Among the primary causes of separation or divorce are — you guessed it — money matters. Maybe one of you is a big spender while the other is a penny pincher. Or, perhaps your partner has some financial baggage that rears its head when you least expect it. “Money is so tied to emotions that this simple, tangible piece of currency can turn a content couple into one of chaos and conflict,” says Clare Dubé, a financial therapist in Madison, CT.
“Debt is a huge [issue] in a relationship,” adds Jennifer McDermott, a consumer advocate at Finder.com, who points to an internal survey that revealed close to 78 percent of Americans would consider leaving someone because of an excessive amount of credit card debt. Other “dump-able” offenses, the survey found, included people carrying a load of payday or student loans. Yikes.
But if you’ve already tied the knot, you may have contracted what McDermott describes as “sexually transmitted debt.” She notes that 30 percent of Americans surveyed by Finder.com have taken on debt because of a romantic relationship, with the average amount per person totaling $11,485.
“Debt doesn’t have to sink a relationship, but it is important to be transparent and honest with your partner about your financial situation,” says McDermott. It’s also important to create joint financial goals, she adds. “Getting on the same page will prevent, or at least minimize, money-related issues impacting your relationship down the road.”
Here are simple things you can do to save money as a couple — and, in turn, save your marriage.
Establish spending rules
Once you’re in a committed relationship, you need to think about how your spending affects not only you, but your partner as well. “Some couples have set spending limits per month that they can spend how they want, while the rest of their income goes to the joint goal,” says McDermott. “Others implement a rule where they have to gain approval from [their partner] for expenses over a certain amount — for example, $100.”
Dubé suggests you create a monthly budget and have weekly money chats to discuss any expenses that were not accounted for. “And check in to see if the spending plan is working smoothly, she adds. “If tweaks need to be made, then these weekly chats are the time to make those changes.”
Live on one salary
“I know this may seem scary,” admits Dubé. “Quite a few of my clients have taken this savings approach and are amazed at how resourceful they can become. Not one, let me repeat that, not one of my clients have felt deprived by living on one salary. They have learned to appreciate the material things they do possess, and value their relationships and experiences much more.”
Consolidate your accounts
As a couple, you can save a bundle by combining accounts. “Review subscription services and cell phone and internet plans to see what you can consolidate,” says McDermott. “You may also want to compare health benefits to see if it makes more sense to remain on two independent plans or add one to the other’s plan.”
Spend less on outsourcing
When you lived independently, you might have outsourced some of your household tasks, such as maintenance, cleaning, and cooking. Instead, advises McDermott, “Pool your abilities as a couple, and tackle all needs yourselves to better serve your savings rather than the gig economy.”
Get creative with date nights
Spending quality time together doesn’t have to mean expensive dinners and activities that cost $50 or more a person. “Leverage free events, have a romantic night in cooking together,” says McDermott. Explore your neighborhood; the (affordable) possibilities are endless.
Think before buying
Dubé says you should always ask yourself a few questions before making a substantial purchase:
Do you need it?
Can you afford it?
Do you already have something similar?
Can you wait for a better alternative?
Is this the best price you can find?
Depending on your answers, either walk away or give yourself a couple of days to mull it over. “If after 48 hours you believe it is the right decision to purchase, shop away,” she says.
To go even further to curb an impulse-buying habit, McDermott recommends cutting up credit cards, removing saved credit card details from online stores, or downloading apps such as Icebox, which freezes online purchases for 30 days or so to help you avoid buyer’s remorse — and a lovers’ quarrel!