How to Navigate Love and Money: The Importance of Being Financially Saavy as a Couple

young man who learned to navigate love and finances playfully holding credit card away from smirking young woman

When you get married, you are not only marrying that person, but you are also marrying their family and their credit score. We love our significant others and we need money to survive, but how do we talk about our finances together? Do you know what kind of spending habits you are marrying into? Is the person you’re marrying a saver or a spender?

Those questions are all things that need to be considered before the wedding bells ring. Being a financially savvy couple takes open communication and hard conversations to avoid marriage pitfalls.

What Money Mindsets Do We Value in Our Relationships?

According to the Jimenez Law Firm, “Money is widely known as one of the leading causes of divorce in America. It’s estimated that financial problems contribute to 20-40% of all divorces. That means that for every 10 marriages that end in divorce, four of them are because of money. Typically, around 41% of divorced Gen Xers, along with 29% of divorced Boomers state that the reason their marriages ended was due to financial disagreements.”¹

Another study² shows that 55% of single people find partners who pay their bills on time and who are financially responsible most appealing. I have to agree with the study. This same study found that 44% of couples had like mindsets as their partner. That’s less than half, and I fell into that statistic! I’d like to think that after 16 years of marriage, we are a lot closer to agreeing on financial decisions than when we first started out.

When my husband and I first met, we were on different extremes when it came to finances. I was a college student trying to make my money stretch and save for when I would be on my own, while my husband liked to splurge on eating out and going out with friends.

We soon had to meet in the middle of the financial spectrum. I wanted to save money to go on trips and buy a house while he enjoyed convenience. When we were in the early days of our engagement, we had serious talks about our finances. It was uncomfortable and confusing because we didn’t always agree, but we did try to see the other person’s perspective.

How to Navigate Love and Money as a Couple


Talking through financial goals and expectations can be tricky for couples, even those who have been married for years. As awkward as the conversation is, it needs to be a priority because it can make for fewer arguments in the long run.

There are lots of decisions to make, like whether you will be combining finances and using one source to pay the bills or keeping finances separate. My husband and I both grew up with parents who had combined finances, and that’s the model that we used.

Deciding who will be responsible for making sure the bills are paid on time is important to establish early in the relationship. In our marriage, I pay the bills and keep track of the household finances.

All financial decisions are made together for any purchase over $250. We wanted to set goals that were manageable for us as a couple, that would help us grow a nest egg, and afford us the opportunity to move into our own home one day.

Budgeting Benefits

We wrote out a rough budget. It showed us on paper how much our monthly expenses were and how much money we brought in. This helped us clearly see what was left over for food, gas, and fun stuff! Being able to see the actual amount you bring home, minus the expenses, can be eye-opening for many couples.

When you are hired, you are told a number. After taxes, withholding and insurance are deducted, you find that you bring home much less than that original amount. Looking closely at your monthly finances and expenses can feel like a similar experience.

We decided that paying ourselves first was important for our saving goals. What I mean by “paying ourselves” is that after taking care of our bills each month, we put money away (usually an agreed-upon amount) in savings. This money is transferred directly into our savings account before we do anything else. After those steps are complete, the money that is leftover is what we allot for spending on things like food and entertainment.

Meal Prep Magic

By looking over our rough budget, we also saw that we spent a lot of money on convenience food and eating out. I started meal planning, prepping, and packing lunches for us to take to work. This way, we were less likely to eat out for convenience rather than as a treat. We now choose to go out 1-2 times a week, usually with friends on the weekends.

Meal planning requires time and effort to be an effective tool for families. I still meal plan weekly and then make our grocery list from the menu, including leftovers for lunches. A quality Crockpot and a food storage saver, so we could buy in bulk, helped tremendously. (Both items were given to us as wedding gifts! Bonus!)

We learned to make different things and try to make things at home that we enjoyed. My husband loves steak, so we had steak when I could find it on sale at the grocery store. Even when it wasn’t on sale, I was still paying less than when we go out for it.

We are savvy in our decision to eat out now. With the rising cost of food and, frankly, mediocre offerings at many establishments today, we strategically plan what we will eat and where before we go. We normally choose restaurants that offer something special that we can’t easily make at home or something that someone is craving.

According to a Ramsey Solutions’ survey conducted in 2017 of 1,000 adults, “One-third of people who say they argued with their spouse about money say they hid a purchase from their spouse because they knew their partner would not approve.”³

Cash Over Credit14 ways to save time & money on family meal planning

The next piece in our financial plan was that we decided if we couldn’t afford to outright pay cash for something, we weren’t going to buy it—unless it was a house or a car. For those big ticket items, we would discuss it together and make sure we were both good with the payment and finance charges before proceeding. No one would be surprising the other with a new car for the holidays!

Using cash for transactions helped us to know our limits on how much we could spend. The world tells us to just charge everything but fails to tell us we will pay dearly in interest over time for the purchases. I do understand that sometimes things happen and you have to charge items, and there are always extenuating circumstances you can address as a couple when they arise. Discussing in advance how you will handle things will help those moments feel less stressful and taxing on your relationship.

When we finally bought our first house, I included an additional $100 to the principal every month. When we later sold that house, we had made such a dent in the principal that we had a large amount of equity in the property. We were able to build our second home. We again paid extra every month so we would knock down the principal quickly. We paid off our house in 11 years instead of the original 30-year term of the mortgage. The overpayments helped us to outright own our home, eliminating our debt.

A Savvy Saving Tip

While we were building our house, we pulled the purse strings very tight because we honestly didn’t know what the house would end up costing. There are fluctuations in the market, building materials are constantly changing prices, and there are always unexpected things that arise.

During this time, my husband and I started a process to help us curtail our frivolous spending. The whole concept was simple—if an item cost more than $50 (you can make this any amount), then you write it on a list and hang that list on the refrigerator. The item would sit on the list for 30 days, and if we still wanted that item after 30 days, we could purchase it. But if during those 30 days you found something else you wanted, you had to remove the first item and replace it with the new item and your waiting period started over.

We instituted this with our son when he was young to help him make smart spending choices. This helped each of us see if we were buying things based on emotions or a true need/want.

Family finances should always be discussed as a couple before a purchase. Large purchases should never be one-sided but should instead be mutually agreed upon. In the beginning, my husband and I weren’t on the same page when it came to our money. But 16 years later, we are a lot more aligned in making smart financial choices. Open communication and an understanding of where the other party is coming from are the first steps to being financially savvy together.

¹“Divorce and Money | Financial Problems are a Leading Cause of Divorce.” The Jimenez Law Firm, 29 December 2022, Accessed 20 December 2023.

²“Making cents of love & money: 64% of coupled consumers admit to financial incompatibility with their partners.” Bread Financial Newsroom, 1 February 2023, Accessed 20 December 2023.

“Money Ruining Marriages in America: A Ramsey Solutions study – Ramsey.” Ramsey Solutions, 6 February 2018, Accessed 20 December 2023.

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