Yes, money.

Studies show that couples who can discuss their finances, and in particular their bills and their problems paying them, not only stay together, but have a happier, healthier relationship. And better sex.

Having the courage to talk to your sweetheart about money troubles now could be the sweetest gift you ever share.

It is a tough topic to get started.

Perhaps you can open the conversation – after a champagne toast or celebratory chocolate – by saying something like:

“ Happy Valentine’s Day, darling. What’s mine is yours.  And, since we are sharing, could we talk about something that is worrying me?”

Sure, it’s a bit hokey. But it is a good start. And if you are worried about your credit card balances and other bills, likely your valentine is, too. You will both feel relieved that you have addressed the elephant in the room.

Richard Goldhar, licensed insolvency trustee and shed the debt® professional at Goldhar & Associates offers these suggestions for tackling your finances together:

  1. Get all the credit card bills together and total what you owe. Then look at your cash flow for the month. How much do you need for the essentials – rent or mortgage, utilities, food, car insurance and car payments? How much does that leave for the credit cards? You’ll need to make some payment to each credit card.
  2. You might make larger payments to the cards with the highest interest rates. These tend to be the ones that aren’t from your bank. This will reduce your monthly interest charges more quickly, which can make paying the bills more manageable
  3. On the other hand, if you can manage to pay one card down to zero this month, you will feel really pumped. But don’t do it at the expense of missing a payment on other cards.
  4. If you are able, pay more than the monthly minimum on each card. At least double the minimum is a good rule of thumb. That can go a long way to minimize interest charges on your balance, and actually takes a bite out of the total. Paying only the minimums keeps your card in good standing, but doesn’t actually reduce the debt.
  5. You don’t have to do your monthly payments once a month. If you are paid bi-weekly, or twice a month, make two payments to the credit cards during the month. Just be careful that you don’t pay later than the due date. Missed payments are tracked on your credit rating, and can also result in an increase in the interest rate charged on your balance.
  6. Try to arrange your budget so you don’t use the credit cards at all, or only in emergencies. You can use your debit at the gas pump and the grocery store. If you’re paying down maxed out credit cards, shopping for anything else should go on hold unless it’s an essential purchase.
  7. Keep at it, and by summer you should start to see a happy change in the amount you owe. Enjoy the feeling, but resist the urge to splurge. A few more months of these budgeting strategies and your balances can be paid off. Then you will be able to use credit as a convenience, and not a cash flow staple.
  8. Use cash or debit for all your spending. That way you won’t have new credit debt to tackle next Valentine’s Day.

If you and your loved one aren’t sure you can manage all this on your own, consult with a debt relief professional. When debt becomes unmanageable, seeking debt relief is a wise financial decision. Goldhar & Associates has offices across Ontario, with evening and weekend appointments for your convenience. Fast dial #DEBT (#3328) on your mobile phone to arrange a free, confidential meeting. Or call toll-free 1-855-541-5114. Anywhere in Ontario there is a Goldhar location near you.

Have a Happy Valentine’s Day.