Bad Money Mistakes Couples Should Avoid – They May Be Making You Poor and Stressed Out

One thing I’ve always been happy with is how me and Wes have always been very open about money. No, we haven’t always done things the “normal way” (we combined finances YEARS ago and often receive flack for that), but in the end things worked out well for us. I think that’s because we make…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: May 31, 2023

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Bad Money Mistakes Couples Should AvoidOne thing I’ve always been happy with is how me and Wes have always been very open about money.

No, we haven’t always done things the “normal way” (we combined finances YEARS ago and often receive flack for that), but in the end things worked out well for us. I think that’s because we make sure to be open about money.

I have witnessed many people around me make several money mistakes. I know people who have never once discussed a budget (even budgets that suck!) with their significant other, even though they are married. I also know others who have broken marriages/relationships because of secret debt, financial infidelity, and more.

No, life isn’t all about money, but money does play a big factor in a relationship.

I’m all for people doing their own thing in life, but, in general, the money behaviors below can lead to big mistakes when in a relationship. Money mistakes can lead to debt, delayed retirement, stress, heartache, and more.

Who wants all of that? Not me!

Below are financial mistakes that couples should try to avoid:

 

Assuming that merging finances is right for everyone.

Even though Wes and I have merged finances, I know plenty of others who have completely separate finances and wouldn’t have it any other way. As I always say “Everyone is different.”

There is no right or wrong way for anyone, and there are positives and negatives to combining or keeping everything separate. You should research the differences and see what is right for you and your relationship.

Just because you are in a relationship does not mean that everything needs to become one.

 

Not talking about money with your significant other.

If you are in a relationship, you should talk about money at least somewhat. And if you are married, in a serious relationship and/or have combined finances, then you DEFINITELY need to be talking about money.

You should discuss your credit scores, past money problems, any debt that the other person may have, how the monthly budget is going, and more. You should be able to openly talk about money with your significant other without it turning into stress or a money fight.

We talk about money all the time. Honestly, at first I think Wes hated it. Now he is used to it and we understand how to talk about money to each other without us starting to bicker at each other. We talk about what we can improve on, what changes need to be made, how our spending is doing, retirement, and more and these are talks that we actually enjoy having with each other.

 

Having only only person understand the financial situation that you two are in TOGETHER.

This is something that me and Wes are guilty of. I’ve always been in charge of our finances just because I have always been better with managing them. Also, training another person just seemed like added stress because we would probably often over check what we’ve done.

However, this is a huge problem that I am working on changing. We have many bills, retirement, cars, etc., and if something were to happen to me then Wes would be completely out of the loop and it would be very hard to manage on his own. Just clueing your loved one in can be helpful.

Before you laugh and think we are crazy for making this relationship money mistake, MOST couples are actually this exact same way – usually just one person handles all of the finances.

Also, it helps everyone stay on the same page. If one person is doing all the work then all of the financial burden can fall on them as well.

 

Keeping something money-related a secret from your significant other.

This is a tough one, but it’s something that I’ve seen pop up several times recently. Keeping something money-related a secret from your loved one can be a huge problem.

They can feel like they were left out, that you didn’t trust them, and/or that you are financially cheating.

Money secrets may include:

  • Secret debt.
  • Secret money saved.
  • Lying about how good or bad the family is financially doing.
  • And more, of course!

 

Completely throwing out the idea of getting a prenup.

Okay, so me and Wes don’t have a prenup, but we also combined our finances when we were young and had nothing. However, there are many instances where having a prenup may be a great idea for a couple. No, it doesn’t mean that you don’t trust the person you are in a relationship with.

The fact is that you never know what will happen later. What if YOU are the problem later on? It happens!

What financial mistakes have you seen or experienced?

If you are not in a relationship, what mistakes will you make sure to avoid?


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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. If I were in a relationship, I’d definitely try to have a secret saving first for security purposes. I am just being truthful. There are things that we cannot control like couples who thought they’d be together for the rest of their lives get separated. That’s a fact.

    1. Why wouldn’t you just be honest and get a prenup instead?

      1. jaq

        I’ve worked in a domestic violence shelter, and for a lot of those women having a secret savings account is what made it possible for them to escape abuse. So yes, a prenup is a good idea for some, but not all. And for some having a secret account is something that could literally save your life.

  2. We combine finances as well. I have always handled the finances too. We talk about it, but l execute. I have recently installed the apps for the brokerage houses and banks on his phone and made him memorize all the passwords. You don’t want to think about it , but if something happened, he would be clueless. It’s a great start, but still more to do.

    1. That’s a good idea!

  3. Good points – especially 2, 3, and 4. My wife used to tell me all the time that she didn’t want to know or handle any of the finances in our relationship. But by doing that it was often hard for us to be on the same page when it came to spending and saving. Now I give her short snapshots of the finances and we talk about our early retirement goals a lot. It really helps with money when you’ve both got a common thing that you’re working towards.

  4. My fiancΓ©e and I still haven’t merged our finances and don’t intend to do so in the near future.

    This is a decision based mainly on maths as there is no benefit financially for us to combine at present, and we are enjoying a personal battle on who can save the most and get closer to our ultimate “financial freedom” goals the quickest.

    However, I think we talk about our finances more than 99% of couples we know (regardless of whether they have combined their finances or not). Its just that we have separate accounts and separate tabs in our Excel spreadsheets!! πŸ™‚

    1. There is definitely nothing wrong with separate finances. It works well for many!

  5. I think is always better to be honest into finance topics, ok it could be nasty sometimes but I saw lot of friend’s couple have serious discussion about this topic. What I learned from my parents is: talk open and share things…

  6. Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom

    After we got married, I took the time to train him up for tracking our finances, but after a couple years we decided to let him off the hook. I need to the see the numbers, he’d prefer to just not spend and not deal with it. We talk openly regularly about how the budget is going and what we’d like our money to be doing, but I’m the one working with the numbers.

    1. Everyone is different. If you are still talking about money, that is still good.

  7. We combined finances once we were dating long enough that we knew we would be together forever. I’m glad we did because it made our lives easier at the time and because it helped us learn to make decisions together. We didn’t have any money when we started dating either so it’s easy now to see everything as “ours.”

    1. Yes, this is exactly how we are!

  8. Great points. My wife and I still have mainly separate accounts just because we weren’t comfortable combining everything right away. We have been extremely open about our money from the beginning, we just weren’t ready to take the plunge with combining things. Now though we are getting there as things are becoming more of a nuisance with having things separate.

    And having both people understand the finances is huge too. I mainly handle the finances, but I sit down with my wife every month and we ruin through everything. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Luckily, she is interested so I don’t have to twist her arm either.

    1. Sounds like you have a good setup. Thanks Jon for stopping by today! πŸ™‚

  9. The biggest mistake I see couples make is for sure not talking about money with each other. It’s not enough to think about money yourself. When you’re in a relationship, you have to talk about money together. If you don’t start now, it’s not going to get easier later on. I wrote a 12 step guide for couples to talk about money together because I find the topic so important! Why not get ahead of the leading cause of divorce and tackle money together as a team?!

    1. I agree Natalie! I’m not sure why money is so taboo especially in a serious relationship!

  10. Robin

    I worried about one of us dying and the other having trouble knowing everything about our finances, so I made a notebook with all of that information in it. The idea to start it was a little morbid, but it makes me feel better.

    1. That’s a great idea! I will have to do that for Wes.

  11. We didn’t do a prenup – didn’t need to…we got married right out of college, so….. But all the others I did…and it turned out very very badly. But we’ve turned things around, paid off $109,000 in credit card debt, and have things moving in the right direction again!

    1. Good job Travis! Your story is a great one πŸ™‚

  12. Even early on in the relationship, I think it’s important to have SOME kind of mutual discussion around money. I’m always open and honest about where I stand, with everyone, significant others and otherwise, it helps a lot.

    1. Yes, it definitely helps to be open. I see no reason not to be.

  13. Great points to mention on how to balance relationships and money. I feel couples should talk in depth at least once a month, and go over whats working and what needs improvement.

  14. Miss Tulip

    A few couple I know don’t talk about money or even have a budget. Surprise surprise they always run out of money in the middle of the month and have to borrow from friends to see them through ’till payday. Others don’t share financial responsibilities at all, even when they have children, so one may run out of money because they have been buying food to feed the family while the other still has lots and refuses to part with it. That’s a bit beyond me.

    Couple MUST talk and be open and frank. That will build trust and strengthen the bond and that in turn beats arguments and debt

    Miss Tulip x

    1. I agree Miss Tulip. Money should be talked about. A relationship can only benefit from doing so.

  15. kammi

    I think not having common goals is a big mistake (which is based on the value of their relationship together). For example, if one person gets a bonus or whatever at work or an extra cheque, if jointly they’re working to pay off a house, maybe they should sit down together and say “let’s use this to pay off our house”, instead of have the person who got the bonus decide that the money is “theirs to spend”. I think a lot of it is about selflessness and caring for each other enough that what you both achieve together is worth more than what you achieve individually. It becomes “our” money.I saw my own parents do this throughout my life and it works and they’re still together. A lot of couples today may disagree but I think that also is more a commentary on the difference in relationships today, etc (I come from a fairly traditional background where ‘divorce’ is still not very common). It wasn’t unusual for someone (like my grandfather, for example) to set aside money for his wife so that when he passed away, she would have money set aside for her to live off of and health care, etc.

    1. Yes, having common goals is very important. Couples won’t know unless they have a money talk.

  16. Amy

    I handle all of the bills in our house, too, and I really need to put everything down on paper for my husband, just in case…

    1. Yes, you definitely should!

  17. Do you have joint responsibility?

  18. Thank you so much for saying that it is bad to assume merging finances is right for everyone! It definitely isn’t. It works for me, but my partner and I are very much on the same page when it comes to money and goals. For others, Pauline for example, having separate finances is very important to them and guess what? It still works!

    1. Yep, it still works! I don’t know why some people think that everyone has to be the EXACT SAME.

  19. My wife and I share managing our finances so we both stay in the loop. We track everything with Quicken so either of us can log in to see the current situation or even what’s planned for the next month. I enter most of the receipts and bills these days, and she puts together the monthly budget versus expenses report which we go over together. Couples don’t have to divide these tasks, but communicating the information regularly is vital to the wellbeing of your finances and your relationship.

    1. Sounds like you have a great setup Gary. Thanks for sharing!

  20. I’d be out of a job if people had pre-nups. I’d never get married without one, it’s non-negotiable.

    1. Good to hear Stephanie πŸ™‚

  21. We merged our finances once we got engaged – it just made things so much easier. But, I do take care of our finances, rather than my husband. So, I should probably make sure he could do it as well! Good post πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks Nicola! It sounds like us females handle the finances the most πŸ™‚

  22. This is great advice – I know with The Big Guy and I communicating about finances is something that we work on constantly, and I think we probably will for the rest of our lives. While that might seem tough, it’s better that than a life full of bitterness, financial backstabbing, and dishonesty πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks Gretchen! πŸ™‚

  23. Everything I did in the beginning of my relationship with my husband would be the things I would advise people not to do. But I wouldn’t have listened either, so … I don’t know. Live and let live? πŸ˜›

  24. I know SO many women who say that they just like their husband to deal with the finances and that they have no clue what is happening. I hate when I hear things like that. I can’t imagine being that clueless and feeling comfortable with it. Everyone should understand their money situation, otherwise, when and if something bad happens you could really end up in a bad place.

    1. Interesting! I’ve always thought it was mainly women who dealt with the family finances. I wouldn’t want to be clueless either.

  25. I think that if I was in a relationship I would combine incomes, but each of us would still keep 1 account separate.

    1. Not a bad idea πŸ™‚

  26. ‘If one person is doing all the work then all of the financial burden can fall on them as well.’ This is so true and the reason why I am going over the finances with the hubby every month so he realizes where the money is going and it’s not just me being tightwadish. I don’t want him to resent me when I tell him there’s no moolah left!

    1. Yes, this is exactly why the other person needs to at least be clued in! πŸ™‚

      Thanks for stopping by today.

  27. I manage our finances also because I’m more interested in them, and better at it, but I always include my fiance in on what’s going on. My mom managed all the money, and unfortunately, didn’t really communicate things to my dad, and he never knew how bad their debt situation was until it was too late. Communication is key!

    1. Yes, communication is key. I don’t think Wes will ever manage our finances, but I do want to jot everything down in case anything were to happen to me.

  28. Melissa @ Sunburnt Saver

    I love this list, Michelle! I think it’s very interesting, because a lot of times, when these money issues crop up, there’s something underlying that… for example, hiding money. Why? There’s usually more to it than ‘just’ hiding money. Is someone keeping other secrets? Why are they hiding money? Trust issues?

    Maybe that’s just what I’ve noticed, but usually when my couple-friends have money issues, it’s mooooore than just money issues!

    1. Yes, it’s usually more than just money issues. Many people don’t realize that!

  29. My partner and I don’t have combined finances. We are both working our way out of debt. After that, we might consider combining. We are very open about money though and have shared goals!

    1. Sounds like you have a good setup and a good future as well πŸ™‚

  30. Communication is so key! Mr. FW and I also combined finances back when we had basically $0 and we’ve always been very open about how much money we have, how we’re spending it, and what our financial goals are. I agree with you that money isn’t life, but it sure is a crucial part of how we live. I actually don’t spend that much time thinking about our finances at this point because we’ve pretty much got everything on autopilot, but, we still discuss our plans and goals alllll the time. How you manage money in the context of a relationship is an ongoing and evolving process worthy of time and attention.

    1. Good job on having your finances on autopilot. We don’t have as long conversations about it, but it helps keep us in check.

  31. Mrs. Maroon

    Our marriage has become stronger over the last year now that we are united in our financial goals. It certainly helps that we now have a major, life-altering goal of early retirement to keep us in check. We often disagreed on money beforehand. The best part is that we enjoy much more meaningful conversation with each other instead of being consumed by the frivolous topics that abound in today’s society…

    1. Yes, meaningful conversation is always better πŸ™‚

  32. Lisa

    Not talking about money is a HUGE red flag! My fiance and I talk about money very openly. I think it’s because both of our parents divorced and money was a big part of it. We don’t want to let money come between us!

    1. Yes, money can affect a relationship. If only more people realized that from the beginning!

  33. My husband and I have a joint account and it’s what we use as an emergency fund for the house, when we get sick, etc. But aside from that, we also have separate accounts. My husband isn’t too great with handling finances that’s why he gladly gives that task to me (ha ha!) I do try to educate him so he can make decisions on his own and what’s good about this is he also learns to share his ideas to me.

    We also didn’t have a prenup when we got married, but we have this mutual understanding and respect when it comes to our belongings and money. Even if we have separate accounts, if someone needs a little help with the finances, one is always glad to share and help out. During the time I was out of a job, I would always hear my husband say “You know, my money is your money too.” I think that’s what marriage is all about, helping each other. πŸ™‚

    1. Yes, it is about helping each other! πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing Mim.

  34. After a pretty nasty break up, I think if I got married I would definitely get a prenup – regardless of who has a higher net worth. I’m just practical. Things change and because I’m older and already semi established, I would want to protect my assets in case things went sour.

    1. Yes, I definitely think it would be wise to have a prenup, regardless on net worth. I think it has more to do with if you have anything to protect. One thing many forget about is family property. If you have a family property that’s always in the family, you want it to be protected, for example.

  35. Michael

    I’m all for prenups. Neither my boyfriend or I am swimming in cash or have sizable assets but he does have a loan he cosigned on, and get stuck with, that I want no part of. I also don’t want my loans/debts becoming his burden.

    1. Yes, it’s a good idea for many couples. Definitely get one!

  36. Being open about finances in a relationship is the key to financial success in any relationship.

  37. Denise deBois

    michelle you have such great information regarding finances here, but u don’t seem to value grammar in your writing skills. You repeatedly say “me and Wes”
    PLEASE, correct this to read, “Wes and I”!!!

    an appreciative reader,
    Denise deBois

    1. I do value grammar πŸ™‚

      Thank you, though. This blog post is from 2014.