Here's how to talk to your partner about money

You should talk to your partner regularly about your financial decisions. Why? Because finances change month to month, quarter to quarter, and year to year. 

Brian Bohannon/AP Images for KFC/File
A newlywed couple shares a kiss in front of KFC US Headquarters in Louisville, Ky. while on their honeymoon.

It can be difficult to talk about finances with your spouse or significant other, but it’s a critical part of any healthy relationship. And instead of having a one-and-done discussion about finances, you should talk to your partner regularly about your financial decisions.

Why? Because finances change month to month, quarter to quarter and year to year. Having regular, scheduled discussions will help you stay on the same page financially as your partner. You’ll know how you’re both spending and saving, if there were any financial surprises (debt, major purchases, promotions or raises, etc.) and how you can support each other.

So what should you cover in your meeting? The first time you talk about money, it’s generally a good idea to discuss some of the following topics:

  • Your financial information: What accounts do you have and how much is in each of them? Do you have any debts? If, so how are you managing them? What is your total income?
  • Your spending goals and savings goals: Are you frugal or spendy? How much do you save each month? Do you want to change any of your financial habits?
  • What your ideal lifestyle is: Do you want to eventually own a home (or move into a larger home)? If you want to take vacations, what would they be like? Do you want to have children? What kind of lifestyle do you envision yourself leading?
  • What happens financially in the event of a breakup: If you live together, who gets what if you breakup? If you have a joint account, how will that be handled? (This is definitely hard to talk about, but so important!)

After you’ve had your first meeting, decide what schedule works for your recurring meetings. Some couples may choose to have a monthly meeting, whereas others might meet quarterly. It’s all about finding a schedule that works for the both of you.

Once you’ve settled on a schedule, what should you discuss in your recurring meeting? Some topics you may want to cover:

  • Planning for big purchases: Buying furniture, a car, a house or anything else major
  • Tracking the monthly budget: How well did you stick to it? Were there areas where you exceeded your budget? Do you need to readjust it?
  • Dividing up shared recurring expenses: Utilities, internet, phone plans, groceries, etc.
  • Paying off debt: Did you stick to your plan of paying off debt for the month? If you didn’t, how can you get back on track next month? Was any new debt incurred?
  • Tracking savings and investing goals: Did you meet your savings and investing goals for the month?
  • Sharing concerns or strategies: Do you have any other financial concerns you need to discuss with your partner? Do you have strategies or advice to share with one another?

While these conversations are never fun (much like the dreaded “define the relationship” talk), they are important to your happiness and stability as a couple. And you should approach them that way. By this, I mean you don’t want to criticize your partner for financial habits you disagree with -- instead, you want to focus on supporting one another so you can build a better financial future.

Once you’ve decided to start talking about your finances regularly, how do you go about implementing some of the strategies above?

Thankfully, there are a lot of options available.

You can set up a joint checking account for shared purchases or use apps like Splitwise or Venmo to pay each other back. If you’re saving money together, consider setting up a joint brokerage or savings account. If you’re planning a shared budget, consider using a service like Mint or Personal Capital together. With the availability of apps and services now, it’s easier than ever to manage your finances as a couple.

This story originally appeared on ValuePenguin.

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