When we marry, we say “for richer or poorer,” and the truth is, the first two years of marriage are challenging for any couple, rich or poor. But it’s arguably harder for brides and grooms who are in financial straits. In this article we give ten common-sense tips on money management to help couples starting a life together.
Discuss Personal Spending Habits Frankly — Before the Wedding
Everyone has different strategies and opinions about how to save and spend money. You may be surprised to find out that your soon-to-be wife or husband has a different viewpoint from yours. Find out early so you can make any adjustments and come to an understanding. It’s especially important to be on the same page about finances before you start planning a wedding which will require plenty of saving and spending.
Make a Point to Discuss Your Finances Once a Week
Think of yourselves as the joint CEOs of your relationship corporation. You need to have an up-to-date understanding of your finances so you can make educated choices for the good of your partnership.
Don’t Go Overboard on Your Wedding
Before the big day, it’s easy to make over-the-top plans that don’t seem expensive until you have to pay for them. Don’t start your married life under the shadow of the debt from your wedding.
Keep Building Individual Credit
Even if you merge the rest of your finances, it’s a good idea for each of you to maintain credit cards in your names only so that you continue to build your credit history, which may help in getting approved for loans later.
Have an “Oh No” Fund
Every couple will run into emergency situations at some point in their relationship. Set aside a little money every month for emergency situations, and make sure you have a credit card with some room on it at all times. This will reduce the strain on your relationship when you are in an already stressful situation.
Keep to a Budget
This doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself; you just need to realistically plan for your spending. Set aside extra cash for holidays and events. Plan affordable vacations, and resist the urge to spend on spur-of-the moment items. If you really want something that’s not in the budget, see if you can work it in to the next month’s budget.
Save a Percentage of Your Income Every Month
Create a joint habit of saving money. Assigning percentages of income to save works for some couples — say 5 or 10 percent. But the important thing is to create the habit, so even if you just put a few dollars aside each month, it’s better than not putting away anything.
Be Sensitive in How You Approach Misunderstandings
My grandmother always used to say “it’s only money,” whenever her husband came home with an ill-advised purchase. This may be a little too laissez-faire for most people’s tastes, but it is important to keep perspective. If your partner went out on a whim and bought a big-screen TV that’s going to take ages to pay off, it’s understandable that you might feel upset about this disruption of your budget — but it’s not worth fighting about. Don’t let money matters push you into arguments. Wait until you’ve got a clear head and then discuss it calmly.
Share Financial Responsibilities
This might not sound like a money-saving tip, but it is. Unless one of you is an accountant or bookkeeper by trade, odds are you’ve got your own unique method of keeping track of money. If only one person in the relationship is in charge, oversights can happen, leading to strife and bouncing checks.
Be Aware of How Much You’re Spending
No matter how much your new husband or wife loves you, they may not love how much you spend when you go shopping or out with friends. Keep harmony in your marriage by keeping track of what you spend. Simply being conscious of your money will help you spend less, and help you reduce stress in your partnership.
About the Author: Dana Nash is a Toronto-based marriage counselor who has more than 20 years of experience helping young couples get a good start on married life.