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Finding balance in a relationship can be tough—especially when it comes to money. But with proper planning and good communication, budgeting as a couple is possible and can be rewarding.
Whether you're newly married or are living with your partner and ready to start shaping your financial future together, you need a plan. If you and your partner need ways to talk about money without getting in a big fight, check out these five tips for budgeting, saving and finding financial harmony.
1. Put All Your Cards on the Table
One of the first and most important things to do is establish a clear understanding of each other's financial situations and goals. While you each may have brought your own debts to the relationship, now is the time to figure out how you'll tackle them together. That includes everything from student loans to credit card debt. You may also bring in vastly different amounts of income each month and may even have different financial goals. This is all going to factor into how you create a budget. Have an honest conversation with your partner about what you both owe, what your goals are, and how you want to handle combining your incomes to reach those goals.
As you and your partner sit down to create a budget, consider also getting a free copy of your Experian credit report and FICO® Score* to get a clear image of your current debt and credit and help you create your financial roadmap.
2. Create a Household Budget
The first step to creating a household budget is to determine what you pay for necessities each month. These include rent, utilities, groceries, transportation and any other costs you must pay on a monthly basis.
Once you have a clear picture of how much of your income goes toward necessary bills, you need to figure out what the leftover money will go to, such as paying down debt, starting an emergency fund, or saving for a house or other significant expense. This is where your short- and long-term financial goals will begin to come into play.
3. Identify Individual Needs
Building your financial future with your partner starts with getting on the same page about goals and creating a household budget. But don't ignore your individual needs: This is an area that can cause your cohesive plan to fall apart. Allow for each person's needs and wants (within reason), making sure they fit into your overall financial plan. If this is an area where conflict arises, consider compromising on a set amount for each of your monthly personal expenses, and do everything you can to stay within that budget.
4. Set Long-Term Goals
Once you've accounted for household necessities and personal expenses, discuss your long-term goals, like starting a family, saving for retirement or buying your own home, in more detail. Figure out how much money you can save each month and think about your savings goals now and in the future that you can work toward. Write these goals down, or consider using a money management app to outline how much you'll put aside each month and how long it will take.
5. Consider Opening a Joint Account
While you may be able to manage your joint budget while still maintaining separate accounts, opening a joint account may help organize and track your spending. A joint account can also help with accountability if one of you is better with money than the other, and it will also help you build trust in your financial relationship. Consider using services like bill pay to help you and your partner manage your money and avoid late or missed payments. Late payments can wreck your credit scores, and using features like this can help you take better control of your finances.
As your savings goals take shape, consider having money automatically transferred to your savings accounts on a monthly basis or with each paycheck. This is one of the easiest ways to help you stay on track with your savings.
Creating a budget will help you and your partner plan your future—and maintain financial harmony while you build your life together.