We’re back at it with another edition of #REALationshipGoals and this week the topic is a big one: dolla billz. More specifically, money in the context of a relationship. If talking about money stresses you out, you’re not alone. Discussing money can be a huge taboo. Whether you’re talking to your boss about a raise or to your best friend about how much you owe her for dinner, talking about money can be very uncomfortable. And that spills right over into your love life. In fact, money is often cited as one of the main causes of fights in marriages. A number of studies even show that money (or fights about money) are a leading cause of divorce.
If you and bae get into fights about money sometimes, don’t fret – you’re definitely in the majority. We all get our panties in a bunch about money from time to time. So whether you’ve been with bae for one month or one decade, it’s important to know how to talk about that green and sometimes hearing how other people deal can help. From who’s going to pick up the check, to how to combine (or not combine) income, to how to save for a major purchase (like, a wedding or a house), the topic of money will inevitably come up.
In this edition, Lauren, Mae, and I will each be sharing our experiences with money in our respective relationships.
But seriously, who is supposed to pick up the check?
From day one, Brandon and I have always taken turns picking up the check, splitting the bill, treating each other to date night, etc. There’s apparently this unspoken rule in the dating world (well sometimes not so unspoken) that the guy is supposed to pay for the girl, especially when “courting” her. To be completely honest, I’ve never really understood that “rule” and let Brandon know right off the bat that I was comfortable with dishing out the bucks for myself or even the both of us…as long as he was comfortable with it. Never one to purposefully hurt my man’s ego, I definitely didn’t want him to think I was trying to overstep.
I love that we are both pretty open with our finances at such an early stage in the relationship (is a year early?? Idk!) and that we don’t stress about who is covering the bill or paying who back. I am proud of the hard work I put in and the money I earn and actually get a kick out of treating my man to the movies or a good cocktail + cigar combo. And he does the same (minus the cigar). It works for us and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
-Lauren, dating #FashionablyBae for one year
So… are we combining EVERYTHING?
I have friends who span the spectrum of options when it comes to money management. Sahir and I decided early on that we would keep a one-time, small amount aside in personal accounts to handle our own things (i.e. he sets up a weekly basketball game and rents out a gym.) Putting that in a different account helps from getting mixed in with our personal finances. Once that small amount was put aside, everything went into a joint account. Our paychecks are direct deposited into that and all of our bills are paid through the joint. Once we save up a certain amount, we shift money into our joint savings account.
Some couples choose to keep individual accounts, but this is the method that works best for us. We were lucky in the sense that neither of us came into the marriage with any debt, so the process can definitely get more complicated. The way we thought about it was: Aside from what salary either of us made, we came into this marriage with about the same amount saved up and we are supporting our family together. If anything was to ever go awry, we would split everything 50/50.
The truth is there is no “right” way to do it, just the way that’s right for you and your partner.
-Sabrina, “newly” married to her high-school hunk
Okay…how do we talk about a budget?
When Nick and I got married, we combined all new earnings right away and kept aside our personal savings to date and we’ve kept it that way for the past five years. As a general rule, our personal savings are for true emergencies and we pretty much never touch them. If our combined savings don’t cover something we need, we work it into our monthly budget and save for it. We always repeat to each other “work hard now; play hard later.” That doesn’t mean we don’t have a great deal of fun! We just always budget it in. We don’t use credit cards at all and most people think that’s bananas, but it really works for us. If it’s not on the budget with the cash sitting in the bank or in hand, we don’t get it. Pure and simple. To do this, we meet monthly to discuss our budget. We plan out every single dollar we expect to earn. That helps us make sure that savings, essentials, and other commitments are covered before we buy those concert tickets.
I love spreadsheets so I prepare the budget. In our meetings, Nick looks at it and gives me suggestions. We’ve been doing this solidly for several months and have been so happy with the result. We’ve never felt more on track with our financial goals and we almost never fight about money anymore. Moment of honesty here, it DOES happen, but it used to happen more.
Just a side note, the word “budget” scares people and I get that. But budget doesn’t mean not having any money to spend. It’s actually the opposite. Budgeting allows you to tell your money where to go so you DO have money to spend and it keeps you from spending money on dumb things. Unless, of course, you budget them in.
-Mae, married to her bestie for 5 years
Just for fun…
What do you think bae spends too much money on?
Lauren: nothing. He’s actually pretty frugal and always gets on to me for trying to make it rain.
Sabrina: I wish I had a cool answer for this. Sahir works super hard and don’t like to indulge, but when he does it’s something crazy like season tickets to the Atlanta Hawks. Apparently, we go zero to a thousand real quick.
Mae: Honestly, he’s not much of a spender at all. I’m always trying to get him to buy clothes and other things he wants and he’s just like “meh.” But I do occasionally call him out about spending money on food when he had a packed lunch. I man the budget, so…just sayin’.
What would he say you spend too much money on?
Lauren: Going out. I like to eat out wayyyyy too much. Maybe I should learn to cook.
Sabrina: Clothes! He is convinced that since I get a package everyday, I paid for it. I mean… there is no proof of that. People just send me things. Can’t help it! 😉
Mae: Coffee. I always budget like $10 and spend $50. He doesn’t ever get mad at me, but he would say that because I say it all the time. As a couple though, we tend to spend too much on food.
So money can be a tricky betch, mainly because there is no RIGHT way to deal with it…especially when it comes to relationships. But if there’s one thing we’ve collectively learned, it’s that you have to communicate, make a plan and figure out what works best for you. Whether you’re splitting the check, making one kicka$$ budget or coming up with the perfect formula to combine the dolla billz…do you.
Have questions? Thinking of the perfect topic we should cover next? Sound off below or send us a tweet with #REALationshipGoalsQ&A! See ya in two weeks for the next round — this one should be fun! (hint: it may or may not involve another round of french fries)