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Budgeting For Couples


Black Friday came and went. It’s the holiday shopping season full of deals and lots of extra trips to the shopping mall or visits to Amazon to hunt for gifts for friends and loved ones. With all the extra time shopping, it’s not really a crime to actually want to get something for yourself. Maybe it’s that 65″ OLED television you’ve always wanted that’s now on sale. Or perhaps it’s that Kate Spade bag you’ve been watching for the last 2 months that’s finally on sale for 40% off.

Let’s face it. We’re human and we’re always weak to temptation, but what happens when our significant others disagree with our purchases? Money is one of the leading factors in divorce and break ups in relationships. So how do we prevent the awkward conversations of “Why did you buy that TV when we don’t NEED it!” and “Why did you buy another purse? Isn’t 12 enough already?”

Set A Goal. Save First

There’s a popular phrase in the personal finance world and that’s “pay yourself first.” That’s normally written in the singular form but it should also apply to couples as well. “Pay yourselves first.” A successful relationship involves communication with the significant other and establishing what a savings goal should be. Once that is determined, then stick to it.

It’s much simpler before when one only had to care about their own finances, but what happens with two people? This is where communication is necessary. Finance has always been a taboo subject. Couples do sex therapy, or parenting classes, but you never see couples do financial classes to learn. Most of the time one partner delegates to the one that knows more about finances. This shouldn’t be the case.

Couples should sit down and decide what the best savings rate should be for both of them as a whole. David Chilton preached 10% as a rule in his book, The Wealthy Barber, as a healthy savings rate. That was his rule, but sometimes one partner might be much more conservative or maybe they want to FIRE like Mr. Money Mustache. Maybe he or she wants 15% or maybe even 20%. The savings rate should be decided together and then executed.

Just remember the couple should always pay themselves first. It’s as simple as setting up a joint account and auto transferring money over to the new account. This way there shouldn’t be any discrepancies as to what needs to be saved for future retirement.

Establish Fun Money

People shouldn’t be judged or chastised for making large purposes. There’s always this funny joke like “Oh does your wife/husband know about that purchase?” We joke around but inside we know it’s serious. When couples manage money it becomes like a student teacher relationship where every purchase needs permission. What I’m suggesting is to take away that guilt.

On top of setting a savings goal, couples should allot money for their “fun money”. This is a part of their savings where the individual can spend on whatever fancies them. It could be an expensive new phone, or perhaps a new pair of expensive shoes. If the person has already saved for this, there shouldn’t be any guilt in the purchase. “I work hard damn it! Let me have some fun!”

This amount could be a set amount each month. Perhaps set something like $200 aside per month that can be spent however the other person wants to without the need. If someone is patient enough to save 10 months to buy something for $2000, he shouldn’t be penalized for it.


If you’ve already established the consistency of paying yourself first. Where and how the remaining money gets spent shouldn’t be contentious. So long as the mandatory bills are paid like rent, mortgage and utilities, then the rest of the disposable income should be just that. Disposable.

Keep Communicating

The worse part of couples financial management is that one party doesn’t know what the other person is doing. This needs to be corrected. Both individuals should understand and be on board with how the other is approaching their finances. Just like Apple and Android lovers, individuals that disagree on their finances will usually end in an argument or worse a divorce.

The better way to approach finances is coming up with a fair budget and financial plan that satisfies both parties. This requires communication between both parties. The lame excuses of ignorance or pretending to have no knowledge of financial matters is not acceptable. If someone gets upset with purchases or use of money, then in fact that person does have some financial knowledge that he or she believes in. Someone that truly doesn’t care wouldn’t care, but trust me everyone cares.

So like my sample spreadsheet above, maybe it’s time to sit down with your significant other and hammer out the details. What’s a fair budget? How can a plan be made up such that someone that ends up buying something expensive on Boxing Day won’t get chastised for their purchase.



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