Once a couple is married, there is a sense of financial accountability and responsibility to their partner. It becomes even more difficult to rationalize those impulse buys, the over-the-top weekends away with friends, or $100-plus happy hours when your spending affects another person.
Whether you’re a double- or single-income couple, have children or don’t, being on the same page as your spouse with how you spend money is essential. Try setting a budget that is realistic and works for both of you. Be sure to include budget line items such as saving for retirement, paying off any debt, as well as daily living expenses, and even extra spending money.
Outline clear financial goals and place them somewhere prominent (maybe on your fridge or in a shared document). Then come up with a plan to get there.
Perhaps you’re saving to buy a home, are setting aside money to pay off debt, or want to go on an extravagant trip. Regardless of the goal, having the same financial priorities will prevent confusion, and may even keep one partner from overspending and inadvertently sabotaging the shared goal.
Educate Yourself on the Legalities
A lot changes when you get married, and that includes the legalities of your estate, financial situation, and any assets or dependents you have. While dealing with legal issues like life insurance, wills, and retirement may seem boring, it’s a big part of transitioning from a single mindset to a married one.
Now’s the time to be sure your bases are covered. Be sure that you both have life insurance policies, especially if you have a large amount of outstanding debt like a mortgage, or long-term expected childcare costs. Be sure the beneficiaries on your life insurance policies are correct, and that you both have an updated will. You both should know all the accounts you have, at what banks, and all login information.
Sit down and talk about your retirement goals and if you’re on track to get there. You may even want to consider meeting with a financial advisor to help you set clear goals and figure out a plan to get there. You may consider setting a monthly money meeting with your spouse to go over the budget, how you’re doing on your financial goals, and any other outstanding issues.
Compromise Is Key
You and your spouse are going to have different views on how to spend and save money. Try to keep in mind that you were both raised in different households that likely had different spending habits and attitudes toward money.
Changing your money mindset with marriage is all about finding a middle ground that makes you both comfortable. For example, a partner who is a spender may feel deprived without some extra spending money worked into the budget.
On the other hand, a frugal partner may abhor buying brand name products and shop at only bulk stores to save money. The key is to find out your partner’s financial non-negotiables and respect them, provided it works with your budget.
It Won't Always Be 50/50
Just like in your marriage, nothing is ever going to be split exactly 50/50. There will definitely be fluctuations in earnings, due to things like job loss, changing fields, having children, or just differences in earning power based on your chosen fields. One partner may decide to go back to school to increase earning power in the future, leaving the other to keep earning and support the family. Concurrently, you may decide to leave your full-time job to support your family or pursue an entrepreneurial venture. Perhaps one spouse has a large amount of student debt, and the other has none.
Changing your money mindset from a single person to a married one means remembering that things will not always be even. Don’t keep score. Instead, work together to achieve your financial goals.
Remember You’re on the Same Team
At the end of the day, it’s absolutely essential to remember that you’re on the same team. Being married is more than just an emotional partnership; it’s a legal and financial partnership, as well.
Whether or not you see things the same way when it comes to your marriage and finances (hint: you usually won’t), you’re a team and it will only help you, in the long run, to act like one—especially when it comes to your finances.
Extra Tips to Consider
- Stick to a realistic budget that works for both partners and that takes into account your current lifestyle.
- Decide on things like life insurance and wills together, so you both are aware of the policies in place.
- Consider meeting with a financial advisor or having a monthly money meeting with your spouse.
- Keep in mind that your spouse’s credit could affect you.
- One of the worst things you can do is spend too much on your wedding and start your marriage in debt. Stick to a wedding budget, and don’t spend more than you can afford.
- Make a pact to both agree on large purchases before they are made.