Money and Relationships

Relationships are important.

So is money.

Have you ever seen a couple fight about money? Well, me neither. It’s something we hear about but never see. 

People are scared when it comes to fighting in public and arguing about money, yet behind closed doors, we know very well that money is one of the leading causes of divorce. 

The sad reality is that money is central to our world – we need money to survive. 

I therefore find it imperative to talk about money and relationships – how do you manage your money and your relationship at the same time?

Let's decide what to fight about

The burning question on everyone’s lips is, what – in regards to money – is it we’re fighting about?

Before we dig in, I want to add a caveat. Couples will find things to fight about. Whether it’s about the brand of tomato sauce or the restaurant that they are going out to dinner for – people will find something to complain about. 

We complain.

This gets us fighting.

And then we find something to fight about.

It’s very easy to argue that the gross lack of communication is causing most of the fights. If we avoid talking about the things that matter most, we will most definitely have a breakdown in a relationship. 

It is often then that money comes to the forefront. The reason for this is because people in general have a terrible relationship with money (Check my blog post here for more on your relationship with money!).  

Yet in many cases, it’s a lot more subtle, and money is just the tool for an underlying unresolved feeling of entitlement and personality traits. 

As example, we have difficulty distinguishing what is mine, yours and ours. Where the lines become blurred is where I use MY hard-earned cash as surety for loans to buy things I cannot afford. 

As individuals, couples sometimes have personality clashes. It happens often that one person is exceptionally frugal and the other person buys a Harley without letting his spouse know. 

We also find children and extended family putting demands on one household. It’s also not unheard of parents in law to demand money to survive.

How do you manage the differences?

We can make our discussions psychological and detailed, yet with good communication, many of these issues can be avoided. The issue is the subtle nuances of our money is mostly kept inside us – far away from even our spouse.

Is there a way we can just sit down and talk about what we want to get out of our relationship with money?

Do you think it’s possible that we could be honest about how we feel about my money?

Or is that our money…?

My money or our money?

With all these issues eating away at our relationships, let’s look at some money  management strategies.

As with my article on boundaries, it’s important to know what you have control over and what you don’t – are you allowed to tell your spouse what they should be doing with their, your or your (plural) money.  

If you can establish how this works for you, then the following should come quite naturally.

One account - together

Some couples opt for having a single account.

One.

Account.

Though I do not judge their ambitions to be super-glued together, I realise that some people like to put all their money in one kitty. It is from this place where they spend money and budget. 

This is ideal for single-income households and single people, yet many like the idea of being joined at the hip. All jokes aside, this is a great way to have a single point of contact with all your money. 

As long as both parties are checking the account, it’s all good.

Managing money 50/50

Some couples like to split all 50/50. I am a big fan of this for the following reasons:

  • If one of the partners’ have a lower salary, this is a great way to keep expenses in check and save the money left over every month
  • Everyone contributes to expenses, which allows for a better scenario if one of the partners should pass away. This is because both have been working actively towards getting bills paid.

Some couples like the idea of a combination of a 50/50 on unified expenses such as food, insurance and medical aid, yet still have separate bills for their cars, petrol and personal expenses.

Split according to income

I have spoken to couples who prefer to split this according to salary notch. Say for example, one partner earns R 8 000 per month and the other is earning R 2 000 per month. The partner earning R 2 000 pm would need to contribute 20% of the expenses. 

This makes sense for couples with an exceptional income gap.  

Dirty money fights

I am actually okay for couples to fight about money.

The problem is we have terrible fight ethics.

I  know of couples who get so violent, that they need to go for stitches after a fight about which tomato sauce brand to use! On the other hand, it’s often the case that avoidance is a better answer.

Due to the approach being so different, I highly recommend starting to track your money. There will be no need for gathering mud on the other person or getting evidence together to make the other person realise they’re spending unnecessarily. 

Rather get to a point of understanding and synergy.

Communication and money

I know I am oversimplifying the issue, and that many couples do not have this point of understanding. I would want to ask though: doesn’t it make sense that you both got married because you decided to be understanding of the other person?

My wife and I added the 22Seven app to my phone a few years ago. all we did, was 3 times a week have conversation: “what was this expense? What did we buy here?”. This led us to discover that:

  • We spend too much money on takeaways
  • We have unauthorised debit orders going off our accounts
  • Our petrol expenses were too high for normal people
  • We drink too much coffee

After discovering this about how we use money, we made some drastic changes that not only made our budget and holiday fund look awesome, but the communication also became so much better!

For a great article about what I mean, check out my article on divorcing your budget here. PLEASE DON’T DIVORCE YOUR PARTNER BECAUSE OF THIS ARTICLE!

Conclusion

Whether you choose to go 50/50, 100/0 or 80/20 on your expenses, make sure that you and your partner agree on the way that the money is managed. 

The most important thing is communication. Make as  much effort as you can to talk to each other and become aware of what’s happening in your money.

Love people and use money.

Don’t do it the other way round.

Happy investing!