Whether you’re tech-savvy or not, you and your partner can get it together on finances
Of course, talking about money may not come naturally to you. Fortunately, there are apps, websites, and conversation starters to help you and your partner along. I’ve divided the tools below by the level of tech-savviness required. Try one of them, or some combination of the three, to get on the same page with your partner when it comes to dollars and cents.
The “Apps run my life” approach (Tech level: High)
You and your partner may have already delved into the world of money management apps, making use independently of tools like Mint or Clarity Money. Why not take the next step: Try an app for couples that provides a bird’s-eye view of money in your relationship.
HoneyFi and Honeydue are like other spending trackers. They link to your credit card and bank accounts and bill providers. But these apps go further by tracking accounts for two people. Each of you can designate accounts as joint or individual, and determine whether your partner can view account transactions, balances, or both. Partners can leave real-time feedback on transactions that (hopefully) lead to constructive conversations offline. (“Way to reduce your lunch costs today!” or “Our Amazon charges are getting crazy this month. Let’s see where we can cut back.”) The apps also suggest a household budget based on your spending. I give Honeydue, with its superior design, the slight edge over Honeyfi.
The “I get Venmo and kill it on Instagram, but beyond that…not so much” approach (Tech level: Medium)
While apps like HoneyFi and Honeydue are great for keeping track of your shared finances, they don’t “keep score.” For couples concerned that each of you pays his or her fair share, there’s the simple but effective Splitwise. This app—perhaps best known for helping groups of friends split pricey dinner bills equitably—can work for couples, too.
One downside: Splitwise doesn’t link to your accounts, which means each of you must enter expenses manually. For example, a two-week vacation with each partner shelling out for plane tickets, meals, car rentals, hotel room service, and so on, can results in dozens of entries—and some complicated arithmetic. The app takes care of the math, giving each of you a running tally so that you can always see the bottom line: You either owe money, your partner owes you, or you’re even. All you have to do is settle up periodically. (You can do so through via Splitwise’s integration with PayPal or Venmo, or by recording a cash payback in the app.)
For couples who want to hammer out a budget but consider apps like Honeyfi and Honeydue to be unnecessary oversharing, check out the detailed worksheet in Chapter 2 of my book Get a Financial Life, or use the home budget analysis tool on my website.
The “One step beyond a flip phone” approach (Tech level: low)
First, put down your phones.
Print out your credit card year-end summaries, which you can find on the website of your credit card provider. These statements list your annual spending by category: groceries, shopping, travel, restaurants, and so on. Grab a highlighter and look for areas to cut back: subscription services you use sparingly (or even duplicate!), lunch costs you could have reduced by brown-bagging it, impulsive credit card charges for on-sale items you didn’t really need.
Next, each of you can set some new goals. For example, decide on a cap on gift spending for each other. Commit to delaying a purchase every single day. Pack lunches all next week. Discuss how to boost your income.
Now, pick your phones back up. Divide up the 800 numbers for your cable, cell phone, and credit card providers and call them. Nicely but firmly suggest to the customer service rep that you’ll cancel if your bill isn’t lowered or your terms improved. Don’t take no for answer. You’d be surprised how often this works.
Finally, toast to being on the same page financially.