“Money is a very emotional topic – it’s a subject that people tend to completely avoid discussing when they get together,” says Anjula Mutanda, a relationship psychologist and Relate ambassador. “We tend to make assumptions about who pays for what without sitting down and saying anything about it. But couples need to have a chat about money as early as possible.”
When you’re coupled up, addressing the issue of money can be hard. But even if you’re only dating, Mutanda advises, it’s important to talk about who pays for what. “Make it part of a normal conversation.”
Relate estimates that 8.3 million people in the UK are in debt and one in seven of these have hidden money problems from their partner. Dishonesty in any sense does not make for a healthy relationship, so we spoke to experts about the best ways to manage money as a couple.
Discuss money like you’re in a business meeting
Relationship psychologist Mutanda advises couples to take emotion out of the equation when discussing money and instead approach it like you would a business meeting.
“Think about how much money you have, make a joint budget and agree to keep each other updated on a monthly basis,” she says. “There’s a lot of secrecy in relationships when it comes to money. Be very open and transparent. It prevents unnecessary arguments later down the line.”
Hold monthly ‘money chats’ outside of your house
Following on from Mutanda’s comments, Relate counsellor, Barbara Bloomfield, advises couples to book in regular slots outside of the home to sit and talk about money: whether that’s in a coffee shop, restaurant or other public space.
“If they can do it over coffee or lunch, that’s brilliant,” she says. “My husband and I go out once a month for our money chat and spend 30 minutes to an hour discussing our finances. We check on how much we’ve saved, we get our bank accounts onto the screen and share what we’ve been spending, we also give ourselves a pat on the back - for example, acknowledging our success when it comes to saving.”
She adds: “Even if you’re on the breadline, you can mark your successes. Acknowledge that you’ve spent another month not going into the red.”
Make financial decisions together
A general tip for all couples is that from the start of your relationship you should make decisions together and, if you do move in together, share the bill-paying and application for financial products. If you are both responsible for different things, it will share the load and reduce arguments, rather than the pressure being dumped on one person.
You should also be transparent about money. Bloomfield says it’s not unheard of for couples to attend counselling because one of them spent the £30,000 that they were saving up to buy a new kitchen. “This behaviour can spell the end of a relationship,” she adds.
Take out products so you both get a credit rating
Jacqueline Dewey, managing director of credit report provider Noddle, says with heterosexual couples in particular, men tend to take out products (such as credit cards and phone contracts) in their name more than women - and this can have a negative impact on the woman’s credit score.
“We’re reminding women to take a more proactive approach to applying for products while in a relationship,” she adds.
Be wary of joint accounts
Megan French, consumer expert at MoneySavingExpert.com, warns couples to be wary of setting up a joint bank account together.
She explains: “It’s worth noting that if you go for a joint financial product, such as a joint bank account, you will become financially linked with your partner so if they have a poor credit score this could affect yours – and so in this case it’s better to keep your finances rigidly separate to help maintain access to good credit for you.
“You can still be jointly named on bills, such as those for your gas and electric, with your partner without becoming financially linked – as this should only happen when the firm is confident you’re a couple (e.g. when your bills are addressed ‘Mr and Mrs’).”
She says you should both be aware of what is going on with each other’s finances, rather than the burden falling on just one person, to ensure you’re both on the same track for things such as budgeting and saving.
If in doubt, double up on bank accounts
Mutanda says if you desperately want a joint account, it’s worth keeping your personal account too so you’ve got your own pot of money.
With joint accounts, she advises ring-fencing a certain amount of money for the account each month - for things like rent, food shopping and bills. Then you’ll be left with a sum of money in your personal account which you can either choose to save or spend.
She adds: “It helps couples stop money from interrupting the rest of the relationship.”