Managing your money as a couple is one of the best financial decisions you can make in your marriage. And, effective communication tops the list of money management tips.
Financial planning after marriage could be a touchy subject but, having the money discussion helps you build a stronger relationship and live well as a couple.
Money management is a skill that you need to learn together. So, get a pen, sit down with your spouse, and carry on with these money management tips we’ve made for married couples.
Money management for couples
Just like they say, failing to plan is planning to fail. It is especially true for marriage and finances.
Money related differences create a huge strain on relationships. So. you need to have a budget and learn to manage your money before this even happens.
Budgeting is one of the most important money management tips as it lets a couple manage how they split the bills.
It’s not fair to split it 50-50 if your income is twice your spouse’s. The same applies if one has more financial responsibilities than the other.
Another reason for money management for couples is to help you track your goals as a couple. Whether you want to achieve financial freedom, retire early, or build a family, you can make this possible with budgeting together.
Marriage, after all, combines not only your last names but also combines your responsibilities, i.e. your finances, so that you can overcome them together.
Financial planning for newly married couples: Where to start
The first tip to money management for couples is to be transparent about all financial matters including debt, current expenses, family responsibilities, etc.
Try to understand each other’s money mindset and discuss how both of you were raised around money.
By having this conversation, you can see red flags that you can address as early as now.
Agree on letting each other know about financial decisions from now on. Make a common decision to ask each other’s approval before making large purchases.
Even as a couple, you may have different financial priorities.
One person might be okay with living cheaply to have bigger savings while others want to spend on things they enjoy with just enough savings to get by. One may view money as security while the other as something that they can enjoy.
A piece of primary financial advice for married couples is that it’s okay to not be on the same page but learn to settle and compromise.
If one splurges on restaurants most of the week, limit it to just once or twice. You can then agree on cooking at home instead of paying hundreds for just one meal.
Consider discussing priorities like a good way to bond as a couple.
Even if you are married, you could still be tied to financial responsibilities such as parent support or sibling’s tuition. Chances are, your spouse is, too.
Its a crucial part of money management tips to start sharing responsibilities. You need to help each other out for a happy and healthy married life.
Handle debt as a couple
Paying off debt takes skill and is a critical part of money management for couples.
It’s one thing to cover monthly expenses and setting aside money to pay off debt and another thing to decide whether to combine your debt and pay it as a couple.
Discuss how you will handle debt either if you will pay it together or the other can shoulder most of the expenses so their partner can easily pay their debts.
There are two popular methods of handling debt: debt snowball and debt avalanche method.
Both require you to list down all your debt from the smallest to the biggest debt while also considering interest rates.
In the debt avalanche method, you make minimum payments on all debts but also pay more money for the debt with the highest interest first.
Money experts say that the Debt Avalanche Method is by far the best way to tackle debt. Getting rid of debt with the highest interest saves you money in the long run.
However, some people lose motivation in handling debt. Hence, the debt snowball method where you pay off the smallest debt first regardless of interest rates.
This method focuses more on building motivation. When you see your debt getting fewer and fewer, you are more motivated to finish it.
Before you can start with actual budgeting, you need to set goals. Discuss your goals as a couple, and share your personal goals that involve money.
Are you trying to pay off all your debts first? Have you been wanting to purchase your own home? Are you planning to have a kid any time soon?
If you have been married for a while, are you thinking of buying a new car? Have you been wanting to invest?
So another vital money management tip is that, when creating a budgeting plan, have a goal in mind.
Track your current spending, address individual needs
Determine your current spending habits. And, it holds true for both the spouses.
Does it contribute to your personal goals? Does it help you as a couple?
Are there expenses that you can cut down? (like a cappuccino that you can make at home instead of dropping by Starbucks every day)
While it is strategic to cut down on some expenses, it is also important to address individual needs.
Set an equal amount of money for each and label it as “lifestyle.” For the wife, this could be a cosmetics budget. For the husband, this could drink-out-with-buddies budget.
Having a budget for both your lifestyles keeps you in check.
Create a budget plan
List down all household expenses down to the last cent.
If this is your first time budgeting, don’t be afraid of not having the exact amount for rent or mortgage, groceries, utilities, phone bills, etc.
For your first month, just put an estimate. If you can, compile all your bills from the previous month to see a close number.
Determine if your monthly income can cover all your monthly expenses. Now, if you get an equal number, that’s good. If there’s more left, that’s even better.
Setting aside a part of savings before you deduct your monthly expenses is best.
Sounds easy, right?
Yes, if you are single. But for couples, not so much.
Hence, it is important to have one source of a money pool, like a joint account that you will use for mutual expenses. There are a lot of budgeting apps free to use nowadays.
Test some out which one is user-friendly and easier to use for both of you.
Other money management tips
Prioritize savings, build an emergency fund
Dave Ramsey, one of the best known financial experts, says that not having an emergency fund is an emergency.
What if your car breaks down? What if you get sick? What if you lose your job? These are just some examples of emergencies that you should plan.
Having a money cushion stops you from getting more debt and saves you from unexpected expenses you might encounter.
Ideally, you need to set an emergency fund enough to last you 3-6 months of monthly spending.
Your emergency fund as a couple is bigger than when you were only budgeting for a single person.
But the good thing about this is that you can reach your emergency fund goal easier because there are two of you working to save it.
If you think it will take you time to reach your emergency fund goals, sacrifice dinners at restaurants cut down on subscriptions, plan your groceries, etc.
Create one joint account
A joint account is a convenient way to access each other’s funds, especially when spending on mutual expenses like groceries, rent or mortgage, etc.
Regardless of who is earning more, couples get a joint account so they have the resources to pay for mutual expenses. Pooling your money together is also helpful in having a concrete view of your savings as a couple.
It also helps you see where you are in achieving your goals—whether it be buying a house, a new car, or if you’ve saved enough to travel.
If one of you does not see the benefit or need to create a joint account, set up a household budget to cover all household expenses.
This requires you to divide your expenses and figure out who is paying for which expense.
Create a separate account
Having a joint account is, for some couples, one of the symbolic gestures of their union. But for some couples, joint accounts make little sense.
Whether you created a joint account, you need to have separate accounts for your finances.
Having separate accounts gives you security when undesirable things happen. Joint accounts are problematic when things get out of hands like a separation or divorce.
With separate accounts, you can still maintain freedom over your money, and you don’t have to justify all your expenses.
You can do this as long as you are doing your responsibility as a partner.
There is no hard and fast rule with any of these money management tips as needs and priorities change constantly.
So, if you don’t perfect these money management tips and follow through your budget this month, you have the next month to improve.
Try until you perfect your couple’s budgeting skills. Being able to spend on things you enjoy and knowing that you have the money to spend on it is what makes budgeting more fun.
Especially as a couple, you can enjoy your date nights in expensive restaurants or travel abroad together without having to worry about next month’s finances because you have saved up for it.