3 Tips for Co-Managing Your Finances Once You’re Married
Your wedding is such an incredible life event that brings you so much joy! As such, people tend to focus on just the wedding day, rather than how marriage will impact their lives after that one day.
I, on the other hand, am a planner, so I was thinking about life after marriage before our wedding day even came. My husband (then fiancé) and I had separate bank accounts and credit cards for years even though we bought a house together.
We managed our finances separately and differently, but we knew when we got married we wanted to combine everything to make our lives (and budgeting) easier. So a few months before the big day, we decided to combine our bank accounts and open a new credit card together.
It was a smooth, but certainly not seamless process for us.
My husband and I are both accountants, which makes us both very set in our ways when it comes to our finances. We actually had a few arguments about which bank account we would use when we combined our money, which held up the process actually.
We are now 14 months into our marriage, and about 17 months into shared bank accounts and we are happily co-managing our finances, so I wanted to share some tips with you on how to happily co-manage your own finances!
1. Open and Honest Communication is Key
It is so important to openly communicate about your finances. I know that money talks can be uncomfortable at first, but they get easier with time and frequency.
My husband and I started to have serious talks about money just a month into us dating when we took our first vacation together. We got more and more comfortable discussing various topics as time went on.
When we first started dating 6 years ago, he was well-versed in investments and I had no investments at all, so he encouraged me to put some money into the stock market. As I saw the stocks I invested in go up and up, I was happy that we had those financial talks and it led me to take the leap on something that scared me before that.
While my conversations with my husband led to me making more money, financial talks are not necessarily always positive, but they still need to be had. Thankfully, my husband and I were lucky enough to come out of college debt free and we both had the same habit of always paying our credit card bills in full and timely.
However, sometimes this is not the case with one or both spouses. If you have bad credit or student loan or other types of debt, this should be communicated with your partner before marriage, so that you are both aware of the impact this has on your financial situation.
Two heads are better than one, so you don’t want to hide your debt burden from your spouse when he/she may be able to come up with a plan to get rid of it!
Additionally, you don’t want to hide expenses from your spouse.
It is one thing if you and your spouse prefer to manage your money separately from one another and, as such, you do not discuss what you spend your money on.
It is a different story if you and your spouse have combined your finances and you are making purchases that you do not tell your spouse about. Lying about spending (including lies of omission) can cause issues, such as a shortage in cash flow because you spent money that your spouse assumed could be used for something else.
Even if you spend more on something than you probably should have, it’s better to have a tough, honest conversation than to be caught in a lie later on.
2. Budget Together
While there are some months that I dread doing this because it can be a very tedious process, I always end up feeling better once we have completed our monthly budget update.
I encourage you and your spouse to at least set up a budget together, even if only one of you ends up managing it. Creating your budget together allows both of you to make sure your individual priorities are budgeted for. For me, I wanted to make sure I had a budget for monthly clothing purchases. For my husband, he wanted to make sure he had a monthly budget for his coffee purchases. These were our non-negotiables. Determine your non-negotiables and work with your spouse on determining a reasonable amount to allot towards those things.
Aside from ensuring your priorities are budgeted for, it is good to manage your budget together each month so that you are both on the same page. If you have goals you are working towards, such as saving for a vacation or maxing out your IRA contributions for the year, it’s good to both stays in the loop on the progress towards those goals. You also want to make sure each of you is aware if you are under/over budget in any categories in order to make any changes necessary to get back on track.
3. Align Your Lifestyle/Goals
Being married means that you will have to align some aspects of your life, whether it’s your bank accounts or goals or lifestyle choices or whatever else you can think of.
My husband and I like to align our goals, the two biggest ones at the moment is saving for our big trip to Hawaii next year and maxing out our IRA contributions. We set target goals and create the steps to reach these goals together. For vacation, we have been saving a set amount each month to meet the total we need for our Hawaii trip. We are planning our trip for next May/June which gives us a total of 20 months of saving towards this goal.
For vacation, we have been saving a set amount each month to meet the total we need for our Hawaii trip. We are planning our trip for next May/June which gives us a total of 20 months of saving towards this goal.
When I refer to aligning lifestyles what I mean is getting on the same page about where your money is being spent.
My husband and I are “foodies,” so we enjoy going out to eat frequently. This requires us to have a fairly large budget set for restaurants each month, then.
As previously mentioned, I enjoy fashion, so my husband has accepted that and has worked with me to build that into our budget. He enjoys golfing, so we work that into our budget in the warm months (NY doesn’t quite allow for full-year golfing).
We also both enjoy vacationing and we tend to like to go all out on our vacations, so we adjust our finances to make that work. We are both on the same page about how we allocate our budget and what we like to spend our money on. I know several people who do not agree with each other on how to spend the money they make, which can lead to several fights.
Everyone views money differently.
Things that work for one couple may not work for another couple. The most important thing is to make sure that you and your spouse are on the same page, even if being on the same page means agreeing to manage your money separately. In order to successfully co-manage your finances, you must always remember to communicate with your spouse.