Finances. They’re not the most exciting things to talk about with your partner. People will try to hide the conversation about money, putting off talking about debt, spending, goals, and budgets until the last possible moment (or, until you need to apply for a loan together and all the skeletons come out of the closet).
We’d rather talk about our plans for the weekend, where we want to go, our dreams, or just about anything else. But money is what keeps the world going, and we need to talk about it, especially with the person who knows us and our futures the best.
You don’t have to talk about money every day, but you should do it regularly and, ideally, on a consistent, planned-ahead schedule that lets you both come to the table ready. But if you’re not sure how often you should talk about money with your partner, we asked Catherine Alford, author of Mom’s Got Money and co-founder of Millennial Homeowner, for some advice.
Think about having your money talk once a month.
Alford suggests having a regular meeting at the beginning of the month. This is a suggestion that is shared by many financial experts. She says that doing this at the beginning of the month gives you time to think about and plan for big expenses for that month. This can help you avoid the stress that comes with spending money on the spot. You can plan for things like birthdays, vacations, and car insurance bills that require a one-time payment.
She also says that if you look at the next month, you can make a plan and budget that are right for that month. For example, June and December may look different. If you both want to keep track of your spending throughout the month, you can plan a mini-check-in for the 15th to see if the budget is working or if it needs to be changed because of unexpected costs.
- Make a plan.
So, what goes on at these meetings every month? First of all, you don’t want to show up to your monthly meeting about money and find some surprises. So, plan ahead. Look at your bills, what you’ve spent, and how your investments are doing a few days before you need to pay them. If there is something that could upset your partner, tell them ahead of time so they can plan how to handle it. Then, you can talk about it in a calm way during the meeting.
- Have one partner take charge of the meeting.
One person may naturally want to run these meetings, but if neither person is excited about money, you can take turns running the meeting, taking notes, and assigning action items.
- Set an agenda.
It’s too easy to sit down without knowing what you need to talk about, and five minutes later, someone will say, “Okay, anything else? We’re good? “and you both go on your way without talking about anything hard.
Instead, bring a clear plan to the table that includes both short-term and long-term financial goals and decisions. It might not look the same every month, but you should include things like a review of your past and future budgets, credit card statements, debt, and investments. You should talk about how well money worked for you last month and if you need to change anything. Bring up long-term spending goals, like a down payment or paying for your child’s college. Look at your statements for retirement and use this time to learn about the stock market.
Don’t forget to have fun.
And don’t forget that it doesn’t all have to be spreadsheets and numbers. You can have fun while making a budget. Alford adds, “Don’t forget to start each monthly budget meeting by stating your big, audacious money goals and dreaming. This puts you and your partner on the same page and helps you remember why you’re meeting to talk about money in the first place.”