Let’s get one thing straight: we are by no means money experts. But we are wedding experts, and we want to make this wedding planning and newlywed adventure as blissful as utterly possible. We’re also pretty sure that the nursery rhyme should actually say something like this: first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes all of those conversations about each other’s spending habits.
Talking about how you’re going to spend your money, whether you two share a bank account or not, is an important part of married life, especially when you’re thinking about things like purchasing a home, dealing with student or credit card debt or even the fact that, similar to things like conflict, not everyone deals with money the same way (my husband and I are the poster children for this. He’s all: let’s do work on those student loans and have a monthly budget. Meanwhile, I’m like: but can’t we buy these plane tickets to Costa Rica first?). No matter where in life you are or what your stance is on spending those dollar bills, here are five really simple financial tips for newlyweds.
1. Talk it out. Talking about money can be a little bit uncomfortable, but it’s so much easier to do it now than five years down the road when you’re wondering why exactly you can’t afford to buy a house or where all that random debt came from. If you start the conversation now, as newly or nearlyweds and look at everything from bank statements to student loans you’ll get the awkward part over with quickly and be much more at home with conversations about your finances in the future. On a super practical level, setting yourselves up for success when it comes to everything from monthly budgets to general talk about plans for the future will help you work through one of the most potentially stressful parts of marriage: finances.
2. You do you. While it’s common for couples to combine finances after marriage, there’s no rulebook out there that says they must. It definitely makes sense from a logistical perspective to have everything combined, but there are other ways to divide up your paychecks. If maintaining some level of fiscal independence is important to one or both of you, consider keeping your accounts separate or even making your own middle ground by creating a joint account for joint expenses (like housing, or groceries) and agreeing to each place a percentage of your paycheck into that account each month. You can also flip the situation by combining your finances but ensuring that each of you have a certain amount of money available to spend as you see fit.
3. Be prepared. The best budgeting and finance advice I ever received was also the simplest: make an emergency fund. This fund is exactly what it sounds like — money set aside in case of an emergency. That could be a health problem, career problems, anything. Ideally, the fund holds between three and six months’ worth of all of your living expenses and can help you keep any sudden setbacks from adding serious stress or debt to your lives.
4. Plan ahead. Thinking about the future is a good thing. Whether that means you’re looking at a down payment on a house, college tuition for the kids or even that big trip to South American you’ve always wanted to take, having a set amount of money each month that goes directly into savings (or several different savings accounts or buckets if you’re working toward more than one thing!) is a surefire way to save yourself stress down the road. I was talking with someone just last week who actually saves for Christmas every year. She and her husband put aside a small amount of money each and every month and then when the holidays roll around they don’t have to think twice about where they’re finding the funds for gifts. It’s genius.
5. Share and share alike. We’re not talking money here — we’re talking information. It’s important to know exactly where you each stand when it comes to finances, including everything from whether or not you have (and if so, how much) debt to how you like to spend money. You tell each other everything anyway, but these conversations don’t always come up when you’re dating. And as someone who came into marriage with student loan debt the size of Kansas I think it’s safe for me to say that you shouldn’t be afraid to share this information. Your future spouse isn’t going to love you any less, and they probably already know about your soft spot for Target.
Which budget tips will you be using? Whether you’re engaged, newly married or a budgeting pro, what advice has been the most helpful for you? Share your tips in the comments below!
Photography | Olivia Strohm Photography