Getting married is probably one of the most exciting, life-changing things you will do in life! But it does come with the realization that you will need to start handling your finances a bit differently. You’ll need to combine funds with your spouse to pay bills and figure out a savings plan together so you can have the cash for the things you really want to purchase. You’ll also want to create a budget together so you’re on the same page about what you can spend each month.
If you’re newly married or planning on tying the knot soon, here are some important tips for a healthy financial future together.
1. Have A Joint Bank Account
Now, I know that this is not a unanimous thing that people do, and while I’ve heard some good arguments for why couples have separate accounts if you are asking me for my personal tips, advice, or what I do, I’m going to tell you to combine bank accounts.
I think that when you have separate bank accounts it is incredibly easy to view your account as “your money” and their account as “their money”. When you combine your accounts you are forced to view your money together rather than one or the other’s. When you view your money together it is easier to take ownership together, have goals together and work towards them together.
One main reason I hear for having separate accounts is that one person likes to spend money and so it’s easier for them to just have their own account so they don’t risk spending money needed for bills or other things. While I do think it is smart to take precaution when you know your significant other might like to spend, I think that doing this can sometimes be like giving them crutches for the problem instead of actually helping them get better.
Everyone when they get married has a certain amount of trouble moving towards “I can spend whenever I want” to “I have to talk to someone before spending money”. I know it was hard for my spending habits to change when I got married and I wasn’t even a crazy spender beforehand. But I think it’s important when you get married that it is part of what you combine and work on together. I think having your money in one account helps for you to both be involved and both be held accountable to your finances. Which brings me to my next point.
2. Make Sure You Both Know All Your Bills And Expenses
If you are in a marriage you are in a partnership. Things, for the most part, should be equal. Now I’m not saying that you should both make the same amount of money or that if someone makes more they have more control over the spending. On the contrary, no matter how much each person makes you should both be a part of knowing where your money goes. Sure maybe one person is the one that actually goes online and pays the bills, but you both should know what bills are being paid and how much. If you or your significant other is completely unaware of where your money is going they aren’t going to understand fully why something can’t be bought, or why the bank account is lower than usual. (And aside from that, they should help carry the burden that finances hold at times. If it is a particular hard month money wise they should carry that burden with you and not be left in the blissful dark.)
When both of you know exactly what your bills are, and exactly what your budgeted amounts are for spending, then you both know exactly where your money is going each month. Not only does this keep everything out in the open but it also creates ownership for both of you over your money. No one feels like the other is controlling the finances or in charge of how much they can spend, you both have agreed on these amounts and stick to them together. And if you haven’t agreed on these amounts yet, make sure and take my next tip.
3. Create A Budget Together & Have Goals For Your Money
The best part about being married is that you have a built in partner for everything! That shouldn’t stop with money! In order to get on the same page with your finances sit down together and decide where your money should go.
Start with your bills and absolute expenses, figuring out how much money you need for those necessary things. After that make the decisions together how much you want to spend on other categories. How much do you both want to spend on food every month? How much do you want to save? (Hint: Having a savings account is a must!) How much do you want to spend going out to the movies or any other entertainment? Making these decisions together will again hold you both accountable but also make you feel like you both have ownership over these decisions, as you should.
One of the most important things you can do for your money is to have goals with it. You’ve decided how much you need/want to spend on your bills and expenses, but after that decide what your goals are for the money left over. (Hint: You should have some!) What are you saving for? Are you trying to pay off debt? Are you trying to save for a down payment on a home? Maybe you have a vacation fund you want to put money into every month or a kid’s college fund?
Having goals for your money gives you both a “why” behind your budgeting and spending. If you are watching what you spend or cutting back on expenses without you both having a clear reason why, it’s going to be pretty hard to do. Why not buy this cute pair of shoes or new movie when the money we save from not buying it isn’t going anywhere? Having a clear goal and you both deciding that goal creates momentum for the the work it takes to get there!
4. Each Person Gets There Own Spending Amount
Finally the tip that allows a little more fun. I think most people use this tip already in some way, but I’m going to dive into it anyways. When you are figuring out your budget with your bills and expenses decide on an amount together that you both get to spend each month on whatever it is you please. (If of course, you have the money to do so.) Doing this allows you both some freedom in your spending and also allows you the ability to buy bigger things for yourself if you decide to save that money each month!
Now, I will say when deciding the amount don’t go overboard. Don’t decide a small amount for savings, a small amount for your couple goals and then the rest you divide in half for spending. (Especially if you are wanting to learn how to be a minimal spender like I teach here on the blog.) We tend to give ourselves more than we really need for unnecessary spending. I would say a rule of thumb would be to cut whatever the amount you are thinking off the top of your head in half.
When Greg and I had these amounts (we’ve since cut our spending back even more and don’t do this anymore and you can read about that here) we did $25 each. It was enough to give us a little freedom but also not too much that it cut into our budget and bigger money goals (owning our own home).
It may seem impossible at first but trust me it’s doable and you’ll still enjoy your life. Try a smaller amount first, you can always raise it if you really need/want more. But if you start out with a high amount, it’s harder to cut back later.