Love and Money

  • What is a Money Date + Why You Should Plan One Now

    When Brandon and I got engaged, we had some pretty lofty goals.

    We planned to plan and pay for a wedding in four months, travel to Spain for our honeymoon, pay off our non-student loan debt, and save for an RV to travel the country.

    Oh yeah, and we hoped to do it all within one year.

    While it might sound farfetched, we checked everything off this list within one year of getting engaged. And one of the most important factors I attribute to us reaching all of our goals?

    Money dates. We communicate openly and respectfully about money, and we do it often.

    I put together a guide for you to answer the questions of what is a money date and why you should plan one now to take your finances to the next level.

     

    What is a Money Date + Why You Should Plan One Now

     

    What is a money date?

    A money date is a regularly scheduled conversation between you and your partner where you discuss finances. They’re an opportunity to talk about your day-to-day finances, as well as prepare for any short or long-term financial plans.

     

    Why plan a money date

    A money date might not exactly be your idea of a romantic evening, but they’re important in maintaining a healthy relationship and healthy finances.

     

    THEY TEACH YOU TO TALK ABOUT MONEY

    First, having regular money dates gets you in the habit of talking about your finances often. And as with anything else, the more you practice, the better you get.

    Money dates also allow you to be proactive about talking about finances in a confrontation-free way. 

    Here’s how most couples communicate about money:

    They don’t really talk about it until a problem comes up. Maybe one of you overspend, you were late on a bill, or you were hit with an unplanned expense.

    When this is the case, you’re pretty much only talking about money when it’s bad news or you’re fighting. This trains your brain to believe that money is a source of conflict, and talking about money means fighting.

    Then, as your relationship progresses, you both go out of your way to avoid talking about money. This can lead to financial infidelity. It also means you’re unlikely to meet any of your financial goals together because you aren’t setting them in the first place.

    Read More: How to Talk to Your Partner About Money Without Fighting

     

    THEY HELP YOU STAY ON TOP OF YOUR FINANCES

    Even for couples who can easily talk about money, these money dates are a good way of making sure you’re staying on top of any financial changes. 

    Let’s say you and your partner set up a budget together when you got married. But a few years later, your life might look totally different. Maybe your income has increased or you’ve changed the way you spend your free time. Chances are your budget could use some refreshing. 

    Regular money dates help you to stay on top of those changes so your financial plan always fits with the rest of your life. 

     

    THEY ENSURE EVERYONE HAS A SEAT AT THE TABLE

    Finally, money dates make sure that everyone has a seat at the table. In most relationships where the couple has joint finances, there’s one person who is responsible for managing the finances. It’s also likely that one person makes more money than the other. 

    Both of these factors can cause one or both partners to feel like they don’t have equal say. Money dates can help avoid this.

    For part of mine and Brandon’s marriage, we have had a large income disparity. But in both of our eyes, we were a team, and each had equal say in our financial decisions. I believe that was possible only because of how often we communicate about money.

     

    How to plan a money date

    Now that we’ve talked about what a money date is and why it’s important that you have them, let’s talk about how to plan one.

     

    1. PLAN YOUR MONEY DATE IN ADVANCE

    I promise you that your partner isn’t going to appreciate you springing this on them, especially if you two don’t talk about your finances often. So schedule it in advance and put it on your calendar. 

    If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you can even come up with a day of the week or month that works for both of you and set this as a recurring event.

     

    2.  MAKE YOUR MONEY DATE AS DATE-LIKE AS POSSIBLE

    One of the reasons so many of us hate talking about money is that we have negative memories associated with it. Maybe it’s that we normally only talk about money when we’re fighting, so we associate money with fighting.

    You want to make your money dates a time to enjoy. Throw on your favorite music. Eat your favorite food. Drink your favorite cocktail. If you have a favorite restaurant together, have your money date there. 

    The key is to make this an enjoyable experience so you don’t dread it.

     

    3. SHOW UP TO YOUR MONEY DATES PREPARED

    Finally, show up to your money dates prepared. Have an agenda of things you’ll discuss, and be ready with your laptop or notebook so you can do any budgeting or notetaking that you need to.

     

    What to talk about on your money date

    Now that I’ve gotten you on board with the idea of a money date, you might be wondering what you should actually plan to talk about. You might even feel like you don’t have enough to discuss to warrant scheduling time. But there are plenty of things you can discuss!

     

    TALK ABOUT EVERYTHING THAT HAS HAPPENED SINCE YOUR LAST MONEY DATE

    First, this means going over last month’s budget and seeing how well you stuck to it. If you didn’t stick to the budget, identify areas where you struggled and what changes you can make to ensure you’ll stick to the budget next month.

    There may be other things that have happened outside of your budget, too.

    Maybe one of you got a raise, and you want to discuss how you’ll allocate that new money in your budget. Or maybe one of you is feeling particularly burned out in your business, and you want to figure out if you can still meet all your financial obligations if you pull back at work a little. 

    You want to make sure you’re covering everything happening in your finances right now.

     

    CHECK IN ON YOUR PROGRESS FOR YOUR FINANCIAL GOALS AND DEBT PAYOFF PLAN

    You can use a digital or printable tracker to monitor this. On the topic of financial goals, you can also use your money date to talk about new financial goals. 

    You aren’t going to have new goals to discuss at every money date, but this is the perfect time to talk about anything new you’d like to start setting aside money for.

    Talking about your progress helps to ensure you’re staying on track. If something held you back from making much progress, you can acknowledge that and come up with strategies to address it.

    You might also discuss working a bit more aggressively toward your financial goals (or taking your foot off the gas pedal a bit).

     

    BE READY TO HAVE TOUGH CONVERSATIONS

    Now whether you’re married or dating, I’d be lying if I said that money dates won’t sometimes lead to arguments. Money can be an incredibly sensitive topic, and it’s likely that you and your partner won’t see eye to eye on anything. Be sure to come to these dates with an open mind.

    Additionally, be solution-focused. Let’s say that you and your partner have a money date and discover that they overspent last month. 

    Judging or berating them isn’t going to change what happened. Rather than focusing on the problem (your partner overspending) focus on possible solutions.

    During these money dates, it’s important to use the opportunity to bring up anything that might be weighing on you. Sure, confrontation – especially around money – can be uncomfortable. But it’s far worse to let it continue to weigh on you and eventually become an even bigger problem.

     

    END ON A HAPPY NOTE

    As I said earlier, you want to make sure that these dates create positive associations around money. If they always end with fighting, you probably aren’t going to stick with them very long. 

    End the date by celebrating your financial wins or talking about what you’re most excited about for the upcoming month. This is a great way to end the date in a good mood.

     

    Should you have money dates if you’re not married?

    Now you might be wondering whether a money date is still necessary if you’re not married. After all, if you don’t have a joint budget or shared debt payoff plan, then you might think you won’t have anything to talk about.

    Here’s my general rule of thumb — If you’re planning on spending your lives together, incorporate money dates into your month. Topics you can talk about if you’re not married include:

    • How you split expenses and whether this system still works. 
    • Progress you’ve each made on your individual financial goals and debt payoff plan
    • Progress you’ve made on shared financial goals
    • Ideas you might have for future financial goals

    Another really great way you can use these money days if you don’t share finances yet but plan to someday is to talk about what that might look like. Talk about how you’ll handle certain situations, like debt you each brought into the relationship.

    Talk about who will be responsible for managing the money or if you’ll always do it together. Consider making mock budgets to see what joint finances might look like for you.

     

    Final Thoughts

    Finances can be one of the most significant sources of conflict in any relationship. If you’re married or have been with your partner long enough to tackle financial topics, I’m sure you can relate.

    Regular money dates are one of the best ways to take the conflict out of talking about money — and you might even start enjoying it!

  • Financial Tips for Newlyweds: 5 Things to Do After Getting Married

    Brandon and I had a four-month engagement before our wedding for no other reason than that once we decided to get married, we just wanted to be married. 

    Wedding planning is one of the most exciting times of someone’s life.  And needless to say, planning your dream wedding in four months takes a lot of planning and preparation.

    And the planning isn’t over once the way day is over. Instead, you move from the wedding planning checklist to the newlywed financial checklist.

    Unfortunately, many people go into marriage without thinking of the financial implications. There’s far more to marriage and finances than we can discuss in one article, we can at least cover the basics.

    If you’re a newlywed or plan to get married soon, make sure to do these five financial tips for newlyweds.

     

    Financial Tips for Newlyweds - 5 Things to Do After Getting Married

     

    Decide how you’ll manage your newlywed finances together

    There’s no right or wrong way to manage your finances as a married couple. What really matters is that you come up with a system that works for you and that you have open communication about money. Here are a few different methods you can use to manage your money together.

    • Joint finances: You and your partner go all-in and combine your bank accounts. With this money management style, the two of you have joint checking and savings accounts. All money flows into and out of the same accounts.
    • Separate accounts: You and your partner each maintain your own bank accounts. You decide together how you’ll split expenses and who will be responsible for covering each bill.
    • Joint and separate accounts: You and your partner have a joint checking bank account where your income flows into and expenses flow out of. You also each maintain a separate checking account for personal spending.

    Read More: The Best Budgeting Apps for Couples to Manage Money Together

     

    Update your insurance coverages and beneficiaries

    One of the first things you’ll want to do after getting married is to update your insurance policies and beneficiaries. You want to make sure that if an emergency happens, you’re both prepared.

    • Life insurance: If you don’t currently have life insurance, now is a good time to set one up. While no one wants to think about the worst-case scenario, you don’t want to leave your partner unprepared if something happens to you. If you already have life insurance, be sure you both update your name and beneficiary as necessary.
    • Health insurance: If one of you will be joining the other’s health insurance policy, check with your employer to figure out what paperwork they’ll need to make that happen. If you each have health insurance through your employer, you can look at the policies and see who has a better or most cost-effective policy.
    • Car insurance: While your car insurance cover might be easy to overlook after you get married, this one is important! If you don’t already have a joint policy, now is a good time to set one up. If you do have a joint policy, be sure to update your name and marital status. When I got married, my insurance premium went down considerably!

     

    Update your financial accounts

    After you get married, you and your partner might decide to combine your finances and have joint bank accounts. You might also decide to add one another as authorized users on your credit cards. Even if you choose to maintain separate accounts, you can still update the beneficiary on your accounts. 

    Your checking, savings, retirement, and investment accounts can have beneficiaries listed so that if something happens to you, the money in the accounts will go to your spouse. 

     

    Create an estate plan

    No one enjoys talking about one of you dying right after you’ve gotten married, but it’s a necessary discussion. It’s important that both of you have an estate plan in place so that if something happens, there’s a clear plan for your assets.

    One question to ask yourself when estate planning is: how can we simplify the process in the event that one of us passes away? As someone who has been the executor of an estate, I can’t emphasize enough just how important this is.

    Estate planning is even more important if you have children, either with your current partner or from a previous relationship. In that case, you’ll want to set up guardianship for your child(ren) in case something happens to you, as well as make sure they’ll be taken care of financially.

    You may want to consult an attorney to help establish a will or trust, medical directive, and power of attorney. They can help you determine what steps you can put in place to protect each other and other loved ones.

     

    Set joint financial goals

    Now that you’re married, it’s time to set some joint financial goals together. While many of the financial tips for newlyweds on this list are serious and, frankly, a little depressing, this one is actually fun!

    Setting financial goals together is all about dreaming about and making a plan for your future. Sit down together and do some brainstorming about what you want your life to look like one, five, ten, and even twenty years from now. Where do you want to live? Do you want to travel? Buy a home? Start a business? Retire early? Will you have children?

    Once you have that vision, write down all of the goals you would have to reach to get there. While some of these goals may seem a long way off, now is the time to start preparing your finances for them!

    Read my entire guide on how to set financial goals to help you get started.

     

    Final Thoughts

    Getting married is an exciting time. Allow yourself to be swept up in it for a while! But make sure that once you tie the knot, you take time to complete these financial tips for newlyweds.

  • How to Manage Your Money as a Couple

    This weekend marks one year of marriage for Brandon and me. One year of sharing a last name and one year of sharing a bank account.

    It probably doesn’t surprise you to know that Brandon and I talked about how we’d manage our money as a married couple long before we actually were a married couple. Just as we talked about our future goals and plans, we also talked about our future finances.

    When couples decide to spend their lives together, the discussion of how they’ll manage their money together is often an afterthought. Most people don’t find it quite exciting as the other big talks.

    But it’s actually one of the most important conversations you’ll have.

    In this post, you’ll learn about the different ways you and your partner can manage your money together as a couple, along with the pros and cons of each method. Plus, I’ll share a few bonus tips at the end for tackling finances in your marriage.

     

    How to Manage Your Money as a Couple

     

    Joint vs. separate finances for couples

    One of the biggest financial topics you and your partner will have to tackle after getting married is deciding how you’ll organize your finances. Will you combine all of your bank accounts and have joint finances? Or would you rather keep things separate?

     

    MANAGE YOUR MONEY WITH JOINT ACCOUNTS

    The first way that you and your partner can manage your joint finances is to go all-in and combine all of your bank accounts. With this money management style, the two of you have joint checking and savings accounts. All money flows into and out of the same accounts. 

    This is the method Brandon and I decided to go with when we got married, and a year later, we have no regrets. However, that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone.

    • Pros: I find this to be the easiest way to manage money as a couple. There’s no arguing about who owes who money or worrying about which account a specific bill comes out of. Everything comes into and goes out of the same account. You’re tackling all of your expenses as a team. What’s yours is mine, and what’s mine is yours.
    • Cons: If there’s a huge income discrepancy, this method could lead to conflict. There can be discomfort and resentment on both sides if one of you makes most of the money. It also might make one or both of you feel like the other is checking up on you. You’ve worked hard for your money and want to be able to spend it how you like. Joint finances = joint decisions. Joint finances may also not work if one of you has children from a previous relationship that you’re financially responsible for.

     

    MANAGE YOUR MONEY WITH SEPARATE ACCOUNTS

    Another method you can use to manage your finances is to maintain fully separate accounts. This is how all couples start out. When you begin dating someone, you each have your own finances. And often, this is the case for years, even when you’re living together.

    This method has some more logistical pain points to work out. First, you have to decide how the bills will be divided up. 

    Will you each pay 50% of the expenses, or will you each pay a share that is proportional to your income? Let’s say you make a combined $100,000 per year. One of you makes $40,000, or 40%, while the other makes $60,000, or 60%.

    You could decide to split the bills 50/50. But you could instead have the person making 40% of the income pay 40% of the bills, and the person making 60% of the income pay 60% of the bills.

    Another question to answer is how you’ll actually pay for everything. Will one person pay for everything, and the other pay them back for their share each month? Or will each partner be responsible for paying certain bills?

    You’ll also want to decide how you’ll handle shared financial goals. Will you each be responsible for saving up half of the amount, or will one of you save more? Will you keep the money for these goals in a separate savings account, or will you open a joint savings account for specific goals?

    • Pros: Each partner maintains their independence and doesn’t have to feel as if they’re answering to anyone else for their spending habits or priorities. Plus, neither of you has to be responsible for the other’s debts if you don’t want to. Each of you pays for the debt that you brought into the relationship.
    • Cons: This method might prevent you from ever fully feeling like a financial team. This is especially true if one of you would prefer joint finances, but the other is dead set on separate. Another disadvantage of this system is that it’s just logistically a lot of work. When bills aren’t being paid out of a joint account, you have to decide who will be in charge of paying for what. Finally, this method may cause conflict if one of you significantly outearns the other or one stays home to care for children. One partner will could up with lots of spending money while the other is struggling to make ends meet.

     

    MANAGE YOUR MONEY WITH BOTH JOINT AND SEPARATE ACCOUNTS

    The final method of managing money with your partner is a bit of a hybrid of the two previous methods and involves having both joint and separate bank accounts. I love that this strategy gives you the best of both worlds.

    First, you’d have a joint checking account that you use to pay your bills. This is likely where your paychecks are deposited each month. You’d also have joint savings accounts for any financial goals you’re saving for together.

    But in addition to the joint bank accounts, you would each have your own individual checking an/or savings accounts as well. It’s this account that you’d use for any personal spending money. You and your partner can decide ahead of time how much spending money you’ll each get per month and then transfer it into these accounts. 

    • Pros: This method has the advantages of both of the others. It’s easy to share expenses because all bills are being paid out of the same account. You and your partner are approaching your finances as a team. But you each still have the independence that comes with your own spending money.
    • Cons: A potential downside with this system could occur if one partner makes a lot of money while the other only makes enough to cover their portion of the bills. Depending on how you fund the personal spending accounts, you could end up with a situation where one partner has spending money but not the other.

     

    Tips for managing your money as a couple

    DECIDE WHO MANAGES WHAT

    Financial decisions should be made 50/50 with your partner, but it’s likely that one of you will be doing more of the hands-on managing of the money. 

    Brandon and I are both active participants when it comes to our money, but I’m the one who keeps up with the budget throughout the week and handles all of the bill-paying. 

    In your relationship, you can decide to divvy up the financial tasks in a way unique to your relationship — The important thing is that it’s clear who is responsible for what tasks. This helps to ensure nothing slips through the cracks.

     

    TALK OPENLY ABOUT YOUR FINANCES

    Honesty is important in all areas of your relationship. But this advice especially applies to your finances. And even though you may not both be tackling all of the financial tasks, it’s still important to talk about your finances openly. 

    Fighting about money is one of the leading causes of divorce, largely as a result of financial infidelity. Talking about money isn’t a cure-all for everything in your marriage. But you can bet that not talking about money is an easy way to make things go south quickly.

    My favorite way to keep communication open is by having regular money dates. This is how Brandon and I have our money conversations.

     

    MAKE A GAME PLAN FOR YOUR DEBT

    These days, most millennial couples say “I do” with one or both partners bringing some debt into the relationship. Debt can be a huge emotional burden on couples. I know that for Brandon and me, making a debt payoff plan took a lot of pressure off our marriage. 

    When you get married, one of the first things you should do is figure out a plan to tackle your debt together. However, the plan might look different for every couple.

    You have a few different options to do this. Many couples treat debt as a joint bill after they get married, while others each pay off their own debts. 

     

    SET SHARED FINANCIAL GOALS

    I think having financial goals is the absolute best way to make progress with your money, whether you’re single or sharing your finances with someone else.

    It’s easy to get stuck in a rut with your finances. You make decent money and pay all of your bills on time but don’t really feel like you’re accomplishing anything. This is what happens when you don’t set financial goals!

    Unless you have a goal in mind, you can’t create a game plan to get there. And without a game plan, you’re unlikely to ever start saving.

    If you and your partner want to start making real progress in your finances, sit down and set some goals together. Dream about what you want your life to look like one, five, ten, or even twenty years from now, and figure out what you need to do to make that happen.

     

    SET CLEAR GROUND RULES

    Regardless of how you decide to manage your joint finances, it’s important to set clear ground rules and boundaries. It’s important that you make financial decisions together while each still maintaining some semblance of independence. It can be a tough line to walk, and every couple has to figure out exactly how to do it for themselves.

    One common ground rule people set is about how much each partner can spend on a single item before consulting the other. For example, you and your spouse might decide you can spend up to $100 on a single item without consulting the other. But if the price tag is more than $100, then you’ll talk to your partner about it first.

     

    Final Thoughts

    Deciding to spend your life with someone is a big decision. You’re working through the process of merging every other area of your life. And at the same time, you have to figure out how you’re going to manage your finances as a couple. 

    There’s no one-size-fits-all approach — each couple has to decide what works best for them and their relationship. Any method can work as long as you’re both on the same team and keep the lines of communication open.

  • How to Talk to Your Partner About Money Without Fighting

    In many relationships, money is a major point of contention. Couples fight about spending habits, overwhelming debt, and other financial struggles. Unfortunately, money can become a topic of resentment.

    When Brandon and I started talking about money, I didn’t want to fall into that trap. I wanted us to be on the same page and to be able to talk about money without fighting.

    From the beginning, my husband and I have always prioritized approaching our finances as a team. This allows us to be proactive about our money talks, set financial goals together, and talk openly without fighting.

    In this post, I’m sharing how to talk to your partner about money without fighting. These are all the tips that my husband and I have implemented in our relationship to make finances an easy topic.

     

    How to Talk to Your Partner About Money Without Fighting

     

    Be proactive — Don’t wait for issues to arise

    One of the reasons that money can be such a point of contention for couples is that they wait until there’s an issue to start talking about money.

    Rather than waiting until there’s something to fight about, I recommend having a regular money date with their partner. This allows couples to cover any potential areas of conflict before they get to that level.

    You can use money dates to cover topics such as the monthly budget and progress on your financial goals.

    Plus, money dates can actually be really fun! It’s a way to sit down together and dream about all the fun things you’ll do together with your money.

    Read More: What is a Money Date + Why You Should Plan One Now

     

    Make financial decisions together

    One of the most important ways to reduce money conflict is to make sure you both have a seat at the table. 

    In any relationship, it’s natural that one partner will handle more of the day-to-day budgeting. It’s probably whichever of you gets excited about spreadsheets and budgeting apps. 

    I’m definitely the person in our relationship who gets more excited about budgeting, so I manage our finances throughout the month. That being said, we make all of our decisions together. 

    Each month we spend some time talking about our spending from last month, what we have coming up in the next month, and anything important that has come up.

    When one person makes all of the financial decisions or controls the budget without feedback, it’s sure to lead to conflict.

     

    Be honest, even when it’s hard

    Statistics show that more than 40% of Americans have committed financial infidelity. In other words, they’ve hidden bank accounts, debt, or spending habits from their partner. 

    Lying to your partner about money isn’t just problematic for financial reasons. It can also be incredibly damaging to your relationship. It can destroy trust and make it hard to get back on the same page financially.

     

    Set shared financial goals

    One of the biggest things that has helped my husband and me to get on the same page with our finances is to set shared financial goals. It helps to take the drudgery out of money management and actually make it fun!

    First, setting a financial goal gives us a common objective. While we were engaged and just married, our financial goal was to save for our RV to travel the country together. Not only did it make it genuinely fun to talk about money, but it also helped to give some direction to our budget. 

    Read More: How to Set Financial Goals: A 7-Step Guide

     

    Hold each other accountable without judgment

    One of the great things about having a partner in your goals is that you have someone to hold you accountable.

    I’m not saying you should babysit one another or monitor each other’s spending. But when you’re working toward shared financial goals and the budget starts to get off track, you can remind each other what you’re working toward. 

    Just remember that as you’re holding each other accountable for your goals, do so without judgment. If you’re trying to save money for a new car and your partner splurges on an unplanned lunch with coworkers, try not to approach it with judgment or anger.

     

    Remember that you’re on the same team

    I know how tempting it can be to lead with confrontation when you and your partner aren’t seeing eye to eye or when one of you hasn’t been sticking to the budget. But I also know how unproductive that can be.

    When you talk to your spouse or partner about finances, always remember that you’re on the same team.

    You ultimately both want the same thing, which is a happy and successful relationship. Even if your spending habits or financial goals look a bit different, there’s still common ground there.

     

    Final Thoughts

    Talking to your partner about finance doesn’t have to be as hard as it sounds. For many couples, money can be a point of contention. But by being proactive and honest in these conversations, you can make it a lot easier on yourself. And hey, you might even have fun!

  • Money and Relationships: 9 Money Talks to Have With Your Partner at Each Stage in the Relationship

    I think we can all agree that talking about money isn’t exactly a fun date conversation. But it might be one of the most important things you can do to maintain a healthy relationship. 

    We’ve all heard the stats. Fighting about money is one of the leading causes of divorce, and more than one-third of people commit financial infidelity at some point. 

    And the best way to combat that? Talking openly and honestly about money with your partner early and often.

    My husband and I did exactly that. We had unique circumstances because I was recently divorced, and between the two of us, we had six figures of debt. There was a lot for us to unpack there!

    And while it may have been awkward at first, it’s led to us paying off our consumer debt, paying for a wedding in cash, living our dream of buying an RV to travel full-time and having a solid plan in place to pay off our six-figure student loans. 

    In this post, I’m sharing 9 money talks you should be having with your partner at different points in your relationship. Whether you’re just getting started or have decided to spend your lives together, there’s something in here for you!

     

     

    When you start dating

    When you’re starting a new relationship, it can be awkward to talk about money. You don’t feel comfortable asking the other person about their finances. You also probably don’t feel entirely comfortable sharing much about your finances. 

    In the early relationship days, it’s more about observing. When you’re dating someone, you can learn a lot about their finances without having to ask. 

    For example, you may notice that your partner regularly suggests expensive dates or that they splurge a lot on items for themselves. These could be a sign that they’re a spender or that they have a lot of disposable income. 

    During this part of the relationship, it’s really about making sure the other person’s financial habits align with your own. Pay attention to the way they spend their money, how they approach splitting costs, and how they talk about their future. 

     

    When things are getting serious

    When you and your partner start getting more serious, it’s time to have some real conversations about money. These conversations can help you to get on the same page and ensure you have similar financial values. 

     

    1. WHAT IS YOUR MONEY HISTORY?

    When your relationship starts to get serious, you’ll want to start talking about your financial background. This doesn’t have to be a single conversation — It’s more likely that it will be a continuous conversation.

    Things to talk about include:

    • Your beliefs about money
    • Your families’ financial situation when you were growing up
    • The money habits you developed either from your childhood or afterward
    • The role that your families play in your finances today. For example, do either of your parents help pay your bills? Is one of you expected to help support your parents when they retire?

     

    2. WHAT IS YOUR OVERALL FINANCIAL SITUATION?

    Alright, this is the big one. This is the conversation where you’ll lay out your current financial situation for your partner. You might be nervous, but it’s critical if you’re going to take the next step together. Here are some key points to cover:

    • How much do you make?
    • What are your monthly expenses?
    • How much debt do you have?
    • Do you carry a credit card balance or pay your cards off in full each month?
    • What is your credit score?
    • How much savings do you have?

    Keep in mind that it’s absolutely not necessary to share bank logins or account numbers at this point. This conversation is just about letting your partner in on what’s going on with your money and what they might be getting themselves into if you stay together. 

     

    3. WHAT ARE YOUR SHORT AND LONG-TERM GOALS?

    When your relationship starts getting serious, it’s a good time to start talking about your financial goals. At this point, you and your partner each probably have your own individual goals. Maybe one of you wants to save for a vacation with your friends or plans to go back to school.

    Not only will this talk help to determine how your partner’s finances might change in the future, but it’s also a good way to figure out if your goals align with one another. For example, maybe you can’t wait to travel the world, but your partner is dead-set on buying a house and settling down. You probably want to figure that out sooner rather than later. 

     

    When you’re moving in together

    Moving in with your partner is a big step not only for your relationship, but also for your finances. There’s a lot of new ground to cover, and it’s more important than ever that you and your partner are on the same page.

     

    1. HOW WILL WE SPLIT EXPENSES, AND WHOSE NAME WILL BE ON EACH OF THE BILLS?

    The first big topic you’ll have to cover together is your new joint bills. First, decide whose name will be on each bill. While it’s probably a good idea to have both names on the leases, you might have just one name on things like water and electricity. Keep in mind that if you stop paying, the person on the bill is the one who’s ultimately responsible.

    Another conversation to have is how you’ll split up the bills. You can either split everything 50/50, or you can split expenses based on your income. So if one of you makes 60% of the household income while the other makes 40%, then you’d each pay a share of the bills proportional to your share of the household income.

     

    2. WHAT HAPPENS IT ONE OF US LOSES OUR JOB?

    Now that you’re sharing bills, you’re financially relying on each other. In the best-case scenario, you’ll both have a steady income and won’t have to worry about this. But it’s a good idea to talk about how you’ll handle a situation where one of you is unemployed. 

    Does one of you make enough where you can pay all of the bills in that situation? Do you have parents who might be able to chip in for your half? What sort of emergency fund will you each maintain in case of a job loss?

     

    3. WHAT HAPPENS TO SHARED PURCHASES IF WE BREAK UP?

    Chances are, you and your partner will buy items for your home while living together. Discuss how you’ll divide up those items if you end up breaking up later. While it sounds pessimistic to talk about this now, it will go a lot more smoothly than when you’re in the process of a breakup and fighting over the assets. 

     

    When you’ve decided to spend your lives together

    Now you and your partner have decided you want to spend the rest of your lives together. Congratulations! Along with all the excitement of planning your futures together, there are also some serious conversations you’ll need to have about money. 

     

    1. SHOULD WE COMBINE BANK ACCOUNTS?

    One of the biggest financial decisions you and your partner will have to make is whether you’ll combine your finances, keep separate finances, or something in between.

    This decision is a personal one that will look different for every couple. Here are the three primary options:

    • Combine everything: You and your partner have joint checking and savings accounts. 
    • Keep everything separate: You and your partner keep all of your accounts separate and decide on a fair way to divide up the bills.
    • A little bit of both: You and your partner have joint accounts for bills and for large savings goals. But you also each maintain your own accounts for personal spending, bills, and financial goals.

    There’s honestly no right or wrong answer here. Some people have pretty strong opinions that one method is better than the others. I think that the best choice is the one that both you and your partner feel comfortable with. 

     

    2. HOW CAN WE PLAN FOR THE FUTURE?

    Once you decide to spend your life with someone, planning for the future becomes a shared task. Whether it’s planning for a financial goal or planning for an emergency, you’ve got to do it together. Here are some things you and your partner should plan for:

    • Financial goals: What are your shared financial goals that you’ll save for together?
    • Retirement: How will you prepare for retirement? Decide what accounts you’ll contribute to and how much you’ll contribute monthly.
    • Insurance: What types of insurance will you have in place to protect you and your partner in case of an emergency? Examples may include disability insurance and life insurance.

     

    3. HOW DO WE SPLIT UP THE ASSETS IF WE GET DIVORCED?

    No one wants to go into a new marriage thinking about divorce, but it’s still a topic you have to address. I can tell you that when I got married at 24, it didn’t occur to me that it might end in divorce. But two years later, that’s exactly what happened.

    While we want to think the best of our partner, the person you marry isn’t the person you divorce. Just because your partner says today that you’ll split everything down the middle doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll feel that way later. For that reason, you may want to consider a prenuptial agreement. 

     

    Final Thoughts

    Money is definitely a delicate topic in relationships. It’s one of the leading causes of divorce and of conflict in relationships. But you can help avoid some of that conflict by talking honestly and openly with your partner about money early on. 

  • The Best Budgeting Apps for Couples to Manage Money Together

    Before Brandon and I got married, we struggled to find a budgeting solution that really offered everything we needed. 

    We weren’t quite ready to merge our finances yet. But we knew we were getting married, we had shared financial goals, and we wanted to be able to budget collaboratively. Now that we’re married and have shared finances, we have entirely different financial needs. 

    At different points in our relationship, we need different tools and strategies to help us manage our finances together. Luckily we were able to find the perfect apps to help us do that. 

    In this post, I’m sharing 6 of the best budget apps for couples. Some are specifically designed for couples with separate bank accounts, while others are better suited for those who share finances. 

     

    There are affiliate links in this post, meaning I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. For more information, see my full disclosure policy here.

     

    Why couples should budget together

    Study after study shows that finances are one of the biggest sticking points in a relationship and that disagreements over money are one of the leading causes of divorce. 

    There are so many different reasons why couples fight about money. Plenty of millennial and Gen Z couples these days are entering into a marriage where one or both partners has student loan debt. 

    For example, see my article here about how my husband and I made a plan to pay off our six figures of student debt.

    Couples also argue about money when you’ve got one partner who is a saver and another who’s a spender. Financial emergencies like job loss or unplanned expenses can also place a major burden on a relationship.

    Even if you’re not married, budgeting together can be a great way to get on the same page with your finances and get into the practice of peacefully resolving money disputes that might pop up.

     

    What to consider when choosing a couples budgeting app

    There are many apps out there that can help couples to manage their household budgets, whether they’ve merged their finances or only rock separate bank accounts. 

    Choosing the right app for you can be daunting, especially when many budgeting apps operate as a paid service. What if you pay the fee and hate the app? Here are a few factors to keep in mind:

    • Are you willing to pay for an app, or will you only consider free apps? If you’re okay with a paid app, look for one that offers a free trial.
    • Do you want a service that has both app and desktop functionality? Some companies offer budgeting apps, but not a desktop version. I really enjoy the option of a desktop version!
    • Do you want to sync the app to your bank accounts and credit cards, or are you okay with manually recording transactions?
    • Are you a hands-on budgeter or a more passive one? Some apps really require you to make a plan for each dollar, while others allow you to monitor your spending passively.

     

    What if we don’t share finances?

    I know that not all married couples choose to merge their finances. And plenty of couples who haven’t yet merged their finances still want a way to budget collaboratively and set shared financial goals. This was exactly the case for my husband and me before we were married. 

    The good news is that each of these budgeting apps can still be effective if you don’t have shared finances. In fact, some of the apps are specifically suited for couples who don’t share a bank account.

    If you and your partner don’t share finances, you may not want to budget all of your money together, and that’s okay. When Brandon and I were dating, we made a budget for our joint bills and financial goals, but each tackled our personal spending individually.

     

    The best budgeting apps for couples

    ZETA

    Zeta is a budgeting app for couples with either shared or separate finances who want to budget together. It’s specially designed for those with separate bank accounts. 

    Zeta allows you and your partner to upload your bank accounts and credit cards and control what the other person can see. You can create a joint budget and track your spending together while keeping some expenses private. Zeta also allows you to set joint financial goals and track your progress.

    A feature that makes Zeta ideal for those with separate finances is that you can keep a running tab on who has paid for certain expenses and tag your partner when it’s time to settle up.

    Zeta has awesome features like the ability to keep a running financial to-do list and well-designed financial dashboards. 

    I didn’t know about Zeta when Brandon and I were budgeting with separate bank accounts. Otherwise, I probably would have used it! 

    Cost: Free

    Who It’s For: Zeta is perfect for couples who have separate finances and want to budget together. 

     

    HONEYDUE

    Honeydue is a budgeting app that allows couples to add separate bank accounts and track spending together. When you add your account, you can control how much of your information your partner can see. Couples can set a joint budget and share financial goals.

    Another great feature is that you can set up reminders for you or your partner when it’s time to pay a bill. You can also message within the app to keep all of your money conversations in one place.

    One feature of Honeydue that really sold me (and the reason Brandon and I used it when we had separate finances) is that it allows you to track who paid for what and who owes you. 

    If I paid the rent bill, I would enter it and indicate that Brandon owed me for half. Honeydue keeps a running tab based on all transactions and allows either partner to settle up at any time. 

    This feature really addressed one of the more complicated parts of living with a partner and sharing expenses when you have separate finances.

    Cost: Free

    Who It’s For: Zeta is perfect for couples who have separate finances and want to budget together. 

      

    YOU NEED A BUDGET

    Let me preface this by saying that You Need a Budget (YNAB) is my favorite budgeting app. It’s the one I personally use and recommend the most. 

    YNAB is a budgeting app that really allows you to make a plan for your money. Unlike more passive money apps that tell you where you spent your money that month, YNAB allows you to decide proactively where you’ll spend your money. 

    I also love YNAB for its tracking and reporting. When you add your debt and investment accounts, you’ll be able to see an accurate report of your net worth.

    YNAB is definitely pricier than some of the other options, but I’ve saved that at least ten-fold by using this budgeting method.

    Cost: $99 per year with a 34-day free trial

    Who It’s For: YNAB is ideal for those who prefer to take a hands-on approach to budgeting. If you’re inclined to track all your expenses in a spreadsheet, YNAB is a simpler solution for you. YNAB works for couples with either joint or separate bank accounts.

     

    PERSONAL CAPITAL

    Personal Capital is a financial planning app that allows you to monitor your budget while also keeping tabs on your investment and retirement accounts. For couples planning their financial futures together, Personal Capital is a great way to keep an eye on your progress. 

    Personal Capital is a great tool for seeing your entire financial picture in one place. But unlike some of the other apps, it doesn’t really allow you to intentionally create a plan for your money every month. 

    Personal Capital also offers more advanced features, such as wealth management services and financial advisor sessions at an extra cost.

    Cost: Free

    Who It’s For: Personal Capital is ideal for couples who want to monitor their investment and their progress toward reaching specific financial goals such as saving for a home. This app isn’t ideal for hands-on budgeters.

     

    MINT BY INTUIT

    Mint is a budgeting app that allows you to sync all of your bank accounts and track your spending throughout the month. 

    Mint is especially adept at automatically categorizing your transactions based on where you’re spending money. So for those who prefer to be more passive when it comes to your budgeting, Mint is a great option for you. Mint also has features that allow you to set and track financial goals. 

    If you’re looking for a low-maintenance app that you can set up once and then use check passively throughout the money, Mint might be right for you.

    Cost: Free

    Who It’s For: Mint is the perfect app for couples who want a low-maintenance budgeting solution. You can use this app for shared bank accounts, or separately add your individual accounts. 

     

    TILLER

    Tiller is a spreadsheet-based budgeting app that allows you to track your spending, income, and account balances in spreadsheets.

    One of the major advantages of Tiller — and something spreadsheet lovers will particularly enjoy — is that just about everything is customizable, from your spending categories to the reports you see. You can even add your favorite spreadsheet formulas and functions to the program.

    Cost: $79 per year with a 30-day free trial

    Who It’s For: Tiller is the perfect budgeting app for couples who love spreadsheets and customization.

     

    So what’s the verdict?

    If you read through this entire post, you might still be stumped as to which budgeting app is right for you. I’ve chosen my winners based on whether you and your couple have shared or separate finances.

    The best budgeting app for couples with separate finances: Zeta

    The best budgeting app for couples with shared finances: You Need a Budget

     

    Final Thoughts

    Dealing with finances in your relationship can be challenging, there’s no doubt about it. I truly believe that having an effective tool can help to ease some of the frustration. 

    I’ve used more than my fair share of paid and free budgeting apps, some of which have been better suited for couples than others. Whether you share a bank account with your partner or not, there’s definitely an app on this list to meet your needs.

  • How to Rebuild Your Finances After a Divorce

    No one goes into a marriage planning to get divorced. Unfortunately, it happens — And it often it’s a tough financial blow.

    I got married for the first time when I was 24. I thought I had my shit together — Marriage, house, and a sizeable household income. 

    Less than two years into the marriage, I found myself completely undoing everything I had built over the past several years. 

    People often talk about the emotional toll that a divorce takes, but the financial one was a lot harder for me. After all, I knew almost nothing about finances and found myself thrown into the deep end. 

    The next year was one of a lot of learning and a lot of rebuilding. I had to educate myself about all things budgeting and personal finance and then use the information I was learning to completely rebuild my finances. 

    If you’ve been through this or are currently going through this, I see you, and I know how you’re feeling. In this article, I’m talking right to you and teaching you how to rebuild your finances after a divorce. 

     

    How to Rebuild Your Finances After a Divorce

     

    How divorce affects women

    Before we talk about how to rebuild your finances after a divorce, let’s talk about why it’s so important that you make this a priority.

    First of all, divorce is expensive. As if financially starting over on your own wasn’t bad enough, add on the fact that the average divorce costs around $15,000. I was incredibly lucky that mine wasn’t that pricey, but it’s a reality for way too many people. 

    Another ugly truth that it’s important for us to talk about is that divorce uniquely affects women.

    We’re still living in a world where men make more than women, and 69% of husbands make more than their wives. So when a couple gets divorced, the woman’s household income drops more than the man’s. 

    Finally, data actually shows that women are more negatively affected after a divorce, both financially and emotionally.

    I don’t know about you, but I find those numbers horrifying. And those numbers are exactly why these lessons are so important!

     

    Gather your support squad

    If there’s one thing I wish I would have done differently during my divorce (there are actually a lot of things I would do differently, but if I had to pick just one), it would be to gather my support squad right away. 

    Divorce sucks, and you need your support system more than ever. But more than emotionally, they can be there for you financially. 

    I’m not saying you need to ask people to help you financially, but people may be able to offer insight. There are plenty of people who could have offered personal insight on the topic, and I didn’t take advantage of those resources. 

    Another member of your support squad should also be an attorney. When my ex-husband and I started the divorce process, we promised things would be amicable and that we’d split things down the middle without attorneys.

    Needless to say, things did not remain amicable. Even in the friendliest of divorces, hire an attorney

     

    Audit your financial situation

    It’s safe to say that your finances post-divorce look a heck of a lot different from your finances pre-divorce. For that reason, your first course of action should be an audit of your entire financial situation. 

    First, take stock of the value of your assets. Depending on your situation, this might be a home or car from your marriage. It also hopefully includes cash in the bank. 

    Next, count up your debts. Unfortunately, many people come out of a divorce with more debt than they started. It’s best to face this head-on. 

    Finally, add up your monthly income and your monthly expenses (including debt payments). Hopefully, your income is more than your expenses, but if not, we’ll deal with that too. 

     

    Set up your financial plan

    Now that you’ve done an audit of your entire financial situation, it’s time to make your financial plan. Your financial plan is going to look awfully different from the one you had when you were married, so it’s best to start from scratch. 

    Here’s what you should include in your plan:

    • Your monthly budget. Adjust any expenses as needed to make sure your expenses are less than your income. 
    • Your debt payoff plan. If you’ve got debt, then you also need a plan to pay it off. And paying the monthly payments is rarely a good plan.
    • A savings plan. We’ll talk later about building an emergency fund, but just know you need to have a savings plan. 

     

    Update your documents and accounts

    After your divorce, be sure to allocate some time to update all of your documents and accounts. First, this might mean letting your insurance companies know about the divorce. If you and your spouse shared a health insurance plan, one of you may need to sign up for a new one.

    Next, be sure to update your beneficiaries! I’m embarrassed to say that it took me a solid year to change the beneficiary on my life insurance policy — my ex-husband would have gotten a nice surprise if anything had happened to me!

    Be sure to check your beneficiaries on other accounts, too, such as any retirement accounts. 

    In some cases, getting someone’s name off a loan might mean refinancing. That was the case with my car loan, and it’s probably the case with others as well. 

    If your divorce involves a name change, then, of course, you’ve got a whole lot of extra work to do to change your name. Change your name with the Social Security Administration, and then be sure to change your name on all of your accounts. 

     

    Be okay with downsizing

    For most of us, divorce means a pretty drastic reduction in household income (in my case, it was a roughly two-thirds reduction. And when you’ve got less money, you’ve gotta downsize. 

    The first big downsizing move I made was to move from our three-bedroom house to a studio apartment. At first, I thought it would feel way too small, but it was actually the perfect size for just one person! Super easy to clean and very homey. 

    The other downsize I had to make was my monthly car payment. My ex-husband and I had purchased my car together, and the monthly payment was based on what the two of us together could afford. 

    So when it was just me making the payment, I couldn’t swing it. 

    At that point, I was faced with two choices. I could sell the car and downsize to something cheaper, or I could refinance. I ended up refinancing my loan and cutting my payment in half while also getting a lower interest rate. 

    Downsizing is going to look a bit different for everyone, but it really comes down to getting your monthly payments to a place where they fit into your new budget. 

     

    Build up your emergency fund

    Literally one of the first things anyone should do after a divorce is build up an emergency fund. If you’ve already got an emergency fund, make it bigger. 

    Here’s the thing about going from a two-income household to a one-income household. If you lose your job or source of income, you’re now a zero-income household. 

    When you’re married and both bring in income, there’s an extra safety net in that the other spouse would theoretically still be bringing in monthly income. That just isn’t the case when you live alone. 

    So while I think saving three months’ worth of expenses is a good starting point when you’re married, a single person should aim to save twice that. 

    I know this doesn’t happen overnight, and if someone had told me this right after I got divorced, it would have seemed absurd. 

    At the very least, you can start putting little bits away now until you can ultimately reach that goal of six months of expenses. 

     

    Cut back on personal spending

    When you’ve got a lower household income, you’ve got less wiggle room in your budget for discretionary spending. While married-me wouldn’t have given it a second thought to go out to lunch or order my favorite takeout, divorced-me was careful to double-check the budget first. 

    I’m not saying you can’t spend money on yourself. I think that after a divorce, more than any other time, we could use some pampering. 

    But at the same time, we have to be realistic. If you can’t fit the same amount of discretionary spending into your budget as you once could, figure out where you can cut back

     

    Seek out personal finance education

    Probably the best thing I did to help rebuild my finances after my divorce was to immerse myself in personal finance education. I was determined to figure this money stuff out, so I threw myself into every resource I could find.

    I read blogs, read books, listened to podcasts, read financial news, and just about everything else you can think of. The year after my divorce was probably more educational than my entire four years of college for that reason! 

    If you’re newly divorced (or not) and looking to up your personal finance game, here are some of my favorite resources:

     

    Look for ways to increase your income

    Listen, divorce sucks for a lot of reasons. But it also has its silver linings, one of which is that you now have a lot more free time. And while more free time might not seem like an upside for everyone, it’s a fantastic opportunity to increase your income!

    I was lucky in that I already had my blog up and running when I got divorced. As a result, it was easy for me to use it to make some extra money. 

    Even if you don’t already have a side hustle in place, you can easily get one up and running! 

    There are so many options out there to help you make extra money. Here are some of my favorite ways to make an extra $1,000 (or more) each and every month

    Increasing your income has so many benefits. First, it can help you to quickly pay off any debt you accrued during the divorce — I ended up having to put a lot of expenses on my credit card at first, and having a side hustle was a lifesaver.

    Having a side hustle can also help you to build up your emergency fund, create some extra wiggle room in your budget (for those of you missing your discretionary spending), or help you save for future financial goals

     

    Know that you can and will rebuild

    Having gone through a divorce myself, I know how impossible it can feel to build your finances. You look at your much-smaller household income and the amount of debt you accrued over the course of the divorce, and it literally feels insurmountable. 

    But I promise you that it is not impossible. You can and you will rebuild, and someday you’ll find yourself in a much better place, both financially and emotionally. You got this!