After every restaurant dates, movie nights, morning coffee, and out-of-town trips, there’s always the question of whether who should pay the bill or should you split it.
When things get serious in a relationship, and you’re both on the same page about taking the next step, money is a topic that you should discuss early on.
Managing money personally or as a couple is the best way to live well and achieve financial freedom.
Here is a step-by-step way to budget as a couple
STEP 1: TOTAL YOUR COMBINED INCOME
Combining income as a couple is tricky.
It’s wise in this stage of your relationship not to put everything in one basket. In other words, don’t dedicate all your earned money to your mutual expenses.
It gives you enough security and freedom over your money.
When something undesirable happens, like a huge fight that leads to splitting up, you can still get by without your partner.
Even though you are sharing the bills, save enough money in your separate account.
Letting them know about it is completely up to you.
Even better, teach them to save money separately, too.
This way, you won’t have to justify every expense since you have set up a budget that both of you can access.
So when we say combine your combine, what we mean is combine the income that you are both willing to give.
The amount depends on whether you are living together, or you have your place that your partner regularly visits over.
In our example, let’s assume you are living together.
Let’s say, your monthly income is $2000. Take out at least $600 to save in a separate account.
Now, what if the other partner earns less income? Let’s say, $1500 monthly.
To be fair, take out 30% from $1500 so they can save as well.
In total, you will have $2450 as your combined income.
There might be other sources of money other than income like side hustles, bonuses, etc.
It’s your call whether to include this in your monthly expenses, add it to your savings, splurge, or even use it to buy your partner gifts on special occasions.
STEP 2: COMBINE EXPENSES, ESTIMATE BUDGET FOR EACH
Now that we have an amount of your combined income, the next step is to list down all your combined expenses.
This will include rent, utilities, phone bills, date nights, etc.
Estimate a budget for each and stick to the combined income.
Set up a budget for fixed expenses like rent, utilities, daily allowances.
Then work your way around variable expenses like groceries, lifestyle budget, etc.
Even better, budget around $2000 so the other $450 can be kept as a mutual saving.
If your amount does not add up, or your expenses exceed your combined budget, agree on compromising on some things.
You may need to limit your daily allowance, or give up a movie night and watch at home instead.
The thing about budgeting is to spend less than your income.
STEP 3: TRACK YOUR EXPENSES
Setting a budget and not following through it makes the effort of budgeting worthless.
Hence, having a concrete plan on how you will track your expenses is key to successful budgeting.
There are several ways to budget and track your expenses.
Zero Based Budgeting
In this method of budgeting, you assign every dollar to each budgeting category that you spend on monthly.
Set up half of your income on housing, utilities, and food. The other 30 is allocated for personal expenses like eating out. The remaining 20 percent will be allocated on savings.
Involves actual envelopes where you put the exact amount of money for that category. Your expenses become limited as you can’t spend more money other than what’s available in the envelope for that month.
These ways of budgeting may be time-consuming for some people. But others find it enjoyable as they treat is as a game.
However, If the above examples seem daunting, there are still other ways to track your spending.
Install a budgeting app that both you and your partner can access is another option.
STEP 4: PLAN FOR THE FUTURE
Remember the $450 that you’ve saved up mutually, you can put it in “FOR THE FUTURE” category.
This includes different things for different couples. If you’re planning to travel abroad or to get married in the next few years, you need to have a budget for it.
When you budget as a couple, it is also important to assess each other’s goals, especially when it involves money.
But one thing to know is that it’s not wise at this stage of your relationships to spend on things that you cannot divide like buying a house, or a car.
You can postpone these goals when you get married. But if one of you need a car, or think investing in real estate is something you can’t wait to do, be obliged to pay for it on your own.
This way, you both have separate assets.
On the other hand, if you are really settled on getting married and just waiting for the right time, you can discuss these expenses with your partner.
Think of budgeting as a couple like testing the waters.
Some couples wait until marriage to talk about money and their finances. But it’s wiser to test your skills around money before even getting married.
This way, you will learn the other’s attitude around money, help them address their money issues, or even get help from them in addressing yours.
Doing this, you can also get warning signs if your partner is in line with your goals and whether you should take your relationship further.
Now that you have these steps on how to budget as a couple, make sure you have a sit-down session with your partner and get on with the first step immediately.