Financial exercises for couples to fine-tune or give your couple’s money management a total overhaul. Not to mention, take some pressure off!
I’ve met couples who accidentally finish each other’s sentences. I’ve met couples who could light up the Eiffel tower during a blackout with the sparks flying between the two of them.
I’ve even met couples who somehow come out of bad situations 1000 times better off.
But I’ve never met two committed people who couldn’t benefit from these financial exercises for couples I’m about to share.
- Open up to each other more about money
- Learn more about how their household’s finances are actually working, and places that need some work
- Learn to lighten up a bit about money and use managing it as a glue to bond them together (not as a wedge that widens the gap)
- Figure out better systems to communicate about and use money that includes each of you
And that includes my husband and myself, too.
Because managing money with someone else is a work-in-progress (hint: so is marriage!).
The goal here is what I like to call “Financial Intimacy”. I define it as:
Each of you being able to work together and share your thoughts, feelings, needs, and desires about money with your partner in a safe space where you feel you are being heard and your needs are being reasonably met.
Financial Exercises for Couples
We all know dealing with money as a couple isn't easy and can even cause relationships to end.
Which is why this blog post should really be titled “financial exercises for couples who want to stay together.”
With these exercises, we’re going to prevent and/or address:
- Financial access
- Financial blind spots
- Money imbalances in the relationship
- Money values – shared and individual
- …and more
Ready for all that? It’s best just to dive in.
1. Interview Your Spouse about Money
One of the most fun exercises I’ve ever done at one of our spouse money meetings was to interview my husband about money.
I know, I know – I happen to be a money nerd. So, this really fed into that.
But you know what? You’ll have some fun with this, too, because it’s so interesting to learn new things about the one we love.
Here are the interview questions I gave my own husband, Paul, to think about ahead of time:
- How much money does a person need to have for you to consider them rich?
- What was your first job ever? How much did you earn?
- Name 3 jobs you've had in your lifetime.
- What's one thing you used to believe about money when you were a kid but have since figured out was wrong?
- You have $500 that magically appears in your pocket. You have to spend it on something. What would you spend it on?
- What's one money memory you have from childhood? How did it make you feel?
Feel free to come up with your own, too.
2. Find Your Couples' Spending Thermometer
Talk to each other to come up with the threshold each of you can't spend over without consulting with the other.
Is it $25, $100, $200, $500?
Do you give each other some “mad money” each week that you each get to spend without consulting the other person (unless it’s, you know, something you know they’d not be okay with because it crosses another relationship boundary)?
3. Calculate What it Would Take to Survive as a 1-Income Household
There are any number of reasons why a two-income household might go down to one income.
- Having kids and one partner choosing to be a SAHP (stay at home parent). Even if you're early on in your relationship/marriage, just know that your decision on kids could change (it’s a funny thing that marriage can do – takes two people and creates something completely new that evolves and blooms over time).
- One partner might develop chronic or immediate medical condition and they won’t be able to work for a period of time.
- Sometimes, you lose a job (just ask us – we’ve collectively been laid off four times between the two of us in our marriage).
- Sometimes, you need to become a caregiver to someone else, like an aging parent.
All of these reasons are why you might want to do this financial exercise for couples.
Your mission for this couple’s financial exercise is to answer this:
How much money does one partner need to earn in order for the household to survive as a one-income household?
I’ve got an entire article on how to go from two incomes to one.
For now, here are a few highlights:
- Calculate your stay-at-home expenses as a household
- Do a trial run by living off of just one person’s income for a month or more (bank the rest to buffer that emergency savings fund)
- Adjust those expenses and arrive at a number one person would need to earn to make this a reality
4. Describe How Your Money System Works and Flows
Can each of you describe how your couple’s money system works?
Like, how is money deposited? What are all the sources of income? What accounts are associated together? Which bills are automatically paid and which have to be manually paid.
It’s very typical that one partner has what I like to call a financial blind spot – either by choice (they are happy to not know what goes on financially, just that the bills are getting paid), or because of a financial imbalance in the relationship.
Getting to the bottom of all this will quickly bring any financial access and “financial blindness” issues to the surface.
Either write this one down, or just have each other run through what they know.
Here’s what I would write about ours (and, after doing this, I’m going to ask my husband to write his own version without seeing mine – I’ll bet he’s got some financial blindness):
Paul and I each have our income automatically deposited into our joint checking account each month – we’re both paid bi-monthly. Our checking account is connected to our savings account, our retirement account, and our investment account. We carry no debts. Our current savings goal is to pay for our next house in cash. We have a credit card we keep in a filing cabinet.
And so on, and so forth. Just get it all out.
5. Take a Look at Financial Access
I’ll admit, we’re not all the way there with financial access in our own household.
It’s not a matter of financial dishonesty, but rather my husband knows how I love to manage money and trusts me with it.
But trust is not the only factor at play here – what would happen if I died? How would he access everything?
This is definitely an area we need to work on.
Here’s what you (and we) want to shoot for:
- You each know where all relevant financial docs are kept
- You each can sign into each of your financial accounts online
- You each know your homeowner's insurance company name, and your mortgage company name
- You've discussed and determined account beneficiaries
- You know if either partner caretaker, POA, medical POA etc. for a relative?
- You each know your debts together and individually, including what they are, the amounts, and the lenders
6. Do a Money Role Reversal
I’m going to be straight with you – this helped save our marriage.
It’s a bold, bold move, so don’t use it lightly. But if you think you guys are ready for it, then I can guarantee you’re going to learn so much about each other and about how the money gets managed.
Let me explain our own situation.
Many, many moons ago (around the time Gangnum Style took over), we had a bad dynamic brewing in our marriage. One where I was too controlling about money, and one where my husband didn’t respect our money much at all.
There were other issues at hand, but it seemed to really be playing itself out on the money management stage.
One day, after getting completely fed up, I decided the only way out of this was to give my husband complete reign over our money. To put him in charge of paying the bills, working out financial account kinks, sending money to our savings, and everything else that took money in our household.
Everything I had been handling.
Let me tell you. It changed everything.
We started communicating about money. I stopped micro-managing and stressing about it. He started appreciating the work I had done on our finances. We started talking about money goals we shared.
It was amazing.
That balance still remains in our marriage – we’ve never had to do a role reversal again.
Put each other in each other's shoes to gain some real insight. Maybe you'll even find out one of your money strengths!
7. Kick-Off Your First (or Next) Couple's Savings Goal
Working on a financial goal together – that will benefit you each individually PLUS your couplehood/family – is one of the best bonding experiences.
For my husband and it, it was our goal to pay off all of our non-mortgage debt by the time we walked down the aisle. You can read all about our debt payoff journey, here.
It forced us to talk about what we wanted as a couple. To tackle a money goal together (this was our first one!). To be accountable to what we told each other we would do. And so much more.
Any one of these financial exercises for couples will help you to fine tune your couple's money management, set up a great system to begin with, or overhaul areas in your current one that are completely not working. Complete just one, then come back, and choose another. And don't forget to hold those financial meetings with your spouse and partner – they really help anchor everything together.
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