Your money, and how you manage it, is personal, but some situations can get sticky if you don’t have some guidelines in place – like who pays for what…
“Couples who are dating generally have not had sit-down conversations about managing finances together,” says Eunice Sibiya, Head of FNB Consumer Education, “but the reality is that informal management of your money in a relationship can take a chunk out of your pocket.”
Financial matters are incredibly personal and have to be handled with sensitivity. It is so easy for one party to feel inadequate because they don’t have an equal amount of money to spend, or they feel they might come across as stingy if they don’t want to go out, or ask for their share of money back after they have paid for something.
Sibiya highlights the following situations, which can be managed in the right way to avoid awkward money moments.
Keeping up with your couple friends
A few couples spending time together wining and dining is always fun, however make sure that you and your partner are honest with one another about the number and type of activities you are able to fit into your monthly budget.
“While you don’t have to disclose all your budget details to one another, it is worthwhile to fill your partner in at the beginning of the month about what your financial outlook for the next 30 days is. That way, both parties can act proactively when invited to events, rather than one party accepting the invitation just for the other to advise that they are not able to accommodate the event in their budget,” suggests Sibiya.
Don’t split the bill equally
Although it is much easier to split the bill equally to avoid the tedious process of dividing it correctly, the convenience might not be worth what it does to your budget – unless of course you had more or less the same meals and drinks. Whilst you will pay less if your meal was more expensive than your partner’s, it is quite likely that you could be the one paying more than you would if you paid only your share.
“It is wonderful to be at the stage in a relationship where both parties are comfortable with just dividing the bill in half, but if you are deliberately choosing your meals according to what you can afford, having to pay more because the bill is split equally could mean having less to spend on a another item in your budget for the rest of the month,” notes Sibiya.
Don’t make a fuss about this: just tell your partner that you will order based on your budget and that splitting the bill will throw your budget off. If this is a ground rule, you never need to have the conversation again.
“You can grab the next one”
How often do we tell our partner: “Don’t worry, you can grab the next one”, or, “This one is on me”?
Although these are caring or perhaps convenient gestures to avoid having to swipe two cards, you might be surprised at what these random costs of paying for your partner add up to – especially if your partner tends to be forgetful and you do not alternate between such payments.
“Don’t be shy to raise this – there is nothing wrong with reminding your partner that you paid the previous bill – it can be done in a loving and caring way and could be the difference between surviving the month or having to start living off credit,” says Sibiya.
Honest conversations on any matter, especially finances, are invaluable and can avoid bitterness, irritability and money fights later on
Informal living arrangements
Many couples don’t live together permanently but sleeping over every so often is not out of the norm. Whilst it is true that one can cut costs and wastage when living together permanently, quite the opposite is true of informal living arrangements.
There is a certain level of commitment and financial conversation that comes with the decision to move in together, but when you just visit, particularly if you sleep over more often at one partner’s place, one party can very easily incur more costs than they would ordinarily have.
Household expenses such as electricity, water and groceries are bound to increase with your partner staying over frequently, but due to the informal nature of sleepovers, they are unlikely to contribute to these bills, resulting in your monthly expenses increasing.
“Draw up a budget to show your partner how your living costs increase and ask them whether they are willing to contribute towards electricity as an example, the cleaning service or buying food for supper in the periods that they stay over,” suggests Sibiya.
Managing the above circumstances well can have a positive effect on both couples who are dating and those in long term relationships.
“Be realistic about where you are in your relationship and about what you and you partner can afford not only for your current circumstances but also if you are saving towards certain milestones like a wedding or children. Honest conversations on any matter, especially finances, are invaluable and can avoid bitterness, irritability and money fights later on,” concludes Sibiya.