Traveling Couple Finances Made Simple

18 March, 2014

Featured image background credit: Nevermind Him

Traveling couple finances don’t have to be such a heartache……the trick is to choose a system that works for both people, communicate well, and track expenses reliably.

In case your momma never taught you how to share…

As the saying goes, “sharing is caring” and that’s exactly the problem. It’s tough to be upfront about exactly where your relationship stands, but when it comes down to money, you need to be clear.

So suck it up and think about how much you care for, and trust, the person you’re traveling with, and see where your relationship fits on the spectrum, as based on the bracketed breakdown below.

Don’t be guilt tripped or bullied into anything. It’s easier to up your commitment later, as trust is established, than it is to mend a broken heart, and busted bank. If you’re not sure, play it safe and go slow.

This isn’t just for couples by the way. Any two people, or group, traveling together could benefit from an upfront conversation about handling their shared expenses.

 

Option 1 – Count Every Penny

couple, sharing money, sharing is caring, travel, attractive girl, exchanging, borrow money

Photo  credit: MoneyCrahsers.com

For you if:

This is a budding relationship. You’ve just met, or it’s your first real trip together. You don’t really have any experience sharing spit, let alone expenses.

At this stage maybe you’re unsure how much you’ll agree on what you should spend your money on.

Maybe they’re a shopaholic, hoarding gifts for everyone at home. Maybe they need a daily fix of $10 lattes.
Maybe you can sacrifice on lunch but you MUST purchase a ticket to that concert everyone’s going to.

Maybe you guys won’t agree on everything and you want to make sure you have the financial independence to make the decisions that are right for YOU over the relationship. You’re just testing the waters and if it doesn’t work out in the long run, better to know now than later. Right now you need to figure yourself out more than the proverbial “us”

In this case I recommend:

keeping everything split. If you can, get separate bills for everything, and if you can’t, settle up ASAP before it’s a big giant headache.

Pros:

  • you’re free to spend your cash as you please, no questions asked
  • your budget isn’t reliant on their budget, you can splurge, or save, as you wish
  • if you part ways, there are no debts to settle

Cons:

  • every transaction involves math
  • you both need to carry around your own cash (and twice as much change)
  • it’s not very romantic and sometimes whoever makes less money might get left out. :(

You could use:

FriendCash – $2.99 in the app store

This little app allows you to track all shared expenses easily and quickly do the math for who owes what on a shared trip so you’re not splitting hairs over who paid for gas.
 

Option 2 – Shared Account

mine, yours, ours, chalkboard, sharing is caring, what's yours is mine, checkbox

Photo  credit: Alicia Cowan

for you if:

You’re a solid unit, but still need some space. You work hard for your money, it’s no one’s business how much you make, and you’re not going to give it all away just yet. You’ve been together a while and know your spending habits are pretty similar.

You trust that everything evens out in the end. Sure you got a beer with dinner, but they had a coffee with breakfast yesterday.

You do pretty much everything together, but sometimes you’ll split up for the evening, each with their own wallet.

In this case I recommend:

Saving up equal amounts, regardless of how much more or less you make than they do, and pooling that together for the purpose of that trip. You can also do this if you live together but aren’t traveling together. Budget monthly expenses you share and keep the rest of your income for yourself.

In this case it helps to open a shared account to deposit all your money into, which you can use to pay expenses from. Obviously you want to do this before you leave on your trip. If a shared account isn’t an option for any reason, you can also alternate taking out the same amount of cash and spending from that.

pros:

  • you don’t need to count every penny (which gets aggravating)
  • you still have a good level of independence.
  • online purchases (ie- for plane tickets) are way easier.

cons:

  • it’s easier to lose track of what you’re spending.
  • if you start to argue it’s sometimes hard to figure out or split up the debts.
  • sometimes friction occurs when thing DON’T even out, and one is taking more than their share of the pool.

You could use: 

Spendee $1.99 in the app store

This beautiful app allows you to track all your expenses so you can stay on budget and don’t end up fighting over who’s fault it was that you spent so much on street food.

 

Option 3 – Go All In

dollar, dollar bill, trust, money, trust, go all in, relationship, travel, money

Photo  credit: Elyce Feliz

for you if:

You’ve been together for a really long time, you share EVERY part of your life. There’s already a ring, if not talk of babies. You’ve met each other’s parents. There’s no part of their body you don’t know by heart. You have had extensive conversations about where your life is going and you know you’re on the same page. When people ask you if “they’re THE one” you answer “YES” without a doubt.

Yeah somedays your brand new italian stilettos are coming out of the pot, but tomorrow it’ll be their Australian didgeridoo. Another day you’ll have to replace that 2-man tent you’ve had for 12 years, and anyway, there is no room for “mine” or “yours” in this relationship. Everything you both spend money on is for the greater good of the relationship.

In this case I recommend:

You don’t need me to recommend anything. You’ve got it all under control already. What I will say though is that it wouldn’t hurt to keep track of your expenses anyway! Even if you both are acting completely unselfishly, on the road, it’s easy for things to add up, little things, and if you end up having to cut your trip short because you’re broke, trust me, even if you’ve never had a fight before, sparks will fly.

Be careful going this route, there’s a reason most couples sign pre-nups when they get married. Even when we think death will do us part, much more insignificant blocks get in our way first. If you have any doubt that you don’t completely love this person on all levels, and there’s no way another human being could fill their shoes, keep your income to yourself and back down a notch, especially if you’ve never traveled together. Trips bring out the most hidden and primal of qualities in humans, you might not recognize your partner once you’re in Bangkok arguing over taxi fare with no basic Thai.

pros:

  • you’re free to move about the world as a unit without counting dimes
  • if one of you is the main bacon-earner, the other one doesn’t have to starve while watching the first give scraps to the dogs
  • most of your purchases will probably be better spent because you’re spending selflessly

cons:

  • if you ever decide to part ways, all hell will break loose
  • you might sometimes feel guilty about that extra splurge
  • if you’re both bad at budgeting you might be broke real quick, but at least you’ll still have your undying love, and that’s all that counts right?!?

You could use: 

Spendee (as seen above, and for the same reasons)

A token coin, not to spend, but to flip.

If you’re ever in a situation where one of you really wants to A while the other really wants to B, and in real life you could have easily found a solution, while traveling, the pressure’s on. While if you had your own pocketbook you’d do what you damn well pleased, when you’re sharing expenses, if you’re just on the cusp of breaking that piggy bank, sometimes you have to make tough decisions. You might only get one chance, and if you can’t agree, it’s tough to resolve without either being too much of a push over or too selfish.

Sure you could go all “Gift of Magi” on every tough life decision, but that’s just a waste, especially when there’s a better solution.

In this case you can both step back and say, “You know what, let’s let something else decide so we don’t have to!” and flip a coin.

For this to work of course, you both have to be equally emotionally invested in your respective choices, and you have to be honestly ok with not getting your way.

Traveling Couple Finances Made Simple

There you have it. My tips on how to travel together as a couple (or best friends or whatever) without ending up like this:

fighting couple, bed, couple issues, money issues, not talking, awkward,

Photo  credit: Daily Mail

Let me know if there’s anything I missed or if you still have puzzling questions.
And let me know too if you’ve ever tried any of these tactics, and whether they’re failed miserably or saved your relationship.

Happy Travels!

 

About

With an eclectic background in neuroscience, research, journalism, and design, it’s safe to say Jade’s still a little bit confused as to what she wants to be if and when she grows up.

5 comments

  1. Comment by Sabine Revelli

    Sabine Revelli Reply 18 March, 2014 at 18:08

    I think when you travel the companions need to have more or less the same amount of money, because if it is not the case, you may end up very frustrated ! The one with less money cannot afford to spend, while the one with more money does not have the leisure to spend as much as he would like to ! In life, things must be balanced, travel money as well! I think that is a very delicate subject… I know of many strong friendships ruined because of money. The less money you share, the better the relationship.

    • Comment by JadeAdele

      JadeAdele Reply 22 April, 2014 at 16:25

      Exactly!! It’s not impossible to travel with people with different spending habits, but it’s tougher, and it definitely involves putting everything out on the table first.

      :)
      JadeAdele recently posted…Be The Best You – Building Habits 101My Profile

  2. Comment by Kelly Rogers

    Kelly Rogers Reply 14 April, 2014 at 03:52

    Communication is a great way to make things work. And money will divide if you won’t communicate with your partner. Just be careful. Trust is easily broken if not handled correctly.

    • Comment by JadeAdele

      JadeAdele Reply 22 April, 2014 at 16:27

      I agree Kelly, once someone trusts you, it’s very important to respect that trust. And if you don’t care about doing it if for others, do it for yourself, because backpacking circles are very tight knit in some places, and if you break someone’s trust, word could get around fast.
      JadeAdele recently posted…Talk Your Way Out of a Dangerous SituationMy Profile

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