Spending

What to do if your partner has Champagne taste but you're on a beer budget, according to relationship and money experts

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Having a partner who is a spender when you're a saver can be challenging. But having a different money philosophy than your partner doesn't necessarily mean you're not a good match.

"Your money is your money, and however you want to spend it is totally fine as long it doesn't negatively affect your relationship," says Lindsey Metselaar, a millennial dating expert and host of the dating podcast We Met At Acme.

Relationships are all about compromise, says Metselaar: "You need to figure out something that works for both of you because, if this is your long-term partner, you might share a bank account one day. How you spend has to align."

If you're in a relationship with someone whose approach to money differs from yours, there are ways to find common ground. Here are some great strategies from Metselaar and three certified financial planners to help you and your partner make compromises about money — without feeling like you're compromising your values.

1. Understand your partner's values about money

Whether you're married or in a committed partnership, the best way to understand your partner's approach to money, and your own, is to talk about it. "The worst mistake people make is being too afraid to talk about [money]," says Metselaar.

Have an open conversation with your partner about what you value spending on, and be specific, says Lili Vasileff, a certified financial planner and founder and president of Divorce and Money Matters in Greenwich, Connecticut. "Identify spending habits for specific expenses where there are difference, like vacation, restaurants, leisure, hobbies, giving (to charities or family), and to savings," she says.

Going through each spending category helps you and your partner to articulate your values around money. Then you can find common ground and areas where you're more willing to be flexible.

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Let's say you're planing a vacation and your partner wants to stay in a hotel while you'd rather go for a hostel or a campground. If your partner says it's important to them to splurge on something that's not a priority for you, that's fine, as long as they're paying for the upgrade, Metselaar says, and they can afford to.

"Whoever is the bigger diva has to pay more in the relationship. If you're going on vacation and you really want to stay at the Four Seasons, and your partner's fine with staying in a tent, then it looks like you're going to be paying a little bit more, because if you weren't in the equation, they wouldn't be staying at the Four Seasons."

2. Take a 'yours, mine, and ours' approach

One helpful strategy is for couples to decide on what they want to spend on both individually and together.

This "yours, mine, and ours" approach can help you allocate expenses fairly. Each person has certain amount of money they can spend on whatever they want individually, and the rest of the money goes into a shared pot to pay for fixed expenses like rent, plus groceries and other shared expenses.

This approach lets each partner to have some spending autonomy without hurting your overall financial situation, says Nathan Astle, a board member with the Financial Therapy Association.

Even if one partner makes more than the other, the money is a combined resource, and both should have equal say.
Nathan Astle
Financial Therapy Association board member

When you're figuring out to divvy up funds in the "yours, mine, and ours" categories, it's important that both partners feel as though they have a say in how money is allocated, regardless of income. "Even if one partner makes more than the other, the money is a combined resource, and both should have equal say," Astle says.

Judith Ward, a certified financial planner and vice president of T. Rowe Price Associates, agrees that if your partner values the finer things in life, they can allocate their own money to buying those purchases, as long as it doesn't impact your shared goals.

3. Allocate money to shared goals

It's important "to agree on your [shared] savings goals and how much, as a couple, you want to set aside for each goal," says Ward. "Then you track your income against your expenses."

Finding a budgeting app or creating a spreadsheet can help you stay accountable and organized as a couple.

And your contributions don't have to be equal, Ward says. "When determining how to accommodate your savings goals while paying the bills, you may find that an action plan may seem inequitable. That's OK. One partner may be responsible for more of the savings goals as she has access to a retirement plan at work and has to take on all the retirement savings. The other partner may be responsible for paying more of the expenses as he's brought debt to the household."

Once you've prioritized what matters most to you as a couple, you can feel as though you're working together on the same mission, says Astle. "The important thing, if you are in a committed relationship, is that both of you are on the same team in moving forward."

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