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How couples manage finances in marriage is a source of many marital conflicts. Make sure you discuss these ten money matters to achieve your shared financial goals.
Money is a sensitive topic that most people shy away from in a conversation. How much you earn, when you plan to pay off your debt, what your financial goals are—these are questions most people wouldn’t broach with even their family or closest friends. But once you’re married, it’s time to put your reticence aside and work as a team to manage your finances in marriage. Here are 10 marital money management tips every newlywed couple should know.
1. Be Transparent about Your Financial Situation
“What’s mine is yours,” you may have said to your partner. Well, that includes your debt and financial commitments along with your income streams. Financial and marriage experts advise couples to fully disclose their financial situations to each other before tying the knot. It may be an uncomfortable conversation, but it’s a necessary one to avoid shock or feelings of distrust down the line.
Tell each other about any student loans, credit card debt, investments, income sources, and financial assets or obligations. How much are you putting down towards your debt each month? Do you have a financial commitment to ageing parents? What investments do you hold? Being upfront about these issues will lay the groundwork for honest and open communication about your financial management as a married couple.
2. Decide on Separate or Joint Accounts
Some couples prefer to keep separate accounts to maintain autonomy over their finances in marriage. A separate accounting system allows each partner to pay off their own loans and spend their money as they wish, which can prevent disagreements over spending habits, and help keep gifts to each other a surprise. Couples with separate accounts will need to discuss how to pay for shared expenses such as housing loans and household bills, and whether they want to split expenses 50-50 or proportionately to their income.
Depositing both your incomes into a joint account can simplify payment matters. There is no more need to calculate relative income and payment responsibilities, and all household expenses are paid from one account, making it easier to track and budget for shared expenses.
3. Create a Household Budget
Many of us don’t know where we’re spending our money, and the problem is compounded when there are two people involved. If you’re fighting about the credit card bill at the end of the month, you should consider taking charge of your marital finances with a household budget. While budgeting may be tedious, a household budget is the most effective way to keep track of your money. Knowing exactly where your money is going will help prevent conflicts about each other’s spending. These days, there are various apps and online tools available to make budgeting easier. Find a system that is convenient for the both of you, and start tracking your expenses and savings.
4. Understand Your Money Styles
Sure, some financial decisions are more sound than others, but the truth is, there is no right way to spend money. Often, when couples fight about money, it’s not about the actual sum or item bought, but about the values behind the spending. People have different money styles, and what’s important to you may seem frivolous to your spouse. The key is to understand where each of your mindsets towards money is from—perhaps a thrifty family upbringing, or parents who didn’t talk about money.
Ask each other questions about your beliefs and values toward money. Do you prefer having a large sum of savings or to enjoy your money as soon as it comes in? What constitutes a “big purchase” to you? Would you rather spend on experiences or on tangible items? These questions can help you understand your spouse’s views on money and their spending habits.
Amanda and Joseph’s Fun Pre-Wedding Shoot at Universal Studios Singapore by Knotties Frame
5. Agree on Some Ground Rules
Now that you understand each other’s money mindset, sit down and discuss some ground rules for spending. Mutually agree on what purchases need to discussed ahead of time—for example, big-ticket items or financial commitments to parents—or what items are “needs” and what items are “wants”. You can also discuss what you both consider a reasonable spending limit on things like clothing, furniture, gadgets, children’s toys, or gourmet dining.
Considering how much use an item will get to justify its cost can help you create a baseline for spending. The cost per use formula works by dividing the cost of an item by the number of times you anticipate using it. For example, a $500 pair of shoes you wear only five times would cost $100 per use, while a $365 bag you carry every day for a year would cost $1 per use.
6. Don’t Keep Secrets
We’ve all seen the comic skits of a wife hiding her shopping bags from her husband. But secret spending can lead to blowout fights when they’re discovered. Having secret credit cards or lying about big purchases can lead to toxicity in your relationship. Don’t keep secrets from each other—except for surprise gifts, of course—as trust and honesty are essential to a healthy marriage.
7. Give Each Other Some Freedom
While honesty is the best policy, micromanaging your spouse’s purchases can be very restricting and suffocating. If you find yourselves constantly defending the purchase of top-of-the-line gaming equipment or expensive skincare that the other partner doesn’t endorse, consider setting aside some discretionary funds for each spouse to spend as they wish without reporting back. You’ll avoid fights on what’s “reasonable” to spend on something. Simply agree on a personal discretionary amount, and be accountable for staying within that agreed-upon figure.
A Sun-kissed Summer Love Wedding Styled Shoot at Panamericana by Presentonpixels
8. Set Financial Goals
Besides budgeting for present expenses, you should also discuss your financial goals—both small and big. Do you want to upgrade your living situation in the near future? How much do you want to put towards retirement savings? How often do you want to go on vacation? What’s your risk appetite when it comes to investments? Discuss your financial expectations and priorities to make sure your goals for the future are aligned.
9. Periodically Reassess Your Finances in Marriage
Over the course of your marriage, your goals and priorities may shift. You may have children and one partner may want to stop working, or you may be earning much more and want to upgrade your lifestyle. Check in with each other periodically to make sure you’re on the same page regarding your financial goals and expectations. Once a year, sit down and go through your financial situation and discuss any new goals you may have, whether it’s paying off debt or buying a new house.
10. Disagree with Respect
Couples who are open about their finances, understand each other’s money styles, and work towards common financial goals won’t find themselves fighting bitterly about money very often. When the occasional disagreement does arise, it’s important to argue about it well. Bring up complaints about your partner’s behaviour without using negative personal labels such as “irresponsible” or “careless”, and treat each other with respect even if you disagree. Your objective in conflict should be to come to a compromise so you can continue working towards mutual financial goals together.
Feature image from: Sheena and Vivegan’s Stellar at 1-Altitude Wedding with Bold Florals by Thomas Tan Photography