Money Love with Your Honey: Four Phases + My Best Tips

written by Bari Tessler February 10, 2012
Money Love with Your Honey: Four Phases + My Best Tips

In honor of love, of relationship, and the often-gnarly territory when money enters the picture, here is my take on how to create harmony with your honey about money.

The concepts and suggestions in this article are the fruits of many years of trial and error with my own hubby, Forest Linden (if you haven’t met my love, check him out) as well as working with the wonderful and diverse couples who have come into my practice over the years.

And now, I give you . . .

Four Phases of Creating Money Harmony with Your Honey

I. Storytime
II. Discuss Values: Cycling vs Lotion
III. Who’s on What?
IV. Getting on the same team

I. Storytime: “Seeing” One Another Through Deep Listening

Before attending to the practical aspects of money with your honey, making decisions, and finding your flow – it’s essential to deeply see one another, and shoot for shared reality around your “money stories”.

Carve out a special time and place to share your money story with one another. Let one person speak, and the other only listen. Then switch.

Note: this isn’t chatting, or anything like normal conversation. If you’re listening, your only job is to listen. Easier said than done, but try it. Let your partner talk for 5, 10, 15 minutes with no interruption. Simply take them in. Then switch, and speak until there’s nothing left to say.

Deep Listening and Money Story-Telling in this way helps you express to your partner:

Here’s where I came from, these were my parents, here’s why I freak, this is where I have anxiety, this is where I feel shame, this is why I spend/save the way I do . . . .or simply, these are my feelings about this, even if I don’t completely understand them . . .

Here are some questions to spark conversation:

  • What is your mother’s relationship with money? How is yours the same, or different?
  • What is your father’s relationship with money? How is yours the same, or different?
  • How did your ethnicity, religion, or spirituality impact your relationship with money?
  • What was your money role in the family, especially if you have siblings? (spender, saver, combo, etc)

II. Discuss Your Values: Cycling vs. Lotion. 

One of the main tenets of the Art of Money methdology is Values Based Bookkeeping, in which you clarify and align your personal values with your expenses. If money is energy, you want it to flow in and out in ways that match your priorities in life.

As a couple, this becomes a bit complicated when we don’t share all of our values.

In this exercise, the goal is to clarify and accept your values (and the expenses that reflect them) both as individuals and as a couple.

Certainly, some values you will share. Forest and I are completely aligned in our prioritizing high quality food and top notch childcare for son, Noah, as an example.

In other areas, you and your honey will likely NOT share values, and the expenses associated with them.

For example, Forest loves cycling. Cycling is expensive, and I could care less about it! Meanwhile, I love (and I mean, swoon for) yummy, delicious, top quality lotion. Pricey stuff, indeed. It may shock you to learn that Forest doesn’t share this love of Dr. Hauschka & Helena Meyer.

These divides can create big time tension in a relationship, if not tended to and looked at head on. (“You spent WHAT?! on THAT?!”)

When we can clarify for ourselves and for each other what is most important, it’s much easier to accept our own spending choices, as well as our partner’s. Even though I could care less about cycling, it becomes one of my financial priorities because I get how important it is to Forest. And simply because it’s important to me, Forest is completely cool allotting a piece of our funds to my lotions.

III. Who’s on What? Getting on the Same Page About The Practical Stuff

Now you have a foundation. Shared Reality. You’ve heard each others money stories and aligned your values.

Now it’s decision time.

Here are some important practical aspects of money with your honey to get clear on:

  • Merged or Separate Accounts? Or Both? There is absolutely no right and wrong here! But there is a just-right sweet spot that fits your relationship. And, your choices are not final, or static. For example, Forest and I held separate accounts for 7 years. When I got pregnant, that was the natural time in our relationship to merge our accounts.
  • What tracking system are you using? No one tracking system is perfect (be it Mint, Quicken, Quickbooks, or others); they all have benefits and downsides. The key here is: PICK ONE! And attend to it regularly.
  • Who is the bookkeeper? Who’s in charge of various financial tasks? Who does what? Make sure to have conscious agreements here. Typically, these decisions are made unconsciously, and cause tension and resentment down the line. Often, one person is “in charge” and has all the control, while the other has his/her head in the sand. Again, no rights or wrongs about your choices around who does what. Clear, conscious, mutual agreements are the priority. It’s all about getting on the same team.

IV. Getting on the Same Team: Quickies in the Kitchen or Longer Money Dates. 

Like any other area of your relationship, staying current with one another and your relationship with money takes time.

Here are a few of the daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly rituals to keep communication clear and experience harmony in your financial relationship with your partner.

  • Quickies in the Kitchen: These are the short, casual, ongoing money chats you have about cash flow. Just the other day, Forest and I crossed paths in the kitchen during a lunch break to get on the same page. These conversations are about “Where do we need to move money, who’s doing it, when’s the next deposit coming in, when’s the next big bill going out?” Team check in.
  • Weekly Money Dates: I highly recommend scheduling regular weekly dates with your partner to reconcile your finances and attend to whatever needs your attention. You can use this time to simply do checks and balances, or it can be a time for Storytime (see phase I). Especially in the beginning, you need more time here as you find your sea legs, & cultivate compassion and understanding towards yourselves and each other.
  • Money Deep Dives: Monthly and Yearly, you’ll want to set aside a bigger chunk of time to do an in-depth review. Monthly, simply look at your numbers: review what came in and what went out, learn what worked and what didn’t, understand where you were in alignment with your values and where you were off, add a big dose of compassion and tweak your intentions for next month. Check out this article and this one too that I wrote about your Annual Money Practice.

So. Out of everything you’ve read here, what is your very next baby step?


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