sense of control and spenders get permission to buy without guilt. Both parties win!

6. Don’t ignore the receipts

Today we can quickly tap-and-go on most small purchases with debit and credit cards and this makes keeping track of the spend harder and makes spending feel more unconscious, like breathing, rather than a choice to consider - (a deliberate feeling the card companies want you to embrace I’m sure).

  • So once a year, why not consider a 90 day challenge where for every tap-and-go purchase, you wait for a receipt and then deliberately read aloud and circle the amount paid, before your ditch the receipt in the bin.

Introducing that small action to slow and connect with the financial result of the purchase – will help you stay connected to your money matters.

7. Get better at being financially transparent

Trust is crucial for the success of any relationship, and the perception of dishonesty surrounding spending can prompt feelings of betrayal which can be difficult to overcome. Often betrayed people feel more likely to spend punish.
Whether your bank accounts are joint or separate, decide how you want to spend money, rather than hiding how you spend it.

If you want to learn how to better Split Expenses as a Couple, you can learn more about that here.

8. Know what you’re working with and getting into

  • If you’re yet to partner up and your money is your own, it’s worth working out your personal attitudes towards money now, so that your conversations about it with a potential partner later, have more substance.
  • If your dating and splitting expenses, learning how to do that better and including money matters in your conversations will go a long way to making everyone feel equality valued.
  • And if you’ve partnered up now, you should need an internet article to teach you ‘being transparent with spending is important in maintaining a sense of intimacy and trust’.

Everyone has a money history. Not everyone has strong money role models and some of us even struggle with Moneyisms that, if left unattended, will become the unwanted third person in our intimate relationships.

If it looks like a train wreck...

If all else fails, get ahead of the problem and seek the support of a financial professional.

Credit Counsellors can be a good start for people who need professional advice on how to reset their money situation.

For those with a relationship with a Financial Adviser like Sapience, make conversations about money more regular so you can develop the skill of talking better about money matters.

Start small

When it comes to getting better managing money matters, there’s always something you can take control over, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant that may appear.

Whether that's your own attitudes, your own understanding that it’s something to continually learn more about or whether is learning How to Survive a Financial Train Wreck so you can start again, small steps towards a bigger problem is the beginning of every journey for every couple.

author pic drew browneDrew Browne is a specialty Financial Risk Advisor working with Small Business Owners & their Families, Dual Income Professional Couples, and diverse families. He's an award-winning writer, speaker, financial adviser and business strategy mentor. His business Sapience Financial Group is committed to using business solutions for good in the community. In 2015 he was certified as a B Corp., and in 2017 was recognised in the inaugural Australian National Businesses of Tomorrow Awards. Today he advises Small Business Owners and their families, on how to protect themselves, from their businesses.  He writes for successful Small Business Owners and Industry publications. You can read his Modern Small Business Leadership Blog here. You can connect with him on LinkedIn Any information provided is general advice only and we have not considered your personal circumstances. Before making any decision on the basis of this advice you should consider if the advice is appropriate for you based on your particular circumstance.

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