Every Thursday for the next few weeks I will feature guest posts from couples that share their experience on managing money with their significant other. There is no ‘one size fits all’ with personal finance, and couples finance is no different.
I encourage you to read their responses, leave a comment and be sure to visit their website and follow them on Twitter.
Introduction: A lifelong Bay Area native, Matt Spillar graduated in May 2013 from Fresno State with a Sports Marketing degree. He currently works on the Content Management team for DealsPlus.com and has worked four seasons with the San Jose Giants. He is passionate about helping people manage their money better. You can read more of his writing at his personal blog, and follow him on Twitter.
How do you divide financial responsibilities in your household and why did you choose this approach?
I handle all of the financial responsibilities of the household, but I communicate with my wife about everything. We always try to talk about upcoming expenses we need to budget for and make sure we’re both on the same page regarding how much we’re able to spend each month. It really just came down to me being highly interested in finances and she isn’t. She much prefers that I take care of them and it avoids a lot of stress for her.
If you could change a ‘money habit’ that your partner has, what would it be and why?
Overall we’re both very much on the same team with similar long term goals. I don’t think I’d change anything. While we differ in certain areas, it actually brings us closer as we continue to learn more and more about where the other person is coming from. A lot of our attitudes about money have been shaped by how we’ve grown up and what we’ve learned from our families. The small differences we have complement each other well. She helps me be more practical and enjoy occasional splurges and I’ve helped her see different ways of solving problems while spending less. We both prefer experiences over possessions.
How do you and your partner agree on long term financial goals that affect both of you (i.e. retirement)?
I’m more of a long term thinker than she is, where the prospect of early retirement is very intriguing to me. She sees the importance of saving for the future and building up a solid cushion, but she also helps me enjoy the present more.
How does a budget meeting in your household look like?
Budgeting is a process, and it took us at least 3-4 months until we found a budget that worked well for us. I had put together a list our expenses and budget categories, but it was through discussing it each month that we were really able to tweak it over time to find what worked best. Now we have very few changes from month to month and so it takes like 10 minutes. We use Mint for all our budgeting and expense tracking and it has been life changing.
Do you consider yourself a saver or spender? What about your partner? How has this helped/hindered how you manage your finances?
I’ve always been a long term thinker and have always been a saver. My wife is more of a spender, but not in an extravagant way at all. We complement each other well, being able to enjoy the present while preparing ourselves for the future. Our biggest focus right now is on paying off our student loan debt. We instituted some “fun money” into our monthly budget that we can each use however we want. Before making this switch we were focusing way too much on scrutinizing every single expense. This gave us a lot more freedom.
What approach do you use when resolving money fights in the home?
For us, it’s all in our communication. We try to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes and see their point of view. We’re not perfect, but we’re getting better at that every day. We’ve only been married about 2 years, so it’s something we’ll continue getting better at the rest of our lives. Ultimately we’re on the same team and both want what’s best for each other. Knowing that helps us take a step back and put things in better perspective.
Money can be a big source of conflict and stress in a relationship, and realizing that helped spark my interest in personal finance. I wanted to remove the stress of money from our lives.
How soon do you think a couple should start discussing the topic of money in their relationship? What approach should they take?
As soon as you start envisioning a future with that person, it’s important to start laying the groundwork to discuss money habits. Money is a taboo subject, but it can bring you so much closer to the other person and can actually be very freeing to open up. You don’t need to be perfectly compatible with money right away, but it’s important to have similar view points and long-term goals that you can work towards together.
What three pieces of advice would you give to other couples in dealing with their finances?
-Communicate and Align Your Goals: You can’t succeed alone, and you can’t succeed if both of you are pulling the other in opposite directions. You’re on the same team and will only see progress if you work together. Keep each other in the loop on everything. Discuss expenses and talk about your long term goals. Each person needs to feel heard and needs to be involved in the entire process. We also collaborate on what we value most so that we can align our spending towards those areas. For example, we both enjoy getting to take trips together, so we put some money aside every month into a “Vacation Fund.”
-Fun money: This has been a huge positive change for us. As I mentioned previously, it helped us stop scrutinizing every expense. It gives you each some freedom to spend a little bit of money however you want. It’s like building in a “cheat day” into a healthy diet, small rewards help you stay motivated.
-Track Your Spending: This doesn’t mean stress about every time you have to fill up your gas tank, but you NEED to know how much money you’re bringing in each month and how much you’re spending in each area. This small principle can help your finances so much. How will you be able to improve if you don’t know the benchmarks of where you’re starting from?
Are there any other remarks you would like to add?
Personal finance is an ongoing process, it takes time to make positive changes and see improvement. Don’t get discouraged, keep doing your best to instill positive change in your life. Small habits repeated over time eventually become big changes. Living within your means and putting aside money for savings is not nearly as daunting as it first appears. Thanks Pamela for interviewing me and letting me share some of my story with your readers! Feel free to subscribe to my blog Spills Spot via RSS, and connect with me on Twitter!