AP Personal Finance Writer
(AP) - This may sound like a heartless thought, but Valentine's Day is tough on the wallet.
Even if you skip buying bling for your beloved, the standard flowers and romantic dinner out can be a blow to your budget just when you're recovering from end of the year holiday spending.
Consumers are expected to spend an average of $126 on gifts and treats for loved ones, up from $116 a year ago, according to the National Retail Federation.
As a couple, should you risk wrecking the mood by talking about spending and money, on or just before a day dedicated to lovers?
Short answer: Yes!
"Valentine's Day is a wonderful opportunity to revisit what you appreciate in the other person and it's certainly a good time to talk about money _ ideally before excessive spending derails your dinner out," says Suzanna de Baca, vice president of wealth strategies at Ameriprise Financial.
Here are some financial tips for couples to help ensure that there are many more Valentine's Days in their future:
1. Have a talk.
If you are just beginning to commingle your money, have a conversation about goals and dreams and how to finance them. Revisit the topic regularly, and keep the discussion calm and non-confrontational. Call them money dates, or open forums on your finances. Don't withhold any debts or accounts.
2. Make a plan.
Put your priorities in writing and agree on target spending and saving amounts. Address monthly spending, big-ticket purchases, vacations, "fun stuff" and long-term savings. "Couples that create a workable and efficient financial plan significantly lower their anxiety levels and have more time and money for long-term romance," says Bill Hardekopf, CEO of credit card comparison site LowCards.com.
3. Commit to compromise.
Don't let money disagreements with your partner fester. Go into the plan knowing you will need to compromise occasionally. Sometimes you have to sacrifice your position and let the other person be "right." That's OK -- you can take turns compromising.
4. Pay off debt.
Almost nothing adds to financial stress more than carrying credit card and other debts. The sooner you pay it off, the sooner you can build up your savings. Talk about the remaining balance regularly with your spouse or partner, and make it a joint goal to zero it out.
5. Prepare for emergencies.
Every couple should aim to build up an emergency fund of at least six months' worth of living expenses. It will ease the burden on that inevitable day when one partner is in a fender-bender, has a laptop stolen or runs up an unexpected medical or dental bill.
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