- The biggest romantic relationship stressor is money.
- It may be helpful to evaluate your spending habits as a couple regularly.
- Communicate effectively about money to make decisions that accomplish your goals as a couple.
Whether we like it or not, money is one of the keys to living freely, avoiding stressors in life, and buying materials or experiences that can boost our happiness. Money can help our relationships, too, which matters because maintaining good-quality relationships with others is the single most important element of living a happy life. Yet the biggest point of tension for the average married couple is about money. The three strategies outlined in this post can help you move toward financial freedom, which may help you and your partner bypass this obstacle.
Tip #1: Eliminate Debt
We will kickstart this post with the most pernicious financial burden: carrying debt. Americans seem to love debt. Combined, Americans carry a total balance of $17.1 trillion in debt. The average household debt as of 2022 was just under $102,000 (Jack Caporal, The Motley Fool 2022). That’s split up between mortgages, auto loans, student debt, and credit cards. In addition to the debts themselves, these financial vesicles usually carry interest rates. Unpaid credit card interest rates range from astronomically high interest rates (typically between 15% to 30%).
Prioritizing paying down your debts, especially those with high interest rates, is usually going to make your life easier and create one less obstacle to overcome in your relationships. This might not always be feasible—buying a house outright or paying for college completely out of pocket is beyond reach for almost all of us. But paying off our credit cards and avoiding expensive auto loans are more reasonable goals. Small decisions like this will pay big dividends for you and your partner.
Tip #2: Evaluate Spending Habits
This tip is not fun, and it’s going to require some work. Take some time to see where your money is going each month by reviewing bank/credit card statements in detail. Are you stopping at Starbucks for a $6 pumpkin spice latte every morning on the way to work? Are you paying for streaming services you don’t use? Is your bank charging you a fee every month for not maintaining a minimum balance? These little habits could add up to hundreds or thousands of dollars when stretched out to a yearly timeframe. Search for opportunities to trim the fat and avoid costs that aren’t adding value to your life or are replaced by a cost-friendly alternative (e.g., making coffee at home for $0.25).
Just as importantly, evaluate big purchases carefully. If you’re planning for a $50,000 wedding, try cutting the cost in half and using the other $25,000 towards a car payment or a down payment on a house. Figure out what your main priorities are when it comes to big-ticket purchases and make sure they’re worth every penny.
Tip #3: Communicate Openly and Find Shared Goals
It is critical to form open communication habits when it comes to money. I’ve heard horror stories from friends about marrying someone only to learn on their honeymoon that their partner had hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. Don’t let this be you. There’s no way around it—money is a taboo topic to discuss. But good relationships require difficult conversations and open dialogs. Make sure you and your partner can discuss the topic of personal finances on a regular basis.
In addition to discussing where you are currently financially, make sure to discuss the future too. Are you both homebodies who want to invest in a bigger home? Or do you love traveling together and want a smaller home that affords more opportunities to travel? Talking through your goals as a couple can help you figure out where you’re headed and what should be prioritized.
We all will have trials and tribulations when it comes to personal finance at some point in our lives. Adding another person into the mix tends to complicate money even further, but it doesn’t have to be that way. By paying down debt, evaluating habits and big purchases, and having open discussions together, you might be able to make your relationship just a little bit better.