Australians spend more time watching television than managing their money – and it’s wreaking havoc in our relationships.
During waking hours, the average Aussie spends most of their free time sitting in front of the small screen (17.3 hours a week) or surfing the web on their phone (13.8 hours).
Housework takes the bronze model, with 7.2 hours a week and socialising, hot on its heels, with 6.3.
Meanwhile, the 2026 Australians surveyed by comparison site Canstar spent an average of just 2.5 hours a week looking after their finances – less time than it takes to sit through a Quentin Tarantino flick.
Previous research suggests that’s bad news for our love lives.
For while money talk isn’t sexy, getting into debt is even more of a turn-off.
Almost a quarter (24 per cent) of the 792 Australians who responded to a recent survey by Finder.com.au said they would refuse to date someone with a debt of up to $1000 outside a mortgage.
Another 15 per cent put their limit at $5000 worth of debt.
Kate Browne, Finder’s personal finance expert, said it was hard enough to manage your finances without having to worry about your partner’s.
“The ‘money talk’ is best avoided on the first date. But if things start heating up, it’s important to have an open discussion about your finances, even if it’s the last thing on your mind,” Ms Browne said.
Finder’s survey is far from the only research to draw a link between our financial troubles and relationship woes.
An ANZ survey in December found that 76 per cent of couples who included financial goals in their New Year’s resolutions described their relationships as either “good” or “fantastic”, compared to 36 per cent of those who didn’t.
And, in March, a Westpac report said a “lack of communication around finances is a recurring theme among Australian couples considering, going through, or who have gone through a separation”.
It doesn’t have to be this way
Antoinette Mullins is a certified financial planner and the owner of Beyond Today Financial Planning.
She told The New Daily couples often found it difficult to discuss finances as they had picked up different attitudes towards money from their parents and life experiences.
“When we’re in a relationship, quite often we address issues like ‘how will we discipline our kids’ or the ‘division of housework’, but I’ve seen time and again how we neglect ‘how will we manage our money’ and setting joint financial goals,” she said.
“This can lead to major issues later in the relationship.”
Ms Mullins said couples could set up a regular date night to better understand each other’s financial values and make goal-setting more fun – especially if they often find themselves clashing over which goals are important.
“Here’s an example from my own life: I like to have a full pantry and fridge because I didn’t grow up rich at all. Although I never went really hungry, we didn’t have an abundance of food choices, either, and dinner was sometimes a sandwich,” she said.
“So when we needed to save for a holiday or put extra towards our mortgage, which are joint financial goals my husband and I set, I would spend too much on groceries and he would get really upset.
“It wasn’t until I explained my history and told him the why that we could work out how to address this.”
Ms Mullins said she now plans her meals, writes a shopping list, and does most of her food shopping online to avoid impulse-buys.
Five steps towards fixing your finances
In the eyes of Ms Mullins, these are the first steps people should take towards improving their finances.
- Track your spending – look at the past six months of transactions on your banking app. This will give you a good idea of where your money is going
- Set financial goals – “These goals can be as simple as ‘making ends meet’ if you’re in financial trouble, or it can be a family holiday, buying a home or repaying the mortgage,” Ms Mullins said
- Budget for the next six months – Print out your goals and put them on the fridge so there’s no hiding from them. Then set a budget that allows you to achieve them, taking into account fixed costs and discretionary spending. “If you were spending a lot on coffees at work, allocate a ‘reasonable’ amount to this, draw cash on a Monday and pay cash for each coffee,” Ms Mullins said. “When your allocated funds run out by Thursday, there’s no coffee after that. Be strict with yourself”
- Structured savings – direct money towards your goals into a separate account and consider setting up automatic transfers
- Review regularly – look at your spending habits once a week to make sure you are on track to reach your goals. Ms Mullins said this shouldn’t take longer than 15 minutes.