Month end is probably a balancing act for you if, like so many others, your income has failed to keep pace with inflation over the past four years. But you see something on sale for 50% less and you just have to have it. So you go ahead and buy it, but hide the sales slip along with your new purchase when you get home. Sound familiar?
Contrary to popular opinion, this behaviour is not limited to women. And unfortunately, differences over money management are often a leading contributor to divorces. Here’s how to address the dreaded money topic in your relationship and avoid becoming another failed relationship statistic:
Chat about your attitudes towards money. Often, the way you grow up has a significant effect on the way you view money and your spending habits. If you were always able to get whatever you wanted when you were growing up but your partner grew up in a family where funds were tight, your spending habits are likely to be vastly different. Be aware of why your partner makes certain financial choices.
Some couples have a spending budget limit – for example, all purchases over R1 000 have to be discussed first. You can decide with your partner what spending limit suits you best. This method also allows you to satisfy your “urge to splurge” without breaking the bank or incurring your partner’s wrath at month end.
Make time to chat about your finances regularly. It’s not just about being honest with your partner about your own spending habits. You have to learn to listen when your partner talks so that they are not afraid to tell you when things go wrong. If there is a problem, the best thing you can do is to calmly discuss a way forward. Go for a walk if you have to but don’t lash out or lay down unreasonable ultimatums because the other party has messed up.
You may choose to split your expenses 50:50 or using a different ratio based on your earnings. For example, if the husband earns three times as much as the wife, the expense split could be 70:30. Whatever you decide, make sure that both partners are happy with the split so that there is no simmering resentment on either side.
Consult a financial planner as a couple, not as individuals. In a relationship, you should have shared goals and be able to talk about your finances openly. Many reputable financial planners will decline meetings with you unless your partner is present. When you are in a relationship, a shared financial plan ensures that you can save for common goals and that each partner will be taken care of financially if the other should die.
Ask your financial adviser to act as a mediator if you are unable to reach an agreement about your respective financial habits. Your adviser can provide an independent view and his chief concern is your financial health as a couple. Sometimes criticism is better received from a neutral, third party. Whatever you do, don’t bring the in-laws into it!