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For a couple, money is not a simple topic… nor is the process of managing it. Financial stress is a common issue with couples, especially during a recession. The ongoing reminder of the financial stress of not having enough money to cover the bills… or the struggle of unexpected expenses… or the endless battle that fighting debt can become is often one of the main struggles most couples face. There is good news….It doesn’t have to be a war to get on the same page with your partner. It only takes a few steps to create a sense of “team” work in your relationship.
Here are a few steps you and your partner can do to create team work and mutual ownership of the burden:
1. Get Your Partner Involved: It is common for couples to have one person take on the responsibility of managing the money and paying the bills. This can feel like a weight on your shoulders that you have to carry alone. If it takes “two to tango,” then it also takes two to get out of the stress. Get your partner involved so you both can carry half the load. Create weekly and monthly meetings to go over the debts, the savings, the up-coming bills, and the unexpected expenses. Not only will your partner become more aware of the finances, but it can also create a stronger sense of “team.”
2. Get Organized: As a team, create a system for where you will put the incoming bills, the paid bills, and your budget. The more structure and organization, the less anxiety and stress comes from the bills.
3. Make it a Date Night: Pick a date each month for your “bill paying” day and make it a date. Review your expenses and pay the bills while having a dinner date with your partner. Set the mood with lighting candles and your favorite meal. Nothing's better than having a date and completing the bills as a team!
4. Create a Game Plan: Create a “plan of attack” for the debt, bills, and savings. As a team, you and your partner can feel more confident and on the same page. Programs such as Microsoft Excel provide free spreadsheets for creating and maintaining a budget. Download a free spreadsheet and start a plan for your bills. The more you and your partner have a system, the less anxious you two will both feel.
5. Write Down Your Goals: If you and your partner haven’t written down your financial goals, now is the time to do so. Be smart and create a realistic financial goal to see the “light at the end of the tunnel.” If you see an end goal, the more energy you and your partner will have to achieve the goal.
6. Cut Back: As a team, plan out areas where you can cut corners with your money. Figure out where you can cut back on your expenses as a team, such as eating out, buying lunch, or enjoying a latte. Make it a game to see how much money you two can cut back…I dare you!
7. Money Talk: The dreaded conversation about money...”Uh Oh” may pop into your head just thinking about it. Yes, this is the most important topic to address in a relationship, so get it done sooner rather than later. Share your fears, your desires, and your concerns in a loving and respectful way to your partner. Ask your partner their fears, desires, and concerns as well. By communicating where you both are, as well as where you want to be, you will begin to realize how to make it work…as a team.
8. Get Educated: There are many ways to you can cut corners or pay off your bills. Take an active step in getting educated in how you can save the most money. You can learn free tips, ideas, and strategies by doing a minimal amount of research online. Spend a little time…and you’ll find out how to save a lot.
To learn more about the author Jennine Estes, San Diego’s Marriage and Family Therapist, visit her relationship column Relationships in the Raw , or her San Diego Couples Therapy website.