For Richer, For Poorer: 7 Financial Do's for Newlyweds
Updated: Jun 20, 2019
It was during our pre-marriage counselling that it became clear that Drew and I viewed finances in different ways. Like hot cross buns and butter, Drew is the saver to my spender. In our marriage there is space for hot cross buns, butter, spending and saving – in moderation. Do not allow these differences to create a wedge of resentment, hurt, unkindness, or secrecy between you. For richer or for poorer, I believe discussing the intricacies of finances as a couple can help to build closeness and intimacy in your marriage. That is because our ability to connect and understand each other’s views on vulnerable and sensitive topics like finances, speaks volumes about our ability to connect and understand each other in other areas of our marriage too.
Without meaning to oversimplify it, but rather to emphasise a point, in my practice couples are generally attending counselling for one of three issues: MONEY, SEX or FAMILY. Money is a leading cause of stress in a relationship. The more effectively we tackle the Goliath of Money the more successful we will be in our partnership. To face this Goliath effectively though, we need a strategy. It will be hard to find a marriage of 30+ years that doesn’t have a system that deals with finances.
I encourage you to understand how you and your partner VIEW finances and how you want your finances to work in your marriage so that you can pursue financial goals as a team.
I give you our 7 Financial Do’s for Newlyweds.
1. One can’t talk Coupleship without talking Communication
It is critical to your present and your future to have the money talk. Too often couples don’t talk about their financial situation until the marriage is suffering financially, so many couples do not even know how much their partner earns, or whether he or she sponsors family members. Ideally this talk should be a priority before you walk down the aisle. Approaching this conversation with honesty and transparency is key. We started with our past financial history to understand our philosophy on spending money, what was money spent on in our family home, what value do we place on saving, did we ever hear the word ‘no’, how did we decide whether to buy something or not, do we have any debt, how often does this happen, what is our philosophy on borrowing money, how will we commit to tithing and charitable giving.
Then understand what your current money habits are. It is important to understand the intention (the WHY) behind the financial decisions you make, which will help you identify what it is you value and prioritise.
Once married my finances became our finances. It is important to discuss these questions with an attitude of understanding and openness. Your financial situation will change throughout your marriage, what needs to remain constant is the way in which you engage and share with one another no matter your bank account balance.
2. Don’t keep secrets
Money is about more than your finances - it’s the most intimate thing outside the bedroom.
Keeping secrets breaks down the intimacy and trust in your marriage. Think about why you might be inclined to not share your spending with your partner (is it because you know you shouldn’t have bought it, or you are fearful of their reaction?), and share this with your partner so that you can both learn to better communicate. If there has been any secrecy around finances, I encourage you to not only change the deceitful behaviour, but also work toward repairing the relationship (the connection) between you.
3. Become One in mind, body, soul and money
Deciding how to divide one’s accounts is a personal decision. We have a combination of joint and individual accounts.
We opened a joint account from which all shared, household expenses and discretionary spending is paid. We both contribute a percentage proportionate to our income to this joint account. I am self-employed and my income varies from month to month. We looked at the amount I earned for my first year in practice, added up all my expenses and went on an average income per month to determine how much I could consistently and sustainably contribute to the joint account every month. Our individual bank accounts are used to pay for our personal expenses and gifts for one another. A portion of this individual account is allocated to our savings which we use toward vacations and our emergency fund.
It is important to note that the money in our individual accounts is still viewed as OURS, not his or mine.
4. Create a budget: Plan for the month ahead in a monthly meeting
My budgeting style is no budget. I shop first and then decide on my shopping budget. No wonder I am right on budget every time! Drew says this is just an inventory of what I bought and not a budget. So as you can see I had a great deal to learn about budgeting. We knew we needed a budget; we spoke about making a budget, we diarised a time to sit down and make a budget… but we never got around to making a budget until a few months into our marriage. I do not recommend this. DO create a budget as soon as you are married (or better yet, before you are married if you have identified your expenses as a couple).
It is important to identify all the small and big financial commitments you expect to have going into the marriage. Realistically owning my own business and only being a year in practice I cannot fully cover all my expenses. I am grateful to be in a position where I have the freedom to commit to a career I love on a full time basis even if I don’t get paid a full time salary yet, and the surplus of what I cannot cover is covered by Drew or as part of our household expenses. Sharing the reality of my expenses and salary with Drew before we were married, and him lovingly committing to covering my personal expenses I couldn’t afford, set out the expectations and roles of each person in the marriage, in an open and transparent way. This ensures that we remain committed to encouraging and supporting one another and sharing the reality of our finances.
Make a list of your personal and household expenses. Be honest and realistic with this list. I love to have my nails done once a month, in the spirit of transparency it is important to share this expectation with Drew and see if we can budget it in. If we can't budget for it this month then it is a decision we have made together, this prevents the practice of non-sharing because we think its insignificant or the build up of resentment because one partner feels they are sacrificing more than the other. Your budget should cover your essential costs like housing and transportation, but also your discretionary spending like nails, gym membership, indoor soccer game fees etc.
On a monthly basis (the week before pay day), set aside an hour to track the budget for the month ahead. Identify what worked last month, how could money have better been spent, what expenses are coming up for the next month that are out of the norm (birthdays, anniversaries, holidays etc).
A budget is about more than creating healthy financial habits, its a team building exercise, it reminds us that we are on the same team, money is not the enemy and we working toward the same goal.
Drew is more disciplined when it comes to handling money, and I am more experienced in seeking out good bargains. We can learn wonderful new skills from each other.
5. Set a minimum threshold cost for discussing big expenses
It is important to remain transparent with your partner, but guard against the one who earns less having to ask for permission from the greater earner for every purchase.
In our marriage we have set a threshold amount at which we need to contact the other before we make the purchase and together, we will reach a consensus on the appropriateness of the purchase.
This check in is done out of love, not out of control, and builds on our foundation of trust and respect for one another.
6. Saving with a goal in mind
The reason we had to put our words into action and finally create that budget is because we realised we only had a few months left to save up for a trip for our first year anniversary. By dreaming and goal setting together we can decide what it will take financially to realise our dreams. Honestly I am terrible at saving, that includes saving money to saving space. If there is an gap in my cupboard I wonder how I can fill it. Saving money works the same way. If there is left over, I plan how we can spend it. Which is why we needed concrete goals to save for.
Goal setting should include short term goals for the next few months to a year (such as impending holidays and sticking to our monthly budgets); medium term goals should cater for your one to five year plan and may include considerations such as saving for potential future children and becoming a single-income family, so that I can be a stay at home mom and the reality of relocation costs; and long term goals which include plans for retirement, risky business ventures, catering for elderly family member’s needs, holiday homes etc.
It is vitally important to be on the same page as your partner, working as a team, with the same goals in mind.
By dreaming together and committing to achieving these dreams together we are reminding ourselves and each other that money management in a marriage involves both parties working together and sharing responsibilities equally.
As husband and wife, we both need to take part in decision making, budgeting, contributing and bill paying.
7. The Golden Rule: Treat Your Partner the Way you Desire to be Treated
In all matters that concern your marriage treat your partner the way you would like to be treated. Lying, misusing your money, overspending, accusing, punishing, is not welcome in our marriage. Forming good money management habits early on in our marriage is essential.
The way we manage our financial decisions, budgets, spending and conflict should align with our marriage vows, for in all aspects of our marriage we vowed to INVEST IN, to COMMUNICATE OPENLY, to BE HONEST AND TRUE, to be GOOD STEWARDS, to BE WISE, to GIVE, to DREAM AND PLAN TOGETHER, to SHOW SELF CONTROL, to SPEAK LOVE, to be INTENTIONAL, for better and for worse, for richer for poorer, until death do us part.
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