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How Debt Can Impact Your Relationship

Over half of Saskatchewan people say that they would have no issue pursuing a relationship with someone if they had a high level of debt. Debt may be low on your list of deal breakers, but it can severely impact the health of your relationship if it isn’t talked about or there isn’t a plan in place to pay it off. This blog recounts how debt struggles negatively impacted the author’s relationship with their partner and the small but impactful steps they took to fix it.


Let’s talk about debt baby

How much debt would be too much to prevent you from exploring a relationship with someone? According to 52% of Saskatchewanians, no amount of debt would stop them from dating or marrying a partner.

Though debt may not impact you from choosing a partner, it could have an impact on your relationship. According to Canadian divorce statistics, Canada’s divorce rate has increased by 44.15% over the last 20 years, and it’s estimated one out of every 309 adults are divorced in Canada. As to the reason for the divorce – many say money!

While you may not chat about money on your first date, finances should be a topic that is talked about as your relationship becomes more serious. From the assets you possess to the amount of debt you have, it’s important to be open and honest with your significant other to ensure both parties know what they may be getting into. It’s important to continually have this conversation with your partner in order to reduce any stress or tension that may negatively impact your relationship.

This advice is something I wish I knew and started talking about sooner. This is my experience.

How it started

I met my husband when I was 15, and though we didn’t start dating until a few years later, money was not even a topic of mind. I mean, is it for anyone at that age?

Skip forward 21 years to where we are today and money is something we talk about regularly. However, this wasn’t always the case, and up until about 5 years ago, money was not part of our conversation. Looking back, I realize how not talking about money with one another was putting a lot of stress on us and taking a heavy toll on our relationship.

Five years ago, we were in debt and struggling to get a hold of our finances. We each had our own bank accounts, individual vehicle payments, different credit cards and line of credits – everything was separate. Because of this, we didn’t have a full grasp on our finances as a whole. We continually tried to pay our debt down, but no matter what we did it seemed to continually go up. There was tension. There were fights. Our relationship was rocky. We knew we needed to do something before our debt and our relationship got worse.

With our mortgage up for renewal, we decided it’s now or never to make a change. We sat down with our financial advisor and looked at what options we had.

Consolidating our debt

After talking with our financial advisor, we decided to consolidate our debt. What this means is that you take all of the debt you have – loans, credit cards, vehicle payments, mortgage, etc. – and roll it into one monthly payment. Consolidating your debt doesn’t make it go away, however, it can help you gain control of your finances a bit easier.

Now that we had all of our debt in one spot, we needed to be able to manage all of our money from one channel, so we decided to join our bank accounts and have a joint credit card. While joint accounts may not be for everyone, it was the best option for us and showed us how each of us was spending individually. This wasn’t something we hid from one another when we had individual accounts but it also wasn’t something we talked about. With time, we started to get a grasp on our spending habits and were able to hold each other more accountable.

Tip: The one downside with having a joint account is that each of you can see all the transactions in the account and it can ruin the surprise if you buy a gift for your loved one. We recommend using cash for any gifts in order to keep the element of surprise.

To see change, you must make change

We had gotten ourselves into debt before because of our spending habits and behaviours, and if we didn’t change, we’d most likely wind up in a similar situation. To see difference, we needed to change how we talked about money and how we spent money.

The first order of business was introducing the word “money” into our conversations. It was UNCOMFORTABLE, to say the least, and didn’t begin well. We started with financial goals and quickly realized we were on two separate pages: one of us wanted to save for trips and a new vehicle and the other wanted to think retirement. It was frustrating and we wanted to give up immediately.

Once we figured out our financial goals, we started to create a plan on how to change our spending habits. This included building a budget and actively tracking our transactions each month.

Creating the budget was the easy part. The challenging part was changing our behaviours and the first few months were tough. Over time it got easier and after making some significant changes in our spending behaviours, openly talking about our money, and ensuring each other knew where we were at in our budget, we started to see some positive changes. This included starting to actively put money into our savings and seeing it grow – something we hadn’t really done until this point.

Tip: Build your budget together and be realistic. The first few months will be tough, but if you do it together, you’re able to support one another and hold each other accountable where needed. This allows you to celebrate and succeed together.

How it’s going

It’s unbelievable how much of a positive impact a few simple conversations about money and behaviour changes have had on our household.

We continue to set a monthly budget and compare our spending to these amounts which keeps us on track to reach the goals we set. Though we still have our consolidated debt, in five years we have not gotten ourselves into any new debt and are even actively working to pay our mortgage and debt down faster!

What used to cause us stress and a lot of tension has turned into an ongoing positive conversation and even celebrations when we hit our goals. Where we were previously embarrassed to talk about our situation with friends and family, we now openly talk money and do so together (my husband’s even sitting beside me now and helping me write this blog as we speak). And the best part of all, our relationship has never been better.

Looking back, we wish we would have started the conversation a lot earlier. All we can do is share our story to help others learn from it. Money is something that needs to be talked about. No matter how uncomfortable or awkward it may be, it’s important to talk about your financial goals and spending habits– trust me, you’ll thank yourself and your relationship for it later.

The Cost of Being Single

Single and ready to mingle? Well, if you didn’t need another reason to despise Valentine’s Day,  I’m about to give you one more – independence is expensive. Whether you are choosing to live the single life or you just haven’t met the right catch yet, you’ve probably experienced some of the nuisances that come with taking on the world on your own.


That’s right – next time one of your friends in a relationship gives you a “You are soooo lucky you don’t have a partner to buy an expensive Christmas present” feel free to fire back with “Oh yeah? Try paying up to double for monthly housing, rent, pets, cable, utilities, furniture and credit card fees.”  

As a single guy myself, I can personally vouch for the frustration that comes with these costs so please consider this blog as not only a tool to help you save some dollars – but some much needed therapy for me.   

Grocery Shopping 

One of the most surprising increased costs that come with being single is the increased amount spent on groceries. You may think “Wait a minute… shouldn’t more people equal more food costs?” It does – but couples are able to take advantage of volume discounts and decrease the amount of waste that drives up a single household’s grocery bill. There’s nothing more disappointing than walking the crowded aisles at Costco and not being able to buy the bulk pack of muffins and the 4L Chocolate Milk jug. If you are like me and end up splurging on them anyway, you’ve now paid double the amount it would cost someone in a relationship who can spread the cost over two budgets (and half of the milk won’t end up going spoiled).  

On average, a single man and woman will spend $319.87 and $247.33 a month respectively on groceries. To put it in perspective how much extra they are spending, the average household of four will spend $494.50 a month on groceries. That’s well over half and that doesn’t include the amount of money spent on eating out, which single people tend to do a lot more.

TIP: Something I’ve found extremely helpful to manage grocery costs and limit the amount you eat out is to pair up with a “meal prepping partner”. Spend a couple hours at the beginning of the week cooking a couple of dishes to store in your fridge for the week. Not only is cooking more enjoyable when you have a friend, but you are splitting your grocery cost and preparation time in half while giving your meals variety throughout the week so you aren’t eating the same pasta for lunch for five days straight. 

Home Ownership & House Expenses 

A 2017 Vice Money article reported that 64% of millennials identify as being singlewhich is up 12% from 2004 (seems like more people are joining the dark side!). That seems like a pretty high number since rent costs for one-bedroom apartment (averaging as high as $1,800 a month in Toronto and Vancouver) are skyrocketing so it makes sense why some couples are ready to “take the next step” and move in with each other so quickly.  

I’ve been a homeowner for three years and am in my first few months of living alone. The monthly costs are quite daunting to not have a tenant to offset mortgage, utilities, and condo fees and I’m constantly looking for ways to trim any unnecessary variable costs like cable costs.  

TIP: If you are single and looking to purchase a home – there typically isn’t much of a difference between the cost of a one bedroom and two bedroom place and it is much harder to turn a value on a one-bedroom if you are ever looking to sell. If you can bare it, spend a little more to buy the extra bedroom that gives you the opportunity to house a roommate if your purse strings get a little tight. When you have the flexibility to live alone, you can always turn the room into a spare bedroom/office/pottery studio or whatever you fancy.  

Maintaining a Social Life  

Here’s a shocker – single people spend more money on their social lives. Now that I live alone, I find myself spending a lot more money with friends just to get my social fix. From patio drinks to movie popcorn, these purchases can add up real fast.  

Dating is also quite expensive, especially if you are footing the bill. A 26-year-old male from New York writing for Refinery29 just did a study where he went on 14 dates and tracked all of his purchases. In two weeks, he spent $771 and that’s with $0 dates included! Chivalry may not be dead but your chequing account may be if you are not careful.  

TIP: Cut the booze. Or at least opt out of the casual 1-2 drinks after work or when you meet friend for dinner. Last year when I was training for a Spartan Race, I cut out alcohol entirely for two months and ended up saving about $50-$100 a week! Depending how much you cut out, that’s enough to cover your utility bills for the month (and that 4L jug of chocolate milk from Costco).  

Retirement Planning &  Benefits 

Depending on your age, retirement may be the furthest thing from your mind and the last thing you can imagine allocating any of your paycheck towards. Especially when you are single, it seems unfathomable to think long-term when you are constantly weighed down by short term monthly fees like car payments, cell phone bills, utilities, and mortgage costs 

Since couples can split the majority of these costs – they have the luxury of being able to contribute more to their retirement. According to this MarketWatch study, of those in the 90th percentile of wealth between the ages of 65-69, two-person households had $878,000 in assets versus $380,000 for those in the same demographic who are single. That’s a big difference.  

TIP: I know it’s hard to imagine actively contributing to your retirement when CPP is likely being deducted from your paycheck but if you can afford it – it will pay off in the long run. I prefer to set up automatic pension contributions so I don’t even see the money coming off my paycheck.  Many workplaces will match pension contributions up to a certain percentage so if you can, max them out! It’s free money!  

Single friends, navigating these costs solo can be scary so let’s take care of each other. Comment below with some tips and tricks you use to give yourself some breathing room in the monthly budget.