- Agree Upon a Banking System
Before you can figure out your finances, you must be able to agree upon a method for financial transactions. This is different for everyone, depending on the maturity and trust present in the relationship. Some prefer complete transparency, and share both a checking and savings account where all payment history is available to both. Others have their own checking accounts, with joint “bill accounts” and savings accounts. Still others delegate one member of the relationship as more monetarily mature, where they have access to and control of all accounts and can transfer funds to the partner if needed. The most important thing is that you both agree. If one partner wants joint checking and the other wants separate accounts, this can lead to deception and deceit, opening a whole new realm of marital problems. You both need to be clear, communicative, and honest with each other for this to be successful. If you are unable to reach a solution at your kitchen table, seek a marriage counselor or financial advisor to intervene and offer an outsider’s perspective. No matter what else you try, you cannot alleviate financial stress if you cannot agree on one central banking method.
- Create a Budget- Together
Set aside a time where both of you sit down and write down every regularly occurring transaction. This is a perfect physical display of what finances are constantly coming in and going out, when it’s too easy to lose that perspective behind the swipe of a credit card. Total up your combined monthly income and subtract each expense from that ONE total. Decide together which expense is necessary, and which you could possibly do without.Once you have a specific amount set aside for all expenses, your last category should be for your “extra money.” This is for leisure, extra savings, emergencies, or anything else not already assigned. If you’ve already agreed upon a banking method, then that will determine where the extra money goes. If you have a joint checking account, consult each other before dipping into it. If you have your own accounts, agree how much money gets put into which account. Being on the same page, even if takes some (sometimes heated) discussion to get there, is what makes a budget work.Last, decide who pays the bills and from what account. Making the decision together on who the responsible one is for making monthly payments can help unify your budget plan. Again, just like the banking issue- you both must agree completely on the budget for it to work. Otherwise, one partner can harbor resentment, and this will lead to other stress-induced behaviors that are harmful to a relationship, in addition to the financial stress.
- Do Not Compare Incomes
This has the power to completely destroy even the strongest relationship. The partner that brings in the most income must resist using this as leverage over the other. Holding it over their head will produce feelings of belittlement in one partner and entitlement in the other, increasing the amount of stress experienced by both. Even if the primary provider doesn’t bring up the difference in incomes, the partner can still experience a significant amount of stress by silently feeling inadequate. Make a list of all contributions done by each partner- financially, physically, and emotionally. Maybe one of you pays the mortgage, while the other dedicates valuable time after work to charter the kids to and from practices/extra-curriculars. If one pays the electric bill, suggest that the other monitors the usage and attempts to keep the bill low. Finding a balance in your home depends on both of you being open and honest about what you feel you bring to the table. Being vocal about this can assist in your partner in appreciating non-monetary acts that may typically go unnoticed.
Just like any type of stress, effective management comes from a pre-existing desire to overcome the barriers. Stress is a physical response of how you handle uncomfortable situations, and finances can be very uncomfortable. However, with clear communication and a shared longing for fiscal harmony, a couple can both conquer financial stress while strengthening their relationship simultaneously.