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Budget Planning: Merging Finances for Couples

written by: AlexisW•edited by: DaniellaNicole•updated: 9/8/2011

Merging finances for couples can be one of the most difficult parts about budget planning. If you are getting married, moving in or otherwise joining your life with your partner, getting information about budget planning and merging finances for couples is essential.

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    Budget Planning

    When budget planning: merging finances for couples, many problems arise. Individual partners may have their own ideas and perceptions about money. Those ideas may not mesh, and if one partner is a spender and the other a saver, trouble can begin. Although talking about money may be an uncomfortable subject, merging finances requires that you have a truly honest conversation with your partner. It also requires teamwork and effort so you can make a budget plan together that you can both stick to.

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    Full Disclosure

    When merging finances, it is essential that both partners know exactly what they are getting into. Disclose all debts that you have, and ask your partner to do the same. As a couple, debt such as student loan debt, credit card debt or car loan debt can impact the amount of money you have available to spend on other things. When merging finances, you'll need to know this. Make a list together of everything owed, or even better, order your credit reports and go over them together so you will not only know about each other's debts, but you will also learn about each other's credit scores. These scores, too, can be important determiners of whether you will be able to buy a house or accomplish other financial goals.

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    Agree on a Plan

    Couples have a number of options when it comes to merging finances and budget planning. Some decide that merging finances for couples involves merging everything. This can mean a single joint bank account in which both parties deposit their paychecks and take money from. Other couples prefer to maintain more autonomy, keeping separate accounts and putting only a set amount of money into a shared account to use for joint goals. Still others prefer to keep all accounts separate and split things on an agreed-upon system. Whatever you and your spouse decide to do, make sure you both agree and have a clear cut plan for carrying the decision through. If you are going to split things or keep separate accounts, for example, put it in writing so you both understand what you are each responsible for.

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    Set a Budget to Achieve Joint Goals

    Regardless of whether you intend to merge your finances completely or keep separate accounts, you should both agree on a budget to help you meet your joint goals. This budget can be as comprehensive as you want it to be. For example, many couples will budget everything down to the penny, agreeing on how much to spend on all aspects of daily living. For other couples, this level of budget is too difficult to agree upon. Regardless of how much detail you want to put into your budget, you should both agree on how much you need to save each month in order to achieve joint goals. Create a plan together to set aside a certain amount of money for an emergency fund, retirement savings, or a down payment on a house. If you have other joint goals, also create a plan for how much you will each contribute per month to that goal.

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    Compromise and Accountability

    You should also try to understand where your spouse is coming form with their money habits. Ask questions about how he or she feels about spending and saving. Discuss with your spouse the way in which his parents handled money, which can have an impact on his perceptions towards spending and saving. Be understanding about differences and try to realize that money can be a sensitive subject.

    At the same time, you both need to be accountable to each other because if one party does not achieve financial goals, it impacts the family unit. Agree on monthly (or more frequent) meetings to discuss the budget. Periodically review accounts and other financial information together to make sure you are on the right track. Remember to work as a team and you both will be happier in the long run when budget planning and merging finances for couples.

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    Remember, you and your spouse may have different ideas about money, and merging finances for couples involves accommodating both of those ideas. Be willing to compromise and make trade-offs. Let your spouse continue to spend some money on his or her ridiculous collections if they agree to cut back or help meet joint savings goals. While you need to practice sound financial management, it can be important to let some little things go.

    Please be sure to check out the other tips and strategies in Bright Hub's collection of personal and household budgeting guides.

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