What is your immediate thought when you hear the word relationship? If you’re like most people, thoughts of your spouse, family, and friends are generally the first thing that pops into your head — and to a certain degree, you’re absolutely right.
But if you dig a little deeper, you’ll notice that many of our relationships don’t have to do with people at all. We have complicated relationships with our career and our goals, with organizations in our community, and with various tech projects we’re tackling at work. Another example of a non-human relationship is our relationship with money. Money is an important part of our day-to-day lives, however many people don’t realize the importance of maintaining a solid relationship with it.
Just like any relationship, in order to get the most out of it, you have to nurture and maintain it. If your relationship with money isn’t as strong as you would like, you might need to adjust your thoughts and behaviors around your finances.
Here are a few tips that you can adopt to begin improving your relationship with money.
Make it a Priority
At work, you spend all day every day prioritizing assignments, requirements, and big-picture ideas. But when it comes to prioritizing your money? That may be an entirely different story. Facing your financial reality head-on can be hard. As a result, sometimes going into full ostrich-mode and burying your head in the sand seems like a better idea than tackling the severity of your financial situation.
But it’s not!
Your income won’t rise and your debt won’t magically disappear without a concerted effort on your part. It’s hard work, but the desire to change is the first step toward adjusting your behavior.
Think about your relationship with your significant other, if you don’t pay attention to it, you are essentially saying that it is not a priority and that will often lead to major problems down the road. Your relationship with money is no different.
Despite how bad you think your financial situation might be, you can’t fix what you’re not willing to face. And any debt you’re carrying isn’t going to magically go away by throwing money at it without a strategy. Find out your total debt load, and create a concrete plan that includes specific amounts and tentative dates that the debt will be eliminated. After that, you won’t have anything to hide from.
Schedule “Financial Dates”
One of the most important traits of any healthy relationship is communication. Although it may not sound like the most romantic of plans, scheduling regular dates to review budgets, spending, and large financial decisions can help improve not just your relationship with each other — but also your combined relationship with money.
If you’re not particularly proud of your spending habits or relationship with money, you’re not alone. Many times in the tech industry, you’re surrounded by colleagues who all have an equally high income, might be in a similar age range or location, and have values that align. However, that might mean you’re all encouraging each other to make less-than-fantastic spending decisions. And if your spouse is also wrapped up in this spending pattern, you two might feel uncomfortable about broaching the subject.
Despite your initial reservations about holding the magnifying glass up to your spending habits, being open and honest with one another is essential to laying the groundwork for long-term financial success together. But keep in mind that you have to share the good, the bad, and the ugly.
This shouldn’t be a one-time thing either. You should aim to have a money date at least once per month if possible, but no less than once per quarter.
Name Calling isn’t Always A Bad Thing
The way that you manage your money is often driven by your upbringing and life experiences. Since this is deeply intertwined with our unique personality, it is unlikely to change significantly over time.
Many times this results in couples that have conflicting behaviors toward money – the saver and the spender. While on the surface this can seem like an overwhelming challenge to overcome, sometimes owning your role as a saver or spender can provide clarity to difficult financial conversations.
Different isn’t necessarily wrong as it relates to a particular behavior towards money, the key is understanding and respecting the differences while working toward a common goal.
One way to avoid money issues between savers and spenders is to have multiple bank accounts. For example, you would have a joint bank account for regular monthly expenses. This would be things like the mortgage, household utilities, cell phone, etc. Then, each person would also have a separate individual bank account for non-joint purchases.
This could be anything from the pair of shoes that you’ve been eyeing for weeks to a new gadget that you saw online. The key to making this work is by establishing a set amount that goes into each individual account that can be spent in any way that they see fit.
So if you’re the saver, you might save it for the future, or toward a big-picture goal like funding the startup or launching the app you’ve always dreamt of. Conversely, the spender can spend every dime without any judgement from their partner. Win-win!
Your Spending Should Match Your Values
Generally, money doesn’t buy happiness. Money is a tool to be able to do the things you want. And if you can use money that aligns with your values, it tends to have a higher utility on a happiness scale.
To put this into context, when you spend money on things that you truly find important, rather than frivolous wants, you’ll feel more fulfilled. You can accomplish this by taking care of your higher priority items first, and you will be less likely to come up short on the things that matter.
If you’re curious to find out if your current spending habits are in line with your goals, try this quick assessment:
On a sheet of paper, jot down the things that are really important to you and make note of your long-term financial goals.
Pull copies of your bank/credit card records over the last few months and compare the two lists.
If the two lists line up, then your spending is likely in line with your values. But if they don’t, you should take time to evaluate why your goals and spending don’t align and figure out how to adjust certain spending categories to get you back on track.
A good example of spending in line with your values is focusing on the big-picture spending categories that your values fall into. For example, if you find that you value adventure and family, you might focus your spending on travel, experiences, or items that encourage you to spend more time with the ones you love.
Consult the Experts
When looking at your own financial situation, it’s sometimes difficult to recognize that you may need help from a professional. Unfortunately, many people view help — in any capacity — as a sign of weakness or deficiency, although this couldn’t be an further from the truth.
The truth is, good leaders know when to delegate. As someone in the bustling tech industry, you know this better than anyone. While you may be a leader in your workplace, you’re also the leader of your personal finances. Delegating your financial planning to a professional helps you to worry less, find financial success, and reach the other goals in your life that money supports. Finding a third party to provide an objective opinion, and be a trusted ally — without trying to sell you something — can prove to be a much better option for improving your relationship with money than you going it alone.
Changing your relationship with money can be challenging — and even painful at times. But the pain and vulnerability is only temporary and on the other side is a lifetime financial freedom.