Photo by Roman Kraft via Unsplash.com
I recently attended an event by The Financial Diet called Money + Love, where panelists (including Tasha from One Big Happy Life, Erin aka Broke Millennial, business owner Ryan Houlihan, and TFD’s own Annie and Chelsea) discussed topics relating to the intersection of money and love, all from vastly different perspectives.
I got a lot of value from listening to all of their viewpoints. Some were married, one was engaged, and one is in a committed partnership and has decided not to marry her lifelong partner– an uncommon choice I have thought about a lot myself. They talked about living together, combining finances, weddings, friend’s weddings, and much more. Not to mention, being able to talk to my friends in the audience about their own views on finances in relationships was highly valuable to me.
I’ve been wanting to write a post about money’s place in my own relationship with my partner Brian for a while now, and now that we’ve been living together for a few months, I can see the effect money has on our relationship more clearly.
For context, we keep our money entirely separate. Brian and I have been dating for almost 2 years and living together for four months, and have no plans to combine any finances (although the potential of adopting a dog may lead to one shared account someday). That being said, we earn almost the same amount of money. We split rent, groceries, and other household purchases 50/50.
Here are the 3 things I’ve learned about money & love in my specific situation:
Your partner’s strengths can help you in your weaknesses. Brain and I have vastly different views on money, because we grew up in vastly different households. He is extremely relaxed about his finances; though he will sometimes check in on his bank, he does not keep a budget (consistently). He doesn’t make purchases often, but when he does, he feels very confident and positive about his choices. While I definitely think he should have some more awareness, his energy has been so so healing for me and my own money. He reminds me, when I feel ashamed of a mistake or guilty about spending, that I’m actually doing amazing and have nothing to be ashamed of. He talks me down when I feel, without reason, that I am not in control of my finances. He’s helped me learn to feel kind of great about bigger purchases that used to make me feel anxious. In very different ways, Brian has certainly benefited from my own strengths: he did not have a savings account until months into his career (yes, you read that right. No, I do not understand). When I found out and nearly died of shock, I helped him set one up and figure out how much he should be setting aside monthly. I’ve also taught him countless things about saving, investing, and budgeting, all of which he has become much more skilled in, though he still doesn’t feel much urgency about. I kind of love that we are so different and so accepting of each other– I am grateful to be in a relationship with someone who challenges me in this way, because it helps push me along in the work I have to do on myself. And I love helping him become more competent in personal finance when he asks, because I know it will change his life, in a lasting way, for the better.
Sweating the small things will eat you up. This is something I have very little experience in, because so much of my financial life is separate from Brian’s. But there are definitely small things in the costs we’ve decided to share that end up costing me more: my grocery costs have gone up because he eats a larger variety of food than I do, I pay $20 more per month for internet because his work requires faster speed (and he sometimes works remotely), and sometimes we have disagreements about the dual purchases we make for the apartment (he did not like my choice of $7 curtains…). And some of this was tough for me during the transitional period of moving in with him, because I didn’t really account for it. He offered to split up groceries differently, accounting for the things he buys that only he will eat, but I just feel like that level of scrutiny is something I don’t want to take into my relationship. I’d rather budget for the new cost, save the time, and save the energy for more important things in our relationship.
Money spent on your relationship is money well spent. Don’t get me wrong, being in a relationship does not have to be an expensive thing. In fact, it can really help you save money. You can have a date night in, maybe cooking or watching a movie, and have a special moment that otherwise would have just been another day. You can also do simple, free things like go on walks, spend time in the park, etc. That being said, Brian and I love going out to fancy meals. We usually plan a dinner about every other week. It’s delicious, special, helps us explore our new city, and is always something we look forward to. At first, I couldn’t afford to do this as often in my “going out” budget, and I didn’t want to just increase the budget line. So, I started experimenting with tracking “no spend” days as a way to try and decrease the amount of money I spent on food while I was alone. I found that when I say no to getting Chipotle or Popeyes for myself during the week, I have more space in my budget to have meals with Brian or my friends on the weekends. This practice of tracking my spending really helped me align my spending with my values. While I love food, I would rather enjoy it in good company and in a special way than by myself at home.
I hope you got value from this post. If you’d like to try out my new budget spreadsheet for free, click below 🙂