Money Mistakes Couples Make

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I’ve reached an unfortunate milestone in my life. I’m at the age where some of my peers are getting divorced. I really shouldn’t be too surprised since statistics show that 43% of Canadians will get divorced before the age of 50, but it’s still a sad thing to hear.

Back in 2011 Statistics Canada stopped tracking national divorce rates because it got too expensive; the irony, of course, is that money is the #1 reason for divorce. It’s not even the lack of money that’s the problem, it’s almost always the different views of how the family finances should be managed that ends a marriage.

So how exactly can couples manage money together without driving each other insane? It really comes down to a few common money mistakes couples make; resolving these issues early in any relationship will hopefully keep couples together longer.

Getting a hold of debt

Debt can be tricky since partners may enter the relationship with different amounts or kinds of debt. Some couples believe that the debt we bring into the relationship is our own responsibility, but if we want this relationship to last, it’s important for both parties to clear any debts as soon as possible.

I’m not saying that as soon as we hook up with someone we should be on a combined debt repayment plan, but it’s definitely important to discuss any debts that we may have if the relationship is going to be serious. Under no circumstance should we be hiding debt from our partners. Couples that talk about money on a regular basis can address any small issues before they blow up into a major problem.

mistakes couples make

Respecting each other’s views

Not having a joint account is one of the most common money mistakes couples make. I can certainly understand why couples would still want to have their own individual accounts, but at the very least they should have one joint account to handle joint expenses. Rarely do couples make the same income, but having the mindset that one’s income should be their own is not healthy for the relationship.

When it comes to spending, it’s just as important to respect each other’s views. Each partner in the relationship is going to have different spending habits, so it’s not fair to expect each other to spend the exact same amount. During those money talks, figure out what’s a good spending budget for each partner and then forget about the small things; keep in mind saving should always be prioritized.

Aligning goals

Speaking of budgets, having one set up is absolutely paramount in a relationship. It’s easy to see why couples without a budget end up arguing, they have no idea where their money is going so someone is always going to be pointing the figure at who’s to blame. Having a budget in place will help couples reach their savings goals and it’ll keep their spending in check. Budgets change so we shouldn’t be afraid of updating them.

Again salaries are rarely equal in a relationship so it’s not fair to expect a straight 50/50 split when it comes to budgeting. It’s best to just come up with a budget that works for both partners. With a budget in place, there’s really shouldn’t be any secrets or surprises. At times overspending on the budget will happen, but if we know it’s coming at least we can discuss it with our partner and avoid any serious conflicts.

Final thoughts

There’s plenty of mistakes couples make, but money is almost always the #1 reason. If you’re in a relationship and you’re both on the same page when it comes to spending and budgeting, great! but don’t forget about some of the administrative duties. It’s important that both partners know exactly how to access any funds in case of an emergency.

About Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter:@barrychoi


  1. bigcajunman on September 21, 2015 at 7:35 AM

    It always seems amazing to me that “couples” that plan on moving in together or get married seem so uncomfortable talking to their partner about money? Why not?

    • Barry Choi on September 21, 2015 at 8:42 AM


      Because it’s not sexy to talk about?

  2. smiller257 on September 21, 2015 at 1:53 PM

    Great article. I think it’s important to have transparency in spending for couples. My wife and I agree on our budget at the beginnning of the year and I track it each month. I send out a P&L report to her weekly so that we can see how we are trending, here is an example of a recent one:

    This has worked out well for us. The other thing we do is to take out a weekly allowance ($50 per week) and we can spend it anyway we wish without having to justify the spend. If you want to save it for a bigger ticket item, you can.

    • Barry Choi on September 21, 2015 at 3:36 PM


      Agreeing on set amounts is a great way to manage budgets. My wife also do agreed amounts of personal spending so there’s no arguments.

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