Candlelight dinners. Long walks on the beach. Getting caught in the rain. Mentioning your credit card debt. What’s the matter? Talking about personal expenses doesn’t get you in the mood? For lots of couples, money is a hot button issue in their relationship, no matter if they’re dating, engaged, married or – gulp – going through a divorce. What you spend as an individual and a couple, and how you go about doing it, has a profound impact on the rest of your relationship. There’s nothing worse than finding out someone you’re involved with has been hiding something from you, especially when it has to do with money. So how do you avoid letting your personal expenses get in the way of your personal life?
1. Be Up Front
If you’re spending a huge chunk of your monthly income paying down debt, paying child support, or some other kind of “little secret” you’d never want to mention on a first date, mention it. Ok, maybe not on the first date, but definitely before you’re so involved that the other person could feel duped for not knowing sooner. When you move in together, and especially when you get married, your personal expenses are no longer yours – even if you continue to pay for things on your own. As un-romantic as it may sound, it’s important to have a business discussion with anyone you’re thinking of becoming seriously involved with. Get clear about expectations on both sides from the get go.
Are you going to have a joint checking account? A joint savings? Both? Who’s going to be in charge of paying the bills, and who is going to be in charge of scanning receipts or mailing them to Shoeboxed? Are you going to keep your individual accounts or combine everything together?
It’s a good idea to have both joint and individual accounts, simply for the purpose of clarifying which bills get paid from where. If you have a car payment or other personal expenses that you were paying before you met your partner, you may want to continue paying that from your personal account, while your joint account can be used to make rent or mortgage payments. It’s also nice to have personal accounts for things you’d like to buy yourself that don’t fall under the umbrella of “household expenses” – you know, like a new pair of Manolo Blahniks. That’s not to say your partner shouldn’t have access to your individual account. In fact, it’s a good idea to have their name on the account. If something happened to you, the account would be frozen unless their name was included on it as well. Besides, being totally candid about your personal expenses is a great way to cultivate trust in your relationship.
One person making the dough, and that same person budgeting finances and paying all the bills? I don’t know think so. While one of you may have more personal expenses or make more money, it’s important that both partners contribute to the overall financial health of the household. If one person has total control, the other may begin to feel controlled or even trapped. Alternatively, if one person is in charge of making all the money and budgeting all the money, they can feel resentful and burdened. Make sure everyone has a job to do, and that both people feel like they’re making an essential contribution to the financial welfare of the family, no matter whose paycheck is higher.
How do you and your partner deal with personal and household expenses? Who’s in charge of what?