Your stomach feels a bit sick as you squirrel away another bank statement. You really would speak to your partner about your slight overspend – okay ridiculous lack of self-control and reckless absence of planning – but how are you supposed to start a conversation like that? You don’t want to invite a row but when is it ever the right time to talk about this subject?
If you recognise this thought process, you certainly aren’t alone. Money really can be a nightmare for so many couples. The Money Advice Service found in a poll of more than 2,000 UK adults that nearly half (45%) weren’t always honest with their partner about finances while a quarter were openly lying about spending.
Why? Fear, shame, denial; whatever the reason, the truth is that dishonesty only leads to destruction. Christians Against Poverty (CAP) has seen time and time again how money problems can wreck relationships. Their latest research shows three in four debt clients said their situation had caused arguments while nearly a quarter (23%) said debt directly led to their relationship breaking down.
Those who work at the charity daily witness the fallout of debt stress and are keenly aware of avoiding financial troubles in their relationships. What advice do they have?
Josie is married with two kids and has worked at CAP for eighteen years; she says, “I think it’s crucial for your health and happiness in your relationship that you brave it and do a reality check on your finances as soon as you can. It might be nerve-wracking to bring those bank statements out into the open, but until you both know what’s happening, you can’t start to tackle it.”
Emma, married for seven years, agrees with Josie as she knows all too well how easy it is to fall into the blame game over money issues. She decided to tackle the problem by sitting down with her husband and creating a budget. “Now we’ve done that, we are both responsible for our budgeting and have more of an idea of the boundaries of our spending, so we argue much less,” she said.
Okay so making a budget together isn’t everyone’s idea of a fun night but Fi and her husband suggest finding ways to make it a more enjoyable process. “We get some snacks and a bottle of wine and treat it like it’s something good. We plan monthly and yearly, we set goals and targets related to holidays, home improvements, and we celebrate when we get it right or achieve a goal,” she says.
If all this sounds like good advice to you, but you’re still not sure where to start then here are some more top tips for getting the money conversation going:
- Pick your time: when things are quiet at home, and no one is dealing with any immediate stresses.
- Avoid the conversation when the children are around, your mum-in-law is visiting, or a big bill has just landed.
- Agree that you want to make it a year when you get on top of finances together and that the money conversation isn’t about blaming anyone.
- Acknowledge that money management can be hard, especially when stressed, or if you’re on a low income. Mistakes may have been made, but this is about looking forward.
- Remember your attitudes to money might be very different. Past experiences can shape these, but you can play to each other’s strengths.
- Decide on a shared goal you want to aim for, like a day out, a holiday, a new car or just a “getting back in the black” celebration. It will happen twice as fast if you’re in it together.
- Use one of the many online tools – or book into one of the hundreds of free CAP Money Courses – to begin to build your budget.
- If you have debts, don’t delay in getting help from a free debt counselling agency like Christians Against Poverty, Stepchange, National Debtline, Citizens Advice, Payplan, the Money Advice Service or, if you’re self-employed, Business Debtline.
- Make payday the day you review how it’s all going and make adjustments to the budget where necessary.
- Avoid credit wherever possible and begin to save as soon as you can, even if it is a small regular amount.