Creating a plan together

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What should you think about when making a financial plan with your partner? We share our tips and tools on how to create a successful financial plan.

Pick your step:

1. Prioritise

Before you dive into creating a plan, it is important to understand what your financial priorities are. 

Start by structuring your financial life one step at a time. 

Here are some questions that may help you decide what to focus on first:

"We are about to move in together - how will we manage shared expenses?"
"How are we currently organising and managing our debt, savings and investments? Is this working?"
"How are we currently organising and managing our monthly budget? Is this working?"
"What steps can we take to get more organised with our finances?"
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  • If we are about to move in together, how will we manage shared expenses?
  • How are we currently organising and managing our debt, savings and investments? Is this working?
  • How are we currently organising and managing our monthly budget, if we have one? Is this working?
  • What steps can we take to get more organised with our finances?

Because so many emotions come up when money is discussed, it may be necessary to discuss some things more than once before they are agreed. 

Remember to keep in mind that emotions can be easily triggered when certain sensitive issues are discussed – and what you might consider sensitive may be viewed differently by your partner.

Click here for more information about dealing with strong emotions

2. Earning money

It is important to talk about how you earn money and if you want anything to change in the future such as working part-time, starting your own business or retiring early. 

It’s important to find out how your partner feels and discuss the impact it will have on both your lifestyles.

It’s also critical to discuss what things will look like in your relationship in these common scenarios:

What if one of you earns significantly more?
What if one of you loses your job and needs support?
What if one of you wants to go back to school and needs support?
What if one of you wants to be a stay at ­home parent when you have kids?
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  • What if one of you earns significantly more?
  • What if one of you loses your job and needs support?
  • What if one of you wants to go back to school and needs support?
  • What if one of you wants to be the stay at home parent when you have kids?

Below are a few conversation starters you could use:

3. Creating a budget

Creating a budget with your partner is a great way of forging a good financial relationship whilst also creating a framework for a shared financial future.

Budgeting can also be a tool for discussing a whole range of issues that may be difficult to bring up. 

By doing a budget together you both get to know the real cost of living in your household.

When only one partner handles the finances, the other can be genuinely unaware of:

  • How much credit card debt your family is carrying
  • How high the heating bills are 
  • How much it costs to bring up children

This is information you both need to be aware of for a healthy financial partnership.

Even if one partner says they are happy not to know and want their partner to manage it all, the pressure and expectation associated with that level of responsibility can be stressful.

Over time financial situations change, and when one person holds all the responsibility it can be difficult to navigate the ingrained ways things are done.

Having both partners fully up to speed also protects you both from being left in the lurch if one of you were suddenly unavailable.

No one wants to have to learn how to pay the households monthly bills while handling a family crisis.

Budgets can:

Establish a spending plan – plan what you will do when you need to make a purchase or how you might allocate disposable income.

Discourage debt – by adopting a realistic plan, you’ll prevent yourselves from sliding into financial over-commitment.

Include holidays and entertainment – budgeting provides a plan to assist with allocating money for weekly/monthly entertainment and vacation planning.

Encourage saving – if you plan your budget well and stick to it, you can factor in a savings scheme that will grow in no time.

Reduce stress – with a budget, you’ll know exactly what’s happening with your money each week, fortnight and month.

Plan for the future – budgeting will support the process of formally working out your future goals and plans.

Include romance – having a budget allows you to put aside funds for date nights, special occasions or events that foster togetherness.

Facilitate freedom – financial freedom can be expanded by regularly reevaluating your budget.

Encourage partnership – budgeting provides a plan that works for both. It shares the responsibility for relationship finances and holds each other accountable.

Allow for the unexpected – setting aside funds for surprise costs or emergencies can help reduce pressure.

Establish a spending plan
Plan what you will do when you need to make a purchase or how you might allocate disposable income.
Encourage saving
If you plan your budget well and stick to it, you can factor in a savings scheme that will grow in no time.
Discourage debt
By adopting a realistic plan, you'll prevent yourselves from sliding into financial over-commitment.
Include entertainment and holidays
Budgeting provides a plan to assist with allocating money for weekly/monthly entertainment and vacation planning.
Reduce stress
With a budget, you'll know exactly what's happening with your money each week, fortnight and month.
Plan for the future
Budgeting will support the process of formally working out your future goals and plans.
Create reasons to celebrate
Achieving savings goals, paying off debt and seeing the results from your hard work is a great reason to celebrate.
Include romance
Having a budget allows you to put aside funds for date nights, special occasions or events that foster togetherness.
Facilitate freedom
Financial freedom can be expanded by regularly re-evaluating your budget.
Encourage partnership
Budgeting provides an opportunity to discuss and develop a plan that works for you both. It shares the responsibility for relationship finances and holds each other accountable.
Allow for the unexpected
Setting aside funds for surprise costs or emergencies can help reduce pressure.
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Talking about priority spending is about lifestyle choices. 

How extravagant or frugal a couple will be together can be easier to determine when framed by an objective tool like a budget. 

The personal, emotional currency that is often embedded in financial issues can sometimes be helpfully reduced by discussing expenses within a relatively neutral framework such as a budget.

It is not uncommon when writing up your first budget for it to take a few hours or even days when you include time for reflection. 

This is not because budgeting is a complicated process, just that it can take a number of conversations and considerations to develop.

These conversations are critical relationship builders. 

A couple doing a budget together for the first time will involve writing numbers onto a form that have a lot of meaning and history attached to them – fears from the past and hopes for the future.

If your partner understands the need to plan but doesn’t want to do it, or they struggle to follow a budget, it may be difficult getting them to commit. 

You can’t make someone do something they don’t want to, so it’s important to come up with a solution that works for both of you.

Creating a basic budget plan

Click the boxes 👆

Keep it simple
Make it easy for both of you to participate in the discussion.
Create an outline
Come up with a basic budget outline that covers the essential costs such as food, rent, petrol and everyday expenses. Then have a discussion about how the money left after expenses could be spent - i.e. eating out.
Discuss the benefits
It may help to talk about goals that have been expressed such as owning a home or traveling.
Be flexible
It may be hard to stick to your budget in the beginning.
Accept mistakes
It is common to make mistakes and under or overestimate costs.
Check in with your goals
See whether your budget aligns with your financial goals. It will help you clarify changes that may be needed to plan for the future.

Budgeting tools and worksheets

4. Needs and wants

In relationships, it can be useful to create an agreed understanding about spending. 

There are different views for what each person thinks is acceptable when it comes to large purchases or discretionary spending. 

Discretionary expenses are defined as nonessential spending or, in other words, wants rather than needs. 

Some couples will discuss most of their purchases while others choose to only discuss spending over a certain amount. This is particularly the case in situations where one person is more of a spender.

Below are two examples you can use to bring it up in conversation: 

© Good Shepherd NZ and AUT, 2021

Good Shepherd NZ has built this toolkit in collaboration with Dr Ayesha Scott of AUT’s Finance Department.