When my girlfriend and I first started dating, our spending habits were absolutely atrocious because we were still young (19 and 23). We didn’t have many responsibilities outside of working (me) and going to college classes (her) so, much of our income was expendable.
Then we made the leap and got an apartment together and boy, did things start to get real. It was a hard realization that we couldn’t do things like before and take a few days off to go to the beach, spend all weekend clubbing, head out to a music festival in the next state, or buy stacks of video games and hobby supplies.
Things had to get under control but I’m sure you know where this is going. Bringing up finances to your significant other, at this early stage, is sort of a flip of a coin in how they’ll react. Luckily she was on board and so we set off to make things straight.
Here are some of the things we did, as a couple, to make sure that our finances were in check.
- Gaming/Hobbies/Media. We decided to opt-out of a full cable package, because we never really watched TV so, instead, we upped our Internet service to higher speeds. This allowed me to do my work easier (it’s all online) and it also meant that we shifted more of our activities toward computers. This meant a lot of our games, hobbies, and other media became dirt cheap thanks to online game sales, tech-related hobbies: like building websites, and streaming shows/movies with Netflix
- Banking & Bills. Going against some conventions we got a bank account together which would go toward paying the common bills like rent, electric, cable, and others (though we still kept our personal accounts). This made things easier as we kept it 50/50. One of the ideas that really made things easy was switching it up and trying out online bill paying services. The service we used could easily look at what was coming up, make sure we had enough, and pay on the spot rather than letting things get too close (stressful!) or accidentally going past the date and getting a late fee.
- The Two Week Rule. Perhaps the best thing we did, as a couple, was decide on a “two week rule” for shopping. Basically it means that you (or your SO) finds something they really want but the other takes the time to ask questions as to why they want it and encourage them to wait out two weeks and come back to it later. It works great because once you sit on the idea for two weeks you usually don’t care much for the item anymore because it’s past that point of excitement – you’ll effectively overcome the advertising and marketing.
- Got Serious about Health. Unexpected health expenses can be the downfall of your financial planning and savings. When you’re not with someone you aren’t going to say “well, that’s your issue” because you two are a team. The best way to avoid a lot of health bills is to be healthy. We started walking every day. We changed our diets. We started seeking activities that would get us going rather than passive entertainment like movies or video games. Being healthier has definitely helped with being able to stay out of the hospital and doctor’s office.
- Set Bigger Goals. Being young it’s easy to get into the mindset and lifestyle of “living in the moment” which, in theory, sounds wonderful but can do some bad things to your finances. So we set bigger goals such as traveling (we recently went to Germany for two months). We also have a house in our plans. By having these BIG goals we can help each other avoid superfluous spending on stuff we really don’t need. All it takes is a “do you want that or the big goal?” and that usually takes care of it.
Talking to your significant other about finances can be a little scary in the beginning especially when you’re still just getting to know the person but if you see yourself having a future with this person it’s best to just get it out of the way sooner rather than later.
These were just a few of the things we did to get everything under control. What sort of actions have you taken for yours?