Is a third party interfering in your relationship? If you have a wallet in your handbag or pocket, the answer may well be yes. Money, if not handled properly, has the potential to threaten even the best of relationships. Greg Bell, founder of ihatebudgets, believes that couples can grow together instead of apart because of money, provided they take the right steps to do so.
Money is the number one cause of marital fights in the US and is a major factor contributing to divorces. With two thirds of Australian households in some form of debt, and the country's household savings moving into the negative in the past four years (AMP: NATSEM Income and Wealth Report Issue 9, 2004), the likelihood of financial matters becoming an issue between couples is ever increasing. Money is such a significant factor in relationship breakdowns in Australia that relationship counsellors are setting up specific programs for couples to learn about managing their finances as part of their relationship counselling services.
Thankfully, as Managing Director of ihatebudgets Greg Bell explains, there are simple steps that you can take to stop money getting between you and your partner.
Common goals - "You must have smarter common goals", Greg explains, "everyone needs purpose, and relevant goals are the key to healthy finances". It's one thing to think about what you want, but setting effective goals involves thinking through specific, measurable steps to get there within a set time-frame. "Often within relationships there is likely to be a frugal and a spender. It's essential that before embarking on a financial project - even a simple budget - each of you determine what it is they are trying to achieve and how you're going to get there together".
Greg suggests that achieving any goal requires a three step process
1) Each of you should individually figure out and define exactly what it is they want to achieve, and their reason why.
2) Sit down and compare your objectives. Be aware that you may need to compromise with your partner in order to reach a win-win outcome.
3) Weigh up the likelihood of success. Prioritise what is most realistic and important to each of you.
Positive attitude - Budgeting is not about going without; it is about re-allocating your money to achieve what you really want. Successful budgeters have a positive attitude to their budget, and can talk about money with their partner in a constructive manner. Greg describes people as having an 'internal radio', constantly reinforcing the way they think about issues, "if they see a budget as an obstacle to your relationships and opportunities, it will be. At ihatebudgets we teach people to reprogram their 'internal radio' when it gets off track".
Look over your current spending - "A lot of couples sabotage themselves when they start a new budget by forgetting to allow for non-regular bills", says Greg, "To ensure that your budget isn't doomed to failure before you begin, it is vital that you undertake some personal spending analysis and data gathering before you prepare your budget. At ihatebudgets we generally recommend a six month trial period where a couple really focuses on collecting their budget data and understand their spending trends and habits." Throughout this period it's really important for a couple to talk and be patient, but it's also a good opportunity for a reality check; making sure that your goals are realistic and can be achieved within a set time frame.
Don't become a slave to money! "Money is there to enhance your life, NOT to become your life", Greg asserts. Creating a budget is a safeguard for your relationship. It is great get your head around your finances, but remember, money is a tool, and sometimes you have to let it go.
"The moment you take hold of your finances, your stress levels will drop. The biggest challenge is getting started and staying motivated. That is why ihatebudgets have budget coaches and why it is more successful than just a budgeting book or a computer program," says Greg.
To find out more about ihatebudgets, visit www.ihatebudgets.com.au
ihatebudgets, established in 2002, is a budgeting system that comes with a personal trainer. Founder and financial adviser Greg Bell kept getting requests from clients to help them draw up budgets to assist in managing their finances. He could not find anything in the market that suited their needs so he decided to write his own budget program. Simplicity was the key. The budget coach, who is the cornerstone of the package, trains the client in an initial workshop where goals are set, then remains in contact with them for 12 months to ensure that they stay on track.