One of the things people ask me about is personal finance. Those discussions eventually lead to how they deal with this topic as a couple. One of the most common things I see is couples choosing to keep their finances completely or partially separated. And even more common are the couples who combine their finances, but one person takes care of everything while the other keeps their head in the sand.
My husband, Jer, and I used to be the latter. He didn’t “care about money” and handed it over to me to deal with. While not the healthiest partnership, it worked at the time. As we began to learn more about personal finance, we learned a lot about how to work together as a team.
I know that everyone has their own reasons for managing their finances the way they do. I also believe that there’s no “right way” to do it. Yet I know that Jer and I wouldn’t be where we are today had we not worked together as a couple.
So much of how we deal with important things like money comes from old wounds and programming. I imagine it’s difficult for someone who was financially drained by a divorce to be able to trust someone again. And for those of us who grew up with parents who constantly fought about money, it seems easier to avoid the topic altogether. But by sticking to these old habits that you formed to protect yourself, you limit your potential to build the financial freedom you deserve.
In this post, I’m going to share how Jer and I went from disconnected to a true partnership. We’re not perfect by any means, but these lessons have been incredibly helpful to us. I hope they are equally as useful to you.
You know that saying opposites attract? Well, I can assure you that’s spot on for me and Jer. Especially when it comes to our finances.
I’m naturally a saver. It’s really easy for me to fall into the trap of saving every penny and neglect to enjoy the fruits of my labor.
Jer, on the other hand, is more of a spender. He’s the one who pushes me to buy that new bike, attend a conference, or take that extra vacation. When we work together as a couple to make big financial decisions, we see better results than had we made them on our own.
Given that opposites attract, another question I hear is, “how do I get my spouse to …?”
I’ve had to learn the hard way that you don’t. The only person you have control over is you. If you redirect your efforts to change your spouse back toward yourself, I guarantee that something will be different a year from now.
As it pertains to financial matters, your spouse will be more willing to follow if you lead by example. Nagging them about their terrible habits isn’t going to change them. Showing them the fun and freedom you’ve created by being intentional with your finances might pique their interest.
With these tips in mind, here are five ways to start achieving your financial goals as a couple.
1 – DEFINE YOUR COUPLE DREAMS
There are four building blocks to creating a life of freedom. Good health, supportive relationships, financial fitness, and personal growth all work in synchronicity to help us create our best lives and become our highest selves.
Here’s an example of what I mean. When Jer and I set the goal to pay off our mortgage, our health improved because happy hours and dining out were no longer in the budget. Additionally, we spent most of our down-time doing free activities like hiking and biking. These activities brought us closer as a couple, as did setting and achieving goals together. The new knowledge and discipline we acquired from this goal inspired us to keep learning and growing.
As you take steps to create financial freedom, the timeline you live on will expand. You will begin to think long-term. This might inspire you to start dreaming and talking about what you want your life to look like years down the road. You may even set aside a weekend to create a ten-year plan for your dream life. From there you’ll begin to shape your family’s mission and values.
Spending time dreaming, talking, and creating a picture of what you want your life to look like will ensure you’re on the same page as you make important financial decisions together.
2 – CREATE COMMON GOALS
Once you’ve decided what you want your life to look like, begin setting goals as a couple. Ask yourselves what the most important thing you would like to accomplish in the next five years is. Then set one to three attainable goals that you can work on over the next year that will help you get there.
All that Jer and I have accomplished, we’ve done together. Having common goals helps us work as a team when making financial decisions.
3 – FOCUS ON YOUR STRENGTHS
When working on those aforementioned goals make the most of each other’s strengths. When we were paying off our mortgage, I used my planning, organizing, and Excel skills to keep us on track. When Jer experienced frugality fatigue, I used those skills to create a chart that could help him visualize our progress.
With my Type-A tendencies, it’s easy to focus all of my effort on saving and neglect to spend a little and enjoy life. Jer is always the voice of reason who nudges me to spend on the things that bring value to our lives.
Sometimes it’s frustrating to deal with the other person’s saving or spending habits. But a saver and a spender can make a great team. If I would have married another saver, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to enjoy all of the hobbies and adventures Jer and I discovered together. If Jer would have married another spender, they wouldn’t have the money to invest in said hobbies and adventures.
Learn to appreciate what the other brings to the table. Then make the most of their strengths while working as a team to create the life of your dreams.
4 – BUDGET AS A COUPLE
I talk about how to budget in my post on budgeting. In this post, I want to focus on why it’s important.
When you create a budget together, you set the expectation for where your collective money will go before you earn it. If you have a concrete plan that you created together, both individuals will do a better job of sticking to it. Everyone is more reliable at honoring expectations when they’re clear about what those expectations are.
5 – PICK YOUR BATTLES
Sometimes it’s not worth arguing about. Before getting upset and sharing your opinion, look at the big picture. Ask yourself if this will matter five years from now.
There will be times that you need to speak up. If one person isn’t sticking to the plan you created together, you’ll want to address that. Confrontation isn’t always easy, but the resentment that builds when you don’t is arguably worse.
No matter how well you learn to work together, there will be times you simply don’t agree. I was floored when Jer told me how much he was planning to spend on Brazilian Jiu Jujitsu (BJJ). I’m too cheap to pay for a membership at a nice gym with a pool and sauna and this was significantly more. But I saw how important it was to him so I was willing to compromise.
A compromise is defined as “an agreement between two sides who have different opinions, in which each side gives up something it had wanted.”
Rather than focusing on giving something up, I encourage you to look for a win-win. Come to an agreement that makes both parties happy and you’ll be more motivated to work as a team to meet your goals. I agreed to BJJ and Jer agreed to cut some other expenses. It was a win-win because we both got what we wanted.
One final tip that has saved us a number of money fights and problems. Set a spending limit and agree to discuss all purchases beyond that limit. While we’ve become more laid back over the years, we discuss most purchases outside of our normal expenses. It’s a respectful and proactive way to stay on the same page.
Working together as a couple to meet your financial goals can and should be fun. By dreaming, looking at the big picture, and setting goals, you’ll be motivated to achieve your biggest dreams together. By learning to see how you compliment and improve each other’s lives, you’ll be more willing to work together and compromise. It won’t happen overnight, but little by little you’ll start to see more peace and balance in your relationship and personal finances.
READY TO CHANGE YOUR FINANCIAL FUTURE?
Check out the other posts in this series for everything you need to know to go from surviving to thriving.
Step One – Figure Out Where Your Money Is Going
Step Two – Creating a Budget That Works For You
Step Three – Saving For Financial Freedom
Step Four – Ditch Your Debt
Step Five – Build Wealth on Any Income
Step Six – Achieving Your Goals As A Couple
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in August of 2017. It has been completely revamped for accuracy, comprehensiveness, and readability. Please enjoy and feel free to share this newly revised content.