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Christmas cash calamities stretch couples to breaking point

Cherry Reynard
Written By:
Cherry Reynard

Mutaz Qubbaj, CEO of money-management app Squirrel, discusses how couples can sustain financial harmony this Christmas.

Christmas is a time for appreciating the things we are lucky enough to have – loved ones, food on the table, time off from work, overdrafts…hang on?  Overdrafts?   Sounds like the ‘nightmare before Christmas’.  However, this is one nightmare that hangs around long after the Christmas stockings have been raided.

British families feel the pressure to create the ‘perfect’ Christmas for their families, overspending on gifts and entertaining, but at what price? According to food retailer, Iceland, as many as 60% of Britons were planning on blowing the budget this Christmas.  In addition, more than a third of Britons are borrowing to pay for Christmas presents this year, according to Money Advice Trust.

However, it’s not just the bank balance that suffers from too much spending at Christmas. The fact is overspending can have a massive impact on couples and families.   It’s no surprise that lawyers, Slater & Gordon report a spike in the number of ‘break-up’ enquiries they receive on the 8th January, now dubbed ‘Divorce Day’, and that the number one reason cited is ‘money worries’. This is further supported by research from Relate which shows that money worries affect 26% of UK couples.

Given that divorce is a costly affair, both emotionally and financially, and that couples argue most when it comes to money worries, it seems fair to suggest that if couples were supported better when managing their finances, then their relationships may be stronger.

When I set up Squirrel, I wanted to help individuals manage their money and to encourage them to form a connection with their money.  With mobile payments and contactless cards, our traditional relationship with spending has gone, and it’s all too easy to splurge cash that we don’t have on things that we don’t even want without realising it.  At Christmas, this urge to spend is even greater as we strive for festive perfection.  Before we know it, we’ve blown the budget and possibly our relationship.

Top tips for couples looking for financial harmony

For couples feeling the burden of debt or who are just generally trying to make ends meet day-to-day, there are a number of steps they can take to help ease the pressure.   Being financially savvy is about discipline and following the rules:

1)      Start as you mean to go on.  If you and your partner are committed to each other then a serious money talk needs to take place where everything is laid bare – loans, debts, income, savings, even issues like gambling habits.  Then work together as a team to manage your finances together.  If you’re not truthful from the beginning or you hide your spending from your partner, it can only end one way…badly.

2)      Once everything is laid bare, make a budget together.  Work out what your income as a couple is versus your outgoings and establish a monthly budget.  This may require some compromise and uncomfortable decisions, but financial stability will only make your relationship stronger.  Once you’ve established a budget, stick to it!

3)      Do continue to talk about money in your partnership.  Money touches all aspects of our lives so it is essential that couples regularly discuss day-to-day financial issues from covering the priorities such as mortgage, groceries and utility bills to setting a savings goal and working towards it together.  This is your reward for all your hard work!

4)      Need some support?  Seek help from voluntary organisations such as Step Change and the Money Advice Service, which provide information and support to couples feeling the pinch.  If you’re confident to have a go yourself, there are plenty of online tools out there, such as Squirrel, which will help you to make a budget, organise your finances and establish saving ‘pots’ to make reaching that goal even easier.

Christmas can be a very special time, gathering together with friends and family and celebrating all the great things in our lives.  But it can also be incredibly stressful, particularly if money worries are affecting your relationship.  The good news is that it’s never too late to take control of your finances.  If you and your partner can team up and tackle your money troubles together with open and honest discussions followed by decisive, disciplined action, there’s no reason why 2019 and beyond is filled with peace, harmony underpinned by a strong financial foundation.